Sometimes, it just hits me outta nowhere that our family of four GREW! It’s not four anymore, there are six of us now. And it’s at seemingly normal moments that this epiphany occurs.
Tonight, it was dinnertime. Year after year, as I prepped dinner plates, it was simply four plates.
But then tonight, as I made our “big people” plates, it dawned on me with intensity, “Oh my word! There are two more little plates to make, two more little mouths to fill, two more personalities at the table.” My heart was all bursty-like as I prepped their classiest of Paw Patrol plastics😂
Because we were young parents, poor and working through college, we decided it’d be fun to start over in adding some littles during this more secure place in our lives. We wanted to know what it felt like to say, “Tonight, we make a baby!” Previously, our kiddos were wanted surprises!
And now, the thing that led me to my nostalgic momma moment in the first place:
Making dinner for this whole crew, 6 of us to be exact💜💜💜💜💙💙
“Girllllllls!! Wake-up, Mom’s water broke, we’ve got to get to the hospital,” dad’s voice echoed into our room. My eyes opened, I looked at the clock: 12:26 am!
“Oh my Gosh, how cool is this, I’ve always wondered when it was going to happen!! This is it! It’s go-time!! Yesssss, no school for us tomorrow, yahooooo! Thank you, unborn Sister-making life better and you aren’t even here yet!” My skin was tense and chilled with goosebumps, not only from the cool night, but from the unknown entangled with an excitement only an eleven year old big sister can fathom.
My younger sister, Steph, and I had never moved so quickly. We were in the van before Mom could even waddle her dripping legs down the hall. It was a stormy April night, 1996. I can recall the details in color.
Thunder boomed and neon yellow lightening dashed about the eerie Arkansas night sky, a foretelling of how the night would unfold.
The van ride was filled with so many thoughts, “I hope Mom is safe, I hope there isn’t a tornado, if there is a tornado where will Steph and I go since we aren’t allowed in the delivery room, I cannot wait to meet the baby I’ve waited my whole life for, I can’t wait to watch her grow up, I can’t wait to hold her and play with her, it’s going to be so neat to see my parents with a baby, those clouds look pretty scary, Steph—- are you ready to be a big sister?” EEEEEEEEeeekkk, the suspense was growing with every mile behind us.
Once we arrived at the hospital the brightness of the fluorescent lighting and the stark white halls felt blinding, Mom and Dad said their, “See ya soons,” and were ushered to the delivery room with great joy.
They’d always teetered on the brink of “Yes, let’s have another, and No, our girls are too big- it’d be starting over.” But on this night, they were like two giddy first-time parents about to meet their Love in the form of baby, all over again. It had been eight years since there’d been a baby in the home. And, even as a child, I was keen on their love for each other and this new life they’d created together.
Mamaw and Papaw showed up within the hour. Thank Goodness. The nurses were kind and had turned on some Disney movies, brought us Shasta Cola in cute teeny cans, and Mamaw brought crayons and coloring books. You can always count on Mamaw to have some form of entertainment in tow.
Labor and delivery was a “quick and “easy” 3 and a half hours,” I’ve heard Mom recall. But for the sisters who had begged for this baby for YEARS, it felt like a small eternity. Before we knew it, Dad was hustling out to greet us with that proud new-dad smile, “She’s here! It’ll be a few moments before you can come in, but Mom’s doing great!”
Time. Passed. Slowly.
When Steph and I were able to go back, the emotions were intense, such a big love already manifested in us… I easily recall being mesmerized by her tiny perfectly manicured hands and nails. She was swaddled in the cutest baby burrito fold, but her hands had broken free, and although they were pale and cool, those tiny little hands were just like mine. I’d always been told I had beautiful hands and nails, and here I was, standing in awe of this miniature human, who had MY hands. My hands. It was Love right there in front of me, in the purest form.
Those moments of light and airy exhilaration were precious, but short lived. Within the hour, our Sydney was being ushered to the nursery with a team of folks surrounding her. “What was happening, what are they not telling us?” Dad, Steph, and I stood in the nursery window as unsettled onlookers. We could see Sydney wiggle uncomfortably with each poke and prod.
Going back to Momma’s room, we were met by a freshly wounded woman, not only bodily wounds, but a soul that was desperate for answers. Steph and I decided to spend some time resting on the extra bed as Mom, Dad, and the doctors conversed.
Later we would learn that Syd’s pale white hands I had so admired, partnered with her score on the Apgar scale, and her shallow breathing were all tell-tale signs that our precious baby had Down Syndrome. But, because nothing had shown on any ultra-sound the entire pregnancy, the medical team explained Sydney would need further testing. They decided she would be better served at the neonatal unit at Children’s Hospital.
