Can I get a do over…pleeeease!!

2013.11.29 20.03.17.746Kids seem to have a universal language.  I’ve yet to meet a little one that didn’t know this special way to speak.  It’s the whining, drawn out kind of language that drives parents crazy.  If you tell them no, you get the “Whyyeeeee??” If you ask them to do something and they don’t want to, you get the “Nooowah” (they have this way of adding syllables to words that don’t really belong there.)  Then there’s the, “Can I have more candy…pleeease?”  What is it about drawling out the word please that makes kids think they will get their way?  I used to use this word when it came to bedtime. “Can I stay up later…pleeeease?”  My dad would take me over to the clock in our kitchen to show me what time it was and explain to me that it was time for all little girls to go to bed.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I found out when I was much older that there were some nights that he and my mom would move the arms of the clock to 8pm when it was really earlier than that.  Can you believe that?  I’m sure I was a delightful child at all times and there was no need for those shenanigans. (smile) My dad bought me the exact kind of clock we had back then for Christmas a few years ago.  It hangs in my kitchen today and brings back fond memories.

When I found out my son was gay, the first place I went to were Christian websites to find out what to do.  I told him that I loved him no matter what and that was really how I felt, but I had no idea how to handle the situation.  I never believed that someone chose to be gay, but I did have the belief that something happened to them when growing up that somehow caused them to be gay.  The Christian literature that I was reading and listening to confirmed this belief.  Unfortunately, the reasons were all pointing to his dad and I.  I knew that he wasn’t sexually abused (one of the reasons that they give), so the only other thing it could be is that we had done something wrong. According to the Christian ministries I looked into, some of the reasons children turn out to be gay are their mother is overbearing, or their father is distant, or one or the other parent is aloof, they are too controlling, unloving, not spending enough time…the list goes on and on. As a parent, this is devastating to read.  Then imagine that you discover in your adolescence that you are gay.  You are distraught by this and don’t like yourself.  Then you learn that it’s your parents fault.  You blame them. You are angry with them.  Imagine thinking that your child is gay because your spouse didn’t give your child what they needed.  Do you know that some marriages are destroyed and some gay children stop speaking to their parents over these beliefs? It’s a no win situation.

When my son got out of the hospital (you can read about that in my post Buttons and shoestrings), he started his junior year in high school.  It was a new school and I was hoping it would be a new beginning.  The school is across the street from our development, so I drove him to school everyday. And everyday I said the same prayer, “God please put kids in his path who love You.  May they point him to You…show him Your love.  Lord please let there be a teacher who notices his pain and takes him under their wing. Protect him.  And Lord please send a girl his way that is like no other girl he has ever met.  Let him discover feelings that he didn’t know were possible.”  I prayed it everyday for two years.  Nothing changed.  Then as a child I went to my heavenly Father and I would also pray, “God, can I have a do over…pleeease??  Show me what I’ve done wrong so I can make it right.”  He can do anything.  He can turn back time and let me have my do over…right?  It was such a painful time.  I would read posts on Facebook about other teens dating and it would make me cry. I would see dads in the grocery store with their sons and I would cry.  I would see toddlers and I would cry.  I did a lot of crying.

tears

I was referred to an “ex-gay” group for help for my son.  I looked into it, but it just didn’t feel right.  I think God was protecting us.  The things that they teach are the very things that I mention above.  They cause damage and because of that one of the oldest Christian ministries dealing with homosexuality issued this statement:

Exodus Int’l President to the Gay Community: “We’re Sorry”

Leader of 37-year old ministry admits grave errors

Irvine, Calif. (June 19, 2013) — Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality, issued an apology to the gay community for years of undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the Church as a whole.

The apology dovetails with the ministry’s 38th annual conference in Irvine, Calif. – and the Thursday, June 20, airing of the television broadcast “God & Gays” on Our America with Lisa Ling. On Ling’s program,Exodus President, Alan Chambers, sits down with gay and lesbian people hurt by the Church with the goal of reconciliation.

