To the new parents of a child with special needs

Dear new parents of a child with special needs,

I saw your Facebook post. Congratulations! The way I see it you had two deliveries yesterday: One was bringing your baby into this world. The other was telling the Internet that your baby is different. Both require deep courage. You delivered graciously and with joy.

I’ve been thinking of you all night. I got up to breastfeed my baby at 3:40 am. He’s back asleep in his crib at 4:15, and I can’t go back to sleep without writing you. I’ve been a parent for seven years, but my experience in this new world of special needs is small. I’ve been doing this for almost six months and I’m still fumbling to understand how I feel about my baby’s diagnosis. But I can’t go back to sleep until I tell you a few secrets. The kind you write each other about at 4 in the morning. You’re parents of a newborn. You’re up anyway, right?

Here’s what I want you to know:

1. When my child was born I wept. Some of my tears came from a place of love, and some from a place of fear. And I’ve learned I don’t have to categorize those tears. I don’t have to decide if I am happy or sad, thrilled or overwhelmed. I get to be all at the same time. Parenting our child with special needs will mirror the human experience. It will be wonderful and it will be painful.

I’ve learned to think of my grief and my deep love for my baby as a braid woven through my chest, pulled tight. I don’t have to know where the love ends and the fear begins, only that they wrap around one another. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish my anxiety from my joy. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish my love for my child from dreams that have been lost.

I simply know this: the love I felt when I first saw my baby is not diminished by my sorrow. Love is never diminished by pain. They have always lived equally together as long as parents and babies have lived on this earth.

If you need permission to cry, like I do, here it is. You get to cry because your baby is beautiful and particularly yours. You get to cry because this diagnosis is hard and no parent ever wants their child to suffer. And you get to cry because your baby cried all night and you’re tired. Which brings me to my next point.


2. Just because your baby has different challenges, it doesn’t make you a saint. Good grief, I refuse to count the amount of people who have told me they admire me for being Ace’s mom.  It’s nice of them to say that. But saying that I’m special for loving my child sounds a little like this: “You are amazing for being the mom of your child! I just couldn’t love your child!”

I assure you, that sucks. But, also? No one who says this means to hurt me. There are people who think my husband and I are special for loving and raising our baby. That’s because our child’s diagnosis is frightening. And it's also because loving Ace is changing us in beautiful ways.

The reality is that most people simply don’t know what to say. So, when their words are painful or trite, I’ve learned to tell myself that they’re doing their best.

What they want to say is: “This thing you are doing is hard.” If I let their fumblings come to me coated in grace I will hear their kindness. The compassion is in their eyes if I’m willing to seek it out.


3. Relearn the definition of a blessing. Often sweet people will call my baby a blessing. And most of the time when they use that word they mean something close to rainbows and unicorns. They mean my baby is an angel who will always bring happiness.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear that (despite my baby being as adorable as an cherub), because Ace is just as human as any other child. He may be sweet but one day he'll complain about dessert and TV shows and picking up his room, just like his brothers.

In order to receive their words with grace I’ve been teaching myself what blessing really is:  You know the story of Jacob and God struggling all night in that mystical wrestling match.

I’m making that my parenting mantra. This journey will be hard, for us and for our children. Blessing is hard-won. It is being set apart. Jacob wrestled all night and demanded a blessing. You know what he got? A lifelong limp and a new name. Also? Legacy. He was the father of a great nation.

Blessing is not for the faint in heart. It is always accompanied by suffering. I’m learning to embrace the struggle. I won’t let go until God blesses me.

And when the acquaintances say blessing without acknowledging wrestling, I don’t have to be angry. I just reinterpret their words for myself. If I can hear the truth in every easy phrase dished out for shallow comfort, I will survive this. You will survive this.


4. Every parent suffers. Your suffering just showed up early. Most babies don’t struggle to breastfeed because of low muscle tone, or illness, or the formation of their mouths.  Most people don’t have to send their newborn into surgery. I’m sorry your first days of parenting are extra hard.

But, here’s the truth: Every parent suffers deeply. Whether you suffer at the beginning or later. Whether your suffering is over the rebellion of your child, or the fear for their safety, or your own daily parenting failure, being a parent is always hard. It is always beautiful and miraculous and heartbreaking. Your heart is breaking a little earlier than most. I think that’s what people mean when they say you’re special. Or they say they admire you. Or they say your child is a blessing.

What they really mean is that you’re learning the secret earlier. What they really mean is that your wisdom is something they wish they had, but they don’t want to suffer to get it.

I wonder if you can rest in that. Your suffering has shown up early and it will keep showing up. But that braid of love and sorrow? The third strand is wisdom, friend. It’s there already, woven so tight you may not recognize it yet. You don’t have to. Right now you just get to receive. Receiving sounds passive, but it’s not. It’s the work of labor, of delivery. It’s the work of bringing a child into this beautiful and dangerous world, cleaning his body and holding him tight.

Do you remember that Mister Rogers song? . Sometimes I sing that song for Ace while I’m changing his diaper or we’re playing on the floor, and I remember the panic that rose up my throat in those pre-natal diagnosis days, and in the hospital after his birth, when I’d let myself think through what his Down syndrome would mean for our lives. Sometimes that panic still shows up. Sometimes I am so afraid for the future that I cannot breathe.

