What Love Looks Like

“What does love look like to you?”

I asked my five-year-old Abby Mae this question one day.  She responded by quietly smiling and hopping off her chair.

“I need my art box, Mommy.”  With titled head and thoughtful gaze, she poured over a simple sheet.  I expected something with hearts and flowers, maybe butterflies and family, but her final masterpiece took my breath away.

“Jesus on the cross.”

My eyes filled with tears as had hers.  I took in her glowing countenance, her tender gaze.  Her love for Him was beautiful.

“Sweetheart, this picture is wonderful!  Please tell me all about it.”

“There’s Jesus on the cross,” she said, her small finger tracing his form, “and all of those circles are his boo-boos.”

The week prior, I’d searched online for Easter movie clips and briefly previewed a scene of The Passion of the Christ, which portrayed Jesus’ agony immediately after Roman soldiers scourged Him.  Abby had passed through the room at that moment and froze when her eyes landed on the screen.

“Why is Jesus bleeding?  He’s not on the cross yet.”

I explained to her that the beating was part of His punishment, the one He bore but never deserved, for her, for me.

It bothered her.  To her core.

“I don’t want Him to bleed, Mommy.”  She wept and wept.

It had obviously affected her in a profound way, for as I sat with her, gazing at the picture, something about it further struck me.

“Abby, I’ve never seen Jesus smiling while He’s on the cross.”

“He’s smiling because He loves me.”

I had the privilege of leading our children’s Sunday school class in their Palm Sunday song, The Salvation Poem, on Sunday.  We’d practiced for several weeks, and even though Abby had always sung with a smile, the difference was marked after we’d seen the movie clip.

After she’d noticed Jesus bleeding.

Her every word flowed past thoughtful lips, her misty eyes closing at times.  Her little hands moved fervently as we made a cross with our arms and hung our heads to die.  Radiant joy spread across her face as we sang the news of Jesus rising to save the lost and forgiving our sins.

At only five years of age, this sweet girl loves her Savior and feels deeply loved by Him.

May we all bask in the precious love of the Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunchbox Calamity

One blustery November school day, my older two children burst through the door at 3:05 pm, slightly before their typical arrival.  By the way they dumped their backpacks, castoff their coats, and yanked at their shoes, I knew something was terribly wrong.

“Hey, guys!  Is everything okay?”

With eyes widened and hands on hips, they stared at me, raging like a silent storm, their faces brooding and ominous with dark clouds gathering and rain threatening to pour.  Their collective countenance shook me, their silence even more.

“Sweethearts, what’s wrong?”

John found his voice first.  “You didn’t put a note in my lunchbox.”

“Me neither!”  Hannah nodded vehemently.

I gasped.  “Really?”

“Really!” they said in unison.

“I’m sorry!”  Thankfully, those were the words that fell from my lips, and my wounded children instantly forgave me.  Relieved smiles and, “That’s okay, Mommy!” surrounded me as I found myself all covered up with kids.

As we embraced each other, my mind reeled, attempting to take in what my children’s direct confrontation had brought to the forefront.  I’d had no idea how much my scribbling on a napkin during the wee hours of the morning had affected my children, little by little, day after day.

And it blessed me.

When they’d first started the school year, I’d planned to just pop a note in now and then, not necessarily every day.  But the writer in me found myself enjoying the process, so a personalized napkin made it into their boxes daily.

Until this particular November day.

A little finger tapped my forearm, poking me back into the present.  I turned to see Abby standing off to the side, crossing her arms and jutting her chin.

“Oh yeah, Mommy!  That’s right!  I remember now.  You didn’t put one in my snack box at preschool, too!”

“I’m sorry, Abby!”

“That’s okay, Mommy!” And she jumped with glee into the middle of our wonderful mayhem.

Because Abby doesn’t yet read, I typically draw something simple that she can decipher herself, so it’s a nice way to let her know Mommy loves her.  But that’s about it.  I can’t go very deep without words.

Looking back, I’m thankful for my oversight because in so doing, the forgotten lunchbox note put a big memo in mine, declaring loudly from the schoolhouse steps that one of the most important things I do each day is to take five minutes and write something meaningful on cheap white paper napkins with colorful markers.

It’s a megaphone into the hearts of my children.