I watched as the Doctor pleaded with my mom to rest, she’d literally JUST given birth. But-she wasn’t having it. She got up, packed her bags right back up, and paced the floors, aching for nothing more than to be wrapping that new baby in her arms, she was so excited to nurse a baby again. But instead, she looked on at the baby in the incubator and waited anxiously for the Angel Flight helicopter to arrive.
I’ll never forget our nurse named, Hope, coming in to chat with Steph and me. She saw how fearful we were, and tried to ease our minds with talk of how amazing Children’s was, but when I blatantly asked if Syd was going to die, she didn’t say no.
I stood by Dad in the second story window. We stared ahead, dazed. The soft tiny little baby girl of my dreams nestled in the hard plastic incubator alone, being rolled out to the giant helicopter. “Would this be the last time we saw her alive?” I looked up at Dad for some sort of reassurance, but instead I saw silent tears dripping from his face. He was afraid. I’ll never forget that moment, he was feeling all the fears I was feeling but at a greater magnitude. I turned my head away from him, to give his heart the privacy it deserved.
And then I watched as that long-prayed for Sister of mine, took flight.
I can’t tell you what the build-up of excitement for nine-long awaited months, culminating with uncertainty, and ending with outright despair and fear does to an eleven year old’s mind and heart, but I can tell you, it isn’t a lesser than experience than that of an adult. It’s obviously different from a parent, but it is not less than…
My Mother, my Queen.
As the helicopter holding our angel-baby disappeared out of sight, momma got up, left the hospital without the doctor’s approval, and made it to Little Rock by the time our Sydney arrived. Momma would be in the know every step of the way concerning her baby.
Steph and I however, left the hospital that day, not only without our baby, but without our parents.
And we didn’t know that just those few short hours earlier, on that stormy ride to the hospital, that those words, that that conversation, would be the last we’d ever experience with this version of our parents. The only version we’d ever known, fading into the distance of our memories, like the storm fading into the distance of night….
Our parents would never be the same….
Our lives would never be the same, either…
It is said that people have these moments in their lives, really really big moments. Moments that break all typical neurological pathways and forever change the make-up of who we are.
Syd is one of my defining moments.
With Sydney, I learned nothing is as it seems. You can do all the right things and still end up in a place you didn’t plan for. And, it doesn’t mean the place is bad, it is simply different.
Sydney showed me that genetically typical doesn’t mean better.
I got to witness in Sydney, the fiery spirit within those precious humans that have Downs. She fought hard to be able to do things other babies and children did naturally, even when it hurt, and there were tears, our long awaited for baby pushed through.
I will say, that same fiery spirit mentioned above has humbled us all. As a child, my mom had to rescue Syd from softball fields, from entering into the middle of volley ball games, and even off the basketball court. Honestly, I didn’t know mom could slide across the court so effortlessly in one solid swoop to collect said child. And, Syd, man—- she will not give up easily. If you think you can win a battle with her-just try to give her one piece of cake and see what happens…
And my parents. Oh, my precious precious parents. Love Unconditional, Selfless beyond recognition at times. If you EVER EVER desire to bless WORTHY humans, I urge you to run in the direction of parents who are raising children with special needs. If you have not lived it, than you just don’t know. Drop them a gift card for dinner and a movie, drop them a bottle of wine—-ehh, make it hard liquor, drop them treats of ANY KIND. What they don’t need is the silly accolades or sayings like, “I can’t think of a better person to raise a special needs child.” Um no, just don’t. All I’m saying is, if you can-bless these people in real time, they wear their hurt so well…And, just because a special needs child has an adult body, please understand for many, it is still a full time care-giving job required of these parents. It can easily go unnoticed, PLEASE TAKE NOTICE.
The day after Sydney was born, I drew a picture of our home with an angel standing over it, wings and arms stretched wide, halo glowing all around. Mom and dad were holding hands, Syd was bundled in Mom’s arms, and Steph and I were holding hands beside them. I titled it, “Angel in Disguise.”
Now, if I could re-do the picture, I’d remove the figure above and place the halo over Sydney. She has been the angel all along. Teaching us new ways of being and forever forcing us into merciful compassion for others.
