A little Pride sent your way…

I usually do a post about my experience with Pride.  This year Pride events have either been cancelled or postponed until the fall.  Since we can’t all be together this Pride month, here is a little project I participated in to bring Pride right into your home. Remember…you are loved, you are worthy, you are enough! Check out this video:

 

Be patient…we’re working on it…

I woke up the other day to a memory from when I was a 10 year old girl.  It was strange because the dream I was having before I woke up had nothing to do with the memory, but there it was nonetheless.

I was in the 5th grade.  A boy in my class was having a surprise party for his birthday.  It happened to fall on the same day my family was moving.  In order for me to go, I had to get there an hour or two before the party was starting.  My mom contacted his mom and she was more than happy to have me arrive early so that I could attend.  It wasn’t a big deal to me to sit with an adult I had never met before.  Back then people would have said I had an old soul and I was very comfortable with adults.

I can remember so much about that day.  I can see myself sitting in his kitchen chatting with his mom.  I even helped her with some of the party prep.  I can remember bursting at the seams about the gift I was going to give my classmate.  It was a five dollar bill.  Just a few weeks prior, my mom’s boss had me go around our neighborhood and put an advertisement on everyone’s door.  For the task, I was rewarded with a five dollar bill.  I felt like the richest kid in the world.  Back then to a 10 year old that was a lot of money.  So I could barely contain my excitement to give my classmate this same joy.  I also may have had a crush on him (smile).

During our chat, I mentioned to his mom what I got him for his birthday.  She sternly said, “Oh honey that is too much.  You can’t give him that.”  I immediately regretted sharing with her.  She insisted that she replace my five dollars with a two dollar bill that she had tucked away.  She said that her son would love it.  I had never seen a two dollar bill before, but I can tell you that I didn’t love it.  I didn’t know what to do.  I mean…what could I do?  I was a 10 year old girl.  I had to listen to my elders.  I reluctantly gave her his birthday card and she made the switch along with giving me the 3 dollars in “change.”  I was crushed.

Little by little my friends arrived and we got into our hiding places to yell surprise when our classmate arrived home.  It was a success…he was very surprised.  When it came time for gift giving, my stomach was in knots.  I dreaded it.  One by one, he opened cards from our fellow classmates, and one by one five dollar bills floated out of the cards.  Until he got to mine.  He opened it and the two dollar bill spilled out onto the floor.  He was so sweet and made such a big deal about it.  I wanted to melt into the floor and disappear.  I actually felt ashamed.  I remember it as if it were yesterday and to this day (42 years later) I get anxious when I give someone a gift…every time.  I am always afraid they aren’t going to like it or it’s not going to be enough.

A friend contacted me back in November regarding a message she had just heard at her church.  She wondered what I might think of it.  This particular message was about the Bible, Sexuality, and Gender.  Oh boy!

As the pastor spoke, he explained that it’s important to remember that God loves everyone.  No matter what.  He reminded the congregation that we are also called to love everyone as God does.  He explained that the church has harmed the LGBTQ community and that saddens him.  He reminded the congregation that we are all sinners…and one sin isn’t worse than another.  He mentioned that we are all broken.  He said that we should go further than “love the sinner, hate the sin” and instead we should “love the sinner, and hate our own sin.”  He explained that sexuality is broken for everyone.  He explained that when having conversations with the LGBTQ community we should speak truth with love and grace.  And then he went on to say that Jesus loves us and knows us and wants to have a relationship with all of us.

He said all of this with a spirit of humility.  He was loving and kind.  On the surface it sounds good.  Would I prefer to hear this type of message rather than the messages of hell and being an abomination?  Of course…it’s a step in the right direction.  But…

Let’s break it down just a little.  The message that God loves everyone is a good message.  Since it is part of the greatest command, we should also love our neighbors (that means everyone).  No exceptions.

