What if…

It was 3 days after my 15th birthday. My friends and I were walking around the neighborhood like we did every day after dinner. It was a hot July evening, and as usual we ended up at the little park in our neighborhood. It had a baseball field, basketball courts, and a large swing set. Getting onto those swings was a good way to cool off.

Well on this particular night we decided to play a little game. The swing set was made of metal and had a short “fence” made of the same metal material bordering three of the sides. We wanted to see who could walk on the metal bar from one side all the way to the other. It went around the swing set like a horseshoe. Several of us were on the bar at a time and one by one we tried to make our way around. As people lost their balance, they would either jump off or just let each foot land on either side of the bar. That worked just fine for everyone…well anyone that was taller than 5 foot. As I was making my way around, a guy behind me got impatient and gave me a shove. It took me completely off guard and I fell…on the bar…between my legs. My legs were too short to have each foot land on each side of the pole.

I swung my leg over the bar and limped over to one of the swings and sat down. My best friend came over and told me that she had fallen on her bike bar before and that yeah it hurts, but it eventually the pain goes away. Well I too had fallen on my bike before and this was NOTHING like what that felt like. I sat there for a few minutes and realized that I needed to go home.

Since I had walked to the park, I had to walk home. My friend joined me to make sure I made it home ok. I had to walk a couple of blocks and by the time I got to my house I was walking as if I had been riding a horse for about a week. My parents were sitting on the front porch as I approached and my poor mother was so scared she barely let me get out what had actually happened. She thought something horrific had happened…well more horrific then what actually happened. We went in the house and I described the incident. She knew I was a bit embarrassed, but she told me she had to take a look to see what was going on. She took one look and said we needed to go to the ER.

We drove to Saint Agnes Hospital and by this time I was not feeling so well. The nurse at the entrance put me in a wheelchair. She then proceeded to wheel me down a cobblestone hallway while eating a tuna sandwich (not my favorite smell at that moment). The wheelchair wobbled and shook as I tried not to scream from the pain it was inflicting. I was also trying not to toss my cookies from the sandwich she kept waving in my face as she maneuvered me down the hallway.

They got me into a room and I explained what happened. The doctor took a peek and didn’t know what to do so they called the GYN that was on duty at the time. They had mentioned doing an internal exam which at the time I had no idea what that was…thank goodness because there was NO WAY they would have been able to do that. My poor mom did not like hospitals and she was getting woozy so they had to get her smelling salts and a chair. As we were waiting for the GYN, my mom would take a smell of the salts to get her grounding and then explain what we were going to do.

“Lesa” sniff…”If I tell you to get dressed and that we are leaving, just do it even if the doctor doesn’t want you to”…sniff…”I’m not sure what they are going to want to do, but they aren’t doing an internal exam”…sniff. She was trying real hard not to pass out.

The GYN came in and examined me and agreed that an internal could not be done. By this time, my private part was swollen halfway to my knees. She told my mom to take me home and make an appointment with my mom’s GYN in a week. I was given a list of things to do like soak in a tub with Epsom salt, and the doctor specifically told me not to look at my injury. And I didn’t. I know what it felt like…I didn’t want to see what it looked like.

So I spent a week in bed waiting for my appointment. The time came and I got dressed as best I could. I couldn’t pull my shorts up to my waist because of the swelling so they just kind of hung there. I still couldn’t walk right either. They called my name and I went back while my mom waited for me. I had never been to see a GYN before so I had no idea what to expect. The nurse told me what to do and I laid on the table with a sheet covering my lower half. The doctor came in and introduced himself. He asked me what had happened and lifted the sheet to examine me. He looked, put the sheet down, and told me I was going to the hospital to have an operation. I got dressed as he went out to talk to my mom. When I got out to the waiting area, my mom was crying. I told her it was fine and that I would be ok. The doctor put me in HIS car and DROVE me to the hospital HIMSELF. My mom followed us and before I knew it I was prepped for surgery.

The GYN who had seen me the night of the accident was there and she told me not to worry. She held my hand and said she wouldn’t let them do anything to me that she wouldn’t let them do to her. Unbeknownst to me and the reason my mom was crying was because the doctor told her that I may be deformed for the rest of my life. He didn’t know what he was going to find when operating. He said they should have never sent me home that night.

Well I had surgery and it was successful. I had basically developed a large blood clot, but no internal damage had been done. They put a drain in me that stayed in for two weeks and then I was good to go. I was very popular at the hospital. I had to spend the night and had all kinds of doctors coming in to see me as they had never seen anything like my kind of injury before. What a way to end summer vacation!

I share this story with you to ask you this question…

What if…

What if they weren’t able to fix me? What if everything wasn’t ok and I did end up deformed or without my female parts?

Would I still be a girl?

I can hear you saying, “Well of course you would still be a girl