Thursday, June 13, 2024

Wylie and I Turn Five

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life with Wylie--taking care of her and all her needs, joining therapy with her, persevering in her illnesses, staying up late and waking early with her, holding her gaze with all the questions of whether I am doing enough for her or wondering what she needs or wants--I remember that I, too, am only a youngster. I am a preschooler in being who I am to her and for her. I relax. I let my shoulders go and take a breath. Surely I can only enter God's Kingdom rest when I become like a child.

Now she and I are five! On May 8th, 2024, we celebrated her birth and the new lives that she brought for us with her from the womb, from the Father. One of the aspects of life that I have been meditating about recently is the physical part. 

Upon reflection, our first year with Wylie was both bewilderingly glorious and gutting.  She lived and then almost died. Then kept living and almost dying. And again a couple more times. I do not know how close she has actually been to physical death, but close enough to have conversations about letting her go--with doctors, with family, with friends, with her.

You may remember me writing that when she turned one, I realized that she was living, not dying, and I shifted. 

Her second year was COVID. Her body stayed well and her health improved. What a dream to have Wylie home and well! Like you all, I am also still unpacking what happened to me during the lock-down. I know that I changed. I stopped touching--doors, grocery carts, hands, friends. I got scared and have lived that way in some aspects ever since. 

I have spent the last couple of years coming to terms with stress on my body. I lost a bit of vision in my right eye which thankfully is not noticeable to me. My appetite has been shot. Through friends and prayer, I have realized that I was living in fight or flight. My body could not get hungry when it was preparing constantly for the next emergency.

Because of the discomfort of this, I tried to live acknowledging only my soul and spirit. My soul and spirit were confident and sturdy. My soul and spirit were where I could find God. My body just dragged me down. It hindered me. It scared me. It drained my time.

Isn't it ludicrous? My poor body left pitifully neglected as I tried to carry on thinking I didn't need it. 

More prayer and more love led me to a new place--acceptance and gratitude for my body. My weak body has done more to dismantle my pride than any fall ever has. My dependence on God has increased and I am the better and happier for it. 

You see, He also accepted a body. God is Spirit and also human because of Jesus. Jesus is my inspiration for everything and now even this. 

Jesus received His body. He came into the world as a real and full human being. He accepted every part of this, even the suffering, even the dying. I want to receive my body, too, and every part of being a human because that is what. I. am. The dependence, the weakness, the suffering, the stress are characteristics of my one real life. I receive my full life--body, soul, and spirit.

You know who else receives? Yes, you know. You all aren't here just for me. 

Our Wylie. Her special body has seemed to betray her many a time. Her soul and spirit have had to buoy her body through so many challenges. She accepts. She rests. She depends. She lives. And now we are both five.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Living and Dying at Once

It's all the things: grieving mothers, The Twilight, Francis Chan gripping the Bible, my friend planted like the Tree of Life beside the river that goes up to the throne, grappling in prayer for the abused, Clavan talking, Shapiro talking, and more and more talking about Israel, our universities, the inconsistencies, the babies being burned. Dying and living at once--longing to be attached to the eternal and presently tethered to the temporal. I remember reading it before that we can be and were meant for the more, the longer, the aged cheese and wine. Once we've tasted, too, we can't go back. 

Illusive and altogether real, we are struck with these moments that we recognize as elevating. And it's not a trick or deception or smoke and mirrors. This is real. We are truly living while we are dying and when we die, we truly live. 

God reaches and plants us in a garden that does not fade. We grow. We grow and we grow. We do not wither. And we will last forever. No more good-byes. Almost none. Maybe we leave the angst as we consummate the desire for all that lasts. We are one with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty finally. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Light as a Feather

 I held her sleeping on my chest and she was so light. Breathing together, but she was inhaling helium and floating, merely hinting at resting her weight upon me. This is what Wylie is like. Her life is light and free.

Wylie expresses broader realities so often. This verse has been on my mind lately. "For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross." I have heard it many times. The joy is us. The joy set before Christ is people.

That's hard for me to believe. We do not seem like a prize. We are full of selfishness, greed, violence, apathy, immorality, and you know I could easily continue the list for days. Now, I know that this darkness, this sin is not a problem for Christ. He has a mysterious and powerful ability to cleanse, to forgive, and to transform people.

