the reliable enemy of good friday


our cat is pretty reliable in this way – if we open a window, soon the cat will appear there on its ledge.  he can also always be found when we open the back door, trying to run out between our feet and prowl these flowering yards.

the other day he caught a bird in flight.  he pierced its neck with his tapered, needle like cat teeth.  we stood around and stared down at its grey feathers puffing up in the wind against the grey sidewalk.  none of us knew what to do.  not even the cat.

today is good friday.

the day we celebrate an innocent man taking the blame for what he didn’t do.  it’s a tough mystery to unravel.  how when we love people to know where is the line of when we speak up for the wrongs done against us and where we just bear it never saying a word.

i tend to lean harder on one side or the other.

either never able to suffer an offense done to me, always defending myself, making sure everyone knows loud and clear, or quietly and passively, how they’ve hurt me.

or i keep it all inside.  folding wrongs done against me like shirts, one on top of another and another, until my heart is nothing but drawers filled with memories that i go right to and pull on when i like.


we are pretty reliable in this way – if a wrong is done to us, we have a way of dealing with it that likely does more harm than good.

the other day a man was caught in the thorny, razor-sharp teeth of his natural enemy and when he was dead, no one knew what to do.  not even the one who had killed him.


is it untrue that people live so much of life just coping from the ways they’ve been hurt?  it sounds bleak and constricted and like a hell of a lot of work.  yet, i’ve got a feeling based on forty-two years of living and nearly every important conversation i have…i’ve got a feeling that it is true.

that man caught in the jaws of his enemy, the bird on the cement, all this end of living can lead us to another way to live.

not with a chest of drawers heart and not having to rake your claws across anyone you think has done you wrong.

there is the good friday way.

we scooped up the innocent bird and walked to the trash can.  children felt responsible and we worried over the taking of the life.  we lifted the black bin lid like rolling back a stone.

then from joshua’s hands we thought the feathers still ruffled from the wind, but no.  it fell from his palm but before it hit the ground it was up, seemingly unwounded and it flew.

we watched it fly and we celebrated how unharmed it was from the wrong done to it.

a promise made of another way to leave this earth.

Posted in death, easter, forgiveness, good friday, resurrection | 3 Comments

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stout-hearted

i’m going through the motions.  laundry.  dishes.  downstairs in the basement i hear change in my son’s jeans as i go to put them in the washing machine.  i dig around in the pocket and bring out three coins.  they feel like quarters in my hand, but when i look at them, i see three words staring back at me.

no cash value.

it’s strange the things that make us calm down.  it can be random what causes us to suddenly feel peaceful.  but for me it has always included an element of surprise.

last sunday a guy named johnny prayed that i would have the courage to change my habits.

is that what is required?  courage?  i was under the impression it was a force of will or better yet – a surrendering to my own inability and asking for help.

but courage?

i hadn’t thought about it like that.

all the synonyms for courage are breathing life into my soul today.

audacity.  grit.  spunk.  backbone.  pluck.  mettle.  nerve.

do i have the audacity to change my own life?

someone told me recently that when life becomes less of a gift and more of a burden there are three things you need to already have developed.

deep friendships.

an intimate relationship with jesus.

and the ability to rest.

i’ve been running on the fumes of a couple of these as of late.  i can’t seem to force myself back either.  so to see these coins, i can’t explain it, but it helped me today.

that money is of no consequence to god has always been a warm blanket straight out of the dryer to me.  our current cultural climate is tossing out everything that doesn’t make more money.  art – who cares?  human compassion – what does it matter?

the bottom line has become the party line and i think it’s been eating away at my heart.

i want coins that say no cash value on them.  i want to take those coins into the grocer’s and buy milk and wine and food without money.

i want to remember what matters.

i want the courage to change the things i can.