But what I’m trying to say, six months in, is this: I mean it. I like him, I like him, I like him, exactly as he is.

I receive my child. I won’t let go until you bless me. Pray these things. And hold tight, dear ones. This is a wonderful, dangerous season of wrestling. Don’t let go until you’re blessed. Until your name is changed. Until you come out limping.


With love,


When the promises are in the distance, waiting to be welcomed home


Photo by  Timon Studler  on  Unsplash

We’re way behind schedule when we walk in the door and I call out a litany of frantic mother phrases, “Shoes off! Hands washed!

August-do-your-reading-for-ten-minutes!” while I lay Ace on the quilt in the living room and toss a couple of toys his way before starting dinner.

Brooks is not happy about my plan for fish tacos.

He’s on the verge of a meltdown all the time right now. He whines in the kitchen and I ignore his protests.

“Sometimes you like dinner and sometimes you don’t and that’s just how it goes, darlin.” I say. The last remaining bits of my Texas drawl show up when I lecture my children. Can’t help it.

August is not whining. He’s in his room with his nose in a book about snakes.

I breathe out a Thank you, Lord for that reality.

He’s seven now and beginning to overcome his temper. Asking him to read for ten minutes last year might have erupted in a full-blown big kid tantrum.

And, bless it, my child is actually doing what I asked.

Brooksie takes his whining away from the kitchen. The fish is salted and peppered and ready to go on the pan. I’m moving from fridge to cutting board, listening for Ace, watching the timer for August’s reading. Chop the onion, slice the avocado.

I hear Brooks’ little four-year-old voice. He speaks quiet: “You are the cutest baby in the whole world, little Acer. Cutest little baby in the whole world.”

I put down my knife and peek into the room next door, where Brooks is on his belly, his chin propped up by his hands. Ace is on his back, his neck contorted in that way only babies can bend.

He’s staring at his big brother in awe.

Brooksie sings, “I am Ace-y, I am Ace-y. I’m a sweet little boy! I am Ace-y, I am Ace-y. And I bring so much joy!

“Careful with your kisses, Brooksie!” I call from the doorway of the kitchen. Brooks is covering Ace’s face with wet smooches, and Ace is grunting his discomfort.

The giver of the kisses lets go and turns his head to me, still hovering above his brother’s face.“Mama, look. I can’t stop. He’s just too cute.”

I'm sharing the rest over on Ann Voskamp’s Good Reads blog today. On Ace, his brothers, and the hard work of learning to show hospitality to God's promises in the distance.

Prayer is making a home. Prayer is expanding the universe.


Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.

-John 15 (The Message)


Photo by  Ben White  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


The universe is expanding. I learned that in 1999 in the Astronomy class I almost failed in dramatic fashion. If only I hadn’t been required to learn equations about the expansion of the universe. If my professor had let me simply wax eloquent on the metaphorical implications of an expanding universe, I would have crushed that class.

The universe is expanding, expanding. Always making space. What is it making space into? The only presence outside of space and time: The universe makes space into God.

And that same God says to us, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.”

We wring our hands. What does it really mean to pray? How do we pray correctly? How do we make a home in God? We want rules. We want equations. We want to set goals and accomplish prayer.

And all the while the universe is expanding into God.

. . .

Live in me. Make your home in me. What is prayer but the act of making our home in God, and simultaneously inviting God to make a home in us?

And still we know it. Don’t we? Deep in our insides, we get what it is to make a home. To make space for another in daily life.

Ace is five months into our lives around here, and in that time, his very presence has taught us to make space for him. It’s the same home we live in. The same square footage as we lived in before he was even present inside me. He is only a small thing. But his presence, his needs, his vulnerability has expanded our home, demanded that we create space for him to live with us.

Some of that comes organically. My older boys hover around him to see what he’ll do next. And some of it is preparation for the future: Yesterday I pulled out the bin of 6-12 months baby clothes. I sorted through.

I rock him. I feed him. I help him build his baby muscles. I laugh with him. If I were to tell you that having a baby consists of only one daily exercise of talking with Ace for fifteen minutes in the morning, you would scoff. Having a baby takes over everything. And that in itself is the joy. He has entered a world that was waiting for him, asking him to show us who he is, who he will be. Yes, it requires much of all of us, his brothers included. We are all learning a new way of living as a family.

Making space can be painful, but it is the only way to grow. Ask the universe. Expand. Expand. Create space where there was no space before.

That is my new definition for prayer. Not one specific way of communicating with God. But making a home in God. Prayer is the process in which I make space for God, and I invite God to make space in me.

We are simultaneously making our homes in one another. That is relationship. Prayer is relationship.

And here is the where the metaphor goes:

The universe is expanding. God is making space for you. God is the God of expansion. So if you want to know how to live in God, look to the God who lives in eternity, who lives outside of time and space. The God who is making space in you.

Making a home in you. It’s as simple as physics. As simple as home.