I recall it like it was yesterday… not six years ago. It was a beautiful time. I was a bible believing, god seeking, holy-spirit led, Child of God. I had quit my job as a public school teacher so I could pursue a career as a full time homeschool momma. My faith was the driving force in EVERYTHING I SET MY HANDS TO. Making breakfast-sing some praise, folding laundry- gratitude prayer, exercise- self-sacrifice is honorable, someone is sick- the devil is attacking, teaching my daughters- God is SO Good. Every situation had a scripture to call on and I did!
The Bible was the LITERAL Word of God, every word written was inspired by God…
I’d been raised Church of Christ, the fundamentalist Bible Belt version, not the progressive version. I was a literalist, inerrantist, the “Bible says it so I believe it” kind of girl.
The C of C believed that the gifts of the spirit had ceased, that women should never teach men, that one must be baptized by submission into water, that the Lord’s Supper was a weekly part of service, absolutely NO instruments, salvation can be lost with any sin not repented from, and that everyone who was not a part of their belief system was headed for hell. Talk about a scary childhood….I might go to hell for a sin I hadn’t been forgiven of, all of my peers who attended other churches were going to Hell…. even my grandparents. And what about all of humanity before the C of C was started? I mean, the “denomination” was only a couple hundred years old???
For a long time, I wrestled with C of C beliefs and could not reconcile many of them with Scripture. If other believers were receiving healing by the laying on of hands—- why not me? If others could speak in a tongue between them and God, why not me? If others’ children only needed to confess that Jesus is Lord and would then be forever saved, why not mine?
In my adulthood, I became a Christian Church Gypsy. I needed all the experiences that came with the varieties of denominations, so I set out. Over the course of 10 years, I met with the Methodists, I praised with the Pentecostals, I danced with the non-denominationals, I sat in the Silence with the Quakers, I tithed with the Word of Faithers, I observed the Eucharist with the Catholics, I visited vespers with the Eastern Orthodox, I blessed my pew neighbor with the Christian Alliance, I mingled with the Mormons, I broke bread with the Baptists…. you catch my drift.
I made SO MANY friends.
Meanwhile at home, I was carrying on in my God ordained calling as a homeschool momma and we were reaching the point in our studies where my girls were moving from bible stories, to the history of the Church, including its councils, how the Bible came to be, and Jewish history.
My precious little girls were resting in a peaceful life, I was rising with the sun, Bible in one hand, filled coffee cup in the other, and a front porch rocker overlooking a Pennsylvania country-side. I recall praying daily for God to bless our studies and tear down the walls of indoctrination I’d received in my upbringing. I wanted nothing more than to serve God with my life.
God. Making mercies new every morning…
God. Granting me sweet sleep every night….
They say, “the road to atheism is littered with Bibles that’ve been read cover-to-cover.”
I am a testament to that. For me, it was my INTENSE pursuit and study into Biblical origins and the Christian Church that forced me to HAVE TO LEAVE that faith.
One of my friends tried to banter me back to belief by stating that all deconstruction journeys start with doubt. Effff that noise! I’m calling bullshit.
I’d never been at a more faithful place in my walk with Christ when, “the walls came tumbling down.”
For me, it was sincere curiosity for understanding how modern Christianity relates to Jesus and his roots and praying it through.
It was me trying to understand the parables from the perspective of a Jewish believer and praying it through.
It was me, digging deep into how those ancient beings would’ve interpreted the Torah, then the epistles and gospels and prophets and praying it through.
It was me reading the Church Councils and their decisions and praying them through.
It was me realizing the very questions I’d been told not to ask, had entire councils dedicated to trying to solve them and that sometimes, they didn’t have answers, but politics would win—-even back then. And praying that through.
It was me, coming to grasp the magnitude of the Protestant Reformation and praying it through.
It was the harsh reality that the Church Fathers and earliest believers were pacifists—-even when they were in the military…. and allowing myself to sit with that in the midst of the American Military War Machine era, headed by none other than modern day Bible-Believing Christians…and praying that through.
It was me, pursuing the roots of our modern ideas of Hell versus that of believers long before us and praying it through.
It was realizing that Jesus never believed he was dying for the sins of others and that his goal wasn’t to get others to heaven, but to bring heaven to earth and praying that through.
It was taking scripture and putting it back in the context of the people who wrote it and praying that through.
It was me realizing the ways the church has made room for change- from slavery, to integrating, to interracial relationships, to women leaders, to birth control, to music in worship, to partaking in the Lord’s Supper occasionally—-but its refusal to lean towards change for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and praying that through.
