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

 

 

 

 

What Love Looks Like (to Abby)

I’ve chosen to repost (below) my blog entry from last year’s Holy Week today, believing Abby’s beautiful illustration perfectly captures the essence of Jesus’ great love for us all.

What Love Looks Like 

“What does love look like to you?”

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

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

“Jesus on the cross.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

It bothered her.  To her core.

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

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

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

“He’s smiling because He loves me.”

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

After she’d noticed Jesus bleeding.

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

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

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

 

 

What Love Looks Like

“What does love look like to you?”

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

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

“Jesus on the cross.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

It bothered her.  To her core.

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

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

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

“He’s smiling because He loves me.”

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

After she’d noticed Jesus bleeding.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunchbox Calamity

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

“Hey, guys!  Is everything okay?”

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

“Sweethearts, what’s wrong?”

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

“Me neither!”  Hannah nodded vehemently.

I gasped.  “Really?”

“Really!” they said in unison.

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

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

And it blessed me.

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

Until this particular November day.

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

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

“I’m sorry, Abby!”

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

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

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

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

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

From Mom.

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

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

I dropped the whole fancy card bit.

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

“Didn’t you use your napkin, Buddy?”

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

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

One I can’t afford to stop.

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

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

 

Looking at Me

My husband recently returned from a much-needed getaway to California with some friends, and while he was away, my little Abby Mae fantasized continually about his return.  She drew an adorable picture of the two of them.

“We’re looking at each other,” she said with a faraway look in her eye, head tilted slightly to one side.  She taped the picture to the front door and chatted endlessly about his return.  This went on for the entire four days.

“I can’t wait for him to sit next to me at supper!”

“Do you think he is thinking about me?”

“I just want to kiss him right now!”

Upon his return, Christian found his ardent admirer asleep in bed with visions of Daddy dancing through her head.  A smile graced her lips, and she wore the pajamas she thought he would most like.  He kissed her brow and set a souvenir t-shirt bedside the lavender butterfly lamp, taking a minute to watch her sleep, gurgling and snoring softly, unable to be roused.

When she woke in the morning, she wept when she realized he’d gone again until she saw the shirt.  This consoled her a bit, to know he’d been near, and in a few long hours, she would once again bask in his presence.  She donned the shirt with happy giggles and spun around all pink and pretty.

“I want him to see me in my new shirt that he picked out just for me when he gets home tonight.”  Her little brow furrowed.  “Mommy, what was Daddy wearing when he came home?”

Then at long last, the moment arrived.  She squealed and ran to his open arms, vying for her spot among the others, savoring every second of Daddy’s homecoming.  He took a moment to properly greet everyone, and then he swooped Abby into his arms again.  She stared at him, breathless, cupping his scratchy chin in her hand, smiling all the while.

“Oh, I missed you, Daddy!  You were gone forever!”  She rubbed her palm over his black wool coat, savoring the scratchy cool feeling under her skin.  He held her close, beaming as he spoke gently to her.  Her eyes shone as she quietly nodded and offered brief responses peppered with giggles.

The older two lumbered into the kitchen, heading straight for him, so he carefully set her down with a parting smile.  Knowing they needed him, she gladly stepped aside and could contain her joy no longer.

“Daddy’s home!  Daddy’s home!”  She twirled around the kitchen, arms outstretched, shrieking with delight, singing and soaring all at once.  He glanced over and smiled at her.  “My daddy’s home, and he’s looking at me!”

All was now right with the world.  Daddy was home.

I’m grateful that my husband has taken care to cultivate a loving, attentive relationship with her.  In the midst of all his pursuits and opportunities, he has made family a priority, and we are grateful.  He daily strives to show us the love of Christ in the way he leads our home, moment by moment, step by step.

The name Abigail means, “My Father is joy,” referring specifically to God.  I think the reciprocal way she and Christian adore each other is a beautiful picture of our relationship with God.  He delights in us because he sees us through the blood of Jesus, and in turn, we can freely let ourselves love Him with everything that we are.

Abby does.  She sings to Him all the time:

“God makes the trees so tall

He grows the grass so high

He makes the flowers grow

And puts the clouds in the sky.”

She thinks He’s GREAT and compares everything to Him.  “Is our house bigger than God?” “Was Samson stronger than God?”  “Is a tornado more powerful than God?”

In the same way she adores her daddy, Abby loves a God she has never seen but knows is real.  He made her and died for her and saved her . . . He’s her Superhero “forever and ever!”  She even made a special drawing (above) of she and God, saying, “we are looking at each other with love.”