Down syndrome, Instagram, and friends of #ACEface

It's been 4 1/2 months since Ace was born, and I'm just beginning to wade into the world of Down syndrome awareness and inclusion. I've been taking a seat here behind my screen, just watching and paying attention to what's going on in this subculture I've just entered.

So much of my learning is coming from some of my favorite Instagram accounts:

@etst -- Kelle Hampton is the author of Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected and blogger at She has such style and takes beautiful photos. She has introduced me to Ruby’s Rainbow, a beautiful scholarship program that is helping students with DS attend college. Check it out. (And then try not to cry!) She's also introduced me to the #changingthefaceofbeauty campaign, which is working to make advertising more inclusive of people with disabilities.

@theluckyfewofficial -- I love Heather Avis in this Instagram account. I don't know her at all, but her spirit is lovely and so are her three kids, two of whom have Down syndrome. You guys have to watch Macy dance. She is dancing all over this account and I just adore her. Heather also blogs at and is the host of my favorite Down syndrome hashtag #theluckyfew.

Heather Avis' account introduced me to @littlest_warrior (Littlest Warrior Apparel), who is currently selling so many amazing t-shirts that I keep almost buying. Here's Ace wearing his "chromosomally enhanced" Littlest Warrior shirt last month.

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Also, I'm a big fan of @jimbo_is_the_man. There's just something about seeing an older man with Down syndrome living a full, joyful life that gives me a lot of hope for my little guy.

Have you seen the video of Gungor's newest song about Lucy, their little one with Down syndrome? It is lovely:

Chris and I are only just learning (and watching) what Ace's life will mean for us. But we're so thrilled to step into advocating on behalf of Ace and all the little ones born with DS, many of whom do not have the support or opportunities Ace will have.

This year we're walking in the Buddy Walk on October 17 and we're wearing super cute t-shirts designed by TeePublic. You're all invited to be a friend of #ACEface and purchase your own shirt! All proceeds from the sales will be donated to the National Down Syndrome Society. You can also support Ace and all his friends by giving to our fundraising page for this year's NDSS Buddy Walk.

(Pick your own style and color! Kids sizes too!)

It's an honor to share my stories here. Thanks for reading and cheering for Ace from afar.

One year later, how Ace picked us

Photo by  on  Unsplash

This past Sunday night was the year anniversary of the night I discovered I was pregnant with Ace.

It was August 17, 2014, the night before the first day of school and Chris was leaving for a redeye to somewhere I can’t remember now. I’d be alone for that first week of school while Chris was off on what was (in my mind only) some exotic work trip. He was leaving in ten minutes and I knew I couldn’t wonder if I was pregnant for the entire week he was away. Which is better? Knowing or not knowing?

Chris was frantically gathering his bags, lacing shoes, calling the Uber to pick him up and take him to the airport.

The result was positive. I sobbed.

. . .

“There’s no way I’m pregnant,” I told my friend Anne the night before that test. “I just don’t feel it. When I’m pregnant I feel something.”

That’s not entirely true. Once before I hadn’t felt it. I’d taken a pregnancy test in April and been shocked to find it positive. Those weeks leading up to the test had felt so different than I’d felt with August and Brooks. Probably it had just been the hormones with my first two boys that made warm waves in me. But somehow I had felt my babies there those times before, smaller than blueberries, swishing around. In April I didn’t.

And still. That baby in April was celebrated. I cheered, hugged my husband. I tried not to think about why it was different. A month later, I knew why. I stared at the ultrasound screen and my baby had disappeared. All that was left in me was the remains of a pregnancy that hadn’t worked.

That’s why. I’d thought. That’s why I didn’t feel it.

My friend Anne and I were on a night walk along a path that night in August. We were at a church retreat and had snuck away from the Saturday night gathering for a summer’s end catch-up chat. “But you could be?” Anne said. “You could be pregnant.”

She wanted to know how I was doing after the loss of my pregnancy two months before. She was four months along. Our babies would have been due at the same time.

This is all I knew: With the third pregnancy, with my miscarriage, I didn’t feel a surge of recognition that something powerful was happening in me. I didn’t feel the heat in my middle. I didn’t feel cells dividing.

“If I’m am—if I’m pregnant—then something’s not right.”

I said that. I said that the night before I knew.

. . .

I took the pregnancy test while Chris waited for his Uber to arrive.


I wept. I’m going to lose this baby again. I’m going to lose the baby. I cried into his chest until the car arrived.

Chris promised to call when he got there. He promised I could make it through this week. “You’ll be okay. This is great news, right?” he made me look in his eyes and smiled.

Then he was gone. It was time for real life. I was pregnant and something was wrong.

. . .

It’s funny how you look back on things like that. How you remember, even though you can forget in the midst of the pregnancy. I held my breath for a month, waiting for the 8 week check up, certain they would tell me my little babe had gone missing in my womb, had never developed. Yet there he was on the ultrasound screen. A heart beating wild. I let myself forget that I had been afraid. That his presence had been too quiet.

Maybe the difference is hormonal, I told myself. That must mean it's a girl!

We’d know soon enough. We’d get our prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome at 20 weeks, just two weeks after learning that our baby was not, in fact, a girl. All sorts of signs in my pregnancy would point to low hormone levels. That feeling. That lack of feeling.

