It Ate Roast Beef

To the delight of the kids, Christian had taken a random August Wednesday off to pack the SUV to the gills with snacks, sunscreen, and beach toys, and when it could hold no more, we piled in and zipped off to enjoy Morgan Family Beach Day 2017.

Who could have known a ruthless assailant lurked nearby?

We pulled into the Point Pleasant lot, gathered up our “Fun Gear”, and headed toward the shoreline.  The kids squealed with delight as they ditched their flip-flops and immersed their feet in the glistening sand.  We pitched our camp.  Colorful towels and sandcastles, beach ball and snacks, seagulls and water.  It was all fun and games.

Until.

Hannah asked me to swim with her, and I gladly obliged.  We swam out past the littles dipping buckets for castle-building and past the knee-depth adventurers seeking shells and creatures, settling into the deeper water rhythm, letting the waves push us up, then gently letting our bodies fall.

After a mere five minutes, I felt an object strike the middle toe on my left foot at such high speed that my entire leg shot out and swung me 180-degrees.  Pain almost immediately replaced the shock.  I awkwardly lurched forward and clutched my ankle but then nearly face-planted in the salty water..

“Hannah,” I gasped, “are you okay?”  My mama bear instincts kicked in.  I initially thought I’d somehow kicked her shin and worried that she suffered a worse injury than mine.

With a sweet, faraway look, she took a minute to paddle around and face me.

“What?”

“Didn’t you feel that?”

“Feel what?”

“I don’t know,” I said, amazed she hadn’t sustained an injury.  “Some strong current or a rock . . . something hit me so hard that I spun around.  I couldn’t tell if I whacked your shin.”

“I’m fine.”  She returned to her dreamy, relaxed floating over the wave tops, focusing her gaze back to the shoreline.

I’m not!  I didn’t want to intrude further on her reverie and vowed to hang in there a while longer, but I wasn’t sure how long I could last.  All attempts to catch and hold my ailing appendage were inhibited by the waves, so it hung down in the water, fluttering and flapping with the current.

Ouch.

Instead of resembling a solid, weblike flipper, my left foot had become a prong-like, inefficient painful mess.  Time to pull the plug.

I hobbled back to camp while Hannah reported the news to Christian.  Lifeguards gathered and the EMT assessed.  Christian packed up the no-longer-fun gear.  The kids oscillated between disappointment and concern, and a beach wheelchair carried me to the gate, where we loaded up and headed home.

Early.  Way too early.

I tried to console myself and my blessed carload with Pollyanna thoughts.  At least we got to go.  I’ll only visit the ER, not be admitted.  The drive isn’t long.  We can come back another time.

Then I glanced in my little spy view mirror.

Speckles of sand stuck to their faces and necks as they stared out the windows, open-mouthed and nearly nodding off.  They’d so looked forward to this day.  I glanced at Christian sideways, the set of his jaw, the sag of his shoulders.

I changed course.  Tossing my power of positive thinking to the wind, I spoke the words they needed to hear most in that moment.

“I’m sorry, everybody,” I said, my voice breaking with sobs.  “I’m sorry we had to leave early.  I didn’t want to either.  It really stinks.”

Hearts melted and small smiles covered their faces.

“It’s okay, Mommy!”s and “You couldn’t help it”s erupted throughout the vehicle.  Christian grasped my hand and squeezed with a chuckle.

“It’ll make for great footage.”

Great.  Just great.

Hannah accompanied me to the ER.  Christian had thought it might need to be set, but alas, I received the standard tape, ace bandage, and crutches.  I could’ve used the ones from last summer (when I broke my right foot) if one arm pad hadn’t fallen off.

Six weeks later, it still isn’t healed.  I’ve probably been walking on it too much, but with three young kids during the summertime, it’s hard to keep this girl down.  I’ll try to be good for a bit longer . . .

To this day, I have no idea what struck my toe.  The podiatrist following up with me said that the break was bad, running diagonally down the length of my bone.  Abby had attended the initial visit with me, and when he’d asked which toe I’d broken, she giggled.

“It ate roast beef.”

For the full and complete video of Morgan Family Beach Day 2017, click here.

 

Tornado

Have you ever been caught in a tornado?

We nearly drove through one on Saturday.  Literally.