It was me being made fully aware that the Bible was written by men- with a patriarchal lens, and that every story has that spin, even though it was done inherently, from women needing to be virgins-to victims of rape needing to marry their rapists so they could be honorable, to concubines, to Abraham being a complete ass to Hagar and his child-almost killing his kid, deciding that cutting tips of penises off was a good thing, and then being the “father” of this religion I’ve believed in wholeheartedly for my entire existence and praying it through.
It was learning that Jewish rabbis today believe much of Scripture to be metaphorical and not the end all, but instead the starting point for discussion and praying that through.
It was the deep study of which verses were added later and that Mark was the first gospel and the others are based on it. AND, that the resurrection and virgin birth stories were not originally in Mark. That’s kinda a big deal.
All of these studies, flowing forth from the beginning, out of a sincere desire to best know my Savior.
And eventually crying and peeking over my shoulder as I googled, “Today, I lost my faith.” Because I had deconstructed my whole belief system in quiet so as to not lose my community.
I started researching what religion does to a brain, and how humans are conditioned to expect rewards.
I then began to allow my eyes to see the similarities between Christianity and older religions, particularly Zoastrianism.
I was waking up to the fact that people I’d trusted to teach Truth, had only ever studied Christian apologists, and called that a well-rounded education.
And what happened when I began to share what I’d discovered? The same ol fear campaign. The same ol doubt story-where are these questions coming from spill. The same ol, “just gotta have faith.”
And then, when I spoke—“NOOOOO! I will not pretend to believe this ANY LONGER, friends, it does not hold up under the light of sincere open-heart studying. This is not something I wanted-this is not what I set out to discover. This was not a choice, it was simply the facts. The Facts. I’d spent 6 quiet years reading and reading and researching and listening to, and praying over. It wasn’t an overnight choice taken lightly. It was years in the Dark Night of the Soul, with painful discoveries and literal life-altering outcomes.” I begged them to please understand. I guess they could not. It’s scary, I know. Trust me. I know.
It all became so obvious. I let myself recall the fear tactics used by the Church, not only throughout history, but right there in my own history. How can a child ever use logic or think critically when they are told their questions are doubt and doubt isn’t from God. And what about the manipulation of emotions by guilt/shame, and the repeated three chords on the keyboard, causing our brains to rapid fire release dopamine, then calling that a God experience.
From the beginning of its time, this story I built my life upon had been some human somewhere’s best attempt at persuading others to go along with them and calling it God. The same way we do today. This wasn’t the story of God using humans but very much the opposite. Humans using God.
So….. where do I go from here…. how and what do I instill in my children?
Below, my manifesto:
In our home we believe:
*it is OKAY to say, “If God is real________, “ or, “If there is a God, ___________.”
*we do NOT know for sure that there is an after-life, no one on Earth knows for sure.
*it is OKAY, perhaps even WONDERFUL to say, “I don’t know.”
*If God is real, and he/she/it created us, then God is like the ultimate parent—- there is nothing we can do to ever stop It from loving us. The Love is Unconditional and just like a good parent does, that love will never cease— we did not ask to be here.
*the Bible was written by humans to humans of a SPECIFIC TIME. To not use the context of the culture it was written is a blatant misrepresentation of the text. This takes lotsa planning to implement a single Bible-lesson, but better than a skewed surface reading.
*Humans HAVE ALWAYS used their version of God to justify going after what they wanted by saying in no uncertain terms, “We are God’s chosen and he told us to do this.” That doesn’t mean the humans are/were right.
*our descriptions are only as good as our vocabulary, therefore EDUCATION MATTERS. The Bible CANNOT teach on topics the people who wrote it were unfamiliar with.
*people are people, not sinners. There is nothing to save them from. If there is a heaven, it is universal. This includes the LGBTQ Community, heaven is for EVERYONE
*Hell, as most view it today, does not exist. Jews of ancient days weren’t of the belief and Jesus teaches about a literal place called Gehenna, not an eternal torment. The OT doesn’t even mention it.
*Jesus did NOT KNOW he was dying for others’ sins. Once you look at the original language used and cultural implications, there is no proof that Jesus believed he was sacrificing himself for others. Ultimately, penal substitutionary atonement is unnecessary. No One comes to the Father except through me, does not mean what modern ppl think it means.
*Paul’s teachings are not authoritative automatically. Paul was a Pharisee coming out of a fundamentalist approach to Judaism, he teaches from that lens therefore the language and admonitions from his letters must only be used in context of his culture.
*scholars agree Mark is the original gospel and that Matthew and John were copies that had been embellished. There is no virgin birth or resurrection story in the earlier copies of Mark.
