Friday, September 18, 2015

Oh Celebration!

Today is Friday - Oh Celebration! - the day we join Kate for 5-Minute Friday. A one-word prompt, five minutes, and GO....

Oh Celebration!

My dog is snoring, 
laid out on the carpet, 
taking up all of the walking space
in the living room
As well he should

My daughter calls out the news
From her Facebook feed
Her legs tucked under her dress
At her spot
On the corner of the sofa
I smile at her joy

My husband
Stopped by after PT
For breakfast
He ran 10 miles
Stopping to read the years
On the gravestones of an old cemetery

Daylight broke early
Calm and clear
As I labored over a drawing
Of the second floor
In the house we are buying
Home at last

My sister is coming
For a visit next week
Plans include Niagara Falls
Boating on the river
And fall-color hunting
In the Adirondacks

Oh Celebration!

I rejoice in your name all day long;
I celebrate your righteousness.
For you are my glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt my dignity
Indeed, my shield belongs to the Lord,
To the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 89:16-18 (NIV with slight changes)

Friday, September 11, 2015


Friday - is the day when the gracious Kate Motaung gives us a one-word prompt and we respond. In five minutes. However and with whatever we can -- wherever our thoughts and key-tapping fingers take us. Then we stop.  The prompt today is Same.


Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29

"You look exactly the same."

It was my cousin's daughter, my first cousin, once removed (I had to look it up - the removed means one generation away - still family - all family...). I remember her with her sister, sitting on what was then my Aunt's front porch steps, their long hair falling all the way down their backs until it curled in ringlets on the peeling-paint, worn wood where we had plunked our summer-tan selves down, to catch a breather from Indiana-farm-swelter. I wondered what it was like to have that wealth of hair, to have the big eyes and the turned-up noses, the straight, wide, white smiles. I was the city cousin, come to visit - my life just as romantic and intriguing to them, as theirs was to me.

"Same smile, same dimples, same eyes - You haven't aged at all..."

How does one argue with that? In these days of feeling not-good-enough, not-pretty-enough, not-young-enough. In these days of resumes, and interviews, and being told that in this state, one doesn't even qualify for that certificate - the very one attained through a framed Master's degree hanging on the wall.

Smile and nod.

Laugh it off with a "thank you." With a sincere thank you.

Tell her how envious you were as a child. How much you wished for that hair, that smile - that all-american cute... Tell her that you can still see the girl on the porch - even though the years have passed. Tell her same-same. And smile.

And then listen well. Because we are together as family and it's been too long. Because catching up goes beyond our looks, and beyond our childhood memories. Beyond our outsides. Because we have gathered and in the gathering are stories. Stories of how we've changed, how we've grown, how we've overcome. Stories of blessings and difficulties, hope and disappointment, and faith. Stories that define us.

So we talked. And we listened. And we laughed. We did all those things that Indiana-family does - played cards, made music with guitars and singing, prepared and ate good food, cleaned up together - we enjoyed. All those things I remembered as a child, visiting, only this time, we were the adults.

Same but not. Better.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Want To...

Your eye is the lamp of your body. 
When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. 
But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 
See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 
Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, 
it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.
Luke 11:34-36 (NIV)

So I was cleaning house yesterday morning. A bit overdue. It's something I don't love, but necessary. Not my favorite thing... but something, that surprisingly, calms me. Maybe the repetitiveness, maybe the accomplishment, maybe the act of being busy for a purpose.

Somewhere in the middle of running the vacuum cleaner through my daughter's room, I had an epiphany. Cleaning is a have to, not a want to. What would happen if I could turn it into a want to?

It would take a change in attitude - a change in thinking. But, I thought, as I vacuumed along, but wouldn't that be powerful?  In every aspect of life?

And then I thought about every aspect of life. I thought how being a Christian is embedded in every aspect of life. Or, rather, how the teaching of Jesus is embedded in every aspect of life. The more Scripture I study, the more awed I am at how timely it is, how practical, how applicable.

See, I believe it's the little things, the details, the baby steps that lead us. Because many times they are so small, we don't even realize they exist.

Step by tiny step, we are lead to darkness...  Perhaps the tiny step of putting a marginally inappropriate want to in front of a have to?

  • When did finding wholesome shows and movies on TV become so difficult? Shows that don't have nudity, violence, profanity. That don't flippantly disrespect teachers and parents in order to get a laugh. That don't belittle, that don't entitle, that don't pump up the drama.
  • When did clothing become so revealing - especially girls' clothing?
  • When did "What's in it for me?" overcome "How can I help?"
  • When did "All lives matter" become "Black lives matter", or "Unborn lives matter", or "Police lives matter". When did we begin to separate instead of unify?
  • When did it become ok for children to raise their parents? For the immature to lead the mature? For babies to dictate to adults?

