What do you want to be when you grow up…

If you have kids, or nieces and nephews, did you ever badger them with question after question when they were younger to marvel at the progression of their little brains? What does a cow say?  What does a duck say? What color is this crayon?  What color is your hair?  Where’s your nose?  How old are you?  What’s your name?  The list goes on and on and you can tell when they get just a little more than perturbed at answering all of your questions.  The question I think kids hear the most though is this:  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Some kids know right away…for others it takes a bit longer to figure out.  Heck…I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up (smile).

Have you ever known a kid that was really talented at a sport? Someone that everyone keeps their eye on because they just know they are going to be something great when they get older.  Their parents dream of college scholarships and before they know it scouts are checking them out. They get to college, they are playing great, their future looks bright, their dreams of playing professionally are within their grasp and then it happens.  An accident. Whether on or off the field…it doesn’t matter…the dream they’ve had since they were a little kid is done. There’s no chance of them grasping it now.  The future they always dreamed of looks very different now, and they are faced with coming up with another plan.

I read a post recently that stated the following:
“We are told we don’t accept LGBTQ people for “who they are” when they can’t accept themselves for who they are.”
There is some truth to that for many, but I believe that is grossly simplifying things. Many LGBTQ individuals discover they are LGBTQ when they are a child.  It ranges anywhere from very young to the teen years.  It is rare that a person doesn’t realize it until they are an adult.  I won’t say it never happens, but it’s not the norm.  I’m sure it was years ago when it wasn’t talked about, but today kids are coming out…well when they are kids.

Since I know others have had this thought, here are some things that I’ve learned and even witnessed in many cases on this journey…

As I’ve already mentioned, we are talking about children.  Can you imagine processing being LGBTQ as a child?  Hang around some middle or high school kids for a day and it doesn’t take long to realize that gay kids are made fun of and bullied.  When a child realizes they are gay (using the term gay to make it easier), it is terrifying to think that they will be treated that way.  They hear gay people called pedophiles, gross, disgusting, etc.  Hiding who you are is exhausting and stress inducing.  Try processing all of that as a child.

The other thing that they deal with is the fact that their future now suddenly looks very different.  The little girls that dreamed of growing up and marrying their “knight in shining armor” now realize that this isn’t going to happen.  They wonder if they will ever find love now.  And remember…this is a child processing this. The future they dreamed about suddenly is different.  It takes time to envision and adjust to this new future.  When I asked my son about this, he said that it would have been helpful to him to have some examples in media of gay people being in love.  It would have helped him realize that love was a possibility for him too.  When they begin to go through this, many feel like they are the only ones in the world going through it.

If they grew up in the church, this adds another tension to the mix.  When some evangelists call them “a plague on the nation”, an abomination, that they are destroying family values, they are sick, demon possessed, etc., this is a heavy load to carry as a child.  It’s hard enough as an adult. Sadly sometimes the advice parents are given by their child’s youth leader is to ground them, beat them, put them in counseling and seek out conversion therapy,  home school them, pull them out of youth group, and if none of that works….kick them out of the house.

Sadly there are parents out there that are listening to this.  Punishment and beating your child is not going to change anything about their sexual orientation.  It’s going to create a child that develops self-hatred.  Conversion therapy has been proven not to work and has been outlawed in several states because it is harmful.  Let’s take them out of youth group and leave them isolated without any friends when they need them and God the most. Kick them out of the house. Is there any wonder why a child would have trouble accepting themselves??

Listen…I know this example is pretty extreme, but it doesn’t have to be this extreme to do damage.  People get upset with me for bringing this up.  I know that not all Christians are like this.  My Christian friends find this behavior appalling.  And there are affirming churches out there, but the fact of the matter is that it is happening, more than we would like to believe because it seems so unbelievable.  Just because we ourselves are not doing it, or the people we know are not doing it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  There are pastors calling for the murder of LGBTQ people for goodness sake. These are the kinds of things that bring that lack of self acceptance and depending on the damage done…it goes with them into adulthood.