I can know those real and true aspects of life, but do I believe? This is where Wylie helps me yet again. Does God see me like I see her? All gift? A delight? A "get-to-be-with-her" kind of a person? Wylie has not a single known defect, fault, or deficit.

Maybe because God is able to see us through Jesus, the One who covers us, He sees us differently, our true and restored and full selves. We are all gift. The parts of us that are not a gift are passing away. What we really are is becoming more and more real. Light and free.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Seeing to Hear

Tonight my friend and fellow mom of a child with trisomy-18 shared horrific news. Maybe you have heard? A six-year-old child with special needs died on her way to school. The bumpy roads of the bus moved her into a slumped position that caused her suffocation.  The bus monitor apparently was on the phone with ear buds in.

Can you imagine? 

I am on my phone around Wylie, too. She can be lying on the couch beside me and I turn to find her gazing at my face, looking for my eyes. I am struck every time. Stupid phone. Stupid, stupid phone.

Or is it stupid me?

With Wylie being non-verbal, I know that she and people like her need someone to pay attention in order for communication to be possible. How seriously do I take this responsibility and the opportunities I have to listen and respond? 

As in so many other circumstances, Wylie gives me a stark example of what is true for all my children. They are looking for my eyes. They need me to see them. 

Really there are so many with no voice. They are not just those like this sweet one on her way to school or our Wylie girl who cannot speak. Voiceless people are not always so easily identified. 

Yet, if we are willing to listen, maybe we will get to hear. And we need to check and really see, because there are certainly a lot of bumps in the road.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Glory Days

These are the glory days. I hold Wylie to my chest. I stare at her profile. I peer into her eyes. I clasp her plump feet and toes in my hands. I kiss her cheeks. I kiss her hair. I kiss her forehead. I kiss her knees. I kiss her hands. I take and take and take her in over and over and over. Time with her is so precious. 

Because I know. I read the posts and see. There are so many moms just like me who held their children in adoring affection and now cannot hold them in their arms. Graves are filled by the most terrible, vicious enemy and the victims survive robbed and maimed. 

I pause sometimes. I know I make an assumption that she will die before any of the rest of us. I cannot know that, so I correct myself and remember that not one of us know how long we will have on earth. We do not know the end. We certainly and truly only have the present. 

So I look into all their eyes. I touch their hair. I give big hugs. I pray and pray for mercy. Time is fleeting, but real things happen in it. Things that when remembered bring courage and comfort and happiness. And so many of the real things are so ordinary. I cannot despise the ordinary.

She is here. She is fulfilling her purpose and we get to be here for it together.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Time to Think

Thinking. We say, "Give me a minute to think about it," and "What was I thinking?!" As I have aged, I have noticed that thinking takes longer than a minute and I ask the second question much more frequently than ever before. I cannot multitask at all, and at times, single-tasking is quite the challenge!

That is why I am so thankful for God's wisdom, which my friend Rich pointed out to me once, is always practical. As you can imagine, learning to live our new normal with Wylie is new and not normal, so I have noticed my ineptitude and weakness everywhere! Do not pity or try to reassure me about this, though. All that I am NOT has paved the way to dependence, trust, and reliance on God who IS a worthy Support.

I have asked Him about Wylie's schedule. I have asked Him about homeschooling Neva. I have asked him about going to Bible study. I have asked him about my college and college-bound children. His answers have surprised me almost every time. 

We deferred school services for Wylie this year since she already has five therapy sessions a week and is homeschooling with me. For Neva, rather than sending her to a cottage school we thought would be perfect, He provided a saintly fellow homeschool mom who has invited Neva into their home two days each week. To a Bible study outside the home I have done for years, He said no. For my older children, He has given me the grace to be present and to pray. All these answers, though, have culminated in one over-arching way--having more time to think.

There are many quiet moments. I am not rushing or hurrying. I can consider, ponder, and wonder. This is a pleasure to me. I am thankful to God for this gift--an answer to a promise Jesus makes in an invitation I hope you have heard. If not, let me share it here:  "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

At our recent Simple Church retreat, we considered how being the church is really about following Jesus which is ultimately a way of life. One aspect we concentrated on the most was pace. We watched a short documentary called, "Godspeed." N.T. Wright is featured and he posited, "Sometimes we have to slow down to catch up to God." 