Posted in depression, faith, hidden life, provision | 1 Comment

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and i’m so glad

joshua and i celebrated 19 years of marriage a couple of weeks ago.  the first four years of it there were no children.  no mazzy.  no abe.  no ella.

i remember the counseling and the fighting.  i remember how hard it was to suddenly be married in a new city where i knew no one.  i remember not knowing the first thing about putting someone else before myself.

someone told me recently that the word “saved” in the context that i used it was “tacky.”

but i didn’t mind because i know what it feels like to be saved.

over and over again, i’ve been saved.

this anniversary was pretty much spent with the kids.  we went out to dinner alone one lovely night and woke up alone one lovely morning, but the minutes and hours ticked by as fast as time tends to.

at this point i don’t know marriage separate from kids.

and i like it.

i didn’t always like it.  when i was drowning in diapers and depression, i used to count down the hours until joshua came home.  i used to count down the hours until i could drive away with a friend and not be a mom for two or three days.  i used to…

but time has ticked like it does and i hear the warnings from empty nests.  don’t put too much of your life into these kids – they’ll be up and gone before you know it.  then where will you be?

who will you be?

i’ll be the same.  lonelier.  happier.  sadder.  but i’ll be the same.  here with my saving god that has taken me from selfish and young to 40 and kind to 60 and who the hell knows.

but not give everything to them now?

…does not compute.

all my days are written.

yours are too.

19 years has flown though, hasn’t it?  if you were there and saw two incredibly young and naive and broken people tie the knot that friday afternoon in greenfield village – can you believe that was 19 years ago?

i smiled so big that day that my face ached by the end of the night.

what was i saved for and what was i saved from?

josh, mazzy, abe and ella.

and you.

i was saved for all of you.

Posted in family, grace; free gifts, marriage, mothering, redemption | 4 Comments

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a blog post about a person with down syndrome

me

i had a dream last night about bloggers who write about their children with down syndrome.

some are so famous online that you’d recognize them in public.

in the dream i was walking by lake michigan and a mother had set up her kids for a photo shoot complete with lighthouse in the background.

mazzyweus

mazzy turned 15 a couple of weeks ago.

last night she was asked to be an escort in the mr. blue devil event at her high school.

mazzy continues to unfold like a flower.

i don’t share it enough.

i share it too much.

she’s a person.  she’s her own person.  she’s my responsibility.  she’s fine.

mother and child

what is it that is so compelling to people about down syndrome?

why do they want to read about it?  why do they want to eradicate it?  what’s the mystery to be solved there?

joshua said recently that people are obsessed with the idea of their worth.  that we all have a slight notion that our lives are valuable beyond measure.  i agree and i wonder if a person with down syndrome pushes the bar just a little bit higher.

the qualities that make us human; love, kindness, vulnerability, joy and dependence – these are on display in a person with down syndrome in ways that we can’t replicate.  we are literally unable to be so free.

but not mazzy.

sweet

so here’s a blog post about a young woman with down syndrome.

her name is mazzy and she’s 15 years old.  she’s at school today taking drama class and art class and studying earth science.  later on tonight she’ll do her homework and go to dance class.

nothing terribly out of the ordinary about her life but still we read away.

Posted in beauty, disability, good life, mazzy, teenagers, weakness | 4 Comments

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unanswered prayers

bookstore

my dad was back in the stacks and the snow wasn’t stopping outside.  big, fat snowflakes falling themselves down on the lucky streets of ann arbor, michigan.  i looked over and saw my husband considering yet another collection of words to stick into his brain.

what a beautiful night.

books

tall

my mother was watching the kids.  my children were tucked in, safe and loved, at her house and i was out with my two all-time favorite men going to see a concert, going out to dinner, looking through old books on a snowy night.

what do i have to complain about?

nothing but beauty for as far as the eye can see.

books

i used to pray that i could live in a beautiful place.

but when you pray such a prayer you are putting a couple of things out there for debate. first off, i am praying and so it would stand to reason that i believe in a god that can hear me.  so there’s that.  next, i’m suggesting that i know what the word beautiful means.

or that i know what god thinks the word means.

large assumptions indeed and you know what they say about assumptions.

stacks

art

i thought god had answered my prayer.  i really did.  i believed that he had given me a beautiful place to live in, but now i’m not so sure.

“lord, i pray that i could live in a beautiful place.”

these days i’m thinking god hasn’t answered it yet.

because if there is anything to learn from this trip to the bookstore, caught in net of familial love, it’s that there’s always another book to read.

there is another idea out there waiting to be heard.  there’s a new definition, another definition of the word beautiful, better than any that i’ve heard before.  and i’ve seen beauty.  i really have.  could there be better, lord?  yes, i think so.  it’s just starting to be said and maybe i’m getting an ear for it.  maybe that’s a better prayer.

“lord, make me able to understand what is a truly beautiful place.”