It was an extra 21st chromosome. That’s what it was.

. . .

I’ve been thinking about this: Trisomy 21 is not a condition that comes later in the pregnancy. It’s not something going wrong in the development of the embryo or fetus. It’s not something the mother does wrong. It’s not something the father does wrong. It just is.

That third 21st chromosome is present when the first cell splits. Ace has always had it. Most likely, the extra 21st copy was present in the egg or in the sperm before an embryo was even formed.

Who is Ace without it? He is not himself. Right?

. . .

I’ve been thinking about that this week.  About how I cried long before I knew what I was grieving.

About how Ace was not what we expected and how he was himself long before we knew him.

This summer, while August and my husband rode a roller coaster up and up toward the first steep drop,  August shouted at Chris above the metal’s scrape: “Aren’t you glad you picked me?!”

Chris wasn’t sure how to respond. He managed an “ummm, yes, of course!” and a “What?” in the same breath.

“I’m glad I picked you,"  August yelled. "When I was with Jesus and I saw you I knew I wanted you to be my dad!”

What sweetness, to think of my unborn babies picking us, in all our faults, all our goodness. To think of Jesus offering such a choice.

I’ve been imagining Ace picking us, exactly as he is: The secrets he knew about himself, the secrets he and Jesus knew about us as Ace’s parents. All of it discussed in the secret meeting between Ace and Jesus.

And, here we are. One year later. Don’t ask me what I believe about whether God ordains mental disability. I don’t know. Don’t ask me if heaven is a place where Ace will lose that third 21st chromosome and still be himself.

There are still a lot of things for me to sort out. But right now I’m thinking August is onto something. And Ace just might have picked us. What can I say to that except to hold it holy in my hand?

He picked me. From the very beginning. He picked me.

Grace for women with a prenatal diagnosis, a radio interview

Photo by  Ashton Mullins  on  Unsplash

A few weeks ago I had the chance to chat with Martha Manikas-Foster from Inside Out of Family Life Radio. She wanted to talk about my Her.menuetics piece from a couple of months ago, “As long as the baby is healthy, but what if he’s not?”

We talked about my experience of receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, how it felt to navigate well-intentioned (but still hurtful) questions from strangers during my pregnancy with Ace, and how God was present in my pregnancy to help me "grieve the loss" so that I could "celebrate the joy" of receiving Ace.

If you need something to listen to while you wash the dishes for the next 18 minutes, I'd love for you to click here and take a listen.

Cultivate Blessing

“I am saying that the world needs you to do this, because there is a real shortage of people willing to kneel wherever they are and recognize the holiness holding its sometimes bony, often tender, always life-giving hand above their heads. That we are able to bless one another at all is evidence that we have been blessed, whether we can remember when or not. That we are willing to bless one another is miracle enough to stagger the very stars.”

- Barbara Brown Taylor

From where I sit in mid-coast Maine watching the sun rise pink and orange over the Atlantic at 5 am on a Sunday, it’s not hard to recognize holiness. This is where my husband’s great grandfather (a college professor back when professors actually had summers off) bought a little gray house in the 1930s to bring his kids on summer breaks, where Chris came with his dad each summer growing up, where our kids run free and eat sandwiches every day on the “picnic rock,” a giant flat gray rock among hundreds of giant rocks beneath the house and twenty feet from where the ocean roars into the land. Chris brought me here for the first time twelve years ago and it wasn’t long before I was convinced this might be the most glorious place on earth. Yesterday I actually saw a bald eagle fly past the yard twice. Twice.

Blessing has been on my mind lately. Not the kind of blessing that we church-goers like to toss around. Not a shallow belief that if things are good, God is blessing us, and if things are bad, God has backed away. I quit the word blessing years ago. Removed it from my spiritual vocabulary, done with assuming that God was blessing the rich guy and ignoring the poor guy. Done with trite spiritual benedictions in my emails.

But blessing has stayed with me, even as I’ve sought to rid myself of its banality. Even as I’ve struggled to understand what it might mean if God blesses me and chooses not to bless another. For three months I’ve fallen in love with . And somewhere else another baby was born without Down syndrome, despite the prenatal diagnosis. Did God “bless” that person? What does that even mean?

And still I use the word blessing every night when I make the sign of the cross on all three of my babies’ foreheads and recite from Numbers 6. I ask the Lord to bless them and keep them, to make his face to shine upon them and be gracious to them…

This summer I haven’t spent much time wondering about what God’s blessing means, when it’s given and when it’s not. I’ve had a different sort of blessing on my mind, the daily spiritual work of blessing the things around me, of taking something ordinary and pronouncing it remarkable, sacred. Barbara Brown Taylor says the act of blessing is not so much the work of conferring holiness as it is the task of recognizing, of acknowledging the holiness already there.

I want to be a priest. I want to pronounce blessing. I want to “share in God’s own audacity” as Taylor says. To hold my hand over too many things and call them good. I want to be liberal and excessive with the holy pronouncing. I want to believe that God’s love is ridiculously loud and outrageous. I want to live like it is.

