Foot Rub

How often do you get a foot rub?

My sweet girls jump in every so often with their glittery lotion and keyed-up theatrics, but my dedicated husband is the one who at the very least weekly rolls up his sleeves, lathers up with green, gooey aloe vera gel, and does the dirty work.

Wonderful man, that Christian.

I once attended a funeral for a remarkable young woman named Laura Beth Wollenhaupt.  Her parents led our church’s youth group, and even though my husband and I served as youth sponsors, I only knew Laura from afar.  One tragic August day, she died in car accident on the way to Disney World to vacation with her family.

An incredible thing I learned about Laura while sitting in the pew that day came from her college roommate, Lexi.  She shared that she’d had a chronic skin condition on her feet that was alleviated by daily washing and that Laura took great delight in comforting her friend by washing her feet.

Faithfully and with joy.

That beautiful story of not only friendship but also servanthood has remained with me for years, and I think of Laura every time my feet are rubbed.  The fact that she possessed the ability to love so selflessly at only twenty-two years inspires and challenges meet do the same.

No wonder He wanted her with Him.

Thank you, Laura, for your beautiful example and selfless love.  Thank you, Christian, for your undying devotion and tender care.  Thank you, my girls, for your sweet giggles and sparkly lotion.

Thank You, Father, for the dear ones above and for stooping to wash all of us from head-to-toe.

Fifteen Minutes with a Stranger

Have you ever benefitted from a seemingly negative circumstance?

I have.  Profoundly.

As we’ve searched for a second vehicle over the past several weeks, the kids and I have relied on Uber to get us where we need to go when Christian is at work, and one afternoon when both of our cars weren’t available, I found myself in the unique position of catching a ride to an appointment alone.

The Uber pulled up, and I hopped into the front seat.  The driver’s mouth fell open.  It was only then that I realized what I’d done.  Typically, my children pile in the backseat while I ride with the driver, but today, I had no reason to pop up front.

Whoopsie.

“I’m so sorry!” I flew out of that car as if I were a chicken heading for the chopping block and hurled myself into the backseat.

The driver laughed and laughed, assuring me it would’ve been fine to ride up front.

“I so surprised,” he’d said.  “No person ride up here with me.  Nobody ever.”

I giggled.  Leave it to me.

I then found myself pondering what a unique opportunity these Uber rides created, a window in which we could engage in the past-time of socialization, all within a small, confined space and approximately 15-minute timeframe.

I realize everyone is different.  Some people may not enjoy striking up conversations with total strangers and cannot begin to wrap their minds around chatty Cathies like me who can talk to the wall.

But most seem to like it when I seek them out.

My thrifty side detests the expense, but I find myself looking forward to the next time I get into a car with a total stranger.

But why?

I love people.  My sanguine side genuinely can’t get enough.  I feed off listening to and learning from people from all walks of life.  Christian, my husband, can tell when I need a fix.

“You need to get out, don’t you, Sweetheart?”

Just yesterday, I realized how much I enjoy popping into Ubers and chatting with the drivers.  Most of them want to talk, but once in a while, they stay on their headsets and immerse themselves in their private calls, which is fine.

I’m not about to force it.

My kids know how I am.  They used to roll their eyes and mumble, “Here she goes,” when I would open my mouth during the silence following our settling in for the ride.  But now, after we get in, one of them tends to pipe up and ask, “So, do you like driving for Uber?”  And, after a polite response, the next question follows. “Where are you from, originally?”

Because we live ten minutes from Manhattan, our drivers often originate from different countries, so we’ve gotten varied responses to that question, one that not only opens conversational doors – it opens hearts.  Typically nothing illuminates the drivers’ faces more than sharing thoughts of their homeland and their families.  Even the most stoic, crusty soul will offer detail after detail about something that they love.

We’ve learned about Egyptian history and topography, the challenges of the people of Venezuela, and life in Peru, Colombia, Chile, and more.  My children sit mesmerized as they hear the plights of immigrants, the stories of different countries and cultures, and the lessons learned through managing an independent business in a foreign land.

Talk about an education!  I must remember to put a world map in my purse.

But it’s not just about information – it’s about this person that God, whatever His reason, has allowed to cross our path that day.  I want my kids to grow up knowing this and caring about everyone they encounter, valuing them and appreciating the opportunity before them.

All people crave to be known and to matter.

When was the last time someone asked you to tell your story?  Not just the basic “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” but instead gave full attention to who you are and how you came to be where you’re at in life?

Every person is important.  And every person has a story worth listening to.  In our technological era, such engagement can sadly prove a rarity.  Parents spend more time texting at playgrounds than they do watching Sally Sue go down the slide much less saying hello to other parents across the wood chips.

I want to spend my life listening and learning, lingering and lauding, laughing with and loving on people who may not have anyone in their circle interested enough to ask and appreciate them for the person that they are.

Ah, the pleasure of people!  Pure and profound, may it last ’til my grave, for I believe that relationships and the pursuit of them is what the best of this life is all about.  May I spend every day pouring into the hearts and minds of those around me, infusing love and encouragement – even through little things.

