This is how we love each other

Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

There should always be homemade Chex mix on the counter, in a twenty year old Tupperware dish.

Also, there should be my 94-year-old grandmother Deenie’s peanut patties (dyed red with food coloring, made with corn syrup) available to all.

Speaking of red food coloring, I have to mention Mom’s chocolate chip meringue cookies. (Sometimes they’re also dyed green.)

The night before Christmas Eve my dad will make the pies. He is the official family pie maker because his dad taught him that real men should not only be able to fix a leaky pipe and change the oil in a car, they should also play a stringed instrument and bake a good loaf of bread. (My dad hasn’t figured out the bread part yet, but his pies are fierce. And his fix-it skills and violin accomplishments are pretty fantastic.) I love the sight of my dad at the counter with his pies and my sister in law peeling the apples at the kitchen table—one long curl.

Creamy potato soup on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning: banana bread, coffee, my mom and Deenie and Aunt Vicki around the table in the 7 am morning darkness, waiting for the kids to find their stockings.

Deenie has always made the gravy just the way her mama taught her on the West Texas farm of her childhood. She oversees my mother at the stove.

. . .

Today I'm at , thinking about my family rituals and why I choose to keep carting my kids to Texas at Christmas.

Good words for Thanksgiving

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"It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear."

-Ann Voskamp 

"[The] dinner party is a true proclamation of the abundance of being--a rebuke to the thrifty little idolatries by which we lose sight of the lavish hand that made us. It is precisely because no one needs soup, fish, meat, salad, cheese, and dessert at one meal that we so badly need to sit down to them from time to time. It was largesse that made us all; we were not created to fast forever. The unnecessary is the the taproot of our being and the last key to the door of delight. Enter here, therefore, as a sovereign remedy for the narrowness of our minds and the stinginess of our souls, the formal dinner...the true convivium--the long Session that brings us nearly home."

-Robert Farrar Capon

"What will our final perspective be on all these hours? The hours of work, the hours of wealth, the idle hours, the hours of failure and self-doubt? Who stands up and divests themselves of this body of work? Who lets go of all these accomplishments, these so-called failures? Do we look back on the wealth acquired from the acquisition, the poems published and admired, the house built and sold, the land farmed and productive, or do we see the drama of the acquisition, the beauty in the act of writing itself, the happiness the house can contain, the love of the land and the sky that nourished it?...

It is the hidden in our work that always holds the treasure. A life dedicated to the goodness in work is a life making visible all the rich invisible seams of existence hidden from others. Good work is a grateful surprise."

-David Whyte,

"Thanks be to Thee, Jesu Christ, For the many gifts Thou has bestowed on me, Each day and night, each sea and land, Each weather fair, each calm, each wild.

I am giving Thee worship with my whole life, I am giving Thee assent with my whole power, I am giving Thee praise with my whole tongue, I am giving Thee honour with my whole utterance.

I am giving Thee reverence with my whole understanding, I am giving Thee offering with my whole thought, I am giving Thee praise with my whole fervour, I am giving Thee humility in the blood of the Lamb.

I am giving Thee love with my whole devotion, I am giving Thee kneeling with my whole desire, I am giving Thee love with my whole heart, I am giving Thee affection with my whole sense; I am giving Thee existence with my whole mind, I am giving Thee my soul, O God of all gods."

-Taken from the Carmina Gadelica, by Esther De Waal

"You have survived the winter because you are, and were, and always will be very much loved," said the sun. "For that small place deep within you that remained unfrozen and open to mystery, that is where I have made my dwelling. And long, long before you felt my warmth surrounding you, you were being freed and formed from within in ways so deep and profound that you could not possibly know what was happening."

-Mary Fahy,

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end. Let the sons of Israel say: 'His love has no end. 'Let the sons of Aaron say: 'His love has no end.'

-Psalm 118 

Scrolls

by Brooks Haxton

So will I compass thine altar, O Lord: That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving. (Psalm 26)

Thine altar is to me this bathtub where my four-year-old twin girls tip back their heads. They close their eyes. I read their faces from above, in trust and fear, in holiness, heads tipped until the waterline has touched their hairlines, cautious. Look: their hair flows underwater like the scrolls unfurled in heaven.

-Brooks Haxton


What I'm Into - Fall 2015

Photo by  chris liu  on  Unsplash

Photo by chris liu on Unsplash

It's been a few months since I linked up with the lovely Leigh Kramer's monthly posts. I can't pull it together to share all my things with you every month, but here are a few of my favorites from the past few:  

Favorite Instagram

Ace's legwarmers for the win! Why are baby thigh rolls so extremely wonderful?

