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.

My Favorite Nurse

God knows well what we’ll need while walking beside Him in this life.

He wisely formed and fashioned this stunning nurse to care for both me and my family throughout our years of medical ups-and-downs.  This one He called to serve never failed to rise above the call of duty time and time again.

Meet my mother, Judy Chase, RN.

Fifty-two years ago, an official of the Copley School of Nursing placed a starched white cap on this lovely, dimpled brunette, and within days, she began her job as a night-shift med-surg nurse.  Mom enjoyed her time with the patients, but one in particular caught her eye.

Don.

She’d barely met him when he’d arrived on her unit.  About a week prior, a fellow nursing student – we kids call her “Aunt” Joan – had asked if she could set my mom up with her cousin in order to spend New Year’s Eve double-dating with Aunt Joan’s boyfriend – we now call him “Uncle” George.  Mom insisted on meeting the cousin first, so on Christmas Eve, my dad bravely entered her parent’s stately brick ranch packed with extended family, sizing him up from head-to-toe.  He’d brought with him high hopes.

And an injured back.

Nobody knew but he how much pain he would endure when my mother’s brothers, Tom and Jerry, asked him to play Tower of Trouble.  It was a game that involved sitting on the floor, then rising to squatting, bending, and standing positions while building a plastic skyscraper.

It proved a Tower of Trouble all right.

Everyone had a great time, but by the end of the game, Dad could hardly stand and took his leave, barely concealing his discomfort.  No one present would have guessed that this strapping young buck would find himself in the hospital the following day, writhing in pain and desperate for relief.  As he rang his bedside call bell, he wondered how he would ever be able to go out with Mom on New Year’s Eve.

He was already smitten.

Lo and behold, who should bound through his doorway?  None other than Nurse Judy.

“Hello, Don,” she said with a shy smile.  “I’m your nurse tonight.”

The rest was history.  They married the following January, and my mother left her career the following year upon the birth of my sister, Krissie.  Her special needs required Mom’s full attention, and without hesitation or complaint, she undertook with gusto the role of motherhood and the special challenges accompanying Prader-Wili Syndrome.

I know she would do it all over again.  Gladly.

For the rest of her life, Mom has continued to practice nursing even though she’s never received another paycheck or worn her crisp white cap.  This amazing woman has devoted her time and attention to care for all who’ve crossed her path, whether with chicken pox or breast cancer, diabetes or pneumonia, strep throat or torn ligaments.

She’s still “the one” I ask – and she’s good.  Only last week, she diagnosed John’s Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease over the phone!

Thank you, Mom, for being a calming and loving presence in the midst of our storms.  Thank you for selflessly pouring yourself out around-the-clock, year after year.  Thank you for giving much for the sake of many and for modeling for us all what it means to sacrifice with grace.

You make it look easy.  Caring for the hurting is your obvious delight, and I stand forever blessed and grateful.

Grateful to call you Mom.

 

 

Maybe by Midnight

Maybe by midnight my little one will be here,

Snuggly and warm, wailing and dear.

I’ll hold you and love you each and every day,

Close to my heart forever you’ll stay.

 

Maybe by midnight you’ll fall back asleep,

Your dreams returning to counting sheep.

I’ll watch you dream under soft yellow fleece,

Your body surrendered to most perfect peace.

 

Maybe by midnight your fever will break,

A day or two later, full recovery you’ll make.

Back to playing and singing, cooking and games,

Making memories in my mind’s forever frame.

 

Maybe by midnight we’ll get home from girls’ night,

Shopping and snacking, a day of delight.

I’ll pamper and primp my little sweet,

My daughter, I love you from your head to your feet.

 

Maybe by midnight I’ll hear you open the door,

My teenager, my precious – you’ve been late before.

I pray you have listened to all I have said

I hope you remember I can be a good friend.

 

Maybe by midnight I’ll see your smile alight,

After walking up the aisle, dressed all in white.

You with your prince will toss the bouquet,

As you rush away on your happiest day.

 

Maybe by midnight your arms will be full

With a darling dear one, snuggly and all.

Your heart linked forever to this little child,

Your days instantly become happier and wild.

 

Maybe by midnight I’ll hold you fast,

My sweet baby girl, grown up at last,

Having babes of your own and watching them grow –

What a blessed content it will be to know

 

That the seeds I have sown have grown in your heart,

And in the oak that now stands, I have taken part

In the planting and feeding,

The waiting and weeding –

 

Maybe by midnight.

