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!

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.

 

Ironman Fran

“Hey Beth, Tony texted me.”  Drawing near the kitchen table, my husband paused as he placed a hand on my shoulder.  “Frannie passed out, so he called 9-1-1.  They’re at the hospital.”

I hate news like that.

We’ve borne far beyond our share of bad calls within our family over the years, but to receive one pertaining to my dear friend, Fran Lombardi, rattled my cage.  In an instant, my Cheerios® and banana breakfast became pebbles in my mouth, the rest left behind in the bowl, morphing into a soggy, pasty mess.

It’s amazing how one phone call can jolt us out of the present, thrusting us into the reality of our own mortality.

Please, Lord!  Not Frannie.

I’d met Frannie two years ago at a church retreat, and as we chatted over a cup of tea, I found her to be one of the most positive people I’d ever met.  Over time, we became dear friends, as I gleaned much from her quiet, gentle spirit and loving ways.

I didn’t want to lose her.

Thoughts raced like Thoroughbreds through my mind as I fumbled for my phone.

Dehydration?  Heart attack?  Stroke?  I gulped.  Cancer?  

I shook my head.  Stop diagnosing, Beth, and call Tony!

I punched in his number.

Her husband didn’t answer, but Christian and I offered our prayers and support on voicemail.  We rushed the kids through breakfast, and as I began getting them dressed to go to the hospital, we got word that Frannie was okay.  Earlier in the week, she’d caught a cold, and the ER doctor believed that the OTC the medication she’d taken had caused her blood pressure to bottom out.

Thank God!

Frannie is a Stage IV lymphoma survivor.  She’s enjoyed remission as long I’ve known her, but the what-if has reared its ugly head the few times something unusual has happened.

Like when she and I had planned to race the Demarest Triathlon together back in June of 2016.  It was my first race, her third, and we were excited.  We trained hard.  Our amazing husbands supported us like crazy, and somewhere between homeschooling and writing, I squeezed in my workouts in preparation for the sprint distance event.

Roughly one month before race day, I got the call.

“Frannie’s in the ER.”

She’d been over-training, gotten dehydrated, and simply tanked, but the whole experience shook us all and left sweet Frannie completely wiped out.  We all knew she shouldn’t race, but hats off to Tony for the way he handled it.

“It’s her decision.”

Frannie chose not to race, but selfless as usual, she encouraged me to compete.  I hesitated, but when I saw how much it meant to her that I continue, my mind was made up.

Press on, I did.

The remaining training proved nothing short of grueling for me as I dealt with the “knowing” Frannie wouldn’t compete, but her episode at the hospital stirred something inside me, a growling, burning passion that compelled me to move forward, faster, father.  Gratefulness that her cancer had not resurfaced surged within me, and when June 6th arrived, I stood ready at the start.

I raced alone.  For Frannie.

For all of her seemingly wasted hours in the pool, on the bike, and on the road.  For all the disappointment she’d surely felt for not being able to race the tri herself.  For all of the recent fear she’d had to face and the questions her heart had undoubtedly asked.

For the fact that she was alive and cancer-free!

And there she was, on the sidelines, cheering me on every step of the way along with Tony, Christian, and the kids.  She’d poured all of her disappointment into one big lump of encouragement, offering me strength in spite of her weakness, the epitome of a precious friend.

Thank you, sweet Frannie, for your millions of smiles and thoughtful words.  Thank you for loving on my kids and calling them precious.  Thank you for making the calls that count and being our family’s friend through every storm.

A friend [who] loves at all times. (Prov. 17:17)

Frannie went on to race the following year.  I had to sit out due to injury, but I look forward to racing with her (Lord-willing) this summer.

What an honor it was to watch her run, bike, and swim (with our families and our good friend, Mark), to cheer her on from the sidelines, to witness these special moments of victory in her life!  I don’t remember who had the best official time that day back in August, but I will forever remember the winner.

Iron Man Fran.

Please click the link below if you’d like to see Iron Man Fran in action:

TG TruGlory

Haircuts for the homeless.  Pizza for the hungry.  Trendy clothing for those on a budget.

Who spends their Tuesday nights making this happen?

Tito Garcia.

Last week, my dear friend, Jackie, wore a cool black shirt bearing the letters TG.  I asked her about it, and she smiled wide as she explained it to be part of the TG TruGlory clothing line.

“You know,” she said, “TruGlory?”

I shook my head.  “Nope.”  Keeping pace with fashion has become a distant memory.  With three children under ten in my house, I feel I’ve accomplished a major feat if all the laundry is sorted, washed, and folded neatly in baskets before midnight on Mondays.

“Well, you know Tito, the drummer at church?”  I nodded.  “It all started with him.”

As Jackie shared with me about the ministry, my jaw hit the floor.  How had I not heard about this?  The more Jackie said, the more blessed I became by one man’s vision and how, in 2012, God grew his desire into a reality.

Today, TG TruGlory serves the homeless of Hoboken, NJ and impacts lives in immeasurable, important ways.  Grooming and haircuts to lift the spirit, pizza and sandwiches to satisfy and strengthen, attractive shoes and apparel to meet everyone’s budget.  TG TruGlory’s kindness and compassion shines clear and bright through its generous acts of love.

The story moved me deeply.

Last year, my husband and I celebrated out 15th Anniversary in NYC.  Even though we live ten minutes from Manhattan, we rarely go into the City but took the opportunity for this special occasion.  Our hotel stood near Times Square, and as we approached it, I couldn’t help but notice the sidewalk lined with the homeless.

Tears filled my eyes.

Throughout the course of the weekend, my eyes searched them out, laying on benches, huddled along alleyways, sleeping on church steps.  I couldn’t escape the wrenching-of-heart, the anguish of soul.  I felt their pain as my own and wanted to somehow ease theirs.  All of it.  Unrealistic, I know, but the “wanting to” never left me.

“You’ll get used to seeing them around,” some might say, “and then it won’t bother you so much.”

Get used to it?  I pray not.

I pray that the suffering of the wounded bothers me long into the night and drives me to my knees on their behalf.  I pray that the broken hearts of strangers compel me to deny myself a pleasurable evening and do something to impact the eternity of another human being.  I pray that concern for those who have no hope would fill my heart and embolden my prayers.

Every day.

Whenever I look into the eyes of the homeless, I see what could have been my future.  I have a heart condition, which for years was disabling, and without supportive family and friends to help me through that time . . .

I could have been homeless.

Perhaps that why I can’t look past and ignore.  I can’t walk by and not be moved.  Some don’t want help, but many do.

I want to always remember them.  I want to always stop and “see”.  I want to treat others the way I wish someone would’ve treated me had circumstances forced me to walk miles down their road.

Thank you, Tito, for proving an incredible example of a man who lives out his faith in humble, practical ways, transforming time and talent into an eternal investment.  Thank you for showing how simple it is to offer the gifts God has given back to Him by serving others.  Thank you for inspiring me to do more with everything breath that He gives.

I love what you’re doing, Tito, and am honored to call you my brother in Christ.  I appreciate the sacrifice your wonderful wife, Taina, and boys make every Tuesday night to be apart from you, making them partners with you in ministry.

May God richly bless this amazing family, TG TruGlory, and all those touched by their faithful service, both today – and beyond.