Favorite Post

TV

Still watching West Wing on Netflix. I've made it Season 6, and though I'm committed till the end, I'm beginning to believe the people who say . Will I make it to the end? I just don't know. I keep holding out hope.

Also, I'm faithfully watching Nashville, even though it is REDONKULOUS as always, but getting more ridiculous this season. I mean, that fall off the building last week? Who out there actually laughed out loud? And then felt terrible about it? (Hand raised.)

BEST NEW SHOW: Y'all, I'm loving . It has the same kind of joy and fun and whimsy that I loved in and . (Both shows that were taken away from us and it was not fair.) This is a show for all of you lovers of sweet story lines and amazing musical numbers that I can't even explain because I get too giddy talking about it.

And, that's it, folks. I am only watching three shows right now. I'm telling you, this three kid thing is taking up a lot of my time.

Movies

Last month I finally saw  and I loved it. I'm still thinking about it. Chris and I also forced ourselves to stay awake long enough to watch a movie after trick-or-treating Saturday night. We rented , which I thought was hysterical. My husband was only semi-convinced. But I think everything Melissa McCarthy does is amazing. (It's my deep-rooted Gilmore Girls love that gives Sookie and unfair advantage in anything.)

[Wait. TIME OUT. Did I mention how excited I am about the  reboot? Dreams are coming true. Rainbows are exploding.]

So I think I've only watched two movies in the last five months. So sorry for my lameness. I really do try.

Listening

August has been listening to on cd from the library. Which means so have I. (I love that he's getting old enough to love some of the books I love! He keeps telling me things about HP and I'll respond with the correct terminology, or knowing what a Nimbus 2000 is and he's like, "How do you know this stuff, mom?" He still doesn't believe that I actually loved these books first.)

Brooksie still loves listening to on cd from the library and he's finally branching out to the  as well. Audio books have been changing our lives in this house. Listening to books makes weekend rest times actually doable. And it makes picking up their room / doing chores bearable as well. And I love that they're getting obsessed with stories.

Music: Not a lot to report on the music front. (Since all my listening time seems to be spent with children who are listening to books.) But several weeks ago the band at our church performed "" from The Brilliance and it blew my mind. Since then I've had on repeat. So good.

Also, I'm so excited for . I preordered mine and it releases in a few days. If you haven't heard their music yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Books I Read

Sarah Bessey's new book is a beautiful book about the challenge and beauty and hope of going through a faith-deconstruction. Here's what I said about it in my endorsement:

"Sarah Bessey writes with the fire of a preacher and the soul of a mother, critical thought without cynicism. This book is for all of us wonderers who long for Jesus and distrust easy answers. Sarah is a brave and faithful guide as we all learn to live the questions.”

I also just finished Seth Haines' debut book , about his first ninety days of sobriety. This isn't just a book about alcoholism, but about pain, and whatever it is we use to numb it. I found this book gorgeously written and thought provoking. So much I'm still chewing on.

Last month I finally read . I love all things Cheryl Strayed writes. Her prose is so sharp and compassionate and reading her makes me want to be a better writer. I may not agree with all her counsel in this collection, but she always makes me think.

Talk about things that make me what to be a better writer: Last month I also read , Mary Karr's new book. Fifteen years ago I fell in love with Mary Karr's poetry and she's the reason I went to Syracuse. Reading this book was like reliving one of her classes. I felt a fresh longing to read great writers and make space for the kind of writing life I want to have. This is a book that will be reread and dog-eared, and I will come back to all those underlined words.

On the nightstand:

This year I'm a mentor through the amazing fellowship program at the . My mentee and I are working through some classic spiritual practices together. This month's practice is Lectio Divina and I'm coming back to on the subject.

I'm part-way through Parker Palmer's . I'm also partially into from Madeleine L'Engle and Luci Shaw, two writers I love. I'm not sure about this one so far, but I'm really interested in the idea of a book composed of letters between two people, so I'm hoping I'll end up liking it.

One of my goals for this new school year (which I guess isn't so new anymore) is to make poetry more of a priority in my life: both the writing and the reading. I currently have two books of poetry that I'm working my way through. I'm very excited about Dave Harrity's new book of poems, . Dave's previous book  is a combination of devotional meditations and writing exercises. I'm also reading Tania Runyan's book of poems, . Runyan's poetry is influenced by her faith and I'm really drawn to the way she's working with Paul's New Testament passages in some of her poems.

Oh, and did I mention Christmas is coming???

I'm trying to get our thankful tree up in my house, so we can continue our tradition of practicing gratitude in November. I'm only 6 days late, you guys. (Also I'm terribly uncrafty, so mine is not .)

