David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Amy Copeland”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 15: Joy in a Person (2 of 3)

Amy Copeland, Preschool and Special Needs Director at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, knows all about God’s control, and God’s grace.  While growing up, she aspired to become a teacher, and while still attending the University of Kentucky, she married her husband, Barry.  After graduating, Barry’s job led them to Cincinnati, then to Ridgeland, Mississippi, where she gave birth to their first daughter, Kaylyn.  “I was passionate about my child as any new mom would be,” she said, “but perhaps a little more so, since I never really knew if I would be able to have any children at all.”  Amy had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and her doctors had cautioned her that conceiving a child could be very difficult. “Once I saw that little girl wrapped up in that tiny little hospital blanket, I knew my role as a parent was going to be the biggest and most important role I would ever have here on earth.  This new passion would spark everything I did during the next fifteen years.”

As her oldest daughter went off to kindergarten, her second miracle baby, Ashton, missed her sister so much she begged her mom to go to school as well, even though she was only two.  So Amy applied and got a teaching position at New River’s Kids Day Out, or KDO, program, and Ashton attended KDO’s three-year-old class.  “I fell in love with the kids, and from those years of serving God’s little ones, I learned I was supposed to work with young kids.  I had found my Joy and my Calling.”  So over the next four years she studied for her Texas Teaching Certification and substitute taught at a local elementary school.

“During my last two years of subbing,” Amy said, “I got a call to cover a class for a lady I knew, Angie, an aide in the Autism Unit.  She told me she felt terrible that day and asked me to cover her on Thursday.  I said hesitantly, ‘Sure.’  Until that moment, I had avoided the Special Education Department like the plague.  I didn’t feel comfortable in those classrooms at all, and I had no desire to work inside one.”

“Well, little did I know what God was about to do,” she continued.  “I worked for Angie on Thursday and received a call from her again that evening.  She asked if I could work for her again on Friday.  I thought, Well, I survived one day, I guess two won’t hurt.  Her last words to me during our phone conversation on Thursday evening were, ‘Thank you, Amy.  By the way, the class is going on a field trip and you can wear my T-shirt that is in my locker.  I just don’t think I’m going to beat this illness before the weekend.’  Wow! One day in the Autism Unit and now I was headed to the Special Olympics at the Weatherford High School football field.  God is funny!  He just loved putting me outside of my comfort zone.  I realized that day that special needs kids are just like any other kid.  They need to be loved, nurtured, corrected, and just have fun playing.”

Tragically, the Sunday after Amy took the kids to the Special Olympics, Angie passed away from the swine flu.  The school asked Amy to continue to substitute teach until they found someone to take over the position permanently.  She stayed on for two and a half more months, but Amy never applied for the position; she’d given in to the voice in her head that she didn’t have what it took to tackle the job long term.  The lead teacher later told her she should have applied for the position.

“I never thought of myself as a Special Education teacher until the moment she told me she wanted me to stay.  That’s when I became the ‘Sped Sub.’”  She then substituted at the Autism Unit almost daily, and at the encouragement of the lead teacher, Amy went back to school and obtained her Special Education Certification.  “I love teaching and I love kids, all kids!  God has had me on quite a journey to show me what my passions and abilities truly are, and working within my passion in a way that brings glory to Him.  This brings me joy!”  Amy understands it, and she demonstrates that joy amazingly well.

Another person who understands joy is Kayla McMillan, also known as Kayla Mac.  Just being around this enthusiastic young lady for a few minutes can lift up your mood, and, like Amy, Kayla also had an epiphany that painted her life with permanent joy.  It started in her freshman year of high school when she failed her standardized state assessment tests—all of them.  Then her best friend died.  “I think my ninth grade year was my turning point,” said Kayla, “I saw my best friend the night before, then I found out the next day she was dead in a car accident.”

In addition to struggling with the heartbreaking loss of her best friend, Kayla also wrestled with feeling secure in her own identity.  But the reality and finality of her best friend’s death opened her eyes to the fact that she was her own person.  The tragedy spurred her to question what she was going to make of herself.  “So I determined Kayla Mac was gonna be me.  I was scared nobody would recognize me,” she said.

