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!

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