“It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the Church’s treatment of the LGBTQ community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt,” said Chambers. “Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.”

You can read the whole article here:  http://wespeaklove.org/exodus/   – I haven’t looked into their new ministry yet, but I’m curious to see what they do.

I am thankful that my God has not forsaken me.  He has guided me through this journey and taught me that it’s not my fault.  I’m thankful that my faith has remained intact.  To be honest, there were times when I questioned if that would be the case.  I pray that one day my son will once again be able to feel God’s love for him.

Because love matters…

Advertisements

Garments of praise…

girl on swingI absolutely love music.  It feeds my soul.  Even as a small child, music was a part of my life.  I remember singing my little heart out on my swing in my backyard.  I’m sure it drove the neighbors nuts because I really belted out the lyrics.  Songs like “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, “American Pie” by Don McLean, “Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker, and on and on.  I recently looked up the lyrics to the Three Dog Night song and was glad I didn’t understand them back then (smile). Luckily my favorite part was the refrain:

Singin’
Joy to the world
All the boys and girls, now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

My love of music never left me and when I was in middle school I would camp out by my tape recorder every New Year’s Eve.  Casey Kasem from America’s Top 40 countdown on the radio would play the top 100 songs from the year that night.  I would record the whole thing…minus the commercials…just to be sure I captured all of my favorite songs from the year.  It amazes me how much I still remember lyrics to songs from way back then.  I’ve always said that if my studies were put to music in school I’d be a genius today.  It also surprises me how much the emotions that I was feeling when a song was popular come back to me when I hear it today.  Like I said…it’s a part of my soul.

I am thankful for music because it got me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  If you read my post Buttons and Shoestrings, you know that six years ago my son came out to my husband and I.  He was so distraught by his feelings that four months after he came out to us he was hospitalized because he was suicidal.

How did this happen?  We did all the things we thought we were supposed to do as “good” Christian parents. Our kids were introduced to church as babies and went to Sunday school when they were old enough.  They were taught to serve others starting at the ages of 4 and 3 by serving along side of us.  They both went to a private Christian school – nursery through 8th grade.  They went on mission trips and 6 youth retreats.  We had nightly prayers and devotionals on a regular basis.  Video games, music, and movies were monitored for content and the comment “that’s not appropriate” was met many times with groans.  I felt like we did everything possible to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it – Proverbs 22:6”.  We weren’t perfect…but surely we did something right.

When I try to find a word to express the emotions of the beginning of this journey, the first one that comes to mind is torture.  I was dealing with three issues simultaneously…my son was gay, he was so distraught about it he was slowly going into a pit of despair, and I was a Christian and knew what the Bible had to say about this issue.  I watched my silly, upbeat little boy change into an anxious, unhappy young man.  It was heart breaking.  His demeanor changed. His clothing changed (to dark and depressing choices).  His taste in music changed.  Everything about him was different.  I felt like I lost my little boy and it was scary.  I prayed everyday that things would change.  They didn’t.  By the time we got to the hospital stay four months later, I can say that this was the first time in my life that I was faced with a crisis of faith.  Where was God in all of this?  Why wasn’t He answering our prayers?

During this time, I was often at a loss of words for prayer.  I knew that the Holy Spirit had the words that I didn’t, but I needed something to feel connected to God.  I needed to feel Him.  I found that in music.  One song in particular at that time was a life-saver for me.  It’s by Robin Mark, a Northern Irish Christian singer/song writer, and the song is “Garments of Praise”.

You can take a listen to it here:

Isaiah 61:3 – (NIV)

    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

I have to tell you…I would sing this at the top of my lungs in my family room, tears streaming down my face…and yes, at the part when the songs lyrics are:

Hallelujah, sing hallelujah
We give all honor and praise to your name
Hallelujah, sing hallelujah
We trade our sorrows for garments of praise

I did my own little version of Riverdance.