One sin isn’t worse than another. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have with Christians regarding the LGBTQ community that start off with the person telling me that they are a sinner.  They are the worst of the worst.  They go on to explain to me that they have no right to judge anyone because of how awful they themselves are.  Here’s the rub with this conversation.  The topic of sin only comes up when talking about LGBTQ people.  If they learn that Sally is dating Johnny, they don’t immediate start talking about the sin in their life.  They don’t make assumptions about straight people’s relationships.  They don’t reduce straight people to sexual acts.  Are Sally and Johnny having sex?  Who knows!  But if they talk to me about my gay kid, it goes right to sin.  Sin is what we do. Sinning is a choice…being LGBTQ isn’t.

This is the same with “love the sinner, hate the sin.”  When we compare being sinners to being LGBTQ, we are telling them that the very core of their being is sinful.  Straight people don’t always handle their sexuality in the most righteous, holy way…but we never call people sinners due to their “straightness”.  The conversation always goes to sin when the subject of being LGBTQ comes up.  Always.  I’ve never heard a straight person say they had a significant other and the person respond with, “well we love the sinner and hate the sin.”  It’s not assumed that anything sinful is happening.  Although the pastor mentions changing that saying up a bit, I think it would be better if we completely removed it.

We are all sexually broken. LGBTQ people have the same choices as straight people do when it comes to sex.  There are so many straight people in the church that do not handle their sexuality in a way that the church would find acceptable.  The difference is that straight people aren’t subjected to the same judgement just because they are straight. I bet if you are straight…you haven’t had Bible verses quoted at you just because you love someone of the opposite gender.  Happens to LGBTQ people all of the time…even if they aren’t dating someone.

Speaking the truth with love and grace.  I simply want to ask with this one…
WHOSE TRUTH?

Well of course the truth of the Bible Lesa.  I think we can all point to something in the Bible that was believed to have one meaning when in reality it meant something quite different.  I’ve written about that before.  Are you speaking your truth in love?  Are you expecting the LGBTQ person to accept your truth?  I don’t know one LGBTQ Christian who has not tortured themselves, to the brink of death in many cases, going over the Biblical verses that seem to condemn them.  They have prayed and searched and have come to a place of acceptance within themselves and with God.  Your truth or the way you interpret the Bible is just that…your truth.

Jesus loves us and wants to have a relationship with us.   We have to be careful how we address this because it seems that the underlying message with many churches is if LGBTQ people really knew Jesus their desire for a same sex partner would go away, or that Jesus would make it possible for them to live celibate.  And if the LGBTQ person would just hang out with our loving church they could learn to trust Jesus.  If they just love him enough…he will help them.  This is the premise of a lot of conversion therapy.  I would like churches with this thinking to talk to the thousands of Christians who tried that.  It is literally killing people.  What about the people who are Christians when they reach puberty (and for some even earlier than that) and realize they are gay?  They already know Jesus. This teaching produces shame, depression, anxiety, etc.

Churches don’t understand why it might be difficult for a person from the LGBTQ community to attend their church if they are loved on there. A gay person can go there and feel welcomed and loved on.  They can feel like they are part of the family.  They have a spiritual leader in their pastor.  Then they fall in love and want to get married.  Now all of the relationships that they have built, the relationship that they have with their pastor…the person they would like to marry them…is gone because the church doesn’t allow it.  Now they have to go to someone they don’t know…that they don’t have relationship with…to get married.  How is that supposed to make them feel?  Or what about serving in the church? I have a lesbian friend who had this experience. She was accepted and loved on.  She served on many ministry teams.  But when she wanted to serve in a role that was less behind the scenes she was denied because of her sexuality.  This happened to her over and over again at different churches.  She commented, “How many times is a person supposed to let this happen before they just give up?”

And I think it was tough to offer the gift I had for my friend?  How much more difficult do you think it is when the gift you are giving…the gift of yourself and your talents…isn’t accepted?  When the person is bursting at the seams to use the gifts God gave them…when they are excited to serve…and they are denied instead.  Do you think it may cause the person shame?  Do you think it may stay with them for a lifetime?