One driver and I had a great conversation about how he loved to go through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and pay for the car behind him.

“It’s my way to show kindness.”

I whipped around to the backseat.  “Did you hear that, kids, how this gentleman showed kindness in the drive-thru?”  They talked excitedly amongst themselves.

“That’s so great!  Say, Mom, let’s do that next time we go through the drive-thru.”

The driver winks at me, and I thank him for teaching my children about kindness.

All because we had to take an Uber.

Thank You, God, that our car is in the shop.  Thank You for the opportunity to meet people we otherwise would never have met.  Thank You for the lessons learned and the time well spent.  

Fifteen minutes with a stranger.

 

On the Dock

(To read full post, please click here.)

What was your favorite thing that you did this summer?

I confess I don’t have a favorite.  There are definite highlights, but narrowing an entire season into one particular moment proves impossible for me.

One of my favorite activities without a doubt was creating the sketch above.  Every time I look back at that drawing, a peace washes over me as the image transports me back to that moment, that brilliant morning on Lake Champlain, listening to birds sing as the children played along the rocky shore, laughing and splashing, fishing poles in hand, making memories that will last long after summer’s end.

Now, you must understand that I’ve never really done much sketching.  As a homeschool mom, my lessons sometimes require me to try my hand and comply with something basic.

So, no one was more amazed than me when I sat atop a small rock wall gazing down the shoreline and up the dock of a Vermont beach house my mother-in-law had rented for the week.  The view caught my eye and encapsulated the term “relaxation” perfectly, so perfectly in fact that I wanted to remember it forever.

I reached for my phone.  To my great dismay (but not surprise), my photo bank was full, leaving my camera without the ability to take pictures.  Bummer.

I studied the scene once more and felt the urge to capture it somehow, someway.  I didn’t want to walk up to the house to grab another camera for fear the moment would pass, so I picked up my journal and pen.

I turned to a blank page in the back and gave it a go.

I’m glad I did.  The dock stood empty, a rarity with the entire company afoot all week, and it was remarkable.  Roughly hewn with bits of wood, the long, lonely figure proved steady and strong, unmoved by the water’s coming and going.

I sketched the shoreline and dock, thankful for its presence and the serenity of it all.  I finished my drawing and slipped over to the steps, taking them one by one.  As if in a dream, I moved to end, staring at the water, loving the feeling of being surrounded by the rippling lake with only a rugged wooden arm beneath me.

I stared at the glorious Adirondack Mountains across the water and thanked God for my inoperable camera and my newfound love of sketching, for the beauty of His creation and everything in it, and for this precious, unforgettable moment.

On the dock.

VBS 2018

What a blast this year’s Vacation Bible School proved to be!

Under the amazing leadership of Jackie Tapasco, our Living Word Community Church family worked together to transport over 60 children back to Ancient Babylon so that they could witness firsthand Daniel’s Courage in Captivity.

From the Broadway caliber sets, dramas, and props to the fun games, marketplace crafts, and tasty snacks, the children found themselves immersed in a godless culture and seemed blown away by the reality of Daniel’s trials and tribulations, learning from him valuable truths I pray will last a lifetime.

It was a joy to see Abby floating around with colorful scarves, grinning and giggling with her friends, singing and dancing into the night.  John constantly asked questions pertaining to his business interests, including topics such as the Babylonian centers of commerce, the ancient garbage retrieval process, and speed limit signs.  And Hannah did a wonderful job serving as a Teacher’s Assistant as well as my Worship Leader’s Assistant, and we loved every minute of serving together.

We thank God for the opportunity to take part in such a wonderful experience with our church family.  Summer is flying by, but this has so far been the highlight.  May the seeds that were sown during this precious week take root, growing stronger and stronger in coming days.

And beyond.

Please check out the video above made by none other than my amazing husband, Christian T. Morgan.  For more videos of our church/family including last year’s LWCC Rome VBS video, please visit his YouTube channel, MFP Optic.

 

The Morgan Family Extravaganza

My budding entrepreneurs have done it again.

Today we’re hosting The Morgan Family Extravaganza, a new and fun endeavor that includes everything from baked goods to painted bud vases.

The kids have been busy creating and planning, baking and painting, wrapping and printing over the past several weeks, and the big day has finally arrived.

I will wake them shortly.

John most likely won’t need waking, as he typically rises before dawn.  Abby will leap out of bed smiling and tasking everyone as to the set up for the morning rush.  Hannah will roll over, snuggle the covers under her chin, and ask why on earth did we decide to start before 10 am.

Aha!  I called it . . . here he comes.

All three are so different with such varied interests.  Hannah has a heart for feeding people, so she put together a lovely lemonade stand and bake sale called Fluffy’s Treats.  With a color scheme of light blue and yellow, her wares will surely attract the masses, and once they sample her goods, she’ll have many happy customers.

My boy plans to take the opportunity to promote Take Out 56 (his trash/recycling can retrieval business) by distributing flyers and running a raffle to win a special t-shirt prize.  He’s also in charge of the garage sale items.