Even though she’s only four, it’s evident to all who know her that little Abby feels deeply loved and forever cherished by her Heavenly Father.  May we all experience the same, knowing He delights in us, thrilling in His presence,  our hearts exclaiming, “He’s looking at me!”

DOUBLE CHECK

bills medical

by Beth Ann Morgan

If you’ve had to deal with medical and/or pharmaceutical insurance companies during your period of crisis, my guess is that at some point, you’ve received an unanticipated bill in the mail. The emotional jolt you felt may have proven quite unwelcome, especially in the midst of all your family was facing.

After catching your breath and feeling your heartbeat return to its normal pace, I recommend picking up the phone before heading for your wallet should you find yourself in this predicament ever again.

I always double-check.

Over the years, we’ve received countless bills for which we were either not responsible or were eligible for some other type of financial assistance. Miscalculations happen all of the time. Services are double-billed, billed to the wrong insurance company, billed under the wrong plan, etc.

It’s stressful to get an $883 bill in the mail two hours before you’re told that your child needs an emergency procedure. The time it takes to straighten out billing discrepancies is precious, and unfortunately, it happens all too often. For us, problems seemed to escalate after our children were discharged to home where we had no assistance managing bills from home care, medical supply companies, pharmacies, etc.

Even as I type, we are still waiting for a $300 bill to be resolved that is over 16 months old. Abby qualified for a special vaccine to protect her from RSV last year. Our pediatrician’s office did an amazing job getting the precertification taken care of, but the insurance companies are still going around about who’s going to pay for it.

If I had taken that bill and simply paid it upon receipt, we would have been out $300 that we didn’t need to pay. All of those “odds-and-ends” bills add up. We would have lost thousands of dollars over the years had we never checked them.

Sometimes when I called to verify, we were indeed responsible for the charge, and I submitted payment immediately. We have no problem taking responsibility for what we owe. We just don’t want to pay for anything further.

Especially when the stack of bills grows tall.

When in doubt, even the slightest inkling, give a call. It never hurts to double-check.

SUGAR CUBE CASTLE

moms-castle11

by Beth Ann Morgan

Trying to find something fun to do on a cold January day? A box of sugar cubes, a little powdered sugar icing, and whatever candy you have on hand just might do the trick.

As a little girl, my family occasionally made sugar cube castles over the Christmas holidays, but I didn’t fully appreciate the experience until about three years ago when I attempted to construct a gingerbread house with my children. I should have waited until Daddy could have assisted with the assembly. We didn’t know when we would all be together next, so I’d decided to go ahead and get it done before Christmas.

Bad move.

I slathered the icing along the top of one wall. Four walls already stood ready to receive the roof pieces, but as I put them in place, it became painfully clear that something was wrong. The pieces kept sliding down, collapsing the roof and causing the icing to smear down the walls.

So, I’m not an engineer.

The next year, we found ourselves in the midst of another raging storm as the holidays approached.  I’d had roughly ten hours of sleep over the previous four nights, and my sweet children whipped open the front door with giggles, hopping up and down upon my arrival from the hospital.

“Christmas is almost here, Mommy! Can we please bake some cookies tonight?”

Bake? Tonight? There was no way.

I frantically opened my baking cupboards praying for something fun, easy, and exciting to fall out of the cupboard into my arms when my eyes honed in on a bright yellow box of sugar cubes. Sugar cubes! Memories flooded my mind as relief spread its warm snuggly blanket over my exhausted soul, allowing me to rest a minute in the eye of a raging storm.

Perfect.

No need for an engineering degree. A little powdered sugar with milk/water . . . a box of sugar cubes, candy. I covered my big wooden cutting board with foil, gave the kids a little direction, and watched them create a marvelous castle.

I had to turn away for a few minutes to take a critical phone call. When I returned, their creation took my breath away like the first glance at the world covered in white after the first snowfall of the season.

The castle was beautiful. Radiant, glistening and glimmering, as were their little faces, innocent, icing-covered, and full of joy.

We needed that.

We needed to accomplish something and see it through to the end. We needed to do something fun together, something lasting that we could see and be reminded of throughout the season. We needed something beautiful while an ugly reality threatened to undo all we held dear.

God knew what we needed, and He provided. Again. With sugar cubes.

Thank You, Lord!

 

photo courtesy of idratherbewriting.com

 

PAPER AND PLASTIC

Plastic Utensils in Cup

by Beth Ann Morgan

Sometimes crisis situations cause a rethinking through every process involved in daily living. When you’re down to your last fork and dinner plate, it’s time to consider making a temporary switch to an immediate time and clutter saver: disposables.

I initially recoiled at the idea of using all paper plates and plastic utensils. Eating like this reminded me of the hospital cafeteria, and during the few nights a month when I actually got to sit at my kitchen table, I wanted to use real plates and silverware. But the pileup in the sink waiting for me in the morning prodded me to reconsider.