Over and over scripture tells us to bless. Be the blessing. Bless and do not curse. We are a cursing sort of people, aren’t we? Pronouncing the failures of others first. Pronouncing blessing all for ourselves because it is easier to do so. Our natural stance is to turn our gaze inward, stare at our own longings. It is harder to search for the glory of God in  the people, in the things already around us.

But what if that is the task of following Jesus? To learn to see the glory, not only to see it but to call it good, to cultivate a life of holy things. To touch foreheads and shoestrings, weeds and rocks, casseroles and glasses of wine—and call them holy. To bless and not to curse.

To cultivate blessing is to cultivate extravagance in the way of grace. Not extravagance for the sake of excess, but extravagance in the same way God gives love freely: believing that there is enough love to go around. There is enough goodness. We give ourselves permission to be astounded with the gifts in front of us.



What I’m trying to say is that I’m starting to understand why St. Francis preached to birds. Maybe he needed to believe that God’s blessing was big enough for all the creatures to perch beneath.

It is not that I am blessed because I have a special needs baby and we are the lucky ones. It is not that the woman whose baby was born healthy and typical is the one who was blessed. She and I are both/and. Blessed.

Blessing works from the other direction. It is not the ease of the gifts God pours out, but the stance I take toward them.

I am Adam, given permission to name the creatures, to say what I see. And I’m learning to see the holy, to name it.

And I will hold my hand out from the porch of this old gray house on the coast of Maine and call the sky and the ocean and the picnic rock and the bald eagle flying past the same word as I call my little boys in their beds at night: Blessed blessed blessed.

Extravagantly, excessively, overwhelmingly marked by God’s goodness.

So much we pray in so few words

Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

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.

What I'm Into: M(P)aternity Leave/Ace Edition

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Ace asleep in the cradle my grandfather made me So, if I had my stuff together, I’d be adding my voice to blog linkup every month. At the end of the month, like the rest of the fun blogging people I follow.

I am always planning to do this, you guys. Like every month. And it doesn’t happen. So I want you to know that when I come up with this post four times a year, it has happened despite all the forces that want to keep me from telling you about what I’m spending my time doing.

There’s no time for media consumptions like the first few months of a baby’s life, when all expectations shut down and wonderful people bring you casseroles and you’re allowed to sit on the couch and breastfeed and eat cookies and watch Netflix.

So, in these almost-three months since Ace was born, while I’ve been eating these and sitting on the couch breastfeeding. Here’s what I’ve been into…



When August was born I tore through books those first couple of months. And even with Brooksie, I had long hours of baby time while August napped. Then, I read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in the rocking chair. This time I had a similar plan, to finally read Middlemarch. I started and stopped.

Somehow, those moments of reading eluded me. It’s probably because no big children were napping right? Or maybe it was because I just chose Netflix over books? I’m trying not to judge my lack of reading those first couple of months. I'm just now getting back into the good work of reading. It was a challenging couple of months, and if I ate a lot of dark chocolate and watched some terrible Hallmark television, there is grace for me, people.

What. I was supposed to read? I was looking at this smile instead.

What I did read:

by Kelle Hampton. This is Kelle’s story of learning, following her daughter’s birth, that her baby had Down syndrome. The memoir follows her daughter’s first year and Kelle’s growth through the grief of her daughter’s diagnosis.

This is beautiful book aesthetically. It's covered in photographs, and was sweet to read in those first few weeks after Ace was born. But honestly, it was a little too grief-filled for me, which was probably just my response in a time when I didn’t want to grieve Ace’s DS. I wanted to bless him. I wanted to celebrate. Probably it would have spoken to me more in prenatal diagnosis days, when I was still trying to make peace with our future. That, essentially, is what this book is about. Thankfully it did introduce me to Kelle Hampton’s blog, where I’ve found some great resources as a new mom of a baby with DS. Also, her is wonderful.

Other memoirs about Down syndrome that I read before Ace’s birth? by Gillian Marchencko. This is another story of the grief and eventual healing of Gillian, after giving birth to a daughter with DS. A great story for someone working through the diagnosis. Gillian is real and doesn’t sugar coat her story.

My favorite, my gold star of memoirs about Down syndrome, goes to by Amy Julia Becker. I loved this memoir long before I gave birth to Ace. It is gorgeously written and has such a depth to it. It’s not just a book about grief, it’s a book about perfection and performance, and finding the grace to celebrate the value of all life, regardless of how a person measures up to our culture’s ideals of success.

For kids: A friend sent me the book,  way back when we were given Ace’s prenatal diagnosis. This is a children’s book about a little girl whose baby brother is born with Down syndrome. Since we didn’t know for certain whether or not Ace would have DS, I read the book to the big boys without any long talks about DS attached. I just waited for them to ask what Down syndrome was. And when they didn’t, I let it lie.

After Ace was born, when the time came to tell the boys about his diagnosis, they were not worried at all. In fact, they were pretty excited. "Ace has down sin drum? Ace has down sin drum?!" Well done, Octopus book.

 was in my Audible ears last month. My big boys have entered the constant bickering/hitting phase, and I’ve been struggling with how to intervene. This book was incredibly helpful. These are the same authors who wrote , a book that has greatly affected how I communicate with my kids. This one was super challenging and I’m not following through perfectly. But I’m already seeing a difference in how the boys speak to each other and work through their problems on their own.