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here i am to worship, here i am to bow down

princess

i smell her hair.

strawberry shortcake.

thin arms and legs with a head too large for any human body.

i inhale and wish for the scented air i remember from the doll of my youth.  i would have taped that doll to my face like i once tried to tape mazzy’s pacifier to her head when i was a brand new mom, callous and selfish.

queen

i am holding her close right now and my nose is at the top of her head.  my real girl, my flesh and blood girl, her hair is red, too.  but not the bright pink of strawberry dolls.  it’s brown with lights high in it of red.

she is falling asleep and I am wondering what is wrong today.

i’ve become used to people staring.  i don’t care most of the time and when i start to, i hum under my breath.  i don’t know which song it was today, jingle bells or the superman theme.  the mindless music gives me courage.  it makes their wondering stares less real, more like a movie.

i don’t look them in the eye; i barely look at my husband as he carries her out of the building and off the premises.  i steal one glance before they are gone.  there she is, still fighting, still crying.  she is hitting him and i have her glasses in my hand.

little wire frames.

my daughter.

devan's street

people like to call people with down syndrome angels and that may very well be because people with down syndrome have said fuck it a long, long time ago.

maybe when they were five or maybe six, they tried for the ten millionth time to state their opinion and no one, not even dear sweet mom, could comprehend them.

again.

so right then and there it was decided.

fuck.  it.

five years of trying to be understood is quite enough, thank you.  and we admire them because we are unable to say that to this world.  we think it divine to not give a flying fuck.

people with disabilities suffer long with us.  and with a much better attitude.

i try to understand it, but who can translate the ocean?  i don’t know how to turn salt water into fresh.

mazzy

here we lay now after another tiny fiasco.  she’s asleep already and breathing deep, breath catching at the back of her throat.  she’s curled up next to me like she was curled up inside of me twelve years ago.

the girl that i’ll never completely reach.  a simple page of a life.  this complex heart behind the scar cut down the middle of her chest when she was four months new.  my oldest child, a weak thing shaming the wise.

“do you think abe gets left behind with all of mazzy’s needs and eleanor’s needs?”

my son?  the one shouting from the rooftops that he doesn’t get enough attention?  whatever makes you say such a thing?

of course.  yes.  mmm hmm.  yeppers.  just like me and her dad and the cat and every single other person on the radar of our lives.  yes sir.  mazzy’s needs and the needs of a five year old really don’t bode well for feeling affirmed day in and day out.  and guess what?

there’s not a thing to be done.

lovely life

there’s a lot of life that is more than we wanted.  we live on the fringe edges of life as we understand it and life as it is.  it’s the truth tellers that let go of the threads of that magic carpet of a wanted life, they just let it go.

i can’t change disability.  i don’t know what you can’t change.  maybe you married what you can’t change.  maybe what you can’t change just up and died when they were needed like air is needed.  maybe what you can’t change is you.

three

jesus is the stone placed in zion.

and i should like to take a sledgehammer to his girth and his strength.  i would spend my life and perhaps, i do.  i try with all my will to reduce him from what he is.

i suppose i will continue this way until i die.

i will be in mid swing to pummel the one that will not diminish and my heart will stop and i will fall onto the piles of bodies around this cornerstone.  and he will pry the hammer from my dead hands and lead me into life everlasting.

that’s what he does.

that’s what it means to follow jesus.

he is the greatest thing that we can’t change.  all these smaller true things that we are powerless to alter, they point us here.  back to the biggest truth we can’t change.

the things we can’t change are the most important parts of our living.

i lay my head back on the pillow and breathe the existence of her in deep.  if you can’t beat them, join them.

maybe that’s the other part of following jesus.  if you can’t beat him, join him.


repost from the archives

Posted in disability, jesus, mazzy, mothering | 18 Comments

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hand me that baby!

gloria

christmas was as close as i came to jesus as a child.

i wasn’t told the story.  there wasn’t a countdown to the manger in my house.  i didn’t hear about the blessed virgin turned away at the inn ad nauseum.

instead my brother and i helped my mom assemble the christmas tree in the living room. the branches with red tape in this pile and the branches with blue in that one.  she’d plug in the lights to make sure they were all working and the christmas spirit was electricity in the air around us.

looksee

we would pile in the car and there’d be christmas carols on the radio and piles of presents under the tree.  my father’s mother – her eyes would glow when we arrived for all the love and surprise she had waiting for those she loved so well.