These are some reasons that make it difficult to come to terms with being LGBTQ.  I am filled with compassion when I think of what these young people go through.  I hope you are too.

You know what kids want to be when they grow up?

LOVED.  And I bet you do too.

Because love matters…

 

 

Be a place of rest…

Back in the day, getting together with a group of my girl friends was quite the undertaking.  It didn’t matter where we were going.  There was always one crucial question we asked each other:  What are you going to wear?  Now imagine five girls heading out together.  It didn’t matter where we were going.  It could be the movies, the mall, or a school dance. Before you could figure out what YOU were going to wear, you needed to know WHAT everyone else was wearing.  And of course back then we didn’t have email or cell phones.  A simple group text was not an option.  You had to call all five girls…most times more than once.  Exhausting!

Why was this such an ordeal?  Because you didn’t want to stand out!  Heaven forbid you wear a cute mini skirt when everyone else was wearing parachute pants.  Yes…parachute pants.  You haven’t lived unless you have owned a pair of these gems.  It was a staple of the 80’s.  I had a black pair.  If you aren’t from that generation, I will enlighten you (smile). They were pants (of course) made from the material they use for parachutes.  They weren’t exactly tight-fitting, but they weren’t really loose either. They had lots of pockets and zippers and were just the coolest thing ever.  Like I said…I had a black pair and I wore them with this really cool black and white shirt that also had buttons and zippers on it.  I would wear a black and white bandanna as a belt to finish off the outfit.  Yes I was skinny enough back then to wear a bandanna as a belt.  But I digress…

The last thing you want to be when you are a teen is different.  At least that’s true of most teens.  There are the exceptions of course.  And if after going through all that work to coordinate an outfit, someone veered off track…that was grounds for termination of friendship…at least for a period of time.

Teens want to fit in with their peers.  I would venture to say that goes into adulthood as well.  No one wants to be the odd man out.  Many LGBTQ people figure out that they are not like everyone else usually around puberty.  This is a difficult time any way, but add this to the mix and it’s really hard.  And when they do get the courage to let their loved ones or friends know, a common thing they hear is:  “Oh you aren’t really gay. You just want to be different. You are just doing it for attention.”

Teens don’t want a target on their back.  Doing it for attention?  Here is the attention that people I personally know have gotten for being LGBTQ:

Expelled from Christian school
Fired from jobs
Made to sleep in a tent outside their house
Denied service
Kicked out of their home

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says:
 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

A place that some can find that rest is in community with other believers.  The LGBTQ folks that I know that are believers have had the following said to them:
You are no longer welcome at this church
You can no longer serve
You are Evil
You are an Abomination
God hates you
You are disgusting
Your heart is black
You aren’t praying hard enough
You don’t have enough faith
You are possessed by a demon

I know a transgender woman who went through 30 exorcisms because she was told she had a demon in her.  30.  Guess what?  Nothing changed.  How’s that for rest? Unfortunately this behavior in many instances pushes them away from God.

Ready to sign up?  It’s not something they choose, it’s not something they do to be different, and it’s not something they do for attention.

And after all of this happens to them and they stick up for themselves and fight for their rights they are told that they are whiny and entitled.  Is it any wonder some suffer from depression and anxiety??  Can we just stop for a moment and remember that these are PEOPLE?  Can we stop and think that maybe…just maybe…we should get to know their stories before we spout off about how sick and tired we are hearing them complain about what’s happening to them?  I’ve been seeing a lot of this on Facebook lately.  Maybe we should consider if something is helpful before we post it.

Let’s be a light in lives that sometimes feel dark.   Let’s be like Jesus and be a place of rest for the weary.  Let’s show them that we are for them…not against them. It doesn’t feel very loving when your existence is made into an issue.