*humans chose which books of the Bible should be in the Canon, verses were added at way later dates to the Bible, to this day Catholic and Orthodox churches include far more books than those of Protestant traditions
*all scripture is God-breathed…… the word is actually a Latin-derivative meaning inspired—- just because something is inspired doesn’t mean it’s the only tool by which we can navigate life.
*There are believers who’ve allowed the Bible to become an idol and this can hinder any actual leadings from God to undo indoctrination.
*to create a situation where you play on the emotions of youth and adults alike, is to “fake” a saving experience and is a manipulation of their reality.
*it is emotionally abusive and manipulative to raise children with a constant fear that hell awaits them, should they turn out to be anything but what you deem acceptable.
*indoctrinating children from birth to believe that Your ideas about God are *the only correct ideas is not only arrogant, but also irresponsible. This gives kids a false superiority complex. Ultimately you’re teaching your kids to give ultimatums— befriend and conform -succumb to our attempt to save, or disassociate and be shunned.
*teaching children to “save” other children is a blatant misrepresentation of Christianity. “They will know you are Christian by your LOVE.”
*Believers ultimately see what they want to see. All questions are very googleable, to continue to teach ideas that were passed to you via someone else’s indoctrination is a shame. It is scary to do this work, but important.
*to say, “I love you,” means you fully accept and affirm that person. You cannot love someone but not “accept” their “way of life.” That is conditional and we don’t do that here.
*when kids at school call themselves Christians, but they are exclusive instead of inclusive, when they are homophobic- or racist-or misogynistic: call that chit out!
*making a hateful statement or judgmental statement that assumes everyone has the same indoctrination you do-or should adhere to the same view as you is still HATE speech. Wrapping it in “Christian Love” is condescending and simply a justification of that hate-speech. Call it out.
*the Bible is not a weapon. Battling someone with quotes of Scripture is demeaning- they’ve read it before and don’t need it thrown in their face, nor was it intended to be used in such a way.
*Christianity is appealing to many men because it has mistakenly placed them in authority throughout time, Jesus does not model this and is completely egalitarian.
*Research shows meditation and practicing concentrated gratitude is equally as good for you as time spent praying. Studies show we use the same parts of the brain during these things and that prayer actually helps the person praying more than those whom they are praying for.
*cool fact: Research reveals speaking in tongues and mediums channeling the dead-use the same parts of the brain to do those things. Cool. Cool.
*cognitive dissonance is real, it is the first line of defense any person hoping to stay in the comfort of their social constructs uses.
*you are free to pursue ANY belief system you so desire, so long as it is not a cult
*you are free to NOT practice ANY form of religion
*you are free to disagree with me
*ask questions, forsaking NONE, silencing NONE
*continue studying logic, arguments, philosophy, and anthropology
But anyhow, to sum it all up—————
Ultimately, in our home we believe:
*if there is a God, it/He/She/Source is LOVE. It starts with Love, it ends with Love, and to add ANYTHING at all as a stipulation of receiving that Love would make it conditional and that is not Love.
*in the end NO OTHER DOCTRINE matters, but to LOVE LOVE LOVE UNTIL you are dead and literally cannot LOVE anymore.
*its okay to say, we hope there is an afterlife, but we do not know for sure, so we will not pretend we do.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I had a super proud secular homeschool mom moment—— far far removed from the mom who once touted how many scripture her children had memorized… I was studying different BAD arguments with my 11 year old. We moved to “argument based on irrelevant authority” and I had her create her own image to help her remember what this means. When I browsed her page my heart skipped a beat—- it’s that easy to help your child become a critical thinker!
Sooooo, I recently shared a day in my life—-What I didn’t reveal is how extra I am, rolling up to that school at 7:00 am. My teen always enjoys the lengths to which I have no shame and snapped this pic of me right before I was about to shovel dog shit out of the garage. When I dilly dally about in this attire, my husband swears and I quote he, “can hardly control himself!”
My mother was dressed beautifully with hair and make-up done to perfection EVERY DAY OF MY CHILDHOOD. I found this to be a form of torture. Now, I am teaching her in her retirement the ins and outs of errand-running minus the hassle of all that Jazz! It does my heart good to see her bare faced, in her velour sweat suit in the Taco Bell drive thru. This is us, subtly sticking it to the man!!!
Don’t take this the wrong way, but in the voice of Randall and his Honeybadger narration, “Momma doesn’t give a shit.” I promise to always have my kids to early morning practice on time- but do not expect me to be a HOT mess when I get there. Mess Always, Hot mehhhh.🤷🏼♀️