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.

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!

Night to Shine – Newsletter Feature

https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/stories/krissies-night-shine

Guess what?!  I want to share with you that I received the Tim Tebow Foundation (TTF)’s quarterly newsletter today.  Wondering who made the Night to Shine feature?

None other than my sweet sister, Krissie!!!

Krissie was thrilled to hear her story had been chosen.  What an honor it is to share with the world how one precious night impacted her as well as our family in such a powerful and loving way.

She still smiles whenever she recounts that beautiful February evening.  Can’t you just hear her giggling?

Words fail to adequately describe the deep appreciation we have for the TTF, Leah (Krissie’s Buddy, pictured above), Pastor Joseph Velarde of Riverbend Church in Allentown, PA, and his incredible team for hosting the prom that brought out people with special needs from all over the Lehigh Valley, bringing them into a place where they were celebrated, honored, and loved for the amazing kings and queens that they are.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  May God richly bless you always.

Please click on the link to read her feature:

https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/stories/krissies-night-shine

 

It Is Finished

I don’t remember a super-sunny Good Friday.  Ever.

Perhaps somewhere in the world, but never where I’ve been.  And that’s okay with me.  It matches my mood as I take more time than usual to remember the life of Christ.

My dad took part in an Easter musical years ago when we lived in Texas.  Our church performed it in my high school (which was huge – 707 in my graduating class!) and put on a stunning recreation of Jesus’ story.  It bore great significance in my life – I still sing many of the songs to this day at the top of my lungs when I shower.

But sadly, when I went to retrieve the DVD of his musical yesterday, I couldn’t find it.  Grrr!  I was not happy about not partaking in what has become one of my most precious Easter traditions.

I opted for my second choice, The Jesus Film.  

As I watched it with my children, I found myself struck once again by the submission of Issac.  My Pastor, Frank Bolella, had taught a few months ago about Abraham sacrificing his only son, the one he had waited for and yet been called to give back to God.

Believing God would somehow restore Isaac’s life, Abraham headed out with two servants and his son, finally stopping to do the deed atop Mount Moriah, the very place where hundreds of years later, Jesus would die on the cross for the sins of the world.

Isaac carried the wood on which he would lay, as Christ did His cross.  And once Abraham readied the altar, Issac took his place, without struggle, without malice.  He submitted fully to the will of his father and became what would have been a sacrifice.

If I had been Isaac, would I have tried to reason with my father?  Would I have insisted a lamb would have proven good enough, a substitute God would surely accept?  Would I have thought my father mad and launched a physical defense?

Would I have been so humble?

Had Isaac not yielded, he would never have known the miraculous outcome of his remarkable obedience.  How his father heard the angel’s voice commanding him not to slay his son.  How the testing of God brought about tremendous blessing for generation upon generation.  How well Isaac modeled the actions of the One Who ultimately died for him.

For you.  For me.

Abraham sacrificed a ram caught in the thicket that day as a substitute for Issac.  Years later, there was no sheep in the thicket, no last-minute intervention by a just yet grieving Father.  He provided the ultimate perfect sacrifice, His Son.

Jesus.

Rejected by friends.  Declared insane by family.  Tortured while innocent.  Envied by leaders.  Despised by brothers.  Beaten without cause.  Spit on by soldiers.  Mocked by accusers.  Denied by disciples.  Scorned by thousands.  Abandoned by followers.

Separated from His Father.

Unfathomable pain, a wounding only imagined by man.  Neither the bleeding nor the beating, not the thorns or the nails, but the searing agony of feeling forsaken by the One He loved most ultimately cost Him the most.

All that He may utter, “It is finished.”

Jesus’ passionate pain of great price ushered in the most magnificent victory that ever was and will ever be.  Crushing victory over the enemy and all his treasonous angels.  Victory over sin and death, suffering and sorrow, pain and sickness.

Victory to be enjoyed and celebrated forever and ever, thanks to One with the humility of Isaac, a lowly Carpenter named Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Savior of the World – Hallelujah!!!

 

 

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.

 

 

A Smiling Six

Abby Mae turned six on Friday.

Her smile says it all.  I have zillions of pictures of her, but this one makes the top ten without question.  Sheer joy encompassed her in the Chuckie Cheese ticket blaster as she frantically grabbed at colored scraps swirling all around, shrieking with delight.

And to think I almost didn’t get to write this.

