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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loved

Happy Valentine’s Day yesterday!

I teach a kindergarten Sunday school class, and thanks to the genius of my teaching partner, Miss Jackie, we had a wonderful party last week with the girls (Darien was absent – we missed you!).  Jackie had thoughtfully brought red plates, napkins, and cups along with goodie bags of candy – she went all out to make these sweet five-year-old ladies feel loved.

I had to ditch my crispy brownies (okay, slightly burned) and whip up some cupcakes with pink icing and sparkly sugar.  I also swiped an idea from John’s school teacher, Ms. Buttery (thank you!), and made the girls a personalized valentine.  The girls, Miss Jackie, and I sat around our feast table and shared things we appreciated about each other.  I jotted them down onto small colored paper hearts, and Miss Jackie glued them onto bigger paper hearts, one for each girl.

The center focal point of each heart was the phrase “God loves ____ (girl’s name)”.  Our hope was that each girl would walk away that day knowing she is loved not simply by her peers and teachers but more importantly by God.

That is one of our greatest desires as teachers, for the children to know God loves them.

It is also one of my greatest desires as a parent.

In the midst of all the Valentine chatter and activity, my son, John, informed me at the end of class that it was time to head downstairs and find Daddy so that we could go home for lunch.  I gathered my daughters and complied with John’s request, following my hungry boy down the stairs and up the sanctuary aisle.

The girls took a seat, but John stood still.  He slowly walked toward the pulpit, hand outstretched, eyes mesmerized.  Immediately I saw what he couldn’t resist: the crown of thorns hanging off the front.

My pastor had taken a team to Israel two years ago, and this gem had returned to New Jersey with him.  Once vibrant and green, it now hung there, beige and brittle, looking as if one flick of a finger would send it to the floor as dust.

I saw John grazing his index finger across the tip of the largest thorn, nearly two inches long.  He had a faraway look in his eye.  I walked over to him.

“Mom, look at how long this is!”  I nodded as we examined the thorns together.

Pastor Frank noticed him from afar and came over, rubbing his forearm.

“John, do you know that the big thorn on the backside there scraped nearly the length of my forearm last week?”  All three of us looked at his arm, but the injury had healed completely.  “I was walking by the pulpit, and that big thorn snagged my skin right here.”

He went on to explain that the thorns here in the U.S. tend to be short and squatty.  These thorns, however, resembled long, sturdy needles between one and two inches long.

“Ouch,” I said as Pastor Frank moved to speak to someone.  John continued to stare at them, slowly fingering each one.  “Can you imagine wearing that on your head?”

“No.”  He shook his head back and forth.  Then he smiled and looked into my eyes with tears.  “Jesus must really love me.”

“He does, John, He does.  So very much.”

May all of our children know the precious love of God all the days of their lives – and beyond.

PORTABLE OFFICE SUPPLY KIT

office on the go

One of the things I wish I’d known a lot earlier in my hospital journey was the benefit of carrying basic office supplies with me. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I’d had a pen and paper. Even something simple like a small zippered pouch with pens, paperclips, sticky notes, and scissors would have saved me numerous trips to the unit clerk’s desk or down to the gift shop.

When my mother and sister were in a terrible car accident, I knew they’d stay in the hospital for quite some time. The impact had torn my sister’s right arm from the socket.   And when the surgeon went in to repair my mother’s broken ankle, he later told us the bones had been smashed into pebbles.

With such massive reconstructions and healing involved, many people from multiple disciplines assisted in my family’s care over a prolonged period of time. Physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, pastors, neighbors, friends, insurance agents, homecare, outpatient treatment, medical supply companies, etc. Keeping everyone’s contact information and documentation straight could quickly have become a nightmare.

I scurried home and opened nearly every drawer, cupboard, and under-the-bed rubber bins. Finally, it stood ready, a large black accordion folder complete with hastily but lovingly assembled products for my family to use during their journey. Perhaps this simple collection of supply items will come in handy for yours as well.

Photo courtesy of decorating files.com via Pinterest

Pictured above: A dish drainer outfitted with cute files and assorted office supplies makes a great portable office. 

LITTLE QUESTIONS

DRIVE

by Beth Ann Morgan

Have you ever had one of those moments after you’ve felt tremendous healing and renewed strength post-crisis when all of a sudden, out of the blue one simple question sucks the wind right out of your sail?

I had one of those yesterday.

The kids and I were chatting in the car about how God had used John’s amazing doctors to “fix” his gastroschisis, a birth defect in which his intestines formed outside of his body. Thankfully, he no longer takes medicine, and his gastroenterologist discharged John from their service roughly 18 months ago.

