The Tide of Life

Once a week I compile the reflections I’ve offered on Facebook into one blogpost. Here are some thoughts from the first half of July.

July 2nd, 2018

I’m reading Austin Channing Brown’s new book I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World made for Whiteness. Important reading For any white person who cares about understanding what it feels like to navigate school and work and Christianity as a black person in predominantly white America. To quote one example— she’s receiving prayer from Christian coworkers and suddenly realizes, “Before I know it, the prayers take a turn… they ask not that I be understood but that I would find it within myself to give more grace. The prayers don’t ask that doors would open for me; they ask that God would gift me with skills they wish I had. These prayers aren’t for me. The prayers are that I would become who they want me to be. ‘Lord, make this Black person just like us.’ “ https://amzn.to/2KyxLYz

July 6th, 2018

Penny is at Camp PALS this week. It’s a camp designed for people with Down syndrome, which was both a draw and a concern. On the one hand, we wanted to give Penny a space in which having Down syndrome was the norm, a space where perhaps she wouldn’t need to work quite as hard socially, a space where she could rest and relax and laugh and be herself. On the other hand, as Penny herself put it, “Why can’t my friends who don’t have Down syndrome come?”

Camp PALS programs (http://www.palsprograms.org/) exist all over the country on college campuses. I’ve known Jenni Newbury, founder of Camp PALS, and older sister to a younger brother with Down syndrome, since she was in college. She’s the one who talked to me about how different the experience of a sibling is to that of a parent in terms of accepting the person with Down syndrome in their lives. I trust her. And I trust my friend who recommended the camp after her daughter had a life-giving and empowering experience there last year.

So we pushed Penny to go.

Before she went, we promised that she could FaceTime every night, and that if she didn’t like it she could come home after three days. When I texted her leader, Ally (in the photo below), on the second day about setting up a time to talk, Penny told her she could wait until tomorrow. And then on the third day, again, she had Ally text that we could talk the next day. She comes home tomorrow, and we’ve spoken once. I received this text on Wednesday: “Mom I just wanna tell you that I went on my first ever roller coaster it as so amazing and scary that I wanted to go on again today was a blast”. We’ve seen photos and videos of Penny in her element–talking, laughing, stretching herself. She’s having a blast, and we are very grateful.

July 10th, 2018

Are you in danger and you don’t even know it? Last week, my husband took our kids swimming off the little local beach near our house. It’s a tame environment here on the Long Island Sound–very minimal waves, lots of seaweed. Our kids have passed the swim test so they are allowed to swim out to the raft by themselves. I’ve finally stopped fretting at night about the scary possibilities that water presents.

But yesterday the tide turned just as they reached the raft, and on the way in, they drifted. They didn’t realize it was happening. In their minds, they were swimming toward shore like they always do. But in reality, they were drifting into the rocks that line the coast next to the sandy beach. In Peter’s words, “it was intense,” because by the time they saw where they were headed, they couldn’t get out. They weren’t strong enough to resist the tide, and they were in danger of getting stuck and battered among the rocks.

Peter was able to rescue them from danger and get them on shore safe and sound, but the incident stuck out to me because I thought of how much we are just like my kids. We think we know where we’re headed, and then the current of our surroundings pulls us in a different direction, and before we know it we’re being beaten up. I’ve done it with eating and body image time and again, where I think I’m being healthy and I end up becoming judgmental of others and self-critical. I’ve done it with gossip, where I find myself in a conversation where I’m talking badly about someone else and feeling crappy about that and I don’t even know how I got there. The list goes on.

There are two ways to handle these situations. One, make sure to keep my eyes on the shore. In spiritual terms, that would mean constantly returning to who God is and how God empowers us to live differently, fully, as ones who are blessed and in turn bless others. Two, when I find myself in the rocks, to cry out for help. God will lift me out of the danger, just like Peter lifted our kids and set them on solid ground.