Psalm 9:2 – (NIV)
I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High

To be continued….love each other….because love matters.

Buttons and shoestrings…

dress upWhen I was a little girl, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say I wanted to be a mom.  I couldn’t really think of anything else that I wanted to be…it just seemed like that is what I was meant to do. My friend and I would play for hours pretending to be mommies.  Her aunt had the most amazing collection of clothing, hats, and accessories.  I think she liked to go to yard sales and flea markets and we were allowed to play with the items before they were put up for sale.  This isn’t us, but it’s a pretty good depiction of what we looked like.  So you can imagine how happy I was when these two came along (smile).

K&M Christmas

I have to tell you…being a mom has been the most rewarding job by far. It has also been the most difficult. Being responsible for little beings is a big responsibility, and most of the time you just hope you are doing a good enough job.  As my kids grew, it was so rewarding to watch their little personalities take shape.  My son was very strong willed…oh was he challenging at times.  And my daughter was always willing to express her little temper.  Her nickname was “little miss attitude”, but overall they were really good kids.

There are times in your child’s life when you get to experience overwhelming joys with them, and at times immense pain.  When your child hurts, there aren’t words to express the hurt that you feel with them.  This became real to me on April 20, 2008.  My husband and kids had just gotten home from an Acquire the Fire event.  God had been whispering to me that something was wrong for some time, and I asked my husband to check our son’s computer.  We found that he had been to a website on homosexuality. We called him into the family room to ask him about it.  He told us that he was working on a paper for school that needed to be about a controversial topic.  He chose the topic of homosexuals and the military.  I then asked the question that changed our lives forever.  “Do you have any questions about homosexuality?”  That is when the tears came flowing down his cheeks.  He told us that he was confused about feelings that he had for his friend…a friend who was also a boy.  It’s hard to describe all the emotions that I was feeling when I heard those words.  It was like getting the wind knocked out of me…a jumble of emotions and if you could see inside my brain it would look something like this:

wordle

We immediately told him that we loved him no matter what.  His response was that we had to…we were his parents (he later learned from other gay teens that isn’t always the case).  Through uncontrollable tears, he told us that he was a terrible person…and that he had been praying for a while for God to take away these feelings.  He told us if God was real He didn’t love him because He never answered those prayers.  It was a long night and I have to tell you that I really had no idea what to say to him.  I was completely taken off guard…and I had so many questions myself.

It was clear that he felt really badly about himself so he started counseling.  There were times when he wanted to hurt himself so there were many sleepless nights sitting up with him to make sure he didn’t. And when we were not sitting up talking with him, we certainly weren’t sleeping soundly.  We were on constant pins and needles; terrified that if we let our guard down something awful would happen. Every little sound was amplified to deafening decibels. This went on for four months.  In August, we found a note that he had written.  Let me just say that it was a note that no parent would want to read.  We called his counselor and we were able to meet that same day.  We concluded at the end of that meeting that we needed to take him to the emergency room.

The hospital psychiatrist met with him and then told us that he would need to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The doctor was so concerned for his safety that we were told if we didn’t agree to hospitalize him, our parental rights would be taken away.  There weren’t any beds available at the time so he had to spend the night in the ER.  You have no idea what it is like being told that your child’s care is basically out of your hands.  There is no researching doctors…finding the best care.  Your child will go wherever a bed becomes available.  My husband stayed with him overnight and I went home to get his things.  I was given a list of acceptable things to bring.  For clothing they had listed shirts without buttons, shoes without shoe strings…the last time I packed my son’s bag for an overnight stay there were legos and stuffed animals in it.  Now I was worried about buttons and shoe strings being used to hurt himself.  I had to cut the drawstring out of his pajama pants. No one ever should have to cut the drawstring out of their child’s pajama pants so they can’t strangle themselves with it.  No one.  After I packed his bag, I laid on his bed and cried…and prayed.