Then, we talked about Abby’s wonderful physicians and how they’d helped her. Such conversation is normal for us and evoked no negative emotions, only sheer thankfulness.

Not until Abby asked her question.

“But, Mommy, did they fix me?”

When did she get so old? How is it that a two-year-old is asking such a question, a question that I don’t want to answer? The answer will change her life forever. As a parent, I want to protect her, to shield her from the knowledge that her life is fragile, more than most, and that no, she is not “fixed” – and may never be.

“Sweetheart, everybody’s different. You’re doing great today, but you need to keep going to your heart doctor because God has given you a special heart to keep forever. The doctors fixed it really well, but they want to keep making sure it stays fixed. Does that sound like a good plan?”

Big nod. Big smile.

One little question took my heart down a million paths like the tour guide who grabs your arm and propels you toward the edge of the Grand Canyon while you thought you were at the souvenir shop buying a t-shirt. I expect emotional detours when I’m writing, not when I’m driving along, having happy conversation with my children on our way to the playground.

These unexpected trips have become less frequent as time goes by, but they still come out of nowhere, blindsiding me, rocking my world for a time. The questions, or shall I say the answers, will not get easier the older Abby gets, but with each passing day, our family is learning more about what it means to live full of hope despite challenges that may lurk ahead.

We choose to press on, focusing not on the eventual outcome but rather on, by God’s grace, doing today together the best we can, grateful for the gift of one more day to encourage other families while enjoying and loving ours to the max.

And for those seasons when the tough questions come?

God will be there. Just as He was in the car with us yesterday when the question came, He will be there, possibly with an answer but more importantly with Himself.

I’m forever grateful.

 

THE VERY CRANKY BEAR

the very cranky bear

by Beth Ann Morgan

The timeless power of a good story continues to blow me away. Stories have the unique ability to make people relate, feel emotion, and motivate change. If you’re looking for a great parenting resource about how to deal with agitated people, I recommend a simple story titled “The Very Cranky Bear” by Nick Bland.

Even though it sells in the children’s market, I recommend it for every person on the planet. Without giving too much away, the story is about how four friends attempt to cheer up a very cranky bear. Each one tries in their own way, but one of the friends bests them all because she listens to the bear’s need without being turned off by his outward behavior.

This book changed the course of our parenting and gave us a tool that our children could not only understand but also use to better relate to each other when one of us is not at the top of our game.

Shilpa Barrantes, another Early Intervention therapist that helped our family navigate through crisis, brought this book to a session she had with our daughter, Hannah, during a tumultuous time in her two-year-old life. She loved the story and immediately began rattling off times when different members of our family had been cranky bears.

When my husband came home from work later that day, Hannah could hardly wait to tell him about the book. She recounted the tale to him as best she could and chattered happily about the ending. Her enthusiasm moved him, for she’d not responded to something like this in a long time.

He glanced sideways at me and whispered, “Buy the book.”

It arrived within the week, and we enjoyed reading it over and over again. My husband and I often chuckle when we use the phrase “very cranky bear” with each other when anyone in our family, even an adult, becomes a little grouchy. We then try to encourage each other to be “plain but thoughtful sheep.”

Complete with cute little “baa,” of course.

THE NEXT 1-2-3

1-2-3

by Beth Ann Morgan

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned as an adult is how to switch to The Next 1-2-3 thinking when I catch myself starting to feel overwhelmed. The sheer emotion of crisis threatens to consume sanity like a lion devours its prey, so I’ve learned to lean heavily on a God-sent tool that helped structure my mind.

It was subconscious at first. An Early Intervention therapist named Lisa had taught me how to structure my daughter’s daily activity by using a simple 1-2-3 method. Our family had found it effective and incorporated it into our daily life.

Little did the therapist (and I) know how critical THE NEXT 1-2-3 would become to my own survival.

Here’s how it works:

  • I ask myself, “What are the next three things I’m going to do?”
  • I formulate my plan: 1) Unlock the door. 2) Turn on the light. 3) Turn on the oven.
  • I carry out the three tasks in order.

Done. Then I would plan my next three steps: 1) Put my keys on the hook. 2) Hang up my coat. 3) Set my purse in the closet.

Sometimes it was change a diaper, wash my hands, and head downstairs. When things were incredibly tough, I completed only one task at a time.

It was all I could handle.

Minute-by-minute, task-by-task, somehow it all got done, or at least what needed to get done did. Even though I stayed busy and productive, I had minimized the decision-making process and given myself a mental mini-break by using the NEXT 1-2-3.

Sound crazy? Try it next time you’re in the middle of a substantial mess struggling to keep breathing, dragging yourself around on less than two hours of sleep.