And love matters…

Baltimore Pride 2017…

It was an amazing day just like last year and the previous weekend’s march.  It was another scorcher of a day, but that didn’t stop seas of people from attending.  The parade was much larger this year so it took a lot longer to walk it.  I was especially pumped about the group that marched in front of us.  It was a dance team that had several drum players that provided their music.  The drums were LOUD!  And I LOVED it.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared this, but I secretly would love to learn how to play the drums. It’s on my bucket list.  So to have this group provide some beats for us to march to was awesome.

The only downside to the drums was the fact that it made it hard to hear people calling out for mom hugs. I had my sign again and unlike the march where I marched along with everyone else…I was in the parade and there were spectators on each side of the parade route watching us.  People would see my sign and call out asking for a hug.  One of our PFLAG moms was gracious in helping me keep track of everyone that was calling out.  It was a special time and although it was hot and tough moving so slowly, it allowed for lots of hugging.

I lost count of how many hugs I gave out.  It was fun stepping out of line…giving some hugs…and then jogging to catch back up to my group.  There were hugs given after the parade as well.  But probably the most meaningful hug of the day was one of the first that happened.  Mike and I were standing on the corner waiting for the rest of our group to arrive. There were four young girls (I would say 14 or 15 years old) that bounded over to us very excitedly because they saw my sign.  They all asked in unison if they could have a mom hug.  And when they saw that Mike was wearing a “Free Dad Hugs” button, they asked him for a dad hug.  When the third girl hugged me, I kind of felt her exhale.  That’s the only way I know how to describe it.  She kind of just sunk into me.  It was as if she had been carrying a weight and she let it go.  We released our hug and I hugged the last girl. When I stepped back from that last hug, I noticed that the 3rd girl was crying.  I asked if she was ok and she explained through tears that she felt so accepted.

This simultaneously made me extremely happy and intensely sad.  I remembered how she hugged me.  I do believe it released a heavy weight in her.  And although it made me feel good that she was able to attend Pride so she could experience a place where she could be herself, it reminded me of how much she must struggle at home or in her social circles.  I imagine that Pride is a boost for many people giving them the strength to continue on in a world that misunderstands them.  And for others I can imagine that it is quite depressing when they get home because it reminds them of what they are missing on a daily basis.

I would like to point something out here.  She did not tell me that she felt like her sexuality was accepted at Pride.  She said that SHE felt accepted.  She wasn’t there celebrating a “lifestyle.”  She was there celebrating life.  The LGBTQ community gets up everyday.  They go to work or school.  They come home and eat dinner, maybe watch their favorite show on TV, do their homework if they are in school, go to bed and wake up to do it all over again the next day.  Their sexuality is just one piece of who they are just like straight people.

Free mom hugs are just one way to love this community.  Stepping into their stories, really listening, and learning from them is another way.  Let’s do better at this…let’s do better at loving them.

Because love matters…

Why I marched on June 11th…

This past Sunday I marched in the Equality March in Washington, DC.  This is how their website describes the event “the ‘Equality March for Unity & Pride’ is a grassroots movement which will mobilize the diverse LGBTQ+ communities to peacefully and clearly address concerns about the current political landscapes and how it is contributing to the persecution and discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Mike and I went on a bus with 32 other people who were marching either for themselves or for a family member.  We knew only a few people, but that didn’t matter. Really we are a family.

I wish I knew how many people were there for the march.  It. Was. Packed.  We stood in the heat of the sun (man was it HOT) with thousands of other people as we waited for the march to start.  You know how cars are bumper to bumper in a traffic jam?  Well we were shoulder to shoulder.  It was difficult to move at times.  We had to wait for quite some time before the march started.  Someone would periodically blow a whistle and the crowd would roar with cheers.  We were ready.  In the crowd, I saw anger, hurt, resolve, determination.  Tears flowed as the crowd united for the task at hand.