Some churches have come further than others, but for the LGBTQ person who loves God and wants to be in community fully accepted as themselves…well it kind of feels like this…

Naked Pastor (David Hayward).

Let’s understand what feels like love and what doesn’t…because love matters.

 

 

Soul sisters…

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve stopped by here.  Life has been busy.  Time is flying by at the speed of light.  Seriously…how is it the end of January already?!   I like the “memories” feature on Facebook for this reason.  It gives me a chance to relive some moments that have gone by so fleetingly.  Sometimes I’ll read something that I posted and for the life of me I can’t remember what I was referencing.  Many times it’s from a movie or commercial that made me laugh (smile).  And then there are the memories that bring a smile to my face, while others bring a tear.  Every once in a while, there is a memory that is like a smack in the face.  Like this morning when I clicked that memory button.  This was one of the memories:

“Just in case you don’t check my wall….Monday is perfect unless I get called into work.  I will call you if I can’t make it but as for now 9:30 sounds great. Can’t wait to catch up!”

Seems pretty harmless right?  This was a post from a good friend…at the time.  When my son came out and I supported him, she decided that she just couldn’t be friends with someone who was ok with those people.

Unfortunately it’s a familiar story to many.  Friends, and in some cases our own family, decide that relationship with us is just too unbiblical.  Sigh…

This is why the trip I took to Raleigh, NC last weekend was so important.  I got to spend the weekend with 11 souls that get it.  We found each other in a private group on Facebook because we shared something in common….LGBTQ children.  Our bond formed over that common ground, but it grew into so much more.  We support each other online in so many ways.

We pray for each other…
We are there to offer advice on all sorts of things…
We offer support when loved ones are sick or get a scary diagnosis…
We are there when pets cross over the rainbow bridge…
And so much more…

Online support is great.  It’s needed especially for those who live in states where it’s so difficult to be LGBTQ and getting support in person is often so difficult.  But man oh man when we can get together in person I swear a little bit of heaven reaches down to earth.  It truly is a sacred time for us.  We get each other in a way that others can’t.  It’s a completely safe space.

Some of us have had experiences where we mention we have a gay child and the person looks at us with pity like it’s the worst thing that could happen.  They offer to pray for us.  To be honest…we don’t need those kind of prayers.  Some of us have had experiences that when we mention we have a gay child the person will just outright say, “I hate gay people.”

So…being in an environment where you know you won’t have to explain, or educate, or quite frankly try not to throat punch the person in front of you is a true blessing.  All of the virtual hugs offered online are now able to happen in person.  And as we embrace each other we heal the broken pieces that we’ve endured while being apart…so that when we see a Facebook memory that smacks us in the face…we are able to brush it off a little bit easier.

These are my soul sisters and I just wanted to come here today to tell you how incredible they are to me and to the world.  Many have left the church because they have either been asked to or they just couldn’t stay where their child was not welcome.  I’m here to tell you that we are the church.

I love these ladies.  We love our kids, and all of our “adopted” kids that have been tossed aside by their families.  These hands have wiped many tears.  We love hard…and love matters.

 

Houston we have a problem…

It was a two hour drive by myself.  It was a place I had never been before.  My GPS got me to the general area and then I searched for the tell-tale signs of Pride.  I saw a group of people standing with colorful shirts that said ‘Love is Love” along with balloons the color of the rainbow and I knew I was in the right place.  I sat in my car and waited my turn in line to get directions on where to go.  I pulled up and rolled down my window, gave my name, and told the person holding the clipboard that I was there for Free Mom Hugs Maryland.  The young man directing traffic welcomed me, handed me an envelope and told me it had important information in it.

I got my car unloaded, parked it in the parking garage, and set out to have a great day.  After getting all of my items set up and organized, I sat at my table and began to write notes of affirmation for my poster board.  It was then that I remembered the envelope I was given.  I got it out and scattered the contents across my table.  There was a list of all of the vendors, a map of where each vendor was located, and an evacuation plan.