Nothing short of miraculous is her life.  Even her birthdate, 3-16, symbolizes the hand of God upon her soul.  I tell the whole story in one of my favorite blog posts titled 3-16, linked below.

https://drinkingfromthewell.com/2017/03/16/3-16/

 

Strategic Planner

Do you enjoy personality/strength/weakness tests?  I do.

A few years ago, I took one located in the book titled Now, Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton.  The questionnaire proved similar to most I’d previously taken, but the labels for the end results were uniquely termed.  And I liked it because I felt that it not only gave an overall great assessment but it also pegged my number one strength to a T.

Strategic planning.

When I think of great strategic planners, two amazing women come to mind.  My mother and my good friend, Wendi.

The kids and I had the pleasure of spending an entire six hours yesterday with my dear friend, Wendi Fulton Wetzel Pickel.  There’s much wisdom to be had in this little 50-something package, who kindly delivered herself to my doorstep that damp February morning.

I’d met her seven years ago during one of my darkest seasons.  She’d contacted me online regarding a book I’d written, and after chatting back-and-forth, we realized that we’d both planned to attend the same fundraiser for Kenyan orphans in Philadelphia and took the opportunity to ride together.

It was a Divine appointment.

John had been home from the hospital roughly six months when I popped into Wendi’s car.  Even though medically he was doing great, my husband and I found ourselves in the midst of a marital mess, mopping up after our son’s crisis had passed.

I have no idea to this day what made me do it, but I dumped my bucket to this sweet, compassionate, total stranger.

I’m so thankful I did.  She’d been through nearly the exact same thing.

God paired us up that night, as she became intimately acquainted not only with my family but also our troubles.  Because of her incredibly challenging life experiences, she was uniquely qualified to walk beside me through mine.

She has listened for hours upon hours.  She’s done my dishes and brought me ice packs, she’s met me in hospitals and made me oatmeal, she’s cared for my children and spent countless hours boldly loving, pouring herself unreservedly into my life.  A fabulous sounding board, yet discerning and wise, unafraid to be a truth-teller, a blessed one who holds me accountable to biblical principles.

I thank God for her.

Wendi couldn’t stop smiling as she watched the kids play yesterday.  “It’s amazing to watch them together,” she said as she shook her head.  “They look so normal – so healthy, so happy.”

She saw them at their worst.  The meltdowns, the feeding tubes and oxygen tanks, the downward spirals.  I’ll never forget a bittersweet moment when Abby turned a corner after a difficult bout in the hospital and was unexpectedly discharged early.  We were ecstatic . . . but I had no idea how we were getting home.  The timing seemed terrible.

Until I called Wendi.

All she said was, “Great!  What’s the exit?” as I heard keys jingling and feet walking . . . and then the car door closing.

She’s been through much – I have great respect for her and have found her amazingly gifted at helping others during crisis because she knows how best to survive them.  Through much adversity , God has made her shine like the sun into the lives of many in their darkest times.

He’s even taking her international.

This brilliant retiree has met her unexpectedly challenging life-stage head-on as she and her wonderful husband, Tim Pickel, have channeled their energies wisely and well.  They’ve partnered with a missions organization founded by Larry Roth and Marsha Roth called OneMillionChildren, which serves to bring clean water, medical care, and the Word of God to one million children in Africa.

 

Thank you, Wendi, for all you’ve done to lift me up and walk with me in this life.  Thank you for your steadfast example and countless selfless acts.  Thank you for your wise counsel and uncompromising quest to strategize what’s best for everyone.

Thank you for being an absolutely wonderful friend.

I praise the number one Strategic Planner for allowing our paths to cross in this life – I’ve already put in a request for a regular time-block with you in eternity.

May He continue to use you to bless many as He richly blesses you and Tim and the work of your hearts and hands both today – and beyond!

 

Boo Boo Bear

I must tell you a story.

Friday night, my 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, brought her fuzzy friend, Tashi, to the Tim Tebow Foundation‘s Night to Shine event at Riverbend Community Church in Allentown, PA.  Both Hannah and I volunteered as makeup artists at this amazing prom for people with special needs, but I had no idea how deeply and in what ways the evening would impact her.

I would drive the 200 miles again.  In a heartbeat.

Nine years ago, my sister, Krissie, had given a huggable, lovable Winnie-the-Pooh to Hannah on her second birthday.  She had fallen in love with it instantly.

“Oh, Aunt KiKi, I just love her!  I’m naming her Tashi.”

From that moment on, Tashi ate at our table and shared Hannah’s bed, rode in the backseat and sat alongside the bathtub.  They were inseparable, these two.

Until one dreadful evening.