They don’t mind if it’s cheesy or that I can’t draw like Picasso.  They don’t care if I misspell or screw up the punctuation.  They’re not picky about Bible translations or verb tenses.  They simply want a personalized message to them from me.

From Mom.

How powerful is the word of a parent into the heart of their child!

One time, I put multi-colored pre-printed cards I’d cut out of a magazine and then laminated into their boxes, thinking it would be something special.  Both kids came home, saying, “Thanks, Mom – but where’s my note?”

I dropped the whole fancy card bit.

We also had to have a talk about actually using the napkins after John came home with remnants of lunch around his mouth.

“Didn’t you use your napkin, Buddy?”

He gasped.  “Why no, Mom!  I would never wipe my mouth with my special lunch note!  Really – I never use them.”  He smiled and puffed out his chest at this great accomplishment and symbolic act of respect.

I now pack two napkins for him.  I keep telling my thrifty side that it’s an investment.

One I can’t afford to stop.

My kids and I laugh now about that first episode, for it’s happened another time or two.  My younglings realize I’m not perfect and still deeply love them.  Instead of their initial  emotive reaction, all I get is a playful scolding followed by a forgiving hug and grin.

And a, “Please don’t forget tomorrow, Mommy!”

 

The Influence of a Child

When’s the last time a child influenced you in a meaningful way?

I’m not talking about the “Adorable!”, “Grandma’s gotta have a picture of that!”, cutesy kind of way.  I’m talking about a child, simply by being who they are, reaching deep down into the core of your being and stirring something profound inside of you, a movement powerful enough to fuel passion that changes the way you think, act, or feel.

I remember a time when Hannah, my ten-year-old, bounded down the basement stairs and found me with slumped shoulders and downcast countenance, staring at my beloved craft corner.  The once-inviting studio bore what visually appeared like the aftermath of a grenade attack, its basic structure still in tact but the remaining clutter tossed violently askew.

Disheveled stacks laid atop the “Creation Station”, a lovely table, intended for the arts of painting and sewing, it now served for sorting and filing.  Boxes of mementos and crafts crammed together beneath it, and bits of this and that – markers, paper scraps, fabric squares, glue sticks, etc. – lay scattered about every remaining surface area.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

In a rare moment of discouragement, I blurted out, “I feel so disorganized.”

Hannah briefly surveyed the situation and then returned her gaze to me, smiling.  “But, Mommy, that doesn’t mean you are disorganized.  Look at the rest of the basement!”

My mouth fell open.  I obeyed her kind directive and surveyed the oversized plastic containers  of toys and activities.  My eyes took in the household supply racks, freshly sanitized foam tiles, and the multi-bin organizer of homeschool supplies and activities.  Even the play kitchen held a brimming plastic food basket, carefully placed appliances, and neatly stacked plates and cups.

I grinned as I wrapped my arm around her.  “Thanks, Sweetheart.  I needed that.”

Her gracious encouragement inspired me in many ways.  It reset my perspective.  It fueled my determination to get the job done.  It also reminded me of the importance of separating feelings from truth and not allowing those misconceptions to shape my identity.

Just because I felt disorganized didn’t mean it was true.

In that moment, I realized that Hannah had spoken to me the very words she longed to hear when her room is messy, revealing how much she values encouragement when she’s feeling disorganized.  Not a lecture, not bossy directives birthed from parental frustration.

The entire interaction grew me as a parent, and I had my sweet daughter to thank for it.  Thank you, Hannah, for being who you are and for reminding me what’s true, what’s important, and how to best encourage you during the challenges you encounter.

Thank you for making a positive impact on me, both as a person and a parent.

Thank you for being a wonderful leader.

What if we as adults realized and helped develop the great potential within every child to lead and influence others in powerful ways – not only when they grow up, but also – today?

I had the privilege of attending TEDx Morristown yesterday and hearing my friend, Dr. Yvonne Bleam, give a wonderful presentation (which will be online in roughly six weeks) about encouraging leadership at an early age.

The influence of a child can prove powerful when coupled with the careful cultivation of loving adults attuned to the value every person can give.  Dr. Bleam has written an outstanding book titled A-Z of Being the Best Leader You Can Be:  Leading Through the Alphabet, which gives parents and teachers an effective tool that encourages children to pursue leadership in everyday settings and circumstances.