 

I didn’t make the post by midnight, Mom, but I’m grateful for you and love you dearly.  Thank you for giving so much of yourself in loving me well.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Three Peas in a Pod

This is a totally “mom” photo.

I had brief emotional moment at the kids’ annual physicals yesterday as the pediatrician declared them all healthy.

How incredible is that?!!!

I wanted to whoop, dance, and holler all at once but settled for a picture, one for which John was non-too-thrilled to pose.  What an amazing thing to behold, this stark examination table lined with blue bath towel and three squirming miracles.

After all that we’ve been through, it’s incredible to me that some days pass without a thought to the gaping wounds we’d once experienced daily.  The full impact of the miraculous-ness of their existence often takes my breath away, and I find myself in complete awe of the God Who has healed them.  To think that each one of them nearly died but now lives, physically strong and running around the yard with smiles and sunshine.

O Father, thank You!

We celebrated the good report at IKEA with chicken meatball platters and chocolate cake.  I bought two desks, one for myself, the other for Christian.  I hope to sit at mine often, writing posts about these sweet gifts and the Awesome God Who’s allowed me the privilege to be their mother.

Please help me, Lord, to steward these three peas wisely and well.  May I trust You to carry and keep them, both today – and beyond.

Almost There

Never in a million years did I think I would make a music video.

Thanks to Bob Lockwood of Full Armour Studios and Indie Studio Space, the filming stands complete.  My wonderful husband, Christian T. Morgan, is in the midst of the editing process, putting it all together in order to produce the best snapshot into the story behind the song.

Our story.

I finished the book manuscript at the end of August 2017, but something surprising happened a few days earlier.  One night while attempting to capture a particularly difficult scene, I found – to my horror – that I couldn’t write.

Searing emotion poured out, disconnecting thoughts from pen, wreaking havoc on pretty paragraphs and pages.  All I could do was bullet my fragments of thought, lashing them onto my rumpled legal pad, its yellow pages bearing black streaks and slashes.  I tried to force myself into some kind of solid format, something usable with which I could finally complete the work.  I was so close!  I’d put off writing this scene long enough, and I knew I had to face it.

The hour had come, and here I was.  Struggling.

After wrestling for thirty minutes, I tossed everything proper and poised aside, threw my inner thoroughbred the reigns and let it run wild and free, rushing across the page, leaping high and falling low, rolling and trotting, gaiting then halting.  Panting.

Weeping.

The paper I then held in my hands no longer resembled a book chapter, structured and formed.  It was a stand-alone piece, a tale of a perilous journey though unchartered waters, breathtaking yet ominous, heart-wrenching but beautiful.

It was a song.

I’d written only one other for my husband’s 30th birthday, and the process had proven quite different.  God had been writing this new song on my heart for years, but I’d had no idea it was in there.

After the words were down on paper, I took them over to my keyboard and started messing around.  Christian passed through the room and stared at me.

“What are you doing?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I think I’m writing a song!”

His mouth fell open.  “You are?”

“I think so,” I said, nodding, eyes wide.  We stared at each other and then at the keyboard and then back to each other.

He smiled and said, “Keep going,” as he walked out of the room.

Within three days, it was finished.  My first stab at songwriting also birthed an idea for a video portrayal of what some of the days were like for us over the past several years.  Our hope and prayer is that families everywhere would be encouraged, helped, and drawn close to Him through our family’s story.

Please pray with me during these final days of revision that God would bless and protect our efforts to communicate with the world how well He has Carried & Kept us through our darkest times.

I cannot wait to share it with you!

 

Aiden’s Light

 

https://www.aidenslight.org

Have you ever procrastinated on something important?

That’s typically not me, but it was last week.  My topic for this post hit close to home, and I had trouble with the “going there”.

I remember the first time I left Abby for an entire weekend.  After all of the years with children in-and-out of the hospital, I’d been yearning to finally get away with “girl-friends” now that my family appeared medically stable.

As the date of the 2015 Living Word Community Church Women’s Retreat drew near, I hesitated, knowing that I would be leaving my toddler behind, one with half of a functioning heart.   One from whom I’d rarely parted.

One who’d nearly died many times.

I admit to being nervous.  Christian and I had spent countless hours over the course of several years fighting to keep our children alive.  Their birth defects and challenging diagnoses had transfixed us into this perpetual state of crisis, torturing us to no end with the pain of possible outcomes . . . the not-knowing how things would turn out . . . and worse yet, the dark moments when we thought today was likely the last . . . nearly drove us mad.