I recently finished by my girl Barbara Brown Taylor. So much underlined in that one. I’ll be thinking (and writing, I’m sure) on her final chapter on the act of blessing for a while.


What I’m reading on vacation:

I’m on the East coast visiting family/making the most of the beauty that is my husband’s paternity leave . . . Yes, paternity leave exists in some wonderful places. Bless it.

This is what paternity leave looks like at my mother in law's house.


Right now I’m in the middle of  by Sean Wilsey. A fun, dark memoir about Wilsey's crazy, rich San Francisco parents in the eighties. I also started the second book in Margaret Atwood’s Madd Addam series. This one is .

Also, I’m finally reading by Jen Pollock Michel, which has been yelling at me from my bookshelf for months. Rich writing, rich theology. I’m excited to share more of this one with you.


Podcasts I’m Listening to:

So many podcasts, you guys. There’s of course, , which I will love forever and ever.

But I’ve also recently discovered . You want to listen to some good soul-talk? This is your place. I loved of the L’Arche communities, especially as I’m thinking a lot about what it will look like to raise a boy with special needs. Such good, rich encouragement in there.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I have become such a fan of . I adore , who is super smart (she works for NPR!) but not afraid of loving cheesy RomComs and Romance novels. I almost always agree with her take on movies.

Then there’s . I think Cheryl Strayed is such a gifted writer. If you haven’t read any of her advice pieces at (think more beautiful essay than Dear Abby) from way back in the day, you’ve missed out. She gathered her best work from those columns into the book , which I haven’t read yet. And now she (along with author Steve Almond) host an advice “radio” show (podcast) that answers the relational questions of readers with a deep literary bent. I can’t stop listening to it.

And then there’s , whose was a beautifully nuanced looks at the stories of LGBTQ folks in the church, as well as the science of sexual orientation, and the different theological reads of the biblical passages that refer to same sex relationships. I highly recommend it.


What paternity leave looks like for the big boys


I can’t stop, you guys. When I’m alone I’m watching The West Wing, which (shockingly) I’ve never watched before. I’m totally sucked in.

Before that, I discovered the world's cheesiest Hallmark TV series, . Based on (wait for it) that I read in middle school. Y’all I wrote a song about these books. (I wrote a song about everything when I was 13.) You better believe that when I saw the existence of this TV series, I was all on board. Also, it’s safe for ages 7 and up. Don’t judge me.

New stuff that I loved/am loving: . (So fun, so funny. You already knew that, though.) (haven’t finished, but the first five episodes were hysterical). And (not the world’s smartest show, a little cheesy, but so so satisfying. It reminds me of a Lost that doesn’t make you wait for ages for answers.)



When I’m in the car, my boys are usually there with me, listening to kids audio books (we love ), so discovering new grown up music feels impossible. Someday, ten years from now, I’ll listen to music again. That’s what I say to myself while I’m listening to Kidz Bop Radio.

album sat with me throughout my labor and stayed with me days after Ace’s delivery.

I’m also listening to Gungor’s new album , especially their gorgeous song "Light" about their little girl Lucy, who has Down syndrome. Listening to that one on repeat.



I dyed my hair pink. I’ve been wanting to do this for the past four summers and I finally made it happen. Sadly, it only lasted two weeks. Now I need to find some other way to rebel against my being an almost 36-year-old mom of three.

Ace, disgusted by my pink hair

What about you? What have you been into these last three months?


Linking up with . So excited she is my newest San Francisco internet-friend made real-life-friend!

Beware! Amazon Associate links all over this post!












  Average earnings for a essays online civil engineer in the us department of defense range from us$47,300 to us$111, 500, while aerospace engineers in the same department earn between us$56,300 and us$155, 200

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 rates on september 1, 2005

Pregnancy, And What Really Matters

Photo by  Luma Pimentel  on  Unsplash

Today I'm upending my self-imposed maternity leave with a piece over at about my pregnancy with Ace. Throughout my pregnancy I thought a lot about the things people say to pregnant women. Things that aren't a big deal unless there's reason to be worried. ("How's the pregnancy going?" isn't always so easy to answer.)

I was less worried about health issues, though there were some, and more afraid in general: of the future, of what would asked of us, of who my baby would be. And the questions of strangers were a constant lesson in reevaluating those fears, of receiving the good gift God was giving me.

And when I say "good gift" I mean it. Look at this face!

Here's a little bit from the post:

And the strangers at the playground and the library, the acquaintances at my son’s school, asked the same questions people have asked for ages. “How’s the pregnancy going?” they asked. “Is everything healthy?”

They asked the questions I’d asked pregnant women in my life so many times before. They asked the questions I was asked in my other pregnancies, questions I never thought twice about answering.

“How’s the pregnancy going?” I didn’t want to lie, and I didn’t want to tell the truth either. I didn’t have words for the strangers and acquaintances. What could I tell them except that I was afraid?

Our child would have Down syndrome, and I was trying to make peace with what that meant for me, for my family. I was still reminding myself that it wasn’t a dream each morning when I woke and my body was full of a child I didn’t yet know and wasn’t sure how to plan for.