Each chapter focuses on a different character quality and tells a story that every kid can relate to, even the quiet and shy, the unlikely leader.  For example, Quinn, the quiet listener, leads by listening to the teacher while other kids are talking and hearing the assignment that’s due the following day.

Whether used at home, school, or church, A-Z of Being the Best Leader You Can Be gives a message of hope and well explains how kids can influence others – even adults – by simply making good choices.  Questions and activities at the end of each chapter drive each character trait home and provide fodder for good conversation, enabling kids to think through their responses to particular situations.

Dr. Bleam is the perfect one to write this book because she leads by example.  I’ll never forget one particular time when she and her husband, Brian,  reached out to my family.  We were in the thick of a traumatic season of life, constantly gasping for air and desperate for reprieve.  When Yvonne caught wind of it, she invited us over for dinner.  The entire Bleam Family blessed us that night, listened to us, fed us, encouraged us to press on through some of our darkest moments.

What especially impressed me that night was the way the Bleam children, Hunter and Brooke reached out to my little Hannah (only about four years old at the time).  Because most of her remembered life experience centered around her brother’s nearly fatal birth, visits to the hospital, and his home health needs, Hannah didn’t know how to be, how to act, or what all of this over for dinner “thing” was even all about.

Long before the book was birthed, Brian and Yvonne had done a great job encouraging leadership traits with their own kids, and it was evident by the way both Hunter and Brooke did an amazing job of entertaining Hannah that night.  They exhibited grace and compassion through the gentle way they spoke to her, played with her, and did their best to make her comfortable in their home.  Their kindness evidenced a maturity beyond their years.

Little moves me more than kindness given to my suffering child.

Thank you, Hunter and Brooke, for leading through your thoughtful words and actions that showed compassion to my hurting little girl.  You may not have known until today how much that evening meant to us.

To me, an adult.

Thank you, Brian and Yvonne, for being faithful friends through the storms of life and for raising your children in a way that brings tremendous blessing to others.

Thank you, Yvonne, for creating a practical resource that ignites and inspires the hearts of young leaders to make choices that influence others in a positive way.  Thank you for making it easy and enjoyable, meaningful and lasting.  Thank you for investing in the future of our homes, our community, our world.

Thank you for the sacrifice you and your family have made in order to lead us all to sow into the lives of others.

I look forward to using A-Z of Being the Best Leader You Can Be: Leading Through the Alphabet with my kids.  Hannah got a jumpstart – she’s halfway through the book already.

I caught John on the sofa with it this morning, pen in hand.  Methinks I need another copy!

3-16

My little Abby Mae turns five today.

Tears blind me now, for I cannot recall her birth without remembering how close she came to death.  Many, many times.

We praise God for the gift of her life and love.  Although we celebrate today with butterflies and flowers, sparkly ribbons and bows, strawberries and sunshine, my heart trembles under the crushing weight of memory, ushering in mingled wonder and sorrow, hope and pain, joy and suffering.

And to think, the first specialist to diagnose Abby’s heart defect recommended I abort her.

I distinctly recall gasping at the mere mention.

“Mrs. Morgan, really!  Think of it.  The baby’s heart is a mess, her organs are positioned backwards . . . ”  The doctor shook her head and folded her arms with disgust.  “Why rush to CHOP (the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and make them go through all sorts of heroics to try and salvage this?”  She swallowed and softly said, “Besides, haven’t you been through enough already?”

She referred to my son, John, who’d received his diagnosis in the same office some two years earlier, a boy with intestines forming outside a large hole in his belly, intestines that were also blocked and likely damaged severely if not fatally.

The doctors had given him a 15% chance of making it.

I numbed out as the specialist built her case.  The inconvenience, the expense, the unknown outcomes.  As the doctor prattled on, I inhaled deeply.  I looked full into her fiery eyes and calmly said, “We’re going to CHOP.”

I will not lie.  Christian and I had both looked forward to a pregnancy without problems, a wondrous time we could spend with our children and heal from John’s traumatic birth and infancy experience.  What a crushing blow.  Thrust into the nightmare once again, same storyline, different details.

After extensive testing, CHOP informed us that our daughter did indeed have a severe heart defect, as well as Heterotaxy Syndrome (where the organs are abnormally placed within the body).  This five person team, although not nearly as blunt and insensitive as the first physician, waited for my decision about procuring further care.