the drama of my christmas wasn’t a baby born to save the world – it was better.

it was beating hearts that longed to hold you on a cold winter night.  it was the kindness found under a fake tree and a fake santa arriving late with a fifth tucked in his bag along with the presents for the kids.  a holy night a wholly other sort.

it was flesh and blood.

familyrealbaby

and so when i did hear the old, old story – the good news of christmas and the baby born, it fit like a glove because i’d known great love that gives too much my whole life.

i’d grown up with flesh and blood that loved me better than i deserved.

so hand me that baby.

don’t keep a safe distance or cast him in untouchable alabaster this year.  babies need to be held close and feel your beating heart.  i will hold jesus and i will love well and i will celebrate just like my family showed me how in detroit back when i was a little girl.

Posted in childhood, christmas, detroit, family, love, savior | 4 Comments

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dwelling places

img_7095
“do not let your hearts be troubled.  believe in god, believe also in me.”

a few weeks back i took a risk.

i have a precious friend.  maybe you have one.  i say precious because you feel the luck when you’re with them.  they are a kind of marvel across the table from you and a part of you hopes they won’t realize how unqualified you are for their confidence.

my friend was hurting and they were unsure of what to do in this big, amazing mess called life.

i was mostly quiet.  i was mostly at a loss for words.

believepreparedwords

“in my father’s house there are many dwelling places.  if it were not so, would i have told you that i go to prepare a place for you?”

when i did speak i said the only thing that i know.  i told this ridiculously lovely human being that that i am so fearful because i believe if i don’t take whatever i can when i can that i’ll be forgotten and left hung out to dry.  but that i also believe there is a different way to live this one short life.

i believe that god is generous.

captured

“and if i go and prepare a place for you, i will come again and will take you to myself, so that where i am, there you may be also.”

peace fell over my friend and the cobwebs that threatened just seconds before were done. it was over.  they heard what they needed to hear, case closed and thank you very much.

we forget how loved we are and we need to remind each other.

god is generous, but to really bet on that, to take it to the bank and live on that kind of commerce?  now we’re talking high stakes.

dwell

“and you know that way to the place where i am going.”

today i saw my friend again.

they told me all about the generosity of god.  we sat at another table many days and hours later.  we celebrated the hidden hand on hidden streets in hidden places that gives gifts we wouldn’t have even thought to ask for.

it’s a gamble, i admit it.  to look and see that there is no evidence to be found and believe anyway – it’s a real long shot.  but for me, it’s the only way.  any hope you find in me really is to stay here all the days of my life and remain in the generous love of god.

Posted in faith, friendship, grace; free gifts, hidden life | Leave a comment

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when they go low, we go lower

180

my daughter told me i have a beautiful heart and that i needed to keep my peace, keep my calm, so the morning after the election i ended up at a yoga class.

the instructor arrived and unlocked the door.  she was a young black woman.  she said good morning and i said it back.  she asked me how i was doing and i told her i was sad.

i’d decided to give myself the day to grieve, to acknowledge that underneath anger is sadness, to let myself feel disappointed.

“why are you sad?” the yoga teacher asked.

ohiologan

“because donald trump is president.” i said.

“oh.”  she said.  “i’m not sad.”

we went inside.  she took off her coat.  she’d been teaching for years.  i hadn’t been to this studio in over a year.  my stomach is soft.  my underarms wiggle when i wave goodbye.  she is fit.  she works hard to be in her own skin, strong and teaching others.

“i’m not surprised at all.  this is what america is.  everyone likes to pretend there’s no problem, that we’re past racism, misogyny and hatred.  but we’re not.  i know that as a person of color and you know it as a woman.”

she was composed, honest and right.

back roads

“i agree with you.”  i said  “but today i’m sad.”

she wouldn’t budge.  her wide eyes against her brown skin looked at me with patience.

“you know when you have an infection?  that has to come out.  it has to rise to the surface.  it has to be exposed so you can deal with it.  that’s what is happening now.  we can’t pretend anymore, but that is how we’ll get through it.”

i was quiet and feeling more and more like a two-year old by the minute.

“i know you’re right.”

she smiled at me.

“okay.  if you need to be sad, i get it.  i’ll enter that space with you today.”