God's answers have slowed me and given me time to think and to pray. You can come to Him and ask, too. His invitation is for everyone!

Friday, July 15, 2022

A Friend Loves at All Times

Friends, the breeze is gentle these days. I watch the backyard leaves flutter and loop in the air's caress. Their green is shiny and playful as they tumble back and forth tethered by their slender stems--all that life on one limb.

Under the shade of those trees, Wylie welcomed two friends--ones we've heard about her whole life and who have encouraged us in our journey with Trisomy-18 but had never met in person.  Amazingly, that changed! 

Our three little miracles checked each other out on the play mat (a Trisomy-18 favorite) and even splashed together in a tepid hot tub. What a sight!  Their moms and I shared stories, laughed, and enjoyed the time. They were so kind and gracious to accept the invitation, make the trip, and get their sweet kids out to meet! 

Trisomy-18 automatically gives us so much in common. We know the juggle of appointments, therapies, advocacy for our special-need child alongside the balance of caring for other children, spouse, household responsibilities, and getting SLEEP. We have endured crisis situations many times and have scars that remind us of those battles. So time together, a little break from the work and norms of life, matched those balmy breezes. How refreshing and pleasant! 

This peaceful playdate experience occurred on the same day and served as a backdrop for the handing down of the SCOTUS decision. Imagining us like leaves on the backyard trees makes me think that our political climate along with inflation are like storms shaking our branches. The wind seems like it's going to rip us right off the branch. Our loss of control and the swirling can terrify us soul-deep. I'm thinking of you in this, friends. 

Are you holding on okay? Would you let me know if you aren't? 

In the same way that the Trisomy-18 friends’ camaraderie strengthened and encouraged our hearts, being present for each other as fellow human beings making our way in the world meets a need we all have no matter our politics. 

We can be in this together. Each of us being a person automatically gives us a lot in common. We can sit on the back porch and talk. We can share our stories and remember that we are not alone at all. 

Monday, June 6, 2022

In Celebration of the Berry Bush (And Other Important Things)

Note: I meant to publish this in November of 2021 but apparently I never hit the "publish" button. I thought I would still share it.

As you can imagine, my life is very full--like a river overflowing its banks full. I love that my days are filled with people--such special people. I am really amazed by all of them. Gavin and the children, Wylie's caring nurses, her skillful therapists and doctors, our friends, the people at co-ops, schools, basketball--I am RICH in relationship. 

I do not want to miss them. I don't want to be distracted, hurried, haggard, and burned out. I can see myself often choosing the small, the safe, the least risk. While boundaries are important for wholeness and wellness, walls of self-protection and control can shut real life right out.

So, I asked my friend Ellen Martin to coach me. She is a life coach. (Link here). Wow can she get to the heart of the matter and quick. She is amazing! During our first official session, she asked for some agreements that could increase the efficacy of our meetings. One was whether I would take responsibility for my weaknesses. That was an easy one--of course. The next was not so easy. "Are you willing to celebrate your victories?"

Hmmm...why was that hard? Well, I realize that I mistakingly believe that I should not have weaknesses in the first place.  "I really should have already learned to be on time," or "Really?! Disrespectful/rude/discouraging/critical again?!" Overcoming these weaknesses is just the bare minimum; no cause for celebration here.

Well, except for the fact that I am a Christian. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know that some stunning transactions have taken place. At one time, my spirit was dead. I was unable to know or to respond the love of God in Christ. The weight of my sin rested on my shoulders. My greatest hope was to become the best version of myself that I could produce. 

Then, I was born again. The Bible describes it as having a heart of stone removed and a heart of flesh given in its place. That heart of flesh leads me to see God, hear Him, respond to Him without the conviction of my sin sending me running to hide my shame. In fact, this transaction is so scandalous Jesus describes Himself as a lover where I can say, "My Lover is mine and I am His." 

Ellen led me to write and post the following words in places I will see: Christ in me is worth celebrating. I in Christ am worth celebrating. Then she asked me to speak the words aloud. I barely croaked them out past the lump in my throat.

With the words before me on a regular basis, I notice my resistance to jubilation. I am serious, business-like, efficient, busy, often frustrated and irritated if my goals are blocked. I do not even feel badly about being a party pooper. Every party needs a pooper! I'm fine to fulfill that role.