We’d gone to my in-laws’ for Chicken Scampi when, lo and behold, sweet Tashi slipped under the table and fell prey to their frisky Labrador Retriever named Bodi.  Papa came to her rescue, but not before she lost her right arm from the shoulder down.  Try as he may, Papa couldn’t repair the severed appendage.  Sweet Hannah had to settle for a simple seam in place of the arm that once was.

And it was hard.

Hannah grieved the loss for her friend.  No more dancing in the fall leaves like princesses do at a ball.  No more patty-cake.  No more two-armed hugs.

She asked for a new bear, one that could do all of those things.  Aunt KiKi complied as did my mother-in-law.  One of those new animals got lost on a grocery trip, so the remaining bear assumed the role of “Tashi” in Hannah’s life.

During our next basement spring cleaning as we thinned out all the toys and stuffed animals, Hannah found herself unable to part with her disabled friend and decided to rename the original Tashi “Boo Boo Bear”.  It was a great segway into talking about how upset Hannah been when Boo Boo had gotten hurt.  Hannah realized how much she’d missed Boo Boo and that she was still a really good friend because her heart mattered more than her arms ever did.

“I want to keep her forever, Mommy.  I love her.”

Years passed with few ups and several drastic downs in Hannah’s life.  One of the worst was when Aunt Ki Ki was in a terrible accident.

She lost her right arm above the shoulder.  Just like Boo Boo Bear.

I’ll never forget telling Hannah and her siblings about Aunt KiKi’s arm.  After everyone cried together, I brought out Boo Boo Bear.  Hannah’s small smile spread through her tears.

“See how much we love Boo Boo Bear?” I asked.  Everyone nodded.  “Aunt Ki Ki is still the same wonderful amazing person inside.  A missing arm can’t change that, right, Hannah?”

She nodded gently and reached for Boo Boo, hugging her fiercely.

Five years later, Hannah has remained sensitive to her aunt’s disabilities and asked to volunteer with me at Night to Shine.  Right before we left for PA, she got the dreadful news that Tashi, the Second, who’d been MIA since a beachside hotel stay, had been discarded the previous month.  We’d had trouble tracking her down, so by the time we connected with the person in-the-know, it was too late.  The staff had held onto Tashi for a while, realizing she was special to someone, hoping she would be claimed but had finally given up.

Hannah’s heart broke.

She was inconsolable, and I ached for her.  Dear God, what can I do?

He put it in my heart to go down to the bin in the basement and resurrect Boo Boo Bear, the original Tashi.  I complied and then made my cautious approach.

“I thought you might like to hold her – Boo Boo Bear.”  I held out the fluffy golden animal. Hannah refused to touch it.

“But, Mom,” she said, “I still miss the other Tashi!”  Hannah’s defenses rose, and I felt the drawbridge of her heart begin its creaky rise above the moat.

“Of course you do,” I said, intentionally pausing long, hugging her close.  “Tashi was and will always be a special friend.”  I felt Hannah relax against me as I sat next to her.

After she cried a little, I reached over and placed Boo Boo Bear on her lap.  Hannah gingerly grasped her torso and then carefully fingered the seam on the bear’s right shoulder.

“I think it’s amazing you still have this one,” I said.  “She was your first friend, you know.”

Hannah stared for a long moment.  Then, ever-so-slowly, she nodded as the corners of her mouth turned up.  “That is neat.”  She gave Boo Boo a warm embrace and spun around the room.  “I’m going to call her Tashi again.”  Hannah glanced at me.

“I think that’s a a wonderful idea, Sweetheart.”

“Can she come with us to Night to Shine?”

“Absolutely!”  I smiled, elated and relieved.  I checked my watch.  “You’d better hustle upstairs and get Tashi ready – we need to leave soon.”

“That’s right!”  Hannah beamed, staring with love at her dear friend.  “Come on, Tashi!  I’ve got just the dress for you.  And wait until you see my new JoJo Siwa bows I got for my birthday!”  The pair disappeared down the hallway.

My heart sang the rest of the night to see how my daughter had blossomed and grown through painful loss and challenging times.  How she delighted to volunteer and be blessed by Night to Shine.  How she was moved to tears many times throughout the night.  She had been given the opportunity to not only apply the guests’ eye shadow and lip gloss but also experience the importance of making people with special needs feel valued, honored, and beautiful.

Because they are.

How fitting, how touching, how amazing, the timing of it all, these three precious ladies sharing this evening together, dancing the night away.

Aunt KiKi, Hannah, and Tashi.

Shining.