Evacuation plan…hmmm.  We weren’t anywhere that there would be fires like poor California had been dealing with.  We weren’t anywhere near water where we would have to worry about flooding.  There weren’t any big storms threatening to ruin our day.  Evacuation plan in case of…could it be…in case of a shooter?

My heart skipped a beat.  I was totally unfamiliar with the area.  I would only know one person that day and she would only be with me for an hour.  And just five weeks prior I had been in one of the most terrifying situations I believe I’ve ever been in at DC Pride…

I had never been to Pride in DC and when I found out my son and his boyfriend were going I did some schedule rearranging so that I could go.  In fact, the whole family went (smile).  Mike, McKensie and I took the metro down and Kyle and his friends drove down.  THERE WERE SO MANY PEOPLE THERE!  It was by far the most crowded Pride event I had ever attended.  There were places where you had to walk sideways to get through the mobs of people on the sidewalks and there were people pushing against the front of you and the back of you as you squeezed by.  It was so crowded that it was pretty much impossible at first to meet up with Kyle.  We decided to watch the parade and try to find each other afterwards.  Towards the end of the parade McKensie and I got really hungry so we decided to head back towards the restaurants right by Dupont Circle.  I texted Kyle to let him know where we were and he said they would head there soon.  They got there just as we finished our meal.  We were standing outside of the restaurant talking about our day so far.  We took a picture to have a memory of our time together.  It was then that I noticed the shift in the mood of the crowd.

I happened to look up from the camera and I saw a rush of people coming towards us.  It looked like a human stampede.  By the looks on their faces, I knew something was terribly wrong.  As people got closer, they were yelling “Shooter…someone is shooting.”  It was then that my worse fear came true or so I thought.  I always think about safety when I go to these events.  I hear way too many stories of violence against the LGBTQ community to think that this could never happen.

We quickly looked around trying to figure out what to do.  People were everywhere and we had no idea what was happening so we ran into the restaurant that we had just left.  The manager welcomed us in and the two policemen that were outside standing in the street were headed for the place people were running from.  The restaurant was nothing but windows so I can’t say I felt very safe in there.  My mind was racing wondering what we would do if we happened to see the shooter coming our way.  All of my senses seemed to be on the highest of alerts.  There really was no place to go and we were totally unfamiliar with our surroundings.  I can’t explain the helplessness I felt in not being able to protect my kids.  It doesn’t matter how old they get…you always want to protect them.

When it seemed like things had calmed down, we stepped outside of the restaurant again to figure out what to do.  People were walking around crying.  The place where this community should feel safe was now a place of terror.

We decided that we were done for the day.  We all pretty much wanted to get as far away from there as we could.  It took us a minute to get our bearings to figure out where the parking garage was located.  We started on our way and passed by a large amount of police in Dupont Circle in a circle formation.  In the middle was a guy on the ground in handcuffs.  As we headed down the street towards the garage, a second wave of people came running towards us in a panic.  They were running up to doors shaking and pulling on the handles trying to get into businesses, but the doors were locked.  There were car horns honking because people were running into the streets to get away from we didn’t know what.  There were almost constant sirens from ambulances and police cars because people had gotten trampled from the first stampede of people.  There were helicopters flying overhead.  It truly was like something you would see in a movie.  We were able to step out of the way of the panic into an alcove of a building.  Again…I felt like we were just sitting ducks waiting to meet our fate.

We finally got the kids to their car and we made it to the metro station.  There were people on the metro that looked shell shocked.  What did we all just experience?  McKensie went on Twitter and there were all kinds of stories circulating.  I really can’t tell you for sure what happened.  I do know that there weren’t any shots fired.  There was an altercation and a weapon (which may have been a realistic looking BB gun).  When people saw that, they panicked and in doing so, knocked over the heavy barricades that in turn sounded like shots being fired.   Which is why when people got to us outside of the restaurant they thought that shots had been fired.  We believe the second round of panic was just a delayed reaction of word getting around since there were so many people.  The people at the end of the parade route had no idea that anything had even happened.