There were lots of messages displayed on shirts that people were wearing and signs that people were carrying.  Many of these signs portrayed people’s frustration with the president.  Some signs depicted reasons why that person was marching…either an actual person like their child, or a policy that they felt needed to change.  People marched for themselves, they marched for family members or friends, they marched for those who couldn’t march for themselves like the 49 victims of the Pulse shootings.

I had a sign, but I took a different approach.  I knew that there would be many people there at the march that didn’t have support from family.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m part of two private Facebook groups of moms of LGBTQ children.  When we go to events like this, we like to take buttons and/or signs that say “Free Mom Hugs” so that we can show support to those who don’t have it.  This was my sign (which my artist daughter McKensie was very sweet to make for me).

Did I mention how hot it was on Sunday?  There were lots of sweaty hugs given and received (smile).  You can tell a lot from a hug.  There are the “what a great idea hug – I want a hug” hugs.  There are the friendly “thank you for your support” hugs.  Then there are the hugs that linger.  The person holds you tightly.  You can feel the emotion in it. Even though it may be brief, you can feel that the person NEEDED that hug.  It’s a chance to tell that person through touch that they matter, that they are important, that they are seen, and most importantly they are loved.  I gave hugs while walking to the march starting point.  I gave hugs while waiting to start.  I gave hugs afterwards at the festival…and even a hug at the train station where we were meeting our bus.

So why did I march?  I marched for my son.  I marched for my LGBTQ friends.  I marched because I think things need to change.  There is too much discrimination and violence towards this community.  I did it in a respectful way.  I was a presence so that this community knows that someone cares.  The following is an Instagram post by one of the young teens that were with us that day.  This…this is why I was there…

“I just want to say today was one of the most impactful , beautiful and moving days of my life. I was surrounded by strangers who felt like family.  I met some of the kindest, strongest people ever.  Thank you to everyone who made this possible because I am more than grateful to you and I am so so blessed to have been able to come out here and have this experience today. Much love to everyone that shared this experience with me, you made it possible.  Everyone who was there was part of my day.  I was so proud of who I was instead of being ashamed or afraid.  It was a liberating, once in a lifetime moment.  I seriously recommend attending a march or pride event in your area if you can and are LGBT or a straight ally.  One of the most powerful days of my life.”

These gatherings are so important because it is the one place that this community can truly, totally, be themselves.  The teen that wrote that has great family support and it was still so important and impactful to her.  There are some kids that can’t even be themselves in their own homes.  That’s why I marched.  That’s why I was present. That’s why I shared sweaty hugs that spoke of love without words.

Because love matters.

The search is over…

Would you be willing to save a life?

Have you ever lost something and had to search for it?  The older I get the more often this happens (smile).  How about losing something precious to you?  Ever have that happen?

When my dog Lucy was a puppy, we called her the Houdini dog.  She could escape through the smallest hole in the fence.  In fact, she could escape even when there wasn’t a hole in the fence…she would just dig her way under it!  There were times when I would let her out and moments later find her in my neighbor’s yard “asking” if her doggie friend could come out to play.  She loves their dog.  Sure enough I would see a fresh hole dug under the fence.  Then there was the time when I thought I lost her forever.  She wanted to go out and just as I let her out the phone rang.  I stepped back inside to grab the phone and when I went back out…she was gone.  And she wasn’t in the neighbor’s yard this time. My heart sunk.  I always hate seeing the “lost dog/cat” posters on the street light poles in the neighborhood.  Makes me so sad, and I didn’t want to see my Lucy girls face on one of those posters.  I immediately ran out to try to find her, but she was no where in sight.  I grabbed her leash and made my way around the neighborhood calling her name.  I walked the same streets looking for her as I did when we would go out on our nightly strolls together.