Every bit of energy counts.

PILLOWCASE RACE

pillow race

by Beth Ann Morgan

Have wide eyes and hope-filled smiles ever greeted you at the door after a really long hard day? There’s no place you’d rather be, but your heart sinks at the thought of disappointing the ones you love the most.

When John and then Abby were in the hospital, I knew it was important to keep doing things, fun things, with the children left behind at home. The mother in me knew we needed to smile together, laugh together, and make memories together, but I was exhausted and hard-pressed for ideas

One rare evening when all of us were home before one of Abby’s critical surgeries, my husband took the initiative to lighten things up. He quietly opened the linen closet, grabbed a pillowcase, and disappeared into the upstairs bathroom while the kids remained absorbed in selecting their bedtime stories.

He emerged from the bathroom grinning from ear-to-ear. Both of his feet were inside the pillowcase, and his hands grasped the top seam at his knees. My knight in shining armor hopped over to me.

I smiled wide. Here stood my hero, yellow ducky print and all.

“Who’s ready to race?” His deep voice bellowed down the hall, and soon, we heard little feet pounding the floor. A chorus of grins and giggles erupted all at once.

“ME! ME! ME!”

Up and down the hallway we went, again and again, nobody really winning per say. The goal was to simply remain upright without trampling Abby. She typically fell within the first ten feet, giggling and rolling.

Free. Easy. Adorable.

The next time your children (and your spouse) are looking for something fun, try peeking in your linen closet for a simple and quick bedtime smile.

It’s waiting inside.

 

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

PHAMILY PHARMACY

pham pharm

by Beth Ann Morgan

I am not a medical professional and am not giving medical advice. I’m a mother simply sharing the home system we developed in order to dispense our children’s medication in the most safe, sanitary, and systematic way possible.

Over the years, I’ve given up to 24 different medications, nebulizer treatments, vitamins, probiotics, etc. in one day. Keeping it all organized would have created a tremendous challenge if not for Christian. My handsome, in-house genius staged an area of our kitchen countertop for what we’ve fondly dubbed as our Phamily Pharmacy.

He thought of everything, cups full of syringes and Sharpies, breast milk labels and pumping supplies, hand sanitizer and paper towels. It was amazing to walk in after he’d prepared it for John’s initial discharge home and see it all ready-to-use. Not only did it make everything as clean and safe as possible for John, but it also gave me confidence that I could keep track of everything and focus on my baby, not organizing.

I also kept a log. Between tracking John’s tube feedings, Abby’s weights, several different medications, doses, times of dispensation, ordering refills, etc. it got crazy. Keeping the log seemed like a lot of work at the time, but I would do it all over again. I referred back to it whenever I needed to call the pharmacy, insurance company, or doctor.

Sometimes I was so tired, I needed to check and see when I last gave the medication. Giving it at the wrong time or incorrect dose, much less skipping it all together, could kill someone. God protected us, for it could so easily happen to anyone, especially a sleep-deprived parent.

Yes indeed, I am truly thankful.

MASON JAR MIRACLES

mason jar marbles

by Beth Ann Morgan

Ever had one of those days with your kids when you realize you need a fresh strategy? I was talking to my friend at the playground on Friday. She’d had one of those days and broke into tears as she shared her concerns with me. I listened, relating to her on many levels as I am far from a perfect parent. And then I told her a lifesaver I had discovered roughly three years earlier.

Marbles and mason jars.

Prior to this miraculous discovery, I’d had many ultra-challenging days with my kids. Not that I don’t have them occasionally now (today was a whopper!), but marbles and mason jars have helped all of us tremendously.

My husband had told me on one such day that his childhood teacher, Mr. Wells, always kept two big jars on his desk with marbles in them. When the students behaved well, he would add marbles to the “good” jar, and if the marbles made their way up to the top, he would grant the class extra recess time. But if the students behaved poorly, Mr. Wells would pour marbles into the “bad” jar and adjust recess time accordingly.

“Did it work?” I asked.

“Extremely well,” my husband said. “We wanted to please him.”

It made sense. If it worked for Mr. Wells, perhaps it could work for me. I decided to give it a whirl. When we explained the system to the kids, we let them pick the reward they would receive once the good jar was filled. A special treat. Staying up late. A fun family outing. And then we explained that if the other jar filled first, they would lose the opportunity to earn that particular reward.

Wow! Overnight, the kids transformed from complaining and melting down to encouraging and sharing. It was amazing. Not that they suddenly became perfect, but the difference was marked. I could see they wanted to please me.   They not only received several rewards, but they also felt good about making wise behavior choices.

Who would have thought so many miracles would be birthed in a mason jar?