The following weekend, I arrived home to find packages of paper bowls, plates, and cups with an enormous box of plastic ware on the counter along with a note from my husband.

Please don’t use anything that needs to be washed!

It made sense, and he was right. While I hated pouring money down the drain, the time disposables saved us was invaluable. We had no room for dirty dishes as our counter space was already filled with multiple lists and instruction sheets, pumping supplies, NG tube placement supply and diaper baskets, medication bins, etc. Clutter threatened to consume us. We fought upstream to manage it all to the best of our ability with lots and lots of help.

Abby has only been stable for one year . . . December to be exact. We were all teary-eyed as we prepared to celebrate the holidays, remembering what it had been like in years past, both the good and the bad, and then we shared our joy about being home and healthy together this year. We’re so grateful. Intent on enjoying today, taking time to heal together.

The whole experience changed me forever. While I still appreciate a pretty place setting, the moment is fleeting in the face of what matters most.

On Christmas Eve this year, I didn’t flinch when I picked up our Boston Market rotisserie chicken meal (I can’t handle cooking big holiday meals yet – ordering out helps me relax while feeling like everyone can enjoy a special meal together – I highly recommend it).

“Ma’am, would you like disposable plates, utensils, and cups?”

“Yes, please!”

 

CAPTAIN GRUMPY SHEEP

PR_SoundOfMusic2

by Beth Ann Morgan

My children and I are watching The Sound of Music. Again. We must have watched this movie at least a dozen timesover the holidays to the point where I’ve dreamt that I’m wearing a dress made from olive green curtains and singing in a canoe.

It dawned on me only today why my children like it so much. Beyond the obvious beauty of the music and heartwarming story, I believe it’s the remarkable transformation of the Von Trapp Family that has captivated my own.

A devastated widower and father of seven attempts to carry on with life as usual, a man whose powerful position allows no room for grief of his severe loss or compassion for his children’s. Their prolonged pain and obvious dysfunction moved John and Hannah as question after question poured out.

“Mommy, why did their mommy die?”

“Why doesn’t anyone smile at their house?”

“Why is the daddy a Captain grumpy sheep when he’s got so many children to love?”

Over the past several weeks, the sheer emotion of the story served has served as a powerful springboard for much conversation here on Cherry Lane. We talked through the family having to quickly leave their home without warning and how scary that must have been.

We could relate.

We talked about how the children’s hearts hurt terribly, but even though the daddy probably wanted to, he couldn’t help them with their hurts because his heart hurt, too.

We could relate.

We also shared about how confining the convent must have felt to Maria’s spirit, one that simply wanted to run free and sing at the top of her lungs all of the songs she was created to sing. My sweethearts hopped off the sofa and ran around the coffee table, letting loose in a way that restrictive hospital settings do not allow.

So many opportunities to delve into the deeper issues of the heart. Relatable, enjoyable, family-oriented. An all-around winner for any family that needs something fun to do together.

We highly recommend this wonderful classic.

 

Photo courtesy of Profiles in History

THE BEST CALL

clarita

by Beth Ann Morgan

Ever have one of those days when everything seems to be falling apart, and then, you get “the call”, the one your heart has been waiting for, the one that helps you carry on in spite of the ordeal ahead of you?

As I held my little girl in my arms one terrible spring afternoon, I knew she would not survive until morning. The doctors had run all the tests, knew what was wrong, and needed time to figure out the best way to fix it.

Time was a luxury sweet Abby Mae could not afford.

Tears muddled my window view of the brilliant reds and yellows lining the pavement below. Abby’s breathing sputtered and spattered, her body fidgeting and wrenching on my lap. For the millionth time, I checked my phone.

To my surprise it rang, startling both Abby and I. It was my dear friend, Helen. I answered, relieved to hear her voice. I gave her the quick update and then waited to hear her response. She’s a doctor, so I guess I thought she would say something profound or have a question or suggestion. What she said comforted me more than anything I have ever known.

I don’t know what to say, my friend.” Pause. “I just had to call.

We cried together. Neither of us said anything for a long time. The “being together”, experiencing the painful shared burden, no matter how far the distance between us, was powerful. No fancy words, no needless sentiments.

I don’t know what to say.” She said it again. “I just had to call you – I love you and Miss Abigail so much! We are praying.

I thanked her as my husband entered the room.

After an emergency surgery at 11 pm, Abigail survived, thank God. The call of my friend was pivotal to my being able to get through the entire situation. Simple love extended when it mattered most.

May God help me be such a friend to others in their times of need.

 

photo courtesy of clarita