I swallowed hard.  Then I smiled as tears rolled down my cheeks.

“We’re cheerleaders.  And besides, we already know where to park, the cafeteria menu cycle, and how to avoid the construction traffic.”  I cried a little, and then I said, “As long as there’s hope, we’re in.”

My father sat at the table in lieu of my husband’s presence, his tears saying it all.  I knew I needn’t call Christian, for I knew what he would have me do, what God would have us do, what the mother in me longed to do, and what the warrior in me was destined to do.

FIGHT!!!

On our knees, day and night, night and day, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, fight for this little life we did.  Born with little chance in this world, but oh, how her cries and the prayers of all those who loved her moved the Heart of heaven.

And today SHE TURNED FIVE!

My thoughts began to swirl a few weeks ago when my church sent out a general email announcing the annual fundraising banquet of Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center (LPRC).  In the past, our family had participated in various support opportunities, and since we continue to lay down roots here in NJ, I spoke and prayed with Christian at length about contributing.

We decided to attend the banquet, but I neglected to make the necessary connections until after the deadline had passed.  As I sat up late one evening reviewing past emails, I discovered my error and froze.  I hadn’t realized until that moment how important it was to me but couldn’t explain why.

I had no idea how personal the connection would become.

Believing that God would make a way if He wanted us to attend, I shot an email to the Lighthouse events team, expecting to be graciously turned away.  Then I clicked to Facebook to check my most recent blog post picture.  Somehow as I scrolled along, a man’s voice came over the speaker, startling the daylights out of me (I thought I’d muted it).

Our family friend, Eric Bugbee, had shared a link to Wildcard’s video of Tim Tebow’s recent interview about keeping his priorities straight, which greatly aided him in keeping his cool on the field.  He recounted picking up castaways in Haiti, not mincing words as he declared his desire to be known as one who emits faith, hope, and love rather than as a  successful ball player.  While thankful for the platform sports has given him, his obvious passion is serving others, namely those who have no voice.

I was highly impressed.

I continued scrolling over the next few days and found that another family friend, Aegis Boyer Stuart, had posted a link to a live event at none other than the Tim Tebow Foundation!  Riveted, I viewed her video.  Again, Tim spoke from his heart, sharing his vision to supporters and proclaiming undying devotion to “those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”

I’d heard Tim mentioned among our homeschool community and knew he played ball, but I didn’t know about his foundation nor the parties it served around the world.  Curiosity caused me to thoroughly investigate, and sure enough, what I discovered blew me away.

Hospitals and play rooms.  Proms for the mentally challenged.  Dreams fulfilled for the terminally and chronically ill.  Outreach to orphans.  Surgeries for the sick and disabled.  Rescue for victims of human trafficking.

All totally up our alley.

Everything I saw and viewed resonated loudly with the call God’s placed on my life, and witnessing others living it out in such amazing and far-reaching ways stirred me to the core of my being.  Not only Tim but also his parents and siblings have long been involved with these causes, in years past as missionaries in the Philippines and currently in different countries and capacities.

As I researched the amazing Tebow family, I grew more excited about the possibility of attending the Lighthouse banquet.  It seemed a wonderful way to take another step forward in the same direction as they, a way to serve families in crisis with no voice.

I checked my email one more time after my research binge and read the Lighthouse event flyer one more time.  Lo and behold, I’d glossed over the name of the banquet speaker earlier in the evening, but now, it jumped out at me as if arrayed in Broadway lights.

Pam Tebow.

By the grace of God, two seats opened up.  Christian and I headed to the Venetian awed and humbled, for I had shared with him all that had transpired that week.  We knew that He had something special in store.

Pam shared her testimony about how, when she was extremely ill in the Philippines and carrying her fifth child (Tim), her obstetrician recommended an abortion in order to try and save her life.  She obviously declined and gave birth to not only an incredible athlete but more importantly, an amazing servant.

She also told of how her son wore the reference John 3:16 on his eye black during the 2009 college football national championship, during which 94 million people googled John 3:16. Exactly three years later to the day, Tim led the Denver Broncos to a win in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after the game, his rep informed Tim that all of his stats included the digits 3-1-6.

He threw for 316 yards.  Yards per rush: 3.16.  Yards per completion 31.6.  Ratings for the game: 31.6.  Time of possession: 31.6

No coincidence.