And then it's ADVENT. Woot Woot! In addition to the Rain for Roots children's Advent album, I'm also super excited about these beautiful Advent and 12 Days of Christmas Devotional calendars, featuring meditations written by my friend . I just ordered mine yesterday.

Also, if your church is looking for any poetry to use in worship throughout Advent, here's a collection of poems I wrote for a church several years ago. They're available at .

What, dear readers, are you into these days? Leave a note in the comments!

Jesus in real life: A repost for Halloween

Photo by  Chris Lawton  on  Unsplash

I wrote this post three years ago. And it remains one of those conversations with my son that I think about often. Especially at Halloween. Hope you don't mind my sharing it again...

“Why is it called Halloween, Mom?”

We’re driving to preschool. This is the time of day when August asks all the good questions.

“Ummmm…” I say. I say that a lot. See the thing is he wants a real answer. He wants the history and the reasoning. If he knew the word ‘etymology,’ he’d want that too.

I stop at the light. “So, Halloween is a holiday that comes from ‘All Hallows Eve.’”

“Just like Christmas Eve!”

“Yeah, like Christmas Eve is the night before Christmas. All Hallows Eve is the night before the Hallows.” I’m making this up as I go. “That’s because the Church Calendar says the next day is All Saints Day. That means it’s a day for celebrating ‘saints,’ people who loved Jesus and have already gone to heaven. It’s a way for us to remember them.”

. . .

Last week I had a conversation with a friend whose 8-year-old son wanted to decorate her front yard with homemade R.I.P. signs. At first she said no way. But then she started thinking and praying about that answer.

“What really concerns me about having signs about dead people?” she said to me later, while I stood in her kitchen and she flipped pancakes at the griddle. “I realized that maybe it’s healthy for my kids to think about death, not in some monster sort of way, but in a way that remembers people, that celebrates their lives.”

She told her son he could make the R.I.P. signs if he made them for people he admired who had already died, like: “R.I.P. Martin Luther King Jr.” or “R.I.P. Mickey Mantle.”

I’ve been thinking about that. There’s so much wisdom there. How do we talk about death with our kids and remember the lives of those we loved?

. . .

We’re still sitting at the light, Masonic and Haight. I say, “Maybe we should do something the day after Halloween to remember people we love who have gone to heaven.”

He’s thinking. “But we don’t know any one, Mommy.”

“Of course we do!” I say. “Who do we know who went to heaven this past summer?”

“Oh! Pawpaw!” he practically shouts. “Oh, Mommy, I forgot! I forgot that Pawpaw gets to see Jesus in real life all the time! We don’t see Jesus in real life. But someday, we’ll go to heaven and we’ll see Jesus in real life, too.”

I can’t believe these words. The moment they’re out of his mouth, the image is stronger in my mind than it’s been since I lost my grandfather this past July. In Real Life, this phrase I use all the time for people I once knew only online but now know in person. Someone I’ve seen face to face. Someone I’ve laughed with.

And there in my mind is a picture of my grandfather with his Savior, knowing Jesus in Real Life. And I believe it. There in the car heading uphill toward Fulton, with my sons in the backseat, I believe it.

“Mama, are you crying?” he says with a little grin on his face.

“Yeah, baby. I’m crying. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because I was just thinking about how happy I am that Pawpaw gets to see Jesus in real life.”

“Mommy?”

“Yes.”

“Remember how you had to say because he was gonna die and you cried with Memaw?”

“Yeah, August, I remember.”

And I turn west on Fulton and drive. If I keep going, if I don’t stop at school, this road will take me straight to the ocean. And I see it ahead. The Pacific Ocean, this unknown world of water where I can never live. I can learn about it and fish in it. I can ride boats over it, but never fully understand it. Sometimes, I can see creatures if peer down into it. Sometimes, if I swim into the shallows, the fish will swish by my legs. And some of us can dive deep in, but only for a short time. We only have so much oxygen. Our bodies are weak for that world.

Real Life, I think as we move in this car toward an unknown sea. We are always moving toward it. And what if it is the real life? This world, only virtual, only words on a screen. But in that one, we will finally know. We will finally be known.

So much we pray in so few words

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We lean over the pack-n-play travel crib in a dark room at their grandfather’s house. August is a newly minted seven year old whose past two weeks have been filled with swimsuits and slabs of sunscreen. We’re on an extended trip to the east coast, where the sun shines hot in the summer and grandparents and aunts and uncles seem to be waiting in every town in the mid-Atlantic states.

It’s afternoon. He’s followed me and Ace into my room where the crib is. He wants to help. I swaddle his baby brother and he sings with me a silly lullaby, the same one he sings to Ace when he cries in the car.

