Thoughts from August 24-September 1, 2017

For eight years, I blogged regularly. It started as a once a week post about our family. In time I moved to Beliefnet, then Patheos, then Christianity Today, where I was asked to write at least three posts every week. Eventually I realized that I could either blog or write books, but I couldn’t do both at the same time. I abandoned the blogging and for the past few years have focused on the longer-form writing work of articles and a new book. But last spring I realized that I still have thoughts that might be worth passing along to readers–articles I read that you would find interesting, reflections on Scripture, books to recommend, stories about our family, and updates on White Picket Fences (my upcoming book). So I began posting those snippets of recommendations and reflections on my Facebook Page. It was like a mini-blog. A few minutes every morning to share something I found interesting or inspiring or thought provoking with readers who are interested in faith, family, disability, and/or culture. I’ve decided now to compile those daily thoughts into one weekly blog post for people who aren’t on Facebook or who don’t want to check my page every day. If you read this and have any suggestions about how to make it more reader-friendly, please let me know. Meanwhile, here’s this week’s thoughts on middle school, the love of God, and some books and articles worth reading.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Today is day five of middle school for Penny. She has weathered it better than I have–great attitude, tremendous excitement about the prospect of hot lunch (which wasn’t available daily at her elementary school), multiple opportunities to show us that she really and truly is growing up and can make decisions for herself and can keep a 7 day rotating class schedule in her head without a problem. She got sad once because her two best friends aren’t at school any longer, but even from that she bounced back pretty quickly. I, on the other hand, cried in my minivan when I got a call from the school nurse yesterday because Penny had spilled on herself and didn’t have a change of clothes and I felt like I had failed her. Penny told me about it later with her usual matter-of-fact reporting. “It was no big deal, Mom.”

Any transition for any kid has the potential to raise anxiety levels for everyone. I suspect that for parents of kids with special needs, once again this process is magnified. For me, old questions about Penny’s future–questions that I have been able to put off for the past five years because her life has been stable and she has been growing and loving life–have resurfaced. Will she get a job? Will she be able to live independently? Will she make new friends? Will she be happy?
Yesterday, before the phone call from the nurse, I was thinking about a verse from a Psalm, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43). Wisdom–knowledge combined with goodness and hope and peace–comes from considering, from pausing to think about and remember and rest in, the great love of the Lord. I needed to go back in time to think about God’s love for Penny, God’s love for me, God’s love for this world. First I was reminded of a Psalm that came to me when she was one and needed heart surgery: “The Lord protects the simple hearted… Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (Psalm 116:6-7, and for the whole story you’ll need to read A Good and Perfect Gift). Then I was reminded of the clear promise I heard when we were decided whether to move to Connecticut, “Even if you make the wrong decision, I will take care of Penny.” (For that whole story, see Small Talk!) And finally, of the verse that our pastor read at her dedication as an infant: “She is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever she does prospers” (Psalm 1:3).

Nothing has changed about this particular week. Penny still has scoliosis. She is still in transition. She still has to find new friends and figure out a rotating schedule and changing clothes for gym and a combination lock on her locker with only three minutes between classes and getting on a bus with high school kids.
After my tears in the minivan, my mind went back to that Psalm–consider the great love of the Lord– and I thought, that’s my job right now. Not to get her backpack packed perfectly every morning. Not to manipulate a new friendship for her. Not to work harder to straighten her back. Not to make sure she looks great or does well in school. But to consider the great love of the Lord, for me and for our daughter, and to rest in that unfailing, enduring, never-giving-up love.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

One of the perks of being an author is that people send me books for free. I have a stack on my desk right now that I’m eager to look through, but there is one that I want to tell you about right now. I read this book in manuscript form a few months ago, and I am eager to read it again. It’s written by my friend, author and blogger Sara Hagerty, and it is called Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to be Noticed. Here’s what I wrote after I read it: “Sara Hagerty has written a beautiful and powerful book that I will give to any Christian who wonders what God is up to in times of trial, stress, or monotony. It might seem as though Sara’s story won’t connect–she’s managed four international adoptions, for starters–and yet Unseen managed to draw forth the desires and fears and dreams we have in common. I will return to this book in the future when I need a reminder of God’s faithfulness, God’s purposes, and God’s love for me.” And I will give this book to many friends who feel alone or as if they are living lives that fade into the background, lives that don’t matter, lives that aren’t significant because of small children or no children or hopes and dreams that haven’t been realized. I highly recommend this beautiful book.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