Thank you, Pam Tebow, for sharing your story around the world.  Thank you for all you are doing to encourage mothers to give their babies life and inspire them to bravely face the challenges ahead.  And thank you for the reminder that every life is precious.

Even the most delicate of hearts.

Thank you, Abby Mae, for lighting up every room with your smile and song.  For the way you curl up in the arms of grizzly bears and melt their hearts like butter.  For the way you paint away problems, encourage the pessimist, and dance into the loneliest of hearts.

Young in years, yet a wise old soul.  Mistress of joy, deep and unspoiled, lavishly given and freely enjoyed.  Forever may you blossom and grow, little girl, spreading your sunshine and adoring ways.

Thank you, God, for this precious life.

Born on 3-16.

 

Tornado

Have you ever been caught in a tornado?

We nearly drove through one on Saturday.  Literally.

I’d heard a storm was coming, but because I no longer live with my weather-forecasting-sister, Krissie, I did’t think much about it.  Until . . .

All five of us Morgans felt quite festive as we barreled along the highway to the Scranton area for Nani’s 92nd birthday party.  Christian and I bantered back-and-forth while the kids watched a movie, so none of us noticed the ominous sky surrounding us.

Sometime around 3:15 pm, my phone beeped as it received an official weather text alert stating that a Tornado Warning was in effect until 3:30 pm and that we should seek cover immediately.

I grew up in Illinois where tornadoes are a part of life, so much so that we had tornado drills at school, scrunching up into little balls in the interior corridors.  I can still remember my surprise at seeing my mother participating in a real tornado emergency while pregnant with my younger sister, Jenny, all huddled up, lining the inner staircase of Wild Rose Elementary School with the other PTA parents.

So when I got the text message on Saturday, I knew I wasn’t watching for a tornado.  One had actually been spotted.

My eyes instinctively searched the sky.  There it was, a dark billowy mass of cloud hovering out the left-front window.  It wasn’t as defined as I would have expected, but only later did I realize that we were too close to see it.

I peered over my shoulder.  The kids were oblivious, thankfully, and I turned back around.  We were potentially in big trouble because the next exit lay several miles down the road.

As we drew closer, dark whips of cloud seemed to be everywhere in the sky immediately above us, and uneasiness rushed over me like the first jump into a swimming pool.  I felt small in the face of this inverted mountain of wind, rushing and swirling all around, tugging at our SUV with a vigor that made Christian hold tight to the wheel.

“Christian, we’d better get off at the next exit.  I just got a tornado warning text.”

“Really?”  He craned his neck and peered through the windshield.  “Awesome!”  He whooped and hollered while reaching into the backseat for his GoPro camera.  I motioned for him to keep his voice down, but he paid me no heed.  “Kids, check out the tornado!”

“Where, Dad?”  Hannah paused the movie as they pressed their faces against the windows.  They located the darkest patch and collectively said, “Ohhhhh!”

John complained loudly that he couldn’t see the vortex.  Hannah thought it was extremely cool and handed Daddy the GoPro.  Little Abby burst into sobs.

“Are we going to die?”

In that moment, something flashed through my mind that I’d read years ago.  Author and speaker, Christine Caine, had once recounted a time when she, her husband, and a few other tourists were stranded on a jungle tour.  Something went terribly wrong, and for a couple of days, they’d had to fend for themselves.

At times, Christine found herself wondering if they would survive their ordeal.  She shared that once she returned to safety, God impressed upon her heart to never forget for one day from what she had been saved.

Her story made a huge impression on me.  How true it is that I, with so many comforts and conveniences at my fingertips, can easily distract myself from facing my own mortality.

Life is but a breath.

Saturday’s storm jolted me into remembering how important, how essential the daily contemplation of death truly is.  Doing so doesn’t fill me with fear.  Rather, remembering that my days are numbered infuses me with passion to more fully live.

I found myself thankful Abby had voiced the question.

“Mommy,” she said again, tears streaming down her rosy cheeks.  “Are we going to die?”

Christian seized the moment before I could speak.

“Who’s going to pray?”

Hannah volunteered and quietly offered up something sweet and simple.  Peace washed over our vehicle and stilled Abby’s soul.  As our eyes returned to the skies, Christian took my hand and smiled.