“Mom,” he whispers. “I want you to pray for Ace.”

“Okay.” I lay his brother down inside the crib. “What do you want me to pray for?”

August, who faces scary dreams on a regular basis, asks first that I pray that Ace won’t dream at all. (“I don’t want him to have a bad dream. And if it’s a good dream, then he might be sad it isn’t real.”)

And then he adds, “And pray for his Down syndrome.”

“What should I pray about his Down syndrome, buddy?”

“Pray that it won’t hurt him.”

When Ace was born 12 weeks ago, Chris and I weren’t sure how to tell our boys about Down syndrome. They’d never known anyone with DS. How could they understand what it would mean for their baby brother, what it would mean for their lives? When we were given Ace’s prenatal diagnosis I wept first for them, for the responsibilities they’d have to hold, for the challenges they had never asked for. How would it feel to hear some kid in their class make fun of their little brother? Which of them would feel pressure to care for their brother when Chris and I one day can’t?

We’d been reading a book lately. So when I told the older boys about Ace’s diagnosis, when I took the book’s advice and described DS as being something that would make Ace really good at some things (most flexible member of our family!) and in need of help in other things (“Crawling and walking might be harder, but we’ll cheer him on and help him learn”), the boys weren’t afraid at all.

In those early weeks, when other parents at August’s school would ask about how Ace was doing as I walked my first grader into class, August would tug on my sleeve (“Mom, tell them about the Down Sin Drum!”), excited. Something was wonderful and important about his brother.

We haven’t faced the hardest things yet. Ace was born with a healthy heart. When he was 10 days old I held his six-pound body as cardiologists strapped electrodes to his tiny chest. I sat beside him and stared at the screen while the fluttering tree of his heart’s chambers swayed from side to side. Such beauty inside him. A heart that worked.

When August asks me to pray for Ace’s Down syndrome, I think first about how grateful I am for that healthy heart. Then I think about the blood tests Ace will have every six months. It's the possibility of blood diseases that keeps me up at night.

Then I think about how it will feel to watch my friends’ babies develop typically, while my Ace struggles to sit up, or crawl, or say his first words. I worry that Ace’s speech will be difficult for the world to understand.

I think about how much I love words, how I want Ace to be able to read books and write his own stories. I think about how gentle and loving he already is, and how afraid I am that despite all the love he has to give, the world will fail to love him back.

Pray that his Down syndrome won’t hurt him, my oldest son says.

There is so much we ask in so few words, Lord. Such depth to this prayer.

My seven year old leans over the crib and says, “Have a good nap, sweet baby.” And I take a deep breath. So many deep breaths lately. So much weight for so small a life.

That it won’t hurt him. We pray that it won’t hurt him.

Cultivate Space (for the Sweet Mercy)

 

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I've basically been gone from this blog for, um, around eight weeks. (Except for when .) Let’s call it a maternity leave.

In my former blogging life I would have shed a lot of tears, frantically paced the floor over the amount of unwritten words, and internally berated myself for letting all my readers forget about this blog, and (let's be honest) this writer.

Those are fair concerns. In fact, if you’re reading this post, I’m shocked and amazed that you noticed it was here. And I’m also okay with the fact that many people will probably not notice.

My blogging life has changed a lot in the past year. I've written here about how I’m learning to release my , how I’m and for my family when I need to.

But spaciousness in my life has not only been about blogging. The desire to cultivate space in my days for health and relationships has come as slowly as my babies. With each child, I discovered more of my weaknesses, more of my need for wholeness.

When August, my first, was born I was overwhelmed and stunned by the reality of motherhood. When my second baby, Brooks, came around I wanted to feel like motherhood had made me capable. So I tried to prove that I had parenthood figured out, that I was totally cool with two kids. I pushed myself to keep every commitment, to keep writing blog posts (instead of getting sleep), to keep it together. I was a mess.

Some people can transition to a new place in life and continue with their routine. In fact, they need that routine. They are cool moms, you guys. But I am not. I’ve learned this about myself. When there’s a transition, I crave complete focus on the transition. I crave the present moment.

And this time around, that has meant ignoring my writing career for a long amount of time. I spent the early weeks reading, breastfeeding, going to doctor’s appointments with Ace, and playing with my older boys. I needed space to transition. I needed to nap. I needed to eat chocolate nib and sea salt cookies at night while I watched cheesy BBC shows with my mom.

This time, with my third—with a special needs baby—I’ve been given the gift of two seemingly opposite feelings: The peace of already knowing how to take care of a baby, and the wild uncertainty of all that I don’t understand about Down syndrome, of all that can go wrong.

