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.

 

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.

PHAMILY PHARMACY

pham pharm

by Beth Ann Morgan

I am not a medical professional and am not giving medical advice. I’m a mother simply sharing the home system we developed in order to dispense our children’s medication in the most safe, sanitary, and systematic way possible.

Over the years, I’ve given up to 24 different medications, nebulizer treatments, vitamins, probiotics, etc. in one day. Keeping it all organized would have created a tremendous challenge if not for Christian. My handsome, in-house genius staged an area of our kitchen countertop for what we’ve fondly dubbed as our Phamily Pharmacy.

He thought of everything, cups full of syringes and Sharpies, breast milk labels and pumping supplies, hand sanitizer and paper towels. It was amazing to walk in after he’d prepared it for John’s initial discharge home and see it all ready-to-use. Not only did it make everything as clean and safe as possible for John, but it also gave me confidence that I could keep track of everything and focus on my baby, not organizing.

I also kept a log. Between tracking John’s tube feedings, Abby’s weights, several different medications, doses, times of dispensation, ordering refills, etc. it got crazy. Keeping the log seemed like a lot of work at the time, but I would do it all over again. I referred back to it whenever I needed to call the pharmacy, insurance company, or doctor.

Sometimes I was so tired, I needed to check and see when I last gave the medication. Giving it at the wrong time or incorrect dose, much less skipping it all together, could kill someone. God protected us, for it could so easily happen to anyone, especially a sleep-deprived parent.

Yes indeed, I am truly thankful.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION

sleep-deprivation_changeblog

By Beth Ann Morgan

One reason I personally love sleep is the sweet closure it brings. Each dazzling sunset signals the end of one day, followed by the birth of the next, a blank page offering the possibility of yet another tomorrow. And even though the tremendous difficulties of yesterday may greet me with the dawn, the fact that God has brought me through one more day renews my strength to persevere minute by minute.

I remember a time when my youngest, Abigail, was medically critical. The situation was dire, and I had to keep going nearly round-the-clock for three nights in a row. As I went downstairs during the fourth night to get another box of diapers, the sun peeked over the horizon.

“NO!” I’d screamed. “No, no, NO!” Sobs overtook me as I collapsed with my box onto the sofa, my head in my hands. “It can’t be morning. It just can’t be!” Another day had come and gone, this one without any sleep at all.

How would I get through the day?

I could barely put one foot in front of the other, let alone do anything requiring cognitive skill. I did the only thing I knew to do. Pray.

“Please, God. Help me.”

Thankfully, God doesn’t require anything fancy. He answered all of those dark, desperate prayers I whispered in the wee hours of the morning. He gave me hope when there seemed so little to be had. He took care of me when I was so busy taking care of others that I neglected myself.

And He protected me on my commute to the hospital in Philadelphia time and time again. Just when my eyelids grew heavy, ideas would pop into my head, ideas I knew were from Him, not my exhausted brain.

I’ve collected my personal list of Ten Non-Caffeinated Ways to Fight Sleep Deprivation for use at the bedside, on the road, wherever and whenever I’m struggling to not only stay awake but also focused on the tasks at hand and the people I love.

I pray it helps you do the same – please feel free to pass it on.

 

Photo credit: changeblog.com a la Pinterest

A New Birth

27C

My son, John, turns five today. I can barely see the screen through my tears because John almost didn’t make it to his first birthday, let alone fifth. During the twentieth week of pregnancy, my husband (Christian) and I learned that John had gastroschisis, a birth defect in which his intestines formed outside his body.

Christian and I were stunned at first but later heartbroken and scared. The joy-filled visions of the coming baby flew out the window. A 20-minute appointment had changed our lives.

Forever.

We cried a lot. We prayed a lot, as did our family and friends. Finally, as much as we dreaded facing the ordeal ahead, God in His amazing way ignited our passion and gave us the courage, hope, and strength to fight for the life of our son.

So, we took a big breath and moved forward.

Over the next seventeen weeks and then another four-and-a-half months in the hospital, John never gave up. By his sheer determination and the greatness of our God, he survived. He continued to thrive, growing and gaining weight at a normal rate. Within his first year, he no longer needed his feeding tube, and by four years of age, he came off all medication.

Thank You, God!

I cannot think of a more appropriate date on which to launch this blog. My husband wrote our family’s first post on John’s CarePage blog at my bedside minutes after his delivery.

Today, our family’s challenges have given birth to another blog, Drinking from the Well. By using everything we’ve learned over the past five years, we look forward to helping families not only survive difficult circumstances but also thrive, whether they find themselves in active crisis or beyond.

Happy Birthday, John. I love you!

WELCOME TO THE WELL

Bird drinking water

Had I known the details of the past seven years of my life before they passed, I would never have dreamed that I would survive them. A disabling heart condition. Two children with life-threatening birth defects. A crumbling marriage. Two miscarriages, both eight weeks to the day.

Unfortunately, the list goes on.

I don’t know the specific details of your wounds, whether they’re fresh and raw or healed to the point of nearly invisible scars. Perhaps you’ve recently lost a loved one or have admitted your child to the hospital. Maybe you’ve recently moved, lost a job, or have separated with little chance of reconciliation.

But from where I stand today, I can assure you that there is hope.

When I was in the thick of the hardest moments and the scorching fear and searing pain threatened to completely discourage and overwhelm me, I desperately needed to find an oasis in the desert where I could drink deeply from the well of someone who understood, someone who’d been there and done that. Someone who owned a pair of well-worn sandals buried deep in the closet, someone willing to drag them out to walk a few dusty miles by my side.

So relax against the cool, smooth stones and rest your weary soul while I dust off my sandals.

I want to walk with you.

GOALS for DRINKING FROM THE WELL 

  • To share our story as a means of encouraging others
  • To provide helpful information to families in active crisis
  • To provide resources that promote healing post-crisis
  • To give ideas that will help strengthen family relationships
  • To share the love of Jesus, the Living Water that quenches every thirst

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38

Drinking from the Well fits perfectly with my life’s purpose, which is to comfort and encourage others who hurt with the generous love and comfort I have received. My three main passions are Jesus, writing/speaking, and people. Okay, maybe four. Horses. I love horses. My sub-passions are by no means limited to the following: reading, singing, decorating cakes, running, cooking, gardening, and crafting (i.e. scrapbooking, quilting, sewing, painting, etc.). I am also addicted to using my dandelion hook.

On a professional note, I am a former pediatric dietitian, forced to resign in 2000 due to a heart condition. I turned to freelance writing, completed The Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild’s Apprenticeship Program, and got busy writing articles and book proposals.

By the grace of God, our marriage and our relationships with our children are stronger than ever. Our dream as a couple is to own a farm through which our family can help hungry, hurting, and lonely people. By connecting them with resources to grow their own food and by sharing the love of Christ, we seek to offer hope, love, and a family that lasts forever.

Thanks for stopping in. I’ve got my sandals on and will keep you in my constant prayers. May God richly bless you and yours, both today – and beyond.

Much love,

Beth