George Eats Pie Crust

Times tables.  Cursive handwriting.  Parts of speech.

These stand amongst the most memorable and usable things I learned in the third grade, but through the years, another practical tidbit from a gifted Sunday school teacher continues to rank among the top five.

George Eats Pie Crust.

G – Galatians

E – Ephesians

P – Philippians

C – Colossians

I have no idea if she developed this helpful acronym or if it’s something she selflessly passed onto her students.

I consider it a distinct privilege to have sat under her tutelage.

Memories fade over time, but I’ll never forget how upset I was when Mom told me who I’d gotten for my third grade Sunday school teacher: Mrs. Harmon.

“But, Mom,” I’d cried, “I wanted Grandma!”

My maternal grandmother taught third grade at our church, and there were only two girls’ third grade classes, hers and Mrs. Harmon’s.  Even harder to stomach was the fact that my uncle oversaw the Primary Department (grades (1-3), and for whatever reason had decided to put me in Mrs. Harmon’s class.

To this day, I have no idea why.  But I’m glad he did.

He gave me the opportunity to learn from this amazing, intelligent person.  I’d previously only known her from afar as “The Pastor’s Wife”, a woman to be revered, imitated, and respected.  But I now remember her as one of the most humorous, caring, fun-loving people I’ve encountered in this life.

She’d always have a funny story or a joke to share before starting class.  Her knowledge of the Bible was outstanding – she could hold her ground against theologians any day.  And she’d always try to trip me up when we did Sword Drills.

She tell us kids to raise our Bibles high in the sky and then call out a scripture reference.  We’d repeat it and then she’d say, “Ready, Go!” And we’d rush to be the first to find it.  And then every so often, she’d get this sneaky look in her eye, saying, “Zedakiah 5:3!”

We’d repeat.  Pages would rustle and rustle until realization dawned.

“There is no Zedakiah!”

And there she would sit with her cheeky grin.  “That’s right!  Made you look.”

There are few greater gifts on this earth than a fantastic Sunday school teacher.

Thank you, Mrs. Harmon, for giving of your time and of yourself.  Thank you for sowing so much good into my mind and my soul.  Your love and support have lasted long and continue on as I teach my children the lessons you taught me.

May God continue to richly blesses you and yours, both today and beyond!

Much love to you – and Happy Birthday!

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.

 

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.

 

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

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.

 

 

All Night Long

Have you ever wanted something so terribly that you ache inside?

The only thing a mother wants to do immediately after giving birth is hold the baby.  She can not get that child into her arms fast enough, and once there, she can at long last gaze into the eyes of her little one.

I didn’t get to hold John for his first 22 days.  It nearly killed me.

Because John’s intestines were exposed in utero, he was at high risk for contracting infection upon delivery and beyond.  Even though the team did a great job containing his intestines in a plastic “silo” bag, the hole in his stomach was wide and painful, hence no holding until a series of three surgeries cinched it shut.

During those eternal weeks of waiting, my maternal instincts nearly drove me mad, and Christian and I did everything we could to get as close to John as possible.  We held his little hands and stroked his tiny foot (the other bore an IV).  We kissed his forehead and brushed his cheeks around the medical tape.  We clung to every touch and did our best to let him know we loved him and hovered near.

One fine day, a surgical nurse showed us how to slide a hand, palm-side up, under his shoulder.  We were all smiles as we took turns, sharing this new means of snuggling our son.  Part me initially felt ridiculous rejoicing in something seemingly small when compared with the end goal, but it felt so good to stroke his back and feel him press into my hand.

He yearned for more, too.

I’ll never forget walking onto the unit with my father that twenty-second day.  John’s wonderful nurse, Cathy, saw me and smiled.  After I greeted my sleeping son, I walked over to sit in the rocker.  Cathy’s smile disappeared as she watched me settle in.

“Mom – aren’t you going to hold him?”

I gasped.  “Can I?”

“Haven’t you held him yet?”  I shook my head, breathless.  “Let me check, but since Dr. Flake has closed his belly, I see no reason why not.”

She bustled away while my dad and I exchanged excited glances.  I couldn’t see his face (we’d both gowned and masked due to the Swine Flu epidemic sweeping the nation), but our eyes said it all.  Nurse Cathy bustled back into the pod, beaming.

“It’s a go!”

I squealed with delight and rushed to wash my hands as she set about untangling John’s tubes and wires, sensing the urgency of getting this boy into my arms.

All at once, he was there, staring up at me, so beautiful.  I could barely see him through my tears, smiling all the while.  He tolerated it for about five minutes and then grew highly agitated without a solid bed beneath him, so I returned my little bird to his nest.

Within ten minutes, he’d changed his mind and called to me so sweetly.  I rushed to his side and complied with his request.  This time, he didn’t look back as he settled in for the long haul, falling asleep, his face awash with peace.

I didn’t want to leave.

My sweet Hannah needed me back in Macungie that evening, so all-too-soon, my dad tapped my shoulder.  He’d sacrificed holding his grandson so that I could enjoy every minute.  It took everything in me to tear myself from John’s side, but I finally mustered the strength.  Thank God he was sleeping – I don’t know if I could have done it otherwise.  I’d waited so long to hold him . . . I didn’t want a limit.

Not today.

I called my husband from the car.  Christian had arrived at work by 5 am and had put in a full day.  He’d told me over breakfast that he was exhausted and wouldn’t be able to drive to Philly to see John that night as usual.

“I just can’t do it, Beth.”

I’d understood.  We were beat.  The initial rush of adrenaline had worn off, and a cruel worry-monster threatened to take over.  Fighting the mounting stress drained us of every ounce of energy, and we found ourselves hard-pressed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I waited for Christian to answer.

“Hey, Sweets!”  Fatigue oozed through the phone.  Poor man.

“Hi, Christian!  Guess what?!  I held him!”

“You did?”  Pause.  I heard papers rustling in the background.

“YES!”  His chair squeaked as I imagined him standing.

“I’m going down right now!  Love you!”

The next morning, Christian called me from work to let me know he’d arrived safely.  Grinning and giggling, I couldn’t stop myself from asking the obvious.

“Did you hold him?”

“You bet, Sweetheart,” Christian said.  “All night long.”

Those weeks of waiting were some of the longest of our lives.  I still tear up thinking about it.  Yesterday, Abby and John climbed onto my lap and asked me to tell their birth stories, and when I got to this part, my eyes welled up with tears.

I squeezed John a little tighter.

King Solomon was right.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV).

Thank You, God, for our little tree!