It was a very stressful time when we got her, but she was a good distraction.  Training classes and the homework we were given kept my mind off of things.   We got Lucy about a year after I found out my son was gay, and I didn’t know anyone else with a gay child…it was very isolating.  The people I once felt safe with I was no longer sure I could trust with this piece of news.  Walking Lucy each night, I would look at the houses and wonder if the people living there had a gay child.  I would walk her in the evening so no one would see my tears as I pleaded with God to change him.  It wasn’t just that I didn’t want him to be gay…I didn’t want him to suffer…and he was suffering badly.  As strange as it may seem to those who aren’t dog people, Lucy kept me sane back then. She could make me smile no matter what the circumstances were because she just simply loved me no matter what.  I could tell her my secret and she didn’t care.

Halfway through the neighborhood, my phone buzzed with a text message.  It was my daughter McKensie telling me that she found Lucy.  Relief!  I thanked God the whole way home.  I just couldn’t imagine losing what felt like part of my lifeline back then.

June is Pride month and this time of year seems to be a common time for kids to come out.  They are going to be searching for someone safe to share this truth about themselves.  If you are chosen, how you respond is important.  I invite you to read Brett Trapp’s words about what it’s like for them to tell you.  He wrote his coming out story in “Blue Babies Pinkand this is an excerpt from it about a child coming out to a parent…but kids (or adults for that matter) don’t always choose to come out to a parent so the person they choose may be you. Here are Brett’s words:

I think a lot of really good parents act really terribly towards their gay kids because they’re reacting out of their own pain.

The news has a victimizing effect on parents I think. And victims don’t empathize well with other victims. This is tragic because a child never feels more like a victim than they do in that very vulnerable moment. And victims need help. They need someone to listen and ask them what they need. They need long, enduring empathy and tears from someone who is trying—albeit imperfectly—to understand their pain.

I wish I could find every parent who will eventually have a child come out to them, look them in the eye, and tell them:

When you least expect it, a battered child who’s been lost at sea will show up on your doorstep. This is your child, but it’s a version of them you’ve never met.

They will be haggard—long tangled hair, skinny, ragged clothes, dirty feet. They look like this because they’re worn out—exhausted—from many years at sea, alone in a lifeboat with no water, no map, and no paddle. You had no idea, but that’s not your fault. 

Next, welcome them inside. Offer them a drink.

After a few moments, they’re going to swallow hard and tell you they’ve been on a journey. Know that by the time they get to your doorstep, they will have had to muster every last ounce of courage and energy. In fact, getting to your doorstep may have been the hardest part of their journey. 

Your next job is to listen. And believe what they tell you. 

When they tell you they were on this journey for all those years, alone and scared, believe them. 

When they tell you they never asked to be on that boat believe them. 

When they tell you they tried to get off that boat many times and swim to shore, for God’s sake, believe them. 

If they feel like talking, ask them what it was like out on those seas . . .

Ask them about the storms. Ask them about the wind and the rain and the swells. Ask them if they were scared. Ask them what they did to survive. (Remember, this child of yours is very strong, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived this journey.)

Ask them about sleeping in a raft alone under midnight skies.

Ask them if God was there—if they felt him, if they talked to them. (They might have, but you must remember that God feels very distant for people in lifeboats alone at sea. They might even be mad at God or think he doesn’t exist at all. That’s okay.

Remember that theology lessons aren’t helpful when their clothes are still wet with seawater.)

Regardless, remind them that God loves his little lost sailors very much, and that he never stopped loving them, even on those nights when it was just them and no moon and big shadows circling in black water. Remind them. 

And dear parent, whatever you do, don’t lecture them.

Don’t shame them for being in that boat. Don’t tell them that God hates people in lifeboats. Tell them that God loves those few souls in rafts just like he loves the rest on land. And remember, that you aren’t the survivor here. They—THEY—are the ones that have been on a long, lonely journey. Remember this.

Ask them if they ever saw land in the distance.

Ask them if they ever saw land-dwellers on the horizon and if they ever screamed for help. Apologize for those people that didn’t hear them or the ones who held up giant signs saying, “GOD HATES PEOPLE IN LIFEBOATS.” Tell them you’re sorry they had to see that and that you would have ripped up those signs if you could. 