We were now less than seven minutes from our destination, so we decided to make a run for it.  Apparently, our family missed the heart of the storm by less than two minutes because cars still huddled under the overpass as we finally made our highway exit.

Residents started slowly emerging from their refuge as we drove through Dunmore and surveyed the damage.  Fences were down, branches strewn everywhere.  A trampoline stood awkwardly bent nearly in half, pressed up against a battered shop wall.

Christian whistled and murmured, “Something definitely came through here.”

We arrived at his grandmother’s house, grateful.  His family breathed a sigh of relief as we crunched across the hail-covered lawn and into the sturdy ranch-style house.

In the face of death, we celebrated life, the wonderful gift of Christian’s grandmother.  How ironic an afternoon, how fitting an ending, how blessed our family, getting to grow together through yet another of life’s storms.

May God continue to richly bless our family and yours, through storms and sunshine, both today – and beyond.

My Heart

What do you give a great-grandmother on her 92nd birthday?

I asked Abby that question when she woke on Friday morning.  My husband’s grandmother was turning 92 on Saturday, and Abby told me she wanted to give Great Nani something so that she would know she is VERY special.

“Like what?”

“A puppy!”

“Abby, that’s at the top of your birthday list.”

“No, no Mommy, it could take care of her!”

“What else could you give Great Nani?”

“A dolphin – or a shark!  She could keep it in her bathtub.”

“She could, but it might bump her when she’s taking a shower.  We don’t want her to fall down.”

“Oh, that’s right!  Hmm,” Abby said, index finger tapping on her temple, and then she pointed it straight in the air.  “I know!  My heart!  I want to give her my heart!”  Abby tucked her chin into her left shoulder and cradled her arms in front of her, twirling all around.  “That’s it, Mommy!  I’m going to make her a heart right now!”

She ran to her cubby and grabbed her yellow supply box.  Out came the glue sticks and markers.  For the next twenty minutes, Abby designed an elaborate birthday heart, complete with sunshine, banana, apple, heart, and 3-D flower.

It was beautiful.  The perfect gift for a beautiful woman.

The fact that my four-year-old feels deep affection for her comes as no surprise to me.  Rose Prizzi Perry is an amazing person, the unsung hero of a remarkable family.  Born as the oldest of four girls into a hardworking  Italian family, Rose quickly learned how to support and encourage those she loved.

She married Army Veteran, Paul Perry, and spent many years raising their three children, Linda, Paul, and Ron.  Nani’s long hours at the shoe factory as well as those spent bending over her well-floured kitchen table making pasta, fashioned her into a patient, diligent soul, not to mention an outstanding cook.

I have gained much from her quiet example, one that never broadcasts but simply lives out her undying devotion to family and friends.  Her relentless quest to please reveals her immense desire to make every person feel valued and appreciated, known and loved.

Christian and I love to spoil Nani.  One of his co-workers told him about a top-notch Italian bakery, one known for its cannoli, which happens one of Nani’s favorite desserts.  We smiled on Friday when Christian’s mother relayed Nani’s message, “Don’t bring anything to the party on Saturday.  But if you bring the cannoli, bring the big ones.  Not the little ones, the big ones.”

Nani’s been there, through the good and the bad.  I can’t count the number of times she told me she was praying for us, tearfully clasping our hands the few times we got to see her in the midst of our hospitalization crises.

I distinctly remember one phone call during which God used her to speak into our lives in a powerful way.  I don’t remember the words but will never forget the way she held nothing back, declaring her love for Christian and I and our critically ill children.  That night, her tenacity and encouragement strengthened me and carried me through an extremely dark and difficult time.

I will never forget it.

How ironic that Abby wanted to give Nani the one thing that she has always freely given to others.  Nani taught her children well, children who taught their children, one who now teaches little Abby.

What goes around comes around.

Thank you, Nani, for investing so much love and life into the hearts around you.  Thank you for your gentle laugh and winsome ways, your giving spirit and open arms.  Thank you for your steadiness and grace during the storms of life.

I love you as my own and cherish the years I’ve been blessed to have you in my life.  My prayer for you is that you will continue to enjoy the fruits of your labor as well as good health all the days God gives you.

Many I pray they be.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Nani!

Finding the Good

Have you ever had lice?