Ace spent the first few weeks struggling to eat, struggling to gain weight. And the gift of those weeks was that I’d done the breastfeeding thing before: I knew how to feed my babies. I didn’t have to beat myself up. I got to receive the reality that this is a different baby and I will learn him as I go. I was wise enough that I didn’t listen when the mean voices in my head told me I was failing.

Maybe that’s what spaciousness is: Giving yourself room to receive the challenge in front of you, while still clinging to the truth. Learning to see that within the pain of the suffering, there is something remarkable. Beautiful. There’s always a both/and.

And so far in Ace’s life I’m learning the goodness of holding to both at the same time: Holding the heartbreak of an uncertain diagnosis in the same hand as I hold the sack of flour baby snuggles. Blessing my older children’s cheers for him as he learns what all newborns are trying to learn: how to lift his head on tummy time, how to grab a toy, how to smile.

When we received Ace’s diagnosis, Chris and I were surprised that though we grieved, though we struggled to see what this would mean for Ace’s life, for our older boys’ lives, for our lives, we never really found ourselves asking why it was happening to us.

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about that. How did we skip that feeling? Did we skip that feeling? And our only answer was that we’ve spent most of the past six years in a church that always reminds us that the world and our city are both beautiful and broken, always at the same time. And that liturgy has been planted deep into our souls. It is always both. Life is always beautiful. Life is always heart-breaking.

We can ask why, but we can’t ask why without noticing that everyone else is suffering as well. In different ways, we all walk through pain.

And sometimes your suffering is also your sweetest joy. A now-nine-pound baby that cuddles like a sack of flour and gulps milk (making those baby nursing sounds), and daily grows chunkier thighs.

Time passes and we all learn what we need in the transition. (I need dark chocolate and Netflix.) And babies grow and sometimes struggle to grow. And little boys play and get taller and their blonde hair grows longer. And first graders learn to spell longer words and graduate to second grade.

And the middle boy takes the baby’s face in his hands and says, I just love you so much, my sweet little mercy. And I hold my breath, because, isn’t he? A sweet mercy.

Yesterday was a hard day. A hard day after two and a half months of hard days as an Elder in my church. And when I came home, I sat my baby in his bathtub and poured water on his head over and over, like baptism. And I told him—again, as if he doesn’t know (of course he knows)—that he is God’s beloved, that his life is important and beautiful and valuable. And he stared at me with his dark blue eyes and let me pour the warm water on his head…

In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m learning—over and over again—to cultivate space for this miraculous life I’m already in the middle of: hard Sundays and ordinary baptisms and four-year-olds recognizing mercy.

Sweet Mercy right in front of us. is raising its hourly www.pro-academic-writers.com/ rates on september 1, 2005

This is Ace

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Dear Reader,

This is Ace. Ace Christopher Evans.

He's named Ace after Batman's dog. At least that's what August (our six year old) told us a couple of months ago after we'd already been referring to him as "Ace" in the womb for months. Back in November, August had finally given us his blessing on this new member of our family. "If it's a girl, name it Sarah. And if it's a boy, Ace."

Listen, I had no intention of naming my baby Ace. But it was a cute nickname. And somehow, two days after his birth, when he still didn't have an official name, and the hospital staff and all our friends were referring to him as Ace, making his big brother's wishes come true felt like the exact sort of thing Ace would want. He's just cool like that. He's tops; he's aces.

He was born 10 days ago, on Saturday April 11, at 2:07 in the afternoon. I was in labor for 27 hours, mostly at home. He weighed 6 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 18 1/4 inches long. And my body and baby were kind enough to wait for my mom's flight to land halfway through my labor. (She'd already planned to arrive that day.) Ace was born at 38 weeks, which felt like a miracle. He was born without my having to be induced (despite my rocky last few weeks leading up to his birth, and our constant concern about some complications he faced in the womb). He was my first birth without an epidural, with a doula and my super-husband cheering me on to the finish line.

He was born with Down syndrome.

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This wasn't a surprise. Chris and I learned that Ace had a 99.75 percent chance of having Down syndrome back in December. We chose not to have the amniocentesis that would make our prenatal diagnosis certain and we went into the rest of my pregnancy with a mix of foggy sadness and hope. See, I had never imagined this for my family. (Who does?) But I'd also grown up the child of a mother who for thirty years taught deaf and hearing impaired children who often had additional special needs. I'd volunteered in her classroom in my teens, and known the folks in my church's special needs ministry growing up.