Step by tiny step, we can be lead to light. (From 1 Thessalonians 5)

  • Live in peace with one another.
  • Encourage the disheartened.
  • Do not pay back wrong with wrong.
  • Do what is good for each other.
  • Help the weak.
  • Be patient with everyone.
  • Be grateful in everything.
  • Rejoice always.
  • Pray without ceasing.
  • Do not quench the Spirit.
  • Do not treat prophecies with contempt.
  • Hold onto what is good.
  • Reject every kind of evil.
These are attitude changing, aren't they? Baby steps - changing have to's to want to's

So back to cleaning house. I can certainly be grateful in the fact that I have a house to clean, in the fact that I CAN push a vacuum cleaner, in the fact that I'm healthy and able, in the fact that I really will love the sparkle when I'm done, in the satisfaction of completing a task, in the luxury of time spent thinking and processing. I can use the time praying. I can know that what I do is a good thing, a necessary thing. Baby steps.

It's a start.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

This Is Forgiveness

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

The other day, I read something so profoundly full of grace and forgiveness, it brought instant tears to these feel-like-I've-seen-everything eyes. I was cruising through Facebook, skimming through the words and stopping briefly at the pictures. This particular picture caught my eye.

If you know me at all, you know that I have a daughter who is proud to tell anyone and everyone, that she has Down syndrome. That she is a young woman with Down syndrome. She doesn't lack for self-esteem. And she doesn't lack for compassion, or empathy, or friendliness, or helpfulness, and sometimes, just, plain stubbornness. Which can sometimes make me crazy. But that's not the sum total of who she is.

She's the girl who texted the wrong Uncle Jerry (my sister's husband) to tell him happy birthday - because she saw my happy birthday message to MY Uncle Jerry on Facebook (her great-uncle -- thus, the confusion). She's the one who tells my husband about his birthday present within five minutes of telling me that it's a secret. She just can't keep good news to herself. She's the one who showed me a series of texts to my sister:

My daughter: love you
My sister: I love you, too! So much!
My daughter: love you now let me work

So, this picture caught my eye, and I just HAD to click on the MORE. I had to read the whole story.

Well, it wasn't a story, really, it was a letter. The letter was to a young woman, quite pretty, a news reporter in fact. Apparently this news reporter described President Obama as a 'retard' in a tweet, and the letter was written in response.

True story. It actually happened in 2012, during the Presidential debates.

For me, hearing the word 'retard' feels like a punch in the stomach. It wasn't too awfully long ago when my daughter was in fifth grade at the school where I was teaching. Fifth grade. My classroom sat beside her classroom - two portables along the fire road behind the main school building, right next to the playground. We used to call them our little cabins in the woods. Our classes had recess together, the teachers taking turns to monitor.

One day, during my partner's turn at recess, a couple of girls from her class came to see me. Upset and fidgety, they told me about an on-going incident involving my daughter and one of the boys from my class. Apparently he had told my daughter that his name was JackAss. My daughter is really good with names. Just last weekend she kept all 38 of our relatives straight during our visit to Indiana. It's one of her superpowers. So this boy told her this name and then proceeded to follow her around the playground asking her his name. When she said what he told her, he laughed at her, and called her a retard.

I could barely thank the girls for letting me know what was going on.

I. Was. Furious.

Did you know that God can calm a storm? Thankfully, I said a little prayer before calling the boy to me - to hear his side.

Long story short, my classes, from that time on, were educated on the word 'retard'. They were educated about it's history -- how it used to be used to describe the mental capabilities of people with delayed cognitive abilities -- how it had slowly evolved into an insult -- how using that word as an insult, meant that they considered people like my daughter to be insults.

Not too long ago, I wrote an article about the word, very much like my classroom lecture. You are welcome to read it on page 10 of the July, 2014 Christian Journal.

But now this true story. This beautiful, grace-filled letter by a young man with Down syndrome. I don't know if he had help - the writing is leagues beyond anything my daughter is capable of. The forgiveness may be leagues beyond anything I feel I'm capable of.

See, he asks the pretty reporter why she uses 'retard' as an insult. He explains that, as a man with Down syndrome, he struggles to break public perception that intellectual disability means being dumb or shallow. Then he gives examples of the kinds of people she could have possibly meant to link to President Obama by calling him retarded. The people he describes are victims who rose above the bullying they received in school, or people who have to consider what they say, people who don't jump on the quick-comeback-snarky-soundbite bandwagon. He asks if she is perhaps linking President Obama to people with intellectual disabilities who live in low-rent housing, with state-provided health care who STILL, in the midst of poverty, manage to see life as a precious gift.

I've seen these people, friends of my daughter's, friends of mine. They participate in Special Olympics, supporting each other with encouragement and enthusiasm. They worship at churches and help with missions. They participate in meetings about living conditions, and jobs; they show up and sometimes even speak up at rallies and forums. They work. They play. They argue. They gossip. They forgive.

They forgive.

That's what made me cry when I read this letter. The young man was very clear and concise about how the word 'retarded' is used as an insult. He was very clear and concise about the link between a population of people and that insult. If you don't read the whole letter - then here are the final seven sentences...

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV. I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash. Well, Ms ___, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor. No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much. Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.
A friend you haven't made yet,
John Franklin Stephens 
Global Messenger Special Olympics Virginia 
... A friend you haven't made yet....

"YET..." This is hope. This is forgiveness.