Read the rest over at

Rituals: Paying Attention to the Setting Sun

It was January when we moved into our house over a year ago. We’d lived in San Francisco for close to four years already, but we’d mostly avoided the Outer Sunset District, a neighborhood known for soul-less square houses and tiny front yards paved over into driveways.

San Francisco is a city that was built around the bay, not the ocean. Though its roughly seven by seven miles of land are surrounded by water (the city’s on a peninsula), any iconic pictures of our fair city are pictures of the land beside the bay. The part of town by the ocean is less photogenic, less praiseworthy, plain.

We knew we were choosing our neighborhood based more on practicality and affordability than on beauty. We’d made peace with that reality. Then we happened upon our rental house, built at the perfect angle of the hill, its living room windows overlooking the ocean from a mile away.

Day after day we watch all that water moving straight into the edge of the world, massive container ships leaving the SF Bay for the edges of China. I’m still amazed, like I discovered a secret gem in San Francisco, quietly hiding among the square box houses and paved over yards: Who knew we would find the ocean?

But what we didn’t expect, even after discovering the beauty of our lucky find, was how evenings in this house would transform our family time. The day we moved here it was warm, in the high sixties, and the sky was clear, untouched by the fog that our part of town is known for. We ate pizza on the back patio with the boys and sat down on the concrete just in time to watch the sun fall over the Pacific.  Even our then two-year-old and five-year old quieted themselves as we stared at the path of the sunset. Falling, falling, falling, sink, into the water.

All humans are born with the innate knowledge that we need the sun, and that its path through the sky is our compass, our time-teller, our light-giver. It’s in our marrow to honor that gift from God.

. . .

Reflections for Easter Sunday

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"Testimony" Copyright © 2012 Jan Richardson Images. All Rights Reserved.

From  Girl Meets God:

The Last Battle, the final volume of Lewis's Narnia chronicles, pictures the end of time. Aslan---the lion who represents Jesus---has returned, folding all of culture and humanity into his kingdom. In the novel's lasts pages, he tells Lucy, a child from London, that everyone she knew back in Blighty is dead and raised to new life. And as Aslan spoke, writes Lewis, "the things that began to happen...were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better that the one before."

On Easter, we glimpse the beginning of Chapter One.

-Lauren F. Winner, (193-194)

Descending Theology: The Resurrection

by Mary Karr

From the far star points of his pinned extremities, cold inched in–black ice and blood ink– till the hung flesh was empty. Lonely in that void even for pain, he missed his splintered feet, the human stare buried in his face. He ached for two hands made of meat he could reach to the end of. In the corpse’s core, the stone fist of his heart

began to bang on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled back into that battered shape. Now it’s your limbs he longs to flow into– from the sunflower center in your chest outward–as warm water shatters at birth, rivering every way.

"Descending Theology: The Resurrection" by Mary Karr, HarperCollins, 2006.


Joy is radically different from happiness, for it does not depend up on the "ups" and "downs" of our existence. It is the constant moving away from the static places of death toward the house of God, where the abundant life can be recognized and celebrated.

Henri Nouwen (102)

For more from Jan Richardson, visit her website.

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)

Good Friday: Embracing the hard things

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This year I had the opportunity to contribute to the Lenten devotional. It's meant to be read on Good Friday, so I wanted to share it here with you today.

A reflection on John 13:36-38

Peter genuinely believed he wouldn’t screw this up. He genuinely believed he loved his Lord fiercely enough to lose his own life for Jesus’ sake. Yet when Peter faced the reality that aligning himself with the “criminal” standing trial before the high priest meant risking his own arrest—his own possible death—he disowned Jesus. He lied.

Peter didn’t want to die. But the story of Good Friday is a story about death—Christ’s death, of course, and also our own.

Good Friday is the story of God suffering willingly. To faithfully follow Jesus that first Good Friday, Peter would have had to embrace the suffering of his Lord, to walk with his friend through the massive trauma of scourging and crucifixion. Instead Peter ran from it. He lied to others; he lied to himself.

Like Peter, we are a people who have trained ourselves to avoid sorrow. We know how to lie to save ourselves from pain, we know how to avoid the suffering around us.

To be present to the story of Good Friday, we must sit with Jesus’ sorrow. And to do so is to sit with our own. Easter’s power comes from its victory over death. Without suffering, without death, there can be no rejoicing over healing and resurrection.

Esther de Waal, in her book Living with Contradiction, speaks to our fear, our avoidance, our longing to escape vulnerability and pain. “The promise,” she says, “is not that we shall escape the hard things but that we shall be given grace to face them, to enter into them, and to come through them. The promise is not that we shall not be afraid. It is that we need not fear fear.”

It is only in Christ’s suffering that grace is ushered in. Grace—God’s rich unmerited favor—does not ignore the reality of our brokenness, our grief, the ways we hurt one another in order to escape our own pain. Grace comes to us in that pain. Grace takes Jesus’ dead corpse—his cold, torn, lifeless flesh, wrapped and waiting in the burial tomb—and breathes life into it.