The next morning a bed became available.  He was taken by ambulance to the next hospital, and we followed in our car.  We got him checked in and they put us in a room to wait for a doctor.  First they took him and did a strip search to make sure he wasn’t hiding anything on his person that he could use to hurt himself.  How humiliating for him. The doctor came in and chatted with him briefly and then we were told we would need to leave.  When the doctor left the room…he freaked out.  He started screaming that he couldn’t believe we were doing this to him.  He said it was going to make him worse.  He said he would run away.  And when he had nothing left to hurt himself with…he used his own body.  He took both of his fists and started punching himself in the stomach….like a samurai warrior would do with a knife…dying the “honorable” way.  I’ve been thinking about how to put this into words for days.  There are no words.  There is nothing in me that can describe what this was like for us.  There are still nights when I close my eyes and I see my baby hurting himself.

It was time for us to leave.  We were given the times for visiting hours, and we left listening to our baby boy’s screams….and from all the Christian literature we had read so far…this was ALL OUR FAULT…(to be continued).

(So as you can see…this is a very personal post.  Why did I feel the need to share it?  Well first because it is part of our journey.  Second, I think it’s important for people to get a glimpse of what it might be like to be gay, or to have a gay child.  I know not everyone’s journey is the same, but I think some people in the Christian culture have this idea that gay people are defying God deliberately…that it’s a choice that they make.  I’m here to say respectfully that they are wrong… and I will believe that until God tells me otherwise.  I no longer believe that this is my fault and my hope is to tell you how I came to that conclusion in other posts…for now…I am wiped out from this one).

Imprints on the human heart…

I’ve been working on a difficult post and decided to take a break from it to share a verse I rediscovered this week.  I have this verse taped to the cabinet of my desk at work.  You know how something is so familiar in your space that you don’t see it anymore?  Well that’s how it was with this.  I read it around the same time that God whispered to me that He wanted me to write a blog and I taped it to my cabinet so I wouldn’t forget it.

2 Corinthians 3:3 (NLT)
Clearly, you are a letter from Christ prepared by us.  It is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.  It is carved not on stone, but on human hearts.

I think that is just beautiful.  “You are a letter from Christ.”  There are many types of letters.  There’s the recommendation letter, the resignation letter, the dreaded “Dear John” letter, etc.  These letters have their place (well maybe not the “Dear John” letter), but how about a letter from Christ. What would that look like?

The summer of 2012 was my first trip to New England.  My family and I went with good friends of ours and we stayed in Vermont for a few days and then went to Maine for a few.  It was nice to have our very own “tour guide” to show us all of the beautiful places to see.  My friend that was with us actually grew up in Vermont.  One of the places we visited was Hope Cemetery in Barre, Vermont.  I know…not your typical vacation destination, but let me tell you it was beautiful.  Oh, and we visited on my birthday and yes that is where they decided to sing happy birthday to me (smile).  The cemetery actually gets visitors from all over the world.  Why?  Well it has the most amazing memorial art made of granite.  Here’s a sample:

 

How much time do you think it takes to create such amazing work?  Do you think a lot of thought goes into it…a lot of time?  I think of that verse “It is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.  It is carved not on stone, but on human hearts.”  The Spirit of the living God.  Wow!  Not on stone, but on human hearts.  Double wow!  If the stone carver has to be precise, think things through, take his time…how much more must I guard my actions and my words.  They are carved on human hearts!  Those hearts are fragile and my “letter” is an imprint on their hearts…on their souls…

I want my “letter” to be a love letter.  Not the “new love” gushy kind of love letter, but the kind that shows compassion, grace, mercy, etc.  The kind that says I know you aren’t perfect and I choose to love you the way you are because it matters.  I’m not perfect either and I want the same from you.

Our “letters” matter.  We will make mistakes.  We will bruise some hearts. But if we learn from those mistakes, and sincerely apologize for them…the bruises can heal over time.  Our words and actions leave imprints on others hearts. Lord help us to leave loving imprints.

What kind of letter do you want to be?