Yet, Thanksgiving Day added an exclamation point to my celebration lesson. Our Suburu Legacy careened off Interstate 75 after being hit in the rear by a pick-up truck. Wylie, Neva, and I found ourselves unharmed covered in red berry juice from the bush that cushioned our impact. I will never forget looking into the backseat and seeing those two precious sets of eyes looking back at me. 

"We are ok. We are ok. We are ok," I repeated to Neva as she begged to go home over and over. We got out of the car with the help of those who stopped. A state trooper arrived first, then the paramedics, police, and firefighters. The other driver and his dog were safe, too.

But you know me, I wondered, "What does it mean to be ok? What does it mean to be safe?" There is actually a lot more to life than these two measures. Would you agree?

Maybe I could have yelled truer things to Neva like, "We are loved, Neva. We are loved!" or "We have more time, Neva! We have more time!" "This is not the end, sweet girl! This is not the end!" I am seeing much more cause for celebration than not. I want to kick my humbug spirit to the curb and get on with the party. How about you?

Monday, May 23, 2022

All of Life


Today was a poignant example of holding both things:  joy and sorrow, hope and melancholy, smiles and tears. I considered the truth of it--how we are always holding both.  I remembered the way Solomon put it, "For everything there is a season; A time for every activity under heaven," and also Dickens, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Also, in the same verse, the Bible leads us to both "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep."

Two children with Trisomy-18 died this week.  One was a four-year-old boy named Dane and the other was a seven-year-old girl named Twila.  I have found few words to describe the experience of being in a community where so many children die.  To add to this, the majority of them die suddenly.  I was rejoicing with Dane just two weeks ago as he was tolerating respiratory weans from his vent. 

At the same time as tears rolled down my face as I grieved for these families, Wylie looked at me with her little gopher teeth and a grin big enough for the whole world. I thought my fellow Trisomy-18 momma got it right when she wrote, "That's all we can do is continue taking care of God's precious diamonds, till he decides its time. We all serve great purposes bigger than we all can even imagine." This mother has an extraordinary perspective and is one of our trisomy community's biggest cheerleaders.

While there is time, there is every activity under heaven. Some day there will be no more time and no more "under heaven." Through Jesus Christ, a gate is opened into the eternal. Some activities will cease when the world as we know it comes to an end: dying, mourning, killing, warring, weeping, destroying, shaming. I can barely imagine what that will be like.

Dane and Twila have left time. They have now entered a place where suffering and illness have ceased. Mourning trisomy parents often refer to their children's death day as their "best day that became our worst day." Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends are stuck in time and left to mourn and mourn and mourn. And how could they not? Surely, as my friend stated, Dane and Twila are God's diamonds--precious, rare, and exceedingly valuable.

What are we to do? There is one thing that we can do here that we cannot do in heaven. We cannot have faith. When time stops, we will have full sight. "We will know as we are fully known." 

The opportunity to exercise faith thrills me. "Though [I] have not seen Him, [I] love Him, and even though I do not see Him now, I believe in Him and [am] filled with a inexpressible and glorious joy." Demonstrating faith fulfills my purpose as a human. God is honored by it and I am fulfilled by it.

I lift my faith to God as a gift. He has given me an unspeakable gift in Wylie and I give Him my belief. What better way can I spend my vapor of time than to glorify Him with my trust? Though for a little while we will suffer many trials and troubles, we are on our way Home to experience uninterrupted joy with our God and one another.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

With My Girl

Something like angst visits again. I feel impossibly tired. I lie down and do not sleep. Wylie has not slept at all either today. I call her the Energizer Bunny and she grins with her whole face. 

The house is quiet as all the Duersons except Rosie, Bunny, Wylie, I are out. It's the seventh inning stretch of the Lexington Catholic baseball game as "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" plays over the speaker just over the fence of our backyard.

This place. This time. So familiar and yet, on days like these I realize that I am not home, yet. I will find no proper food, satisfying activity, or thirst-quenching beverage. The place for which I am made lies further away in time. I am left to plod on toward that Day.

Plodding is just about all I can manage these days. I have no zip in my step or twinkle in my eye. I've stopped "trying." 

