“O my son Absalom, my son, my son”

After almost two weeks, we were able to see Maria today.  She was eating dinner when we arrived, in clothes I struggle to accept because they look so institutional and I still resist that notion at a visceral level.  In fact, the downward spiral this time began when I got her some pretty clothes for her birthday and insisted I get to put her name in them all so they would not make it into some sort of communal pile but would be hers.  Hers.

Our girl was wearing the more drab, more nondescript–and far more practical–clothes that work for her.  That included a purple hoodie jacket, even though it has been hot as all get out these days.  But as soon as she saw me, she took her hoodie off.  Her arms were so terribly damaged, large gaping sores all over her forearms–not just surface scratches but gouges, raw and angry looking, and so, so many of them.  I wanted to kiss each one, maybe from some deeply held shred of magical thinking that believes that a kiss of love can make it all better.  Her forehead was also bruised and lumpy where she hit herself against the wall.  And her eyes–those big, beautiful, eyes dulled and dimmed by medication I’m thankful for because it has kept her safer from herself, at least for today.

Our visit was shy, a bit awkward, so achingly sweet.  Little hugs.  She wanted to bump foreheads with me, ever so gently, slowly, carefully.  She wanted me to sit and watch her finish her dinner at the end of the visit.  She showed me the fancy fake tattoo she earned for not hurting herself.  I could tell how pleased she was when I noticed she’d put on some eye makeup. After a short visit with her dad, she and I walked back towards A House and I croaked more than sang the little lullaby I composed for her in 2001:  Maria bonita, vestida de luz, tu eres mi hija, mi estrellita, mi amor–My pretty Maria bedecked in light, you are my daughter, my twinkling star, my love; she hummed along with me and held my hand, but loosely.

There’s a street in Boca that has always made us laugh, it is the one we turn on when we are headed to buy her new shoes for those little feet that are uneven by two shoe sizes–Butt Road.  We were up there not too long ago on a shoe run. The new shoes we enjoyed buying on what we figured was our last Nordstrom outing few weeks ago are stained now with blood.  Her blood.

It is one of my life-long responsibilities to grow beyond magical thinking and denial.  It comes by the hardest.  Today, to see her was one of the few acts of faith I could offer my daughter, offer a loving God who I believe does not will such pain. I had to refuse to flinch and look away from all that hurt.  I could love and be present even to all that wounded-ness.  So I did kiss those arms, and touch the bruises; I held my little one as close as I could for as long as I could.  The rest of my work is to see and not be overwhelmed, to hold but not cling, especially not to the sadness and the whys that crowd into my throat.

Before I let go for the night, I pause and think of Mary on that Friday. Of David at the news of Absalom.  Oh my daughter, Maria, my daughter, my daughter.  Would that I could carry your burdens and monsters, if only for a day.


When I lived in Nashville and Sherod and I were dating, we liked to go to the Bluebird Cafe, especially when Schuyler, Knobloch and Birckhardt, a Country music trio performed there.  One of their better known songs was “This Old House”–sentimental, for sure, which was always surprising because they were also very edgy performers and their banter during their sets was always cynical and sarcastic.  The raucous crowd always went quiet when they played the opening chords.

I can’t get it out of my mind. Our house went on the market on Friday and today we  received a clean and very serious offer.  The last time we put a house on the market here in South Florida 14 years ago, we ended up having two contracts fall through before we finally closed so there’s a long way from a serious offer to closing.  Nonetheless. Nonetheless, there’s a big lump in my throat as yet another piece starts moving into place for our move to Alabama.

Although usually, our real estate agent would have a photographer come and take the shots of the house to go on the MLS webpage, because of Sherod’s surgery and my travel schedule in the past two weeks, we delayed that step and I took some pictures of my own that she used until the photographer could come in later this week.






I have loved this house.  I will miss it…



photoA sign of the times.  Another one:  our girl is struggling so much that for the first time in 8 years, we are looking at a change in meds to try to help her.  We have had to stop and ask, again, if we should reconsider the decision to move her to Tallahassee.  We are trying to get some more information together.  Maria’s behavior is very much like what we saw in the days leading up to her move to BARC.  Without a way to conceptualize, to distance herself from or examine all the emotions that this move must represent for her, there is little left for her to do but act out.  Her care team and we are worried.

Sherod and I are also painfully aware that this woman-child of ours has been snatched out of one place and put in the next so many times now, had to start over.  When we moved her from the hospice where she was living when she found us and we found her, she was 3 years old and stopped talking for days and days.  I had a trip scheduled for soon after that.  Fortunately, I had taken a whole bunch of pictures from Casa de la Sal, the hospice, and made a little laminated book for her.  The sheer and absolute joy in that little girl’s face when I went to the orphanage where we had to place her while her adoption was completed.  She kept taking the picture book up to her face over and over again, naming everyone she recognized, giving them little kisses.