None of us were familiar with DC.  We had no idea where we were or where we should go when the people were headed for us.  Now at this event I found myself again in a place that I was not familiar with so you can believe that I studied that map that was given to me in my information packet.  I tried to push my experience in DC from my mind.  Like I mentioned…safety is always on my mind at these events.  But this time it was a little more real.

Even though there wasn’t a shooter that day in DC, we didn’t know that at the time.  It was a very real danger in our minds while it was happening.  There are still nights when I go to bed that when I close my eyes I see the terrified faces of those people running towards me.  And then there are the nights that I spend all night running from the danger of someone with a gun.  I truly cannot imagine what the kids of all of the school shootings go through.  I have no idea how they grace the threshold of their schools again.  In these cases, they have seen the shooter, heard the shots, and in some cases, have lost friends.  It’s tragic.  And as I’m sure you know…it’s not just schools, but places of business, churches, temples, shopping centers, neighborhoods, night clubs…the list goes on.  When will it stop??

I did a little research on the saying, “Houston we have a problem.”  Turns out that it’s not actually what was said by Jack Swigert and repeated by James Lovell on the Apollo 13 moon flight.  They actually said, “Houston we’ve had a problem.”  The movie writers changed it to the other phrase.  The original phrase was used to report a life-threatening fault in their equipment.  Now that phrase is used to report any sort of problem…usually in a joking manner.  Well the situation we have in this country is no joking matter.

Image by Nick Fewings

And ‘America we’ve had this problem’ for a long time.  When bulletproof backpacks are on back to school shopping lists, we have a problem.  When kids are afraid to have light up shoes because they might give them away when they are hiding from a shooter, we have a problem.  When kids write I love you mom and dad on their arms in lock downs in case they die, we have a problem.  Sadly I don’t think anything will be done about the violence in this country until it hits close to home for the politicians.  There is so much division.  People seem to have lost all sense of empathy.

One example that comes to mind is all of the comments I see on FB about people being easily offended.  They seem to be offended by people being easily offended.  Craziness right?  I wonder if they’ve ever stopped to wonder why someone is offended.  Chances are it is personal to them.  I spent hours at this particular pride event in front of a group of church people holding signs that were condemning the LGBTQ community.  You could say I was offended by them.

I think the life-threatening problem we have going on is a lack of love.  What would it look like if we taught our kids a different way with not only our words, but with our actions?  Take up for the underdog.  Pay attention to who is lonely.  Actually see people.

I think loving others is our greatest command from God because He knew how important it was for us humans.  And it’s not easy…because love is…

Patient…
It is kind…
It does not envy…
It does not boast…
It is not proud…
It does not dishonor others…
It is not self-seeking…
It is not easily angered…
It keeps no record of wrongs…
It does not delight in evil…
It rejoices with truth…
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails!

I think if we could follow this definition of love we would live in a much gentler, kinder world.  How great would it be if we could say, “America we used to have a problem,” but love stepped in and healed it.

No one said it would be easy.  Love is hard…but it matters.

That’s a wrap…

Where do I even begin?  How can I put so many emotions into words?  I’m not sure that I can do it.  At the very least, I can let you know why I’ve been silent for a few months.

If you’ve been a follower for some time, you know that I’ve gone to Baltimore Pride the last 3 years and have given out mom hugs.  When I did it in 2018, I knew that something bigger was brewing.  I wasn’t able to share it then and honestly it’s been such a whirlwind I’m not even sure if I mentioned it here when I could (smile).

In October 2018, I started an official Free Mom Hugs Maryland chapter.  Free Mom Hugs is a non-profit that was started in Oklahoma and it became so popular that state chapters began to form.  I got permission to start the Maryland chapter.  Boy what a ride that has been!  For our first year, we attended 10 Pride events throughout Maryland (in just a month and a half!).  We had 406 volunteers that marched in parades, gave out information at our table, and of course gave hugs.  It’s been amazing!  Our last event was on Sunday.  I’ve been one tired mama ever since!

