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.

 

The Morgan Family Extravaganza

My budding entrepreneurs have done it again.

Today we’re hosting The Morgan Family Extravaganza, a new and fun endeavor that includes everything from baked goods to painted bud vases.

The kids have been busy creating and planning, baking and painting, wrapping and printing over the past several weeks, and the big day has finally arrived.

I will wake them shortly.

John most likely won’t need waking, as he typically rises before dawn.  Abby will leap out of bed smiling and tasking everyone as to the set up for the morning rush.  Hannah will roll over, snuggle the covers under her chin, and ask why on earth did we decide to start before 10 am.

Aha!  I called it . . . here he comes.

All three are so different with such varied interests.  Hannah has a heart for feeding people, so she put together a lovely lemonade stand and bake sale called Fluffy’s Treats.  With a color scheme of light blue and yellow, her wares will surely attract the masses, and once they sample her goods, she’ll have many happy customers.

My boy plans to take the opportunity to promote Take Out 56 (his trash/recycling can retrieval business) by distributing flyers and running a raffle to win a special t-shirt prize.  He’s also in charge of the garage sale items.

And last but not least, little Abby Mae is having an art studio sale.  She’s my painter, and she has created many beautiful crafts and wall hangings that will be sure to catch every eye.

I’m so proud of them.  They’ve wanted to do this for a long time.  For years, actually.  Dreams of doing so have gotten us through some tough times.

Extravaganza-type dreams are good for the soul, and the hope therein can bring families even closer together, even on the rainiest of days.

But I admit, I’m thankful the sun’s shining brightly today, and the wind has died down.  John stood outside advertising after school let out yesterday.  Talk about an effective marketing department!  Abby assisted so that the sign wouldn’t blow away.

The hour is upon us – I must hasten to prepare the extravaganza with the fam.

If you’re local, PLEASE stop in for a cup of lemonade and join the fun anytime between 8:30 am and 4 pm.  We’d love to see you!

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.

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