And last but not least, little Abby Mae is having an art studio sale.  She’s my painter, and she has created many beautiful crafts and wall hangings that will be sure to catch every eye.

I’m so proud of them.  They’ve wanted to do this for a long time.  For years, actually.  Dreams of doing so have gotten us through some tough times.

Extravaganza-type dreams are good for the soul, and the hope therein can bring families even closer together, even on the rainiest of days.

But I admit, I’m thankful the sun’s shining brightly today, and the wind has died down.  John stood outside advertising after school let out yesterday.  Talk about an effective marketing department!  Abby assisted so that the sign wouldn’t blow away.

The hour is upon us – I must hasten to prepare the extravaganza with the fam.

If you’re local, PLEASE stop in for a cup of lemonade and join the fun anytime between 8:30 am and 4 pm.  We’d love to see you!

Ready to Roll

My husband was in a car accident yesterday.

It could’ve been much worse.

He valiantly crosses what the locals refer to as the “GW” (George Washington Bridge) daily to run recycling plants in the Bronx.  Sometimes I forget how dangerous it can be.

Until yesterday.

A poorly placed stop sign bred the perfect storm.  Thankfully, both drivers emerged unscathed, but later Christian told me about the most remarkable part of the encounter.

The response of the “other” driver’s son.

He arrived on the scene quickly.  Calm, cool, and collected, he advised his father to take the ambulance (NYC mandates their participation in their Motor Vehicle Collision response system) to the hospital as a precaution because he’d recently received a liver transplant.

The son assured my husband that his father was fine and discussed the details of the accident.  Christian reported that the son bore no traces of anger or resentment, no disgust or impatience.  He didn’t even mention being inconvenienced.

Only grateful.

After the police finished their report and the men turned to leave, the son stuck out his hand.

“Nice to meet you,” he said to Christian.

One would never have known in that moment that my husband had just plowed into this gentleman’s father and messed up two cars.  Even though all involved understood that the faulty traffic sign had caused all the ruckus, the results could have been markedly different.

This amazing son proved mature beyond his years.

I can only imagine all their family has been through over the past several years, and my heart goes out to them.  During my dietetic internship, I had the privilege of not only walking through the entire liver transplantation qualification process but also seeing part of the actual operation.  I’ll never forget the groans that rippled through the OR when the test results came back to the surgical team.  The harvested organ was found to be infested with tuberculosis, so the patient was placed back on the waiting list.

Again.

Transplant families ride a horrendous emotional rollercoaster.  They deal with terrible health and crippling pain, multiple medications and mounting medical bills, stringent evaluations and seemingly endless waiting lists.

Such trials of soul reap much wisdom.  Or bitterness.

The young son yesterday had obviously chosen the former.  He could’ve leapt from his vehicle, enraged and incensed with worry, but instead, he appeared to focus on being thankful that both drivers walked away unharmed.

What self-control.  What grace.  What wisdom.

May God bless he and his family through the weeks and months ahead.  May the newly transplanted liver be happy in its new home and not face rejection.  May the organ donor’s family be surrounded by God’s love and comfort during their time of loss.

And may I learn well from this wise man so that every time the dice of life throw something my way, I would face it with God’s wisdom and grace, standing ready.

Ready to roll.

Peekin’

“Mommy, how did you and Daddy know I was a girl before I was born?”

I will never forget Abby Mae’s reaction after I explained that an ultrasound tech had positioned a gooey camera in just the right place to make the prediction.  Her mouth fell open with a gasp.

“You and Daddy let that lady do what?!!!”

I giggled and nodded.

Hands-on-hips, she said, “You and Daddy were peeking at my privates?”

I nodded again, still smiling.

“Mommy,” Abby scolded, “you should have knocked first!”

Maybe.  Truth be told, we were grateful the tech got a clear shot and made the right call.

We didn’t need any more surprises.

This was the visit in which we discovered that Abby had a severe heart defect, the visit in which memories of John’s irregular ultrasound flooded my mind, the visit in which the doctor tried to steer me toward aborting my baby.

This was also the office in which Jesus stood near.

He was there the instant I realized Abby’s ultrasound tech teared up.  He was there reminding me that John was alive and well.  He was there when I told the doctor abortion was not an option.

I already loved my baby.

Even though the ultrasound revealed the immense challenges my little one faced, I was grateful for this incredible opportunity, a precious glimpse into the secret and beautiful place where God knits together a tiny soul.

I wish every mother could have a sneak peek.  So does a wonderful organization called Save the Storks.  Their buses bring ultrasound and counseling resources directly to abortion-vulnerable women with the hope that upon hearing the heartbeat and seeing the image of their child, mothers would choose life and receive encouragement and support throughout their pregnancy.

O God, may many children be saved through the ministry of Save the Storks!  May many mothers find You through the love and grace of every person who comes along side them to welcome their babies into the world.  And may we all never cease to marvel at the miraculous way You place each life made in Your image into the womb.

Psalm 139:13-16