I hadn’t.  Not until last year.  Christian’s former workplace had given us a generous gift certificate for Christmas a few years back, so I took Hannah for a haircut from the participating vendor (an upscale salon, which will remain nameless).

Lo and behold, she scratched her golden curls almost immediately afterward, prompting me to advise her to shower and wash off all the hair fragments lingering on her neck and hairline.  Nothing more was mentioned.

Two days later as I shampooed Abby, I yelped when I noticed tiny squiggles squirming around on her scalp.  Christian rushed to the doorway and grimaced at the sight.

“This means war!”

Off to CVS he dashed, soon to return with lice kits, extra combs, and lots of shampoo.  All five of us soon became victims of these persistent, itchy little creatures.  Christian dug out his electric razor and rid himself of the beasts entirely.  He also shaved John’s head while we girls watched, coveting, wishing it were as easy to rid our long manes of the uninvited guests.  We scrubbed and combed, scrubbed and combed, combed and scrubbed until our scalps turned red and raw.

I bagged up nearly all of our blankets and throw pillows, sheets and stuffed animals, clothes and towels – thirty garbage bags full – and headed to the laundromat.  Of all times for my dryer to be broken!  The kids fell in love with the laundromat and asked me if we could sell our washer and dryer.

I found myself thankful I’d gone to the laundromat because, as I placed contaminated laundry items into the washer, lice literally hopped from the sheets onto my arm – ICK!  I squealed and shoved the entire mass into the machine, and then I ran to the sink to thoroughly scrub my arms in hot water.

I went home and scrubbed the floors and carpets, curtains and blinds, sofas and beds.  We sanitized the entire house from top to bottom, leaving no stone unturned.

We did NOT want to go through that again.  Ever.

Needless to say, the word lice now has a new meaning in our home, but amazingly, that meaning has morphed yet again.  Last night as Christian and I trained for our upcoming spring triathlons after the kids went to bed (a very fun date night – he runs on the treadmill while I bike – or vice versa), we watched a fascinating documentary titled Corrie ten Boom: A Faith Undefeated on Pure Flix (http://pureflix.com) about a courageous Holocaust survivor.

I love her story.  I’d read The Hiding Place many years ago, and as I briefly searched for the movie, I came across this documentary that showed her real home, the watchmaker’s shop, etc.

Fascinating.

One thing that I’d forgotten and am thankful to have been reminded of as we watched was how Corrie and her sister, Betsie, learned to be thankful for everything.  During their imprisonment, they lived in a barracks that was infested with lice and fleas, so much so that the guards refused to enter it.  They left the prisoners’ food at the door and let them pretty much fend for themselves.

Horrible tales surfaced about what guards had done to prisoners in the other barracks, but thanks to lice and fleas, the happenings in Barracks 28 at Ravensbruck proved vastly different.  Twice daily, Corrie read from a small Bible that the enemy had miraculously not confiscated, and all 700 women prayed together in this small room built to hold only 200.  Thrust together by their dire circumstances and crammed into a filthy hole of a home, these brave prisoners held on, surviving one minute at a time.

As I snuggle up in my soft pillow-topped queen, complete with clean sheets, thermal blankets, and patchwork quilt, I feel spoiled, unworthy, and humbled as the legacy of these incredible saints thunders through my mind.  I loathe my comforts and detest my comparatively complacent spirituality as these women risked their lives for years, hiding and helping those hunted and cruelly sought out, those if caught would be tortured and possibly killed by the hands of an unyielding, voracious enemy.

How my heart breaks for them, these precious sisters, enduring such terrible suffering and horror day after day after day.  And yet, the recordings taken from Corrie’s speeches after her miraculous release reveal a radiant, joy-filled voice so powerful that goosebumps erupt down my arms every time I hear it.  Devotion to God permeated her words and defined her life as she acted without hesitation, reservation, or thought of self-preservation.

Both Corrie and Betsie sacrificed all to save those who would likely be lost had God not used them to intervene on behalf of His people.

I scarce can take it in.

May their example serve as a searing reminder to me that no matter how bad things get, no matter what circumstances I face tomorrow, God will help me find something for which to thank Him.  In the darkest nights, when I’m infested with the lice and fleas of my life, may I fight to find something good, something for which to praise Him, even when I don’t understand the “why” of it all.

Thank you, Corrie and Betsie, for reminding me to find the good and that the Ultimate Good can always be found anywhere.