The days leading up to Wylie's surgery to release her spinal cord were hard. I didn't realize it until recently. She was barely sitting at all. She wouldn't even let us hold her in our laps or arms. She must have been so uncomfortable!

I still helped her along in every appointment as the therapists and I would be creative in offering assistance in what she could do. I exhausted myself with all the trying. It wasn't until after the surgery as I witnessed Wylie healing that I learned again from the most winsome teacher God has ever made.

Wylie felt badly after surgery. She threw up. She thrashed around on her bed. She whined. She fussed. She whimpered. She let us know. She didn't hold back or "try" to be okay. We gave her meds, patted her back, prayed, problem-solved, and brought her home. She immediately fell fast asleep in her crib.

It occurred to me that Wylie doesn't ever "try." She just is. Her life is an expression of full trust and acceptance. There is no "be brave," "practice kindness," "pay it forward," with Wylie. How is it, then, she is so inspiring without ever "trying" to be so?

Maybe it's something like God offering invitations to experience abundance and fullness through Wylie's life. Her groans challenge, "Hey, would you like to minister to someone who may never really be able to say, 'Thank you' and find more satisfaction than you thought possible?" Her smiles exclaim, "Do you want a glimpse of pure joy? Here it is!" Her resilience proclaims, "Would you like to meet someone who rests in the love and grace of God and perseveres in the most difficult of trials?

Her life invites me to just be. Be where I am. Be who I am. It's in this place and time of being that I can truly rest. I'm with you, Wylie. Thanks, big girl. 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Birthing Glory

As my body cycles in its feminine glory, I find my thoughts and feelings moving with its rhythm, moving me to come here and write to you. I have been on the verge of tears for days. I think my weepiness is connected to my hormones and the time of year. As I remember the best birth story, I remember other birth stories that find their place in the Christmas one.

Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

Sometimes my body shakes like it did when I was preparing to have Wylie with all the big emotion and questions swirling around--palpable. Her birth was alien, so different than my natural labors with her brothers and sisters. Hers was holy and shocking. 

I had never had an epidural. I had never had a c-section. I welcomed them, though, as that was her way to our arms. I panicked with the medicine and felt so badly for days from the surgery. I needed a wheelchair and used it much longer than I ever imagined I would need it.

Though so tiny, her weight was glory--God's glory all over her and in her and through her. I walked around stunned. I was dumbstruck. I still am so thankful for Kristy Wheeler's poem about the day ( because words alluded me for a long time.

Wylie spent her first Christmas in the hospital intubated and struggling for her life against RSV. One of the nurse heroines encouraged me to go home on Christmas Eve and have time with the family on Christmas morning which I did. I remembering returning that afternoon to sit beside Wylie. I had called Mom on the way to help me get there. The depth of Wylie's pain and struggle was so difficult to witness.

If you have followed me here, you know that her suffering bore her much fruit. She gained so much strength through the tumult of her first ten months. And we all are unpacking the trauma of its wake--not her wake, the wake of the promised trouble.

"In this world," Jesus announced, "you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world." What a comfort to know that Jesus is bigger than any difficulty I have, am, or will ever face. I have been taking heart these days. 

So, in thinking of Wylie's birth story, I have considered Mary's. She had been visited by angels, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, greeted by her senior cousin's unborn baby, smeared by her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, married to the obedient Joseph, ordered to Bethlehem, and birthed her first baby surrounded by animal filth. She did not have her mother, her sister, birthing help. She and Joseph must have been terrified. Strangers appeared. Prophecies swirled. Then they had to flee.

I wonder now how the birth trauma stayed with her. As her body mirrored the moon, as she beheld her firstborn, as his birthday neared, did she shake? Did a lump take up residence in her throat as she remembered His holy entrance? Because surely when the Son of God filled her womb and left it, she was never the same.

Pondering that reminds me that I am changed, too. When a baby is born, so is a mother. Each baby's birth holds a new birth for the one birthing. It all makes sense when I consider that I am only two and half with Wylie. I am just two and half years into this change. I still shake because the weight of glory is both terrifying and wonderful.

The Kingdom of God presses and we are the wombs that give Him birth over and over. So, "we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 2:18). Through His birth, we are born anew.

Glory to the newborn King!

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Wylie and I Turn Five

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life with Wylie--taking care of her and all her needs, joining therapy with her, persevering in her illnesses...

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