Some of my takeaways…

I hugged way too many people who told me their mom or parents don’t accept them because they are religious.

I had several young people approach my table tentatively.  The first thing they asked was, “Is this a religious organization?”  When I said no, they hugged me…hard.  When I told them that there were moms who were Christians, but they were affirming, they hugged me again.  And thanked me over and over again.

It’s interesting how things work out.  So many of the people who approach me have lost their mom.  Some have had supportive moms and miss their only cheerleaders, and some were never able to reconcile their relationships.  Maybe they sense that I know what it’s like to have lost a mom.  Then there was the event where a mom, who just a year ago could not accept that she had a gay child because of her faith, came out to volunteer because she became affirming and wanted to help out. She had a young lady…I would say early 20’s…approach her and when she hugged her the girl just sobbed….for what seemed like forever.  She couldn’t even speak.  Her friends told us that this girl’s mom tells her every day that she is going to hell.  She got several hugs that day.  As she walked away, my co-leader and I looked at each other…we just grabbed each other and hugged and cried.  We just can’t wrap our brains around how any parent can do that to their child.  Just thinking about it brings those tears back.

We don’t just have moms at our events.  We have dads that hug too!  There was a dad that joined us this past Saturday.  It was the first time he’d ever come to a pride event and therefore the first time he ever offered hugs.  Every time he tried to thank me for allowing him to participate he got emotional and couldn’t speak.  He knew that kids were rejected, but he had no idea the scope of what that looks like.  He said he would be at lots of events next year to let these kids/adults know that they are loved.

Due to the protesters at the last two events, I can assure you that there are dozens of young people that will never step foot into a church.  It will be a miracle if they ever give God a chance.  The protesters (some of them middle school aged children) held signs that had to do with God and faith and how they needed to repent and change.  They weren’t the worst signs I’ve ever seen, but the damage was the same.   At each event, there was a man with a speaker that read Bible passages and told the crowd how God’s love was conditional and if they didn’t change they were going to hell.  At one of the events, myself and two other moms stood at the barrier that was placed between the protesters and the entrance to the event.  We tried our best to block them and give hugs to the hurting people who had to pass them to get into the event.  We stood there for hours.  There was a young man who was there the entire time yelling at the protesters to the point where he lost his voice.  We tried to get the kids to ignore them and go have fun, but you could tell they just wanted to be heard.  There was a young girl who stood in front of one of the men.  He was talking to her and she stood there for about 15 minutes and listened to him.  She was very respectful (I will admit that not everyone was).  When he was finished, she tried to speak and he shut her down.  She came to us in tears.  She told us that she always listens to what they have to say, but they never want to hear her side of things.

Standing there was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I kept my back to them and faced the crowd to let them know I was there to support them.  It took every ounce of self control I could muster to not say something to those men.  I knew without a doubt that it would not have made one iota of difference.  It makes me not want to associate with anything Christian.  I struggle with that a lot because of the pain and damage I see done in the name of God.

Pride events are supposed to be safe spaces.

I think the faces of the people I hugged this year (and every year for that matter) will be imprinted on my mind and heart forever.  I am humbled that I am allowed into this sacred space.  The pain I feel radiate off of these precious humans is palpable.  My hope is for that brief moment they can feel that they are loved just as they are without conditions or strings attached.

At the events, we have a board where we post notes of affirmation.  People are encouraged to take a note that speaks to them.  They are also encouraged to leave a note for someone else.   This note was left by a gay man who lost his mom recently.  She was supportive and he appreciated that we were at the event.  If you would like to get involved with a group by you, go to Facebook and do a search for Free Mom Hugs – with your state name.  Or you can go to the Free Mom Hugs website that I linked above and search for a chapter near you.

Sometimes the simplest act can have a lasting impact.

These events are a reminder to me that love matters more than ever.  Be that love to someone.