When the woman on the other end of the line told me that my child would most likely have Down syndrome, I was pushing Brooks in a stroller on the way to gymnastics. I made the call for the test results convinced that if I called nonchalantly, if I called on the way to somewhere, alone with my 3-year-old, it couldn't be hard news. I'd breathe a sigh of relief and continue on my day. Instead, that Tuesday morning in early December I cried in the corner of the bleachers during the 3-year-olds gymnastics class. I called my husband on the phone, trying to make out the words, The test came back positive, stunned.

I couldn't tell you about it then, readers. I had to keep it close all these months. It was too heavy, too real. Instead, in December I wrote about good gifts. Ace was that gift.

"This past week has reminded me that God’s good gifts are not always easy. They are often complicated, prickly things that must be held carefully with tender hands. They are often painful and beautiful at the same time. They are unknown. The best gifts God offers us are often the very gifts that have the potential to completely upend our stories, change the direction our lives were going. It hurts to change direction."

All these months, Chris and I have cried and looked again at our hearts, asked God to show us our motives and our assumptions about our family. We have imagined life with a little boy who has Down syndrome. We've imagined the gift he will be to our older boys, the way God will shape their souls through this child, the reality that when I pray for my older sons to grow up to be men of compassion and gentleness, courage and kindness, that this little brother of theirs might just be the way God chooses to answer my prayers.

We have dreamed and laughed together about this new life we are entering. And we have remembered that, really, this is not a new life at all. It's simply the road we've been walking all along, and we just didn't know it yet. That's how grace usually works, isn't it?

Ace was born 10 days ago, and the moment I held him in my arms, I looked at my husband. And we both smiled. "Look at that face," I said. "This sweet baby has Down syndrome." And Chris touched his head. "Yeah," he smiled at me. "He does." And---by the blessing of God---that is how we knew. There were no solemn doctor diagnoses. There was no secret whispering among the nurses. We received him, met him, and knew.

And the grief and the fear didn't disappear. But it did feel like that grief, the fear that had moved in months ago, that had taken up residence for a while, was now content to scoot down the bench in order for something better to sit beside us: Love, and sweet dreams for Ace's life, and relief that God has given us the better gift, even if we don't yet know what that gift will look like.

This is what I wrote last December, when Ace was a tiny baby in an ultrasound, a positive result on a chromosomal test:

"The good, hard gifts don’t usually come with explanation. They don’t come with instructions, or future promises of ease. And still they come and ask us to hold them, to say “Yes” along with Mary: to receive, not because we know what awaits us, but because we trust the goodness of the One who gives."

This is Ace. He has Down syndrome. I'll tell you more about him as I learn him, as I walk through this new experience of being his mom. But for now, Chris and I are honored to be his parents. And his brothers kiss those fat little cheeks and call him perfect.

Reflections for Holy Saturday

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The Last of the Brooding Miserables

by Mary Karr

Lord, you maybe know me best by my odd laments: My friend drew the garage door tight, lay flat on the cold cement, then sucked off the family muffler to stop the voices in his head. And Logan stabbed in a fight, and Coleman shot, and the bright girl who pulled a blade the width of her own soft throat, and Tom from the virus and Dad from drink--Lord, the many-headed hurts I mind.

I study each death hard that death not catch me unprepared. For help I read Aurelius, that Stoic emperor who composed fine Meditations in his battle tent.

Surely he overheard at night the surgeons chopping through his wounded soldiers' bones and shovels of earth flung down on blue faces, and near dawn, the barbarian horses athunder.

Still, he judged the young man's death no worse than the old's: each losing just one breath. I would have waded the death pits wailing till I ruined good boots with lime-- a vulture for my dead too long, or half a corpse myself.

Lord, let me enter now your world, my face, dig deep in the gloves of these hands formed to sow or reap or stroke a living face. Let me rise

to your unfamiliar light, love, without which the dying wouldn't bother me one whit.

Please, if you will, bless also this thick head I finally bow. In thanks.

for James Laughlin

-Mary Karr, from , Penguin Poets, 1994

 

"Today we think about Jesus lying dead in the tomb. His bruised and lacerated body, hastily wrapped, rests on a stone slab, cold and stiff in the darkness. Correspondingly, our hearts remain quiet. Yet in the spiritual realm, all is not quiet. A doctrinal tradition going back to the earliest era of the church declares that Christ, in the time between his death and his resurrection, descended to the dead, that is, to the precints of hell itself, in order to liberate a throng of people. The "harrowing of hell,' it is sometimes called. This doctrine is stated in the creeds--"He descended into hell"--and depicted in icons. Many Protestants dispute or downplay it because of the ambiguity of the scriptural texts. But whether Christ "recaptures" captives (see Eph 4:7-10) or simply proclaims the victory of the cross, some momentous event in the grand drama of God's redemption takes place on this holy sabbath. Christ's redemptive power plumbs the darkest depths before ascending to the brightest heighs. Holy Saturday recognizes this wondrous mystery and invites us, quietly, to enter it."