“thank you.”  i told her.

logan
here is something to know about white people – we know very little about being on the losing side.  for many of us, our hoped for candidate lost.  when you get what you want all the time, it can be difficult when things don’t go the way you thought they should.

but wait!  you cry – this is more than being told no!  this is wrong!  this is hatred and greed winning the battle!

yes, and your point is?

what have we been saying we want?

we say we want to stand with the oppressed.  this is what it feels like.  it’s watching a rich, white man be given power and authority he doesn’t deserve and that he’ll execute poorly.

this feeling is normal for many, many americans.  this is what it feels like to be the minority and see that life is truly not fair.  it might be a new feeling for me or for you, but it’s an old, old feeling for so many others.

we need to quiet down and listen up.

we need to stop pushing to the front of the cell yelling about being locked up unfairly. instead let’s turn around and look who’s in here with us, shall we?

people.

people who have been marginalized since the founding of this country.  people who travel here for a better life and have to become our servants.

people.

admit it white people – you don’t know how to lose.

real talk

well, there’s good news yet.

we are surrounded by folks who’ve been on the losing side for a long, long time.  not only that but they are thriving.  their lives are rich, creative and valuable and they know it better than anyone else.  so how about we take on a new mantra?

“when they go low – we go lower.”  

humility is the lowering of oneself.  to give up your rights and learn from those who have volumes to teach us about how to live well through the next four years.  we say we want the poor and marginalized lifted up until we have to identify with them.

humble yourself.

approach someone who knows all too well about living in america and ask them how they are doing after this election.  i bet they’re doing a lot better than you are.  listen to them. learn from them.  humble yourself.

true story

i took my somewhat flabby, white self out onto the yoga room floor that wednesday morning.  i listened to the voice of my teacher and did what she said.  at the end of the class she reminded us that the toxins in our bodies were finding their way out in the midst of the heat.

that what is wrong in us must come to the surface.

that it’s not easy and it can seem too dark to see any way forward.

but i’ve heard a rumor about things being darkest before the dawn, about death not being the end of the story and that it’s not the american people who will have the last word.

the lord works in mysterious ways indeed.

Posted in grief, hard work, healing, patience, poverty, pride, racism, resurrection, the united states | 6 Comments

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voting is cool

kids
i like voting.

i like being anonymous and alone in a voting booth.  i like how quiet it is and how no one else can come in, look over my shoulder and tell me who to vote for.

i like the polished gymnasium floors i have to walk across and the people sitting in metal folding chairs.  i like when they highlight my name in the paperwork and give me a ballot.

i like how human voting is.

mazzy

i like the idea that a woman can be married to a ranting, abusive man and that she can still go into a polling booth and vote for hilary clinton if she wants to.  i like that she can come out and tell her husband that she voted for donald trump and that he’ll never know if she did or if she didn’t.

i’ve never known a country that i wasn’t allowed to vote in.  i’ve never known a land where black people couldn’t sit at my table.  i’ve never believed that i shouldn’t raise my hand and say what i thought out loud.

i became a jesus follower when i was 18.  by the time i was 24 i encountered the machine that is christianity in america today.  in six short years it went from believing that people of faith all must steal away to the waterside to commune with the holy spirit to white business men with zero compassion who possibly had never met with jesus in their entire lives.

out there
i think abortion is bad, but i would have had one if i was a pregnant teenager.

i think people should have guns, but every time i see one in the hands of someone i love i feel like i know them less.

i think gay marriage is okay, but i still have trouble imagining my kids not marrying someone from the opposite gender.

i’m a person.  a voting person.  an american.  a woman.  i like beyonce and sara groves.  i’ve traveled and paid good money to see both women perform their music.  i like how much freedom they both have to create what is true to them.  i’ve taken my daughter to both shows.

voting

more than one thing is true about me.

but the truest thing about me is that whoever becomes my next president won’t sink me. i’m not defined by it and i’m not afraid of it.  this whole damn country can fall apart and i’ll grieve, but i’ll exist within it.

and so will you.

so go right ahead and vote for donald trump.  vote for hilary clinton.  vote for me if you’d like.  you can do that.  it doesn’t define you.  in fact, i’d strongly recommend considering putting your hope in something that lasts longer than 4 years.

but getting that sticker from a volunteer on november 8th, that does define you.  it really does.  it says that you are a human being who has the right to be free to do what you like.

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