In some mysterious, cosmic way, God’s grace is revealed to us through Christ’s death. That is the story of Good Friday: “Not that we shall escape the hard things but that we shall be given grace to face them…to come through them.”

Today, you are invited to embrace “the hard things” instead of running from them. You can allow God to lead you deep into your most vulnerable places. You are invited to ask yourself, “How am I lying to myself and why?”

On Good Friday, we can face our fears because we know where this story goes. We know this is the story of grace ushered in. We come through this day of sorrow to the other side, where resurrection waits.

Reflections for Maundy Thursday

Descending Theology: The Garden

by Mary Karr

We know he was a man because, once doomed, he begged for reprieve. See him grieving on his rock under olive trees, his companions asleep on the hard ground around him wrapped in old hides. Not one stayed awake as he’d asked. That went through him like a sword. He wished with all his being to stay but gave up bargaining at the sky. He knew it was all mercy anyhow, unearned as breath. The Father couldn’t intervene, though that gaze was never not rapt, a mantle around him. This was our doing, our death. The dark prince had poured the vial of poison into the betrayer’s ear, and it was done. Around the oasis where Jesus wept, the cracked earth radiated out for miles. In the green center, Jesus prayed for the pardon of Judas, who was approaching with soldiers, glancing up–as Christ was–into the punctured sky till his neck bones ached. Here is his tear-riven face come to press a kiss on his brother.

-Mary Karr, , HarperCollins, 2006

Untitled (An ancient Celtic prayer for sleep)

O Jesu without sin, King of the poor, Who were sorely subdued Under the ban of the wicked, Shield Thou me this night From Judas.

My soul on Thine own arm, O Christ, Thou the King of the City of Heaven, Thou it was who bought'st my soul O Jesu, Thou it was who didst sacrifice Thy life for me.

Protect Thou me because of my sorrow, For the sake of Thy passion, Thy wounds, and Thy blood, And take me in safety to-night Near to the City of God.

From by Esther de Waal, Doubleday, 1997.

For more from Jan Richardson, visit her website.

Daughters of Jerusalem (A poem for Holy Week)

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In the past I've shared this poem, which I wrote a few years ago for my church, on Good Friday. This year I've decided to share it today, on Holy Wednesday, as we begin to retell ourselves the story of Easter.

Daughters of Jerusalem

from Luke 23:27-31 

Blessed is the womb that never felt one tiny foot press out and drag slow inside. The living lump beneath skin, a curled child who begs to stretch. Gravity presses even the unborn toward earth’s dust.

Blessed are the empty breasts, the woman who never held the baby’s body against her own, rocking in the late night darkness, eyes closed, bodies alive, both clinging to the other for living milk.

Blessed are you, woman! The days are coming when you will be called safe, you without grief for the tender bodies or the world’s sharp corners. Children crash and tear and never come home whole.

Blessed are you who grieve the teacher’s dying, watch his moaning crawl along the broken road. Blessed are you who weep for his blue-beaten body, his wretched stumble under splintered wood.

Blessed woman, you who wail his torn flesh, its dangle toward earth, you who grasp hope that he’ll summon angel warriors, blast this barren hill with light, burn bright this dried up death. Blessed are you who beg mercy.

Daughters of Jerusalem! It would be better if you’d never held the living beneath your skin, known the weight you carried. You point toward what is taken here: The Word that speaks us into being is silenced. The celestial carrier of hope, emptied.

He speaks desperation. He dies his body. But he is pregnant with mystery: he gathers the cosmic collection of every hopeless sigh, every loss, every hatred formed against another, every embittered soul, every unloved and unlover.

It enters him: the great hot chasm of sin. He opens his chest wide to hold the oozing dark. Weep, you who cannot undo the life you’ve made: the small hands, the legs that wobbled and tipped toward earth. Grieve the children, grieve the tree as it falls. Let the green wood thump into the loose dust. Earth gives life green then dries it brown. We take wood and form it either to table or death tool. Who can say?

The Internal Frantic Monster (Or, My Addiction to the Egg Timer)

Photo by  Franck V.  on  Unsplash

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

When I was in 3rd grade, I took my mom’s white mechanical egg timer (with one of those old-school dials that turned and ticked) from the kitchen counter and developed a plan to time each aspect of my morning routine. I set myself some “reasonable” goals—ten minutes for my hair, fifteen minutes for breakfast, three minutes to brush my teeth—and began to carry the egg timer around with me while I got ready for school.

Now, this was not about competition. There wasn’t a timeliness goal in my head. This was more a perfect storm of neuroses: my anxiety and my longing for self-perfection, exploding in my nine-year-old little-girl-brain. The timer would go off while I was still tying my shoes, and I would scream, “I’ll never be on time to school! I’ll never be on time to school!” throwing my shoes at the wall.

My parents (wisely) took the egg timer away from me after two days. But I still feel like that little girl sometimes, carrying my grown-up versions of egg timers, begging their little tick-tocks to assure me that my life is good enough, that I’m performing the way I ought to be. I am addicted to my own franticness. I am addicted to performing enough, in the right amount of time, in a way that the people around me say is good.

. . .

Today I'm contributing to Seth Haines' series "The Recovery Room" over at his blog. You can find my full piece here.