-Bobby Gross, (182)

 

Psalm 31:1-5

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

On Holy Saturday, I walk up the hill to the cemetery and I meet old Fr. Gall walking stiffly toward me, dressed in a black suit, a narrow, European cut decades out of fashion. He twirls his walking stick and says, brightly, "Ah, you have come to visit those who are in heaven? You have come to seek the living among the dead!" The air is full of the anticipation of snow, a howling wind. Words will not let me be: In cold and silence you are born, from the womb of earth, the cloud of snow yet to fall. And from somewhere in the liturgy: What has been prepared for me?

From  by Kathleen Norris (181)

"In the end, no white light shines out from the wounds of Christ to bathe me in His glory. Faith is a choice like any other. If you're picking a career or a husband--or deciding whether to have a baby--there are feelings and reasons pro and con out the wazzoo. But thinking it through is--at the final hour--horse dookey. You can only try it out. Not choosing baptism would make me feel half-assed somehow, like a dilettante--scared to commit to praising a force I do feel is divine--a reluctance grown from pride or because the mysteries are too unfathomable.

In the back of a dark church on Holy Saturday, I sit between Dev and Toby. In the pews, everybody holds an unlit candle, and the priest comes in with the altar's mega-candle. Stopping at the back row, he touches its taper to the charred filament on either side of the aisle. The flame's passed one to another until we're all holding fire in our hands."

From by Mary Karr, HarperCollins, 2010 (351)

Thankful Tuesday: Dragon DNA and Life Plans

 

My boys on the way to church on Sunday:

A: Brooksie, when I'm a rock star your kids can come to my show.

B: Okay.

Me: Brooksie, are you going to be a daddy when you grow up?

B: Yeah.

A: I'm not. Because I'm not getting married. I'm going to be a really good uncle.

B: I'm not getting married either.

A: But Brooksie, how are you going to have kids? You can't have kids unless you get married.

B: I can too!

Me: Well, maybe he could adopt his kids. Adopting is a really important way to have kids.

A: Yeah, Brooksie, you adopt kids, because that's really important.

B: And you'll live with us in our apartment, August.

A: No, I'm going to live in the same apartment building, but not in your apartment. I'll be down the hall.

B: Okay. But can we live in Amarillo?

A: No. I'm only going to live in San Francisco.

B: Okay. We'll live in San Francisco. And I'm going to fly a helicopter for my job.

A: And I'm going to fly a super fast jet. No. Never mind, I'm going to discover dragon DNA so I can make a dragon and then be a dragon-flyer. Okay, Brooksie?

B: Okay, but I'm going to fly a helicopter.

 

I'm thankful for little boys. What are you thankful for?

On Friendship and God's Bounty

Photo by  Nathan Fertig  on  Unsplash

It’s been five years since we moved three thousand miles from the western suburbs of Philadelphia to San Francisco. My husband’s company needed him to help launch a new product: We’d be transferred to California for two years, and then we’d be back. Just a little adventure, they said.

Five years later, our six-year-old goes to a San Francisco public city school and roots for the Giants. When his team plays the Phillies out here in SF, he and his dad attend the baseball game wearing rival colors. Our three-year-old has only ever known city dwelling by the sea. He wants to be a surfer.

Last month, my husband, Chris, and I spent Christmas in our old stomping grounds, visiting family, tying up the final details of our (finally) sold house, and seeing friends like Jeff and Christina.

Christina and Jeff became our closest friends nine years ago, right after our move to the Philly area. While I embrace that my greatest gift is my ability to feel all the extreme feelings (most of the time, I’m either wildly laughing or crying, or writing about one or the other), Christina is straight faced and dead pans with the best of them. While I’ve been in our current home for one entire year and still haven’t covered my living room windows or hung a frame in my bedroom, Christina’s eye and passion for good design is unrivaled. She designs homes for a living and makes custom window treatments that will make your mouth water. Also, she makes me laugh more than anyone I know.

Jeff and Chris have a perfectly understood friendship. Both are culinary mavens. Both are passionate about good food and wine and coffee and words. Both are willing to take an epicurean interest to its most extreme level. Here’s where they click best though. My husband is the visionary: he sees what a meal or drink or experience could be. Jeff carries it to its completion.

Christina can set a table that will make Pinterest weep. Jeff and Chris can create a meal that causes angels to descend and ascend upon on table. And me? I am a lover of eating and feeling and good conversation. My job is to sigh when I take a bite, say thank you repeatedly, and make sure the conversation gets deep, fast.