Ask them if they ever put a message in a bottle and tossed it into the sea, hoping it might reach someone on land.

Tell them you wished you’d found that message. In fact, grab them by the shoulders, look them right in the eye, and tell them you would have done anything to find it if that meant getting to you sooner. Tell them you would have drowned yourself to get to them. Then tell them you wished we didn’t live in a world where scared kids had to put messages in bottles. Tell them that’s unjust. 

And finally, tell them they’re no longer alone, no longer out on those high seas.

Tell them they’re on land now and land has homes. And homes are filled with love, and love is the thing that makes the boat stop rocking. Love is the thing that calms those storms. Love is the thing that scares off black shadows in black waters. And that as long as they are breathing, they will have a home, and they will never ever be alone. 

I wish everyone would read Brett’s story.  I encourage you to do so…even if you don’t have a gay child.  It is a quick summer read (way shorter than a book)….just 44 of what he calls episodes.  You can also listen to it as a podcast.  Many people ask me for resources, or ask how they can get involved in helping the LGBTQ community.  I say start here.  Read his story.  And if you do…let me know what you think.  I would love to chat about it with you.

Losing my dog for that brief time was hard, but I can’t even begin to imagine losing the very people who are supposed to love me.  As you can see, this coming out process is a tough one.  And the people coming out are searching for a safety net or life-preserver to cling to.  Some will lose the very people they love and trust the most in this world.  They will search for a community that they feel comfortable in…somewhere they can be their true authentic selves.  Something precious to them.  Be that person.

How you respond can save their life.  Will you be their life-preserver?  Can they step out of the lifeboat into your loving, caring arms?  I hope so. They are searching to be understood…and most of all loved.

Because love matters.

*If you find yourself without a safe place to land, please know that you are not alone.  In this world of modern technology, there are ways to communicate that are more personal than a letter in the mail, or a text message on your phone.  Contact me via my contact page.  I would love to chat with you.

Cha cha cha changes….

Change.  For some people this is a four letter word.  Me…sometimes change is easy for me and other times not so much.

When I was younger, I changed schools several times.  This was hard for me.  I made friends at each school and it was really hard to say goodbye to those friendships.  Then there were the houses.  Yes houses.  I get attached to the memories in places.  I grew up in a two bedroom row home in Baltimore City until I was 10 years old.  It was hard to leave that little house.  We moved into a four bedroom house with a big yard not too far from our other house.  I felt like we were rich because it seemed SO big.  So although it was sad leaving the only house I had know, this new house seemed like an adventure, AND almost all of my cousins lived in the same neighborhood.  I eventually got married and left that house when I was 22 years old.  We moved to a three bedroom town home in Harford County. Coming from the city, it seemed like the country.  Well back then it was the country (smile).

Although it was fun to have my own house, it was hard when my parents sold my second childhood home.  Even though it was no longer the house I lived in, it had so many memories from my childhood and teen years.  Birthday parties, sunbathing by the pool, first kisses on the front porch swing, family and friends gathered at the holidays.  Some really good times.

We lived in our town home for nine years.  Leaving that house was REALLY hard.  We started our family in that house.  Firsts for the kids like crawling and walking were worn into the carpets.  First days of pre-school and kindergarten were recorded by the front door.  But the hardest part of saying goodbye to this house was the fact that it was the last place I had where I could sit and visually see memories of my mom.  By this time, she had been gone for three years (you can read what happened in my post “I will see you again”), and my dad had sold their house and moved to Florida.  May seem strange, but again, I get attached to memories in places.  Changes.