This story is worth reading in full, but the short version is that a 20-year old white man named Abraham participated in an act of hateful vandalism against a mosque in his community. When he went to jail and was awaiting trial, he wrote the mosque to express his remorse, and the Muslim leaders in the community responded with forgiveness and compassion. They even petitioned for leniency in sentencing. Again, I recommend reading the whole article but want to share this conclusion as a beacon of hope and a reminder of who we are, at our best, as a nation:
“After he got out of jail, Abraham posted a note on Facebook.
“Well, I’m home now,” he wrote. “I just want to say thank you to all those who have been supporting me and a big thanks to the guys at the mosque who have been supportive and helpful and I pray blessings over them.”
The next day, he saw a response from Wasim, Hisham’s son.
“Bro move on with life we forgave you from the first time you apologized don’t let that mistake bring you down,” he had written. And then, Abraham’s favorite line: “I speak for the whole Muslim community of fort smith we love you and want you to be the best example in life we don’t hold grudges against anybody!”
It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him.” – At an Arkansas Mosque, a Vandal Spreads Hate and Finds Mercy

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Penny started middle school yesterday. She got on a bus with 6th-12th graders, walked into a big new school, went to her seven different classes with seven different teachers, discovered that one of her best friends moved away over the summer, came home, went to an orthopedist appointment where we found out her scoliosis has progressed, ate a big dinner of spaghetti bolognese, and fell soundly asleep. My attitude about her friend: To Penny, “Oh that’s so sad that your friend moved away!” Penny’s attitude: “I have plenty of friends, Mom.” My attitude about her scoliosis (To Peter), “I’m so discouraged that her scoliosis progressed.” Penny’s attitude: “The goal is to prevent surgery so I’ll just wear my brace more.” She understands perseverance better than I do, and I marvel at her positive perspective.
It reminded me of this story that a friend shared recently, of Andrew Harris, a man with Down syndrome who recently climbed Grand Teton:
Andrew Harris and Penny both show me a little bit about what it takes to accomplish goals and thrive in life. I am grateful for them both.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Are you a churchgoer? If so, why do you go?
If not, why not? Church is finally a part of our family’s regular weekly rhythm (for years we went, but it still surprised me that we got out of bed every week and went there with our squirmy kids and tired bodies and sat through services that were sometimes lovely and other times boring and sometimes felt pointless because we were just shushing and rocking babies the whole time) and we are so grateful for the invitation to worship God, rest our souls, connect to our community, and participate in something bigger than ourselves as a family. I appreciated Marilyn McIntyre’s take on this question too: CHOOSING CHURCH: There are lots of reasons to avoid church, but here are the reasons to look again.

Sunday, August 24, 2017

The original idea for the summer was to spend a lot of time with our children and also edit the book I’m working on, White Picket Fences: Confessions of Privilege. I thought I needed a few hours for each chapter, so I could get through two chapters a week without disrupting family time too much. By this point in the summer, I was supposed to be done with the second draft and ready to revise the whole thing. Well, let’s just say it didn’t go as planned. I threw away one chapter altogether. I moved chapters ten and eleven and turned them into chapters one and two. I wrote an introduction. I combined chapters one and twelve to become chapter six. I’ve still got six chapters left to edit (or, though I hope not, rewrite) and my deadline is fast approaching. I took some solace in this Atlantic article’s description of a somewhat similar writing process, and I can only hope and pray that this second draft is a lot closer to the final draft than the first one was…
“The first draft is for the writer. The second draft is for the editor. The last draft is for the reader.” – The Book He Wasn’t Supposed to Write: A best-selling author submits a draft to his editor. Hijinks ensue.

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