“Throughout high school I made a name for myself,” she explained.  She really wanted to become an athlete, but “I wasn’t good at sports.  I tried basketball and I tried volleyball.”  She even did track, but “God had a different plan: I became an athletic trainer.  I got to stand on the field.  I got to be at every game.  I did athletic training for football, then I did basketball.  I wouldn’t change anything, I was so excited.  The best years of my life were spent on the field.”

(continued)

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 15: Joy in a Person (1 of 3)

One of the most easily identifiable characteristics of Christian happiness is attractiveness. . . . Christian happiness . . . is tremendously attractive and very contagious.

—Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God[i]

 

 

“Dad, you’re weird,” Hannah declared one morning as I waited for the toaster to eject my English muffin.

I grinned.  “Why do you say I’m weird?” I asked, sipping my coffee.

“Because you’re a writer.”

Yes, I am a writer, but first and foremost I’m a child of God walking to the beat of a heavenly drum.  For years I stifled my bongos under a blanket of conformity, smiling nonetheless, because, as the eyes are the windows to the soul, a smile is the window that opens to hope.  And now that the blanket has been stripped off, my drum beats loud and strong as I walk the path marked out for me through the jungle of status quo.

Mother Teresa once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”[ii]  A smile can change your demeanor in an instant if you take the time to consider the possibilities painted in the brightness of the offering.  As I walk through life, I pray my smile touches people’s lives in some small way, with some small hope, with some small encouragement.

“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening,” said Greta Garbo.[iii]  In so many ways, I wear this smile as a badge of defiance against an enemy who’d like nothing better than to steal it away and replace it with a scowl of defeat.

The Bible is filled with examples of people whose lives brought joy to others.  In the book of Esther, King Xerxes, king of Persia and Media, honored Mordecai, Queen Esther’s cousin, because Mordecai exposed a plot to kill him.  And because Esther revealed she was, in fact, a Jew, destined to be annihilated under the “vile” Haman’s orders, King Xerxes ordered Haman impaled, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and gave Mordecai authority to write a decree allowing the Jews to avenge themselves against their enemies.

Because the edict authorized God’s people to stand their ground, they ended up killing over 75,000 of their enemy.  Mordecai then established the celebration of Purim “as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration” (Esther 9:22 NIV®).

In his gospel, Luke recounts the angel Gabriel’s announcement of John the Baptist’s birth and ministry to Zechariah, John’s father.  “He will be a joy and delight to you,” Gabriel told the old priest, “and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.  He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.   He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:14-17 NIV®).

John the Baptist became a joy and a delight to Zechariah, but more importantly, he became a joy and a delight to those who paid attention to his message, repented, and turned back to God.  But why did Gabriel tell Zechariah to keep John away from wine or other fermented drink?  Because, as the last prophet before Jesus’ coming, God had filled him with the Holy Spirit in the womb, and God wanted to ensure folks didn’t confuse John’s intense joy for inebriation.  He was drunk with the Holy Spirit!  And he became a joy for others as he pointed his followers to the Messiah.

Earlier, I told the story of my friend, Jason Hoffman, and how a woman approached him at work and asked him, “What’s the source of your joy?”

Jason pointed up and responded “It’s all Him.”  Jason displays his joy in not only his beaming countenance and gentle character, but in his willingness to step out and serve others.  He’s a true model for what it means to be a joy-filled Christian walking in the footsteps of Jesus, our ultimate Joy.  Another inspiring person I know who’s wrapped in a mantle of gladness is Amy Copeland, Preschool and Special Needs Director at New River Fellowship.

Talk about someone who radiates joy!  The woman displays it as brightly as the moon wears the sun’s reflection.  The moment she walks into a room dressed in her almost perpetual smile, you can’t help but feel lighter and happier. “I think of joy as a deep feeling of happiness and contentment,” Amy told me, “knowing that no matter what happens, I am going to be okay, because God has me in His hand and He is in control.”

 

(continued)

 

References:

[i] Kelly, Matthew. A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God. Beacon Publishing, 1999. 134.

[ii] “Mother Teresa Quotes.” BrainyQuote. n.d. 12 June 2014. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html.

[iii] “Greta Garbo > Quotes > Quotable Quote.” goodreads.com.  2014. Good Reads Inc.  19 June 2014.  https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/252365-anyone-who-has-a-continuous-smile-on-his-face-conceals

 

Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes

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