Thankful Tuesday . . . Revived!

Photo by  Irina Iriser  on  Unsplash

It's been a long time since it was Thankful Tuesday around here, maybe an entire year. A friend recently told me she'd missed Thankful Tuesdays, which was a surprise to me, actually. I'd always thought Thankful Tuesdays were more a day I loved on the blog each week, and less something anyone else read. But the truth is: I've missed it too. It's much easier to be thankful throughout the week when you know you'll have to make a list on things on your blog in a couple of days. Also, I miss collecting my kids' thoughts and sweet moments throughout the week.

 

So I've decided to bring Thankful Tuesday back to life! Maybe not forever, but at least for this week.

 

Now, here are some lists of various things I'm thankful for. (Sometimes, I imagine myself making my Thankful Tuesday list in an idyllic world. In that world, I write my list by hand, with a fluffy pink pen. In bed. Drinking something steamy out of a delicate tea cup. So you can imagine that’s how I wrote this. I won't tell you what this process of list making actually looked like.)

  

What My Husband Did That Was Awesome

  1. Last Wednesday I felt SAD. And when I sent him sad texts about how lonely I was and how I missed my friends, he emailed a few of my friends who don't have kids and planned a brunch date for us this past Saturday. When he told me about his secret plan he said, "You know, you are the worst kind of extrovert. You think you don't need people and you actually do." I cried.

  2. He swept the floor before leaving for his week long work trip. On a Monday morning. When he needed to be packing.

What my 6 year old has been saying about my pregnancy

  1. Mom, did you know that when women are pregnant their bottoms grow too?

  2. Mom, are you sure you can sit on that chair? It might break because you've gotten bigger.

  3. Mom, did you know you moan every time you sit down in the car?

 

What my 3 year old has been saying when he and I are alone in the car

  1. Mommy, is there a store for motorcycles that sells motorcycle gloves and motorcycle helmets? And when I'm big can I go there?

 

Also, I'm thankful for, in no particular order:

  • My new Audible obsession. (Just finished and now listening to by Karen Swallow Prior. I feel like I'm doubling my reading but also kind of cheating. And I LOVE that.)

  • The smart, interesting, passionate, kind women in my life. The ones who encourage me, and check in on me, and pray for me.

  • My newfound passion for my 10 pm bedtime

  • My grandfather, Pawpaw, who passed away 2 1/2 years ago and whose birthday was yesterday. He remains one of the best people I've ever known.

  • How much my first grader wanted to make a movie with his friends. And that he actually made one! (Of course, it pretty much just consisted of him and his friends running around the playground swinging lightsabers at each other. But I'm excited for his vision and his willingness to make it happen.)

  • That Parks and Recreation is back!

  • That Octonauts is on Netflix

What about you, dear reader? What are you thankful for this fine Tuesday?

 

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Conversation with my kids

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo by  Clay Banks  on  Unsplash

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

In honor of Martin Luther King, a conversation with my boys over breakfast this morning:

Me: Today's a special day! Who knows why?

3 year old: No school!

Me: But why is there no school?

6 year old: Martin Luther King

Me: Who can tell me why he was special?

6 year old: I know! We read a book about him at school. Because he helped us be friends with each other.

Me: Yeah, he was really special. Because before him, lots of people thought they could only be friends if their skin was the same color. And kids with brown skin and kids with lighter skin couldn't go to the same school. Pretty weird, and sad, huh?

6 year old: And people like us with lighter skin had it easier than people with brown skin.

Me: Yeah, people with brown skin were hurt a lot and sometimes the grown ups couldn't have good jobs and it was harder to get food for their kids. It was really awful.

6 year old: There was an old lady who wanted to sit on the front of the bus even though she wasn't supposed to.

Me: Yes, the rules said she couldn't.

6 year old: But she did anyway and she got arrested. If I were her I would have punched the bad guys in the face. I would have gotten a punching ape and had the ape punch everybody in the face.

Me: But that's what made Martin Luther King and his friends so special. They loved Jesus and believed that punching and fighting weren't the ways to change things. They believed it was braver and smarter to change people's minds without hurting them.

6 year old: I still would've punched them.

3 year old is still listening

Me: Martin Luther King gave an important speech once. August, do you remember what he said?

6 year old: He said, Don't punch each other!

Me: Actually he said, I have a dream that one day little kids with light skin and little kids with brown skin will play together.

3 year old: And now they do.

6 year old: Yeah, they do.

Me: They do. And there's still a lot to make better in the world, so everybody can play together. I hope you guys will be brave like Martin Luther King and make the world better for everybody.

6 year old: I will make punching apes!

The conversation kind of dissolves from here...