I’ve had some job changes over the years too.  Some were easy to leave and some not so much.  I got my first full time office job at a moving company right after graduating from high school.  I didn’t last long there.  One of my bosses would curse at me if I asked a question.  It was not a good first job experience.  The second job I got wasn’t much better. I was hired to work at the front desk of an orthodontist.  I never dreamed they would have me working on patients!  It was doing simple things like removing bans and putting in wires…but still…I was a secretary!  Didn’t last long there either. Change…change is good! My third job was with a security company.  I worked there for 3 years.  My boss was wonderful, but the pay was crappy.  Hardly above minimum wage.  I was about to be married and I needed to make more money so we could buy a house (the town house I mention above).  Leaving that job was hard because my boss was so caring…he cried when I quit.  Then there was Price Club (which is now called Costco).  I started out as a data entry person there, moved to sales auditor, took on payroll and office lead before I left four years later.  Price Club could be a pain (when it was busy I had to go out to the register which made it hard to get my work done), but it was a lot of fun too.  We were one big family there and it was the first time that I got to work with people more my age. In fact, I met one of my very best friends there (smile). I still keep in touch with a lot of people that I worked with there.  I left that job for my fifth and in my opinion most important job…motherhood.  Talk about changes!

I stayed home with my kids for 10 years.  It was hard, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.  My son was 10 years old and my daughter 8 when I decided I wanted to go back to work.  This change was exciting.  They were in school all day and I looked for something I could do while they were there.  Do you know how much happened in technology from 1992 to 2002??  When I left my office job in 1992, there was no email, there was no Windows, there was no internet. I was like a fish out of water.  I got a job at a dance studio where a friend of mine taught. I didn’t know anything about all this new technology.  I literally learned by trial and error.  Word, Publisher, Excel, Power Point…far cry from the shorthand and typewriter days!  Changes!

I started my current job back in 2007.  I am an administrative assistant at my church.  It was kind of weird at first.  Even though it’s kind of like a business…at the same time it isn’t.  We do business types of things, but our relationships are much deeper than any other place that I’ve worked.  When you carry the burdens, trials, victories, heartache, etc. of a congregation, it knits you together.  There were four of us in the beginning, but a few years ago my co-worker retired so it’s just me and our two pastors now.

It was 2008 when we found out our son is gay…one year after starting my job.  I held the secret from my co-workers for about two weeks until I couldn’t take it anymore. Our kids have a coming out of the closet story, but we as parents have our own journeys out of the closet too.  I remember being afraid to tell them.  Back then I couldn’t say the words without crying.  It took a long time for that to stop.  Part of the reason for that was the shame I felt for believing that somehow I had done my kid wrong and the other part was wondering how the person I was telling was going to react.  They didn’t bat an eye.  They didn’t fire me either.  Sadly that’s not the case for a lot of people.  Crazy isn’t it?  I have been nothing but supported.  We are able to talk about it, express our opinions (which don’t always line up with each other), pray about it, cry about it…and remain the closest of friends through all of it.  We have a lot of fun together too.  Probably more fun than you should at work at times (smile).  I blame them for the extra laugh lines that I have around my eyes.   That’s why this next change is so hard…

A few months ago I gave my notice.  I had been feeling a “nudging” from God for some time, but wanted to make sure it was really from Him.  I did lots of praying.  And when I felt that it was God telling me it was time to move on, I went in the very next day and told them.  I about went into full panic mode when I left that day. “What did you just do??” I asked myself.  “Are you sure this is what you are supposed to do?”  A peace came over me. Yes, this is what I’m supposed to do.  We’ve had some time to process through it together…and times when we are in denial like it’s not really happening.  It’s hard.

We announced on Sunday that I will be transitioning out of my job and will be finished at the end of June.  I’ve had a few people email me since then asking what I’m going to do next.  So, I figured I would let everyone know this way.  One of the hard parts of this transition is that usually you are transitioning into something else.  This isn’t the case for me this time around.  I’m not sure what God is going to have me do.  I don’t have anything lined up, and I’m not looking for anything right now.  I’m just trying to listen to His leading.  What I do know is that my heart has been elsewhere these last couple of years.  Even though I love my church, and I love the people I work with…my heart is with the LGBTQ community.  And let’s face it…they aren’t knocking down our church door.  I want to find ways that I can plug in more and help the community.  One thing that makes this a little easier is that I know my replacement will be great.  She is excited to start and I think she will fit in just fine.