There are a long list of reasons for our move and an equally long list why we have considered that having her closer to us was the wise and best decision.  But as it always is with our children, I believe:  loving this young woman like I do means being willing to make the very best decision possible for her no matter what the cost or sadness for us.  I don’t want to be 14 hours away from her but if that is what it takes for her to keep making progress, that is what we will do.

Tomorrow in the Revised Common Lectionary, we start moving into what someone else has described as that ‘exquisite ambiguity’ that comes as the Eastertide ebbs into the growing season after Pentecost. In John, as Jesus prepares his disciples for loss, he keeps promising that he will send an Advocate who will abide with them.  I love that the Greek word for Advocate has more than one meaning.  Yes, it has the meaning of legal counsel.  And it also denotes one who walks alongside another.  No matter how close or how far away she is from me or I from her, as long as there is breath in my body, I will be walking alongside my daughter.  Praying for gentler days, asking for mercy and goodness and blessings upon our Luz, our little light…


Same Place, New Place

DSCN1368I tried to figure out how to start a new blog and keep my current address. It was all too complicated so this will have to do.  And that is sort-of right.  After all, I don’t get a new life.  I don’t get to wipe the slate completely clean. Even though already, something fundamental has changed.

What’s the same is obvious–it is still me, I haven’t even gotten to Alabama, though I am now less than a month away from leaving.  The stories aren’t that different, at least not yet.  But a couple of days ago, I knew with great certainty that it was time to start writing again from a new place and perspective.

So what is this new blog and new place?  I have been met with varying degrees of astonishment, incredulity, some out-and-out disdain and untempered disapproval and disappointment, when I have told people I am moving to Alabama.  Many have a hard time pronouncing Lowndesboro, and a surprising number have flat out told me they will never come see me in Alabama.  That’s caught me by surprise and I’ve been thinking about that.  Why Alabama, even if Sherod is from there and that is where we were married?

I don’t know how to explain how much I look forward to getting there.  The most I can say right now is that at night, I will be so far out in the country that I will be able to see the stars, really see the stars. I will have the velvety silence of the country.  I find myself staring at the pictures of our new house.  The interior is actually quite a mess–we will have major renovation work to do starting with the fact that the master bedroom is painted a Barney purple.  My work will be far more modest than it has been for 30 years and after the events of the past few weeks in my life, this is an acknowledgment of my limits.

There is something else as well.  A couple of weeks ago, my ECF colleague Ron, and I, went on a listening tour, making several stop in New England.  Our trip included a visit with a member of the leadership of EDS, the Episcopal seminary in Cambridge, MA.  Somehow, in the course of the discussion, I mentioned our move to Lowndesboro, and how Sherod and I would be living 10 minutes away from Hayneville, the place where Jonathan Daniels, an EDS seminarian, was killed, during the Civil Rights era.  Turns out that every August, EDS sponsors an annual pilgrimage to the site of the memorial that marks the place where he was killed.

I was simply thrilled to be able to extend an invitation to Diane that included telling her that I could probably receive about 15 people in the house and if there were others who brought tents, they could camp on our property.  The profound affection I have for Alabama does not erase what I know about the ways in which some of the worst of our humanity has expressed itself in that place.  As much as I love academics, the rigor and discipline of higher education, even the most highly educated and social-justice attuned people who have never been there just don’t know Alabama.  I dream that my home will be a place where it is safe to dwell in the both/and of these times.

It’s also like this for me these days:  I loved the notion of vectors and vector analysis at some point during my schooling at Colegio Bolivar and I got to think about that recently. I loved the elegance of how an arrow and a few numbers described an “entity endowed with magnitude and direction”.  I am keenly aware of a multitude of vectors with strange intersections that result in strange angles, sometimes horrible collisions, and some incredible displacements, and disruptions that crisscross the church I love and despair over these days.

There are also vectors of enormous magnitude the life in of these United States, that are going in directions I don’t understand and leave me unsettled as they intersect with my faith, itself motion and magnitude and direction as well.  That little place, those four acres out in Lowndesboro that hardly deserve to call themselves a farm–just 10 minutes from a place where forces crashed into each other with horrible cost–represents a still point, a point not so much of escape as of definition, a place to try to know and understand.

I am finishing this blog as I fly towards New York for work again, already not where I am as I write this.  And here is my same old blog that is no longer, that is now new.