I’d heard a storm was coming, but because I no longer live with my weather-forecasting-sister, Krissie, I did’t think much about it.  Until . . .

All five of us Morgans felt quite festive as we barreled along the highway to the Scranton area for Nani’s 92nd birthday party.  Christian and I bantered back-and-forth while the kids watched a movie, so none of us noticed the ominous sky surrounding us.

Sometime around 3:15 pm, my phone beeped as it received an official weather text alert stating that a Tornado Warning was in effect until 3:30 pm and that we should seek cover immediately.

I grew up in Illinois where tornadoes are a part of life, so much so that we had tornado drills at school, scrunching up into little balls in the interior corridors.  I can still remember my surprise at seeing my mother participating in a real tornado emergency while pregnant with my younger sister, Jenny, all huddled up, lining the inner staircase of Wild Rose Elementary School with the other PTA parents.

So when I got the text message on Saturday, I knew I wasn’t watching for a tornado.  One had actually been spotted.

My eyes instinctively searched the sky.  There it was, a dark billowy mass of cloud hovering out the left-front window.  It wasn’t as defined as I would have expected, but only later did I realize that we were too close to see it.

I peered over my shoulder.  The kids were oblivious, thankfully, and I turned back around.  We were potentially in big trouble because the next exit lay several miles down the road.

As we drew closer, dark whips of cloud seemed to be everywhere in the sky immediately above us, and uneasiness rushed over me like the first jump into a swimming pool.  I felt small in the face of this inverted mountain of wind, rushing and swirling all around, tugging at our SUV with a vigor that made Christian hold tight to the wheel.

“Christian, we’d better get off at the next exit.  I just got a tornado warning text.”

“Really?”  He craned his neck and peered through the windshield.  “Awesome!”  He whooped and hollered while reaching into the backseat for his GoPro camera.  I motioned for him to keep his voice down, but he paid me no heed.  “Kids, check out the tornado!”

“Where, Dad?”  Hannah paused the movie as they pressed their faces against the windows.  They located the darkest patch and collectively said, “Ohhhhh!”

John complained loudly that he couldn’t see the vortex.  Hannah thought it was extremely cool and handed Daddy the GoPro.  Little Abby burst into sobs.

“Are we going to die?”

In that moment, something flashed through my mind that I’d read years ago.  Author and speaker, Christine Caine, had once recounted a time when she, her husband, and a few other tourists were stranded on a jungle tour.  Something went terribly wrong, and for a couple of days, they’d had to fend for themselves.

At times, Christine found herself wondering if they would survive their ordeal.  She shared that once she returned to safety, God impressed upon her heart to never forget for one day from what she had been saved.

Her story made a huge impression on me.  How true it is that I, with so many comforts and conveniences at my fingertips, can easily distract myself from facing my own mortality.

Life is but a breath.

Saturday’s storm jolted me into remembering how important, how essential the daily contemplation of death truly is.  Doing so doesn’t fill me with fear.  Rather, remembering that my days are numbered infuses me with passion to more fully live.

I found myself thankful Abby had voiced the question.

“Mommy,” she said again, tears streaming down her rosy cheeks.  “Are we going to die?”

Christian seized the moment before I could speak.

“Who’s going to pray?”

Hannah volunteered and quietly offered up something sweet and simple.  Peace washed over our vehicle and stilled Abby’s soul.  As our eyes returned to the skies, Christian took my hand and smiled.

We were now less than seven minutes from our destination, so we decided to make a run for it.  Apparently, our family missed the heart of the storm by less than two minutes because cars still huddled under the overpass as we finally made our highway exit.

Residents started slowly emerging from their refuge as we drove through Dunmore and surveyed the damage.  Fences were down, branches strewn everywhere.  A trampoline stood awkwardly bent nearly in half, pressed up against a battered shop wall.

Christian whistled and murmured, “Something definitely came through here.”

We arrived at his grandmother’s house, grateful.  His family breathed a sigh of relief as we crunched across the hail-covered lawn and into the sturdy ranch-style house.

In the face of death, we celebrated life, the wonderful gift of Christian’s grandmother.  How ironic an afternoon, how fitting an ending, how blessed our family, getting to grow together through yet another of life’s storms.

May God continue to richly bless our family and yours, through storms and sunshine, both today – and beyond.

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!”