I hope I’ve loved my church community well.  And I don’t plan on going anywhere so I will continue to do so.  But I want to expand out into the world more to let the LGBTQ community they are loved.

Because love matters…

Down to the river…

A few weeks ago we sang a song called The River by Jordan Feliz.  I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.  It gripped me.  I’ve been feeling down lately and the song just grabbed my heart.  I think one reason is that it reminds me of the day I got baptized.

I was baptized as a baby, but in the church I attend now we baptize people when they can make the decision to follow Jesus.  I had been a Christian for many years, but decided to get baptized as an outward profession of my faith.  The really cool part was back then we did baptisms in a large stream a few miles from our church.  It wasn’t quite a river, but that’s what I think of when I hear that song.  The weather was perfect…clear and sunny.  The water was cold and refreshing.  I remember keeping my eyes open when my pastor lowered me into the water.  I could see the sun, the bright blue sky, and the green trees hovering over the water.  It was beautiful, and it felt like a fresh start.  What made the day extra special was the fact that my husband and son were baptized that same day.

The song opens with these lyrics:

I know a place where we can go
To lay the troubles down eating your soul
I know a place where mercy flows
Take the stains make you whiter than snow
Like a tide, it is rising up deep inside
A current that moves and makes it come alive
Living water that brings the dead to life, oh-oh-oh-oh
We’re going down to the river
Down to the river, down to the river to pray
Let’s get washed by the water
Washed by the water and rise up in amazing grace
Let’s go down, down, down to the river (You will leave changed)
Let’s go down, down, down to the river (Never the same)

I like to visualize nature when I pray and water is something that I find soothing so I visualize that a lot.  This song reminds me of when I go to God with my heartache over what’s happening with the LGBTQ community.  And the river represents the tears I’ve cried because of it.  I go to God and I lay down the troubles eating my soul.  My tears wash over me and it’s a release that gives me strength to continue.  I stepped into this journey and God gave me a passion that has left me changed…never the same.  And although at times it is exhausting, and frustrating, I wouldn’t trade it.  At times I feel like the troubles I see are leading me to death, but God sustains me and brings me back to life.  “Living water that brings the dead to life.”

That all may sound dramatic if you aren’t living it every day.  It looks like we dodged a bullet with the Executive Order that President Trump signed today.  Some of the language that was in the order originally back in February was taken out.  Things like allowing people to discriminate on the basis of their faith for things like housing for LGBTQ individuals, jobs, services, etc.  Do you know what it’s like to worry that your basic human needs and rights can be taken away by the stroke of a pen?   Do you know what it’s like to fight for affection and not be condemned because of it?  Do you know what it’s like to see the double standards and be judged harshly for something you aren’t even doing?  It causes people to go back into closets that are just as damaging…if not deadly.

Since I had never heard of Jordan Feliz and liked his song The River so much I decided to look for some of his other songs.  It didn’t take me long before I found his song Beloved. I will close with the lyrics…

Head full of questions, how can you measure up?
To deserve afftection to ever be enough
For this existance
When did it get so hard?
Your heart is beating, alive and breathing
And there´s a reason why
You are essential, not accidental
And you should realize
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Oh, forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
You are beloved
Sometimes a heart can feel like a heavy weight
It pulls you under and you just fall away
Is anybody gonna hear you call?
Oh, oh
But there´s a purpose
Under the surface
And you don´t have to drown
Let me remind you
That love will find you
Let it lift you out
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Don´t be afraid
Don´t let hope, faith keep your eyes fixed on the light above
In the heartbreak, in your mistakes, nothing can separate you from love
Don´t be afraid
Don´t let hope, fait keep you eyes fixed on the light above
In the heartbreak, in your mistakes, nothing can separate you from love
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I wanted you to know that you are beloved…and you matter.