Thankfully, it all drove me deeper into the arms of God and made me trust Him more.

I decided to go.

I’m glad I went.  I met Joanna Beck on the very first night.  Pretty and quiet with her hands tucked into the pockets of her sweatshirt, she’d offered a “hi” and a simple smile when a mutual friend introduced us.

While I discerned Joanna’s greeting to be sincere, I noticed that her countenance saddened immediately after our introduction.  My instincts screamed that something unrelated to me was amiss, but I didn’t know until later that night the reason why.

Her little boy had drowned less than two months prior.

Beacon of joy and player of drums, Joanna’s precious Aiden had lost his life due to a negligent caregiver.  With one horrible phone call, Joanna and her husband, Chris, found themselves thrust into the midst of a heart-wrenching tragedy, immersed in the darkest moments of their lives.

My worst nightmare of eight years had become their reality.

How moving the moment when I next gazed into the eyes of this mother, this beautiful woman who’d loved and lost, this wife who’d survived utter anguish of soul!

The results of such loss can be devastating.  Shock melts into anger and despair.  Depression soars.  Addictions increase.  Bitterness breeds.  Marriages fail.

But not the Becks.

While they have endured an intense grieving process, and, truth be told, some days still prove difficult, this amazing couple has founded a non-profit organization, Aiden’s Light, Inc., with a mission to counter the negative effects of poverty on children.

Swimming lessons.  Piano lessons.  Scholarships for education majors.  Mentoring and goal-setting, psychological counseling and emotional support, academic tutoring and additional programming.

That’s not all.  Their long-term goal is to build community centers in underserved areas in order to provide further support and opportunities that empower local youth.

Living Word Community Church will sponsor the first fundraiser for Aiden’s Light, Inc. on June 2, 1018.  Please visit Aiden’s Light, Inc. for more information regarding their 501(c)3, upcoming events, and ways you can support this incredible ministry.

O Lord, I pray you would richly bless the efforts of this inspiring couple!  Swing wide the door for them to help children find light in the darkness, to know that they belong and and that they matter in this world.  

May Aiden’s Light shine brightly upon many children, that they may dance into their future, brimming with confidence and full of hope, living testaments to how You give beauty for ashes and trade joy for mourning (Isaiah 61:1-3).

https://www.aidenslight.org

 

 

 

 

Three Mighty Warriors

What would cause one to delay taking down their Christmas tree until February?

A family end-of-life illness and death.  A manuscript deadline that must be met.

And three other non-negociables, one including a visit in the thick of a snowstorm to the ICU bedside of a woman I barely knew but had prayed for . . . for years.

It all started back in 2015.  Christian and I had recently moved to NJ and started attending Living Word Community Church.  Two weeks in, I caught wind of their upcoming Women’s Fall Retreat, and I thought it would be a great way to get to know the women without three children in tow.

“It’ll be the perfect opportunity,” I told Christian.

“But you don’t know anybody,” he said.

“Exactly!”

I had a great time.  I left the area knowing maybe five ladies’ names and returned home with 60 friends.

Christine Staffa and Alicia Figureoa among them.  Jillian Staffa also attended, but I really connected with Christine and Alicia late one night while we created masterpieces with adult coloring books and colored pencils.  Our conversation would go deep and then lighten with laughter, rolling around like waves in the ocean.

What a treat it was getting to know them!  This mother and daughter shared that they were excited Jillian had come to the retreat for the first time, and they also asked for prayer that Shayna, Christine’s third daughter, would come one day.

So after I came home, the kids and I made a leaf for Shayna on our kitchen prayer tree.

Shayna didn’t come the following year, but the week before this year’s retreat, I got wind that she was finally coming!  Christine introduced us, but I didn’t get to see much of Shayna because I had the privilege of speaking about how God carried and kept my family and I through medical crisis.

Little did any of us know how pertinent that message would become.

Roughly a month later after a Sunday service, Shayna became a Christian!  Tears of joy ran down many faces as she made her way to hug her mother, sisters, and brother-in-law, Chris.

Their FaceBook pages erupted with smiles and and cookie baking, Christmas lights and pajamas, their faces aglow as they celebrated Shayna’s newfound joy and the birth of our Savior.

Until New Year’s Day.

Shayna had had a terrible cold the few days before.  Due to a headache, she skipped the New Year’s Eve’s festivities and went to bed before they began.  Christine had been concerned, so Shayna had agreed to stay at her mother’s house (instead of her apartment) that night.

Thank God.

The entire family had hoped and prayed that Shayna would recover from her nasty illness quickly, as they had planned to leave four days later to celebrate Shayna’s 30th birthday in Mexico.  But they never got off the ground.

Thank God.

Christine woke Shayna at midnight with a “Happy New Year’s!”  Shayna woke but said she was so confused.  Assuming she was disoriented from sleeping in a different place, Christine told her to rest.

I got a text the following day that Shayna was in the ICU.

My family had driven to Chicago to visit cousins, and as we sped down the highway, my mind reeled.  This sweet family.  Their holidays had been so full of joy and now . . . blood work and exams, spinal taps and tests.  Revealing nothing.  The doctors put her on antibiotics and antiviral medication, hoping that would hold her until the cultures came back.

As I joined the many pleading for her life, praying mile after mile, I stared out the window, not really seeing anything at all, wishing we weren’t hundreds of miles from home while sweet Shayna lay in the ICU.

Suddenly, I noticed a far off movement in the sky, a large, lone bird coming into view.  My breath caught in my throat as I noticed its powerful brown wings, fierce golden talons, and bald white head.

Looking right at me.

Christian glanced at me, then at the bird, nearly pressing his nose to the glass as he drove.  The bird made a sharp right and disappeared from my line of sight.

“Is that . . . was that a bald eagle?”  He craned his neck, glancing back, then forward to the road, then back again.

“Yes, it was,” I said, tears forming in my eyes.

“Where?  Where?”  Three heads whipped around in the back seat, one claiming to see it while the others searched the sky.

After the ensuing hullabaloo died down, I returned to my thoughts, thanking God for what I believe He sent as a sign to reassure me.

I have her.

Peace washed over me as my heart kept speaking those words.  I didn’t know what the eventual outcome would be, but I could rest in the waiting because I knew He would carry and keep Shayna – and her entire family – every step of the journey, however long and windy they would find it.

Once home, the kids put up another prayer leaf for Shayna.  We’d moved her first leaf from the PLEASE, GOD tree to the THANK YOU, GOD tree, so we felt like she deserved a fresh one.  That night at church, the kids told Chris that we were praying for their family.  He knelt down and took time talking with each one, knowing they understood much of what his family was experiencing.

It was a powerful moment in their young lives.

In the days that followed, had I not had the sign of the eagle, I don’t think I would have been able to maintain such steadiness.  A decent snowstorm descended upon our state the day I’d planned to visit Shayna, but it didn’t phase me in the least.  I woke up that morning knowing where I needed to go.  The storm was simply the background on the set.  Some might think I’m crazy, but after all my family has been through medically, 99.9% of the time, weather doesn’t alter my plans.

People are important.

I remember every person who came to see me in the hospital and those who visited my children.  I will never forget you.  May God forgive me for not making more such visits in my earlier years, for only now do I understand their full impact.

Tests came back positive for viral encephalitis, a condition treated by the antiviral medication she’d begun receiving upon her admission to the ER.  By January fourth, the drugs really began to kick in, to the point where she responded clearly to the doctors’ questions and to family members.  Shayna continued to quickly improve and was soon discharged.

Hallelujah!!!

When I got the text from Alicia that Shayna was being discharged, I ran outside to tell the kids.  They whooped and danced around, sharing in the miracle of the life they’d prayed for, one through whom they had witnessed miraculous healing, one they could relate to.

“She’s a miracle,” one of the kids shouted, “just like us!”

Shayna’s healing as well as this family’s faith has renewed my personal sense of urgency to tell others how GREAT our God is and that He still works miracles today.

Time is so short.

Thank you, Shayna, for coming on the retreat and giving it a chance.  I’m grateful you’re my sister in the Lord and have found healing in both body and soul.  And thank you for sharing your Three Mighty Warriors inspiring clothing, decor, and accessory designs with the world.

Thank you, Jill, for standing strong in the midst of difficult seasons – I know it isn’t easy.  And thank you, Alicia, for being such a diehard, inspirational prayer warrior and friend.

Your family is amazing, Christine.  Thank you for being such a great example of a wife and mother, raising three mighty warriors for Him.

May God continue to richly bless you all.

As a special thank you to Shayna for letting me share her story, I’m offering a Lion of Judah Tee Giveaway from her Etsy shop, Three Mighty Warriors.  Please complete the survey below for a chance to win!

 

(Three Mighty WarriorsLion of Judah Tee modeled by Chris and Alicia Figueroa)

Survey (click link below):

https://gleam.io/lUFNB/drinking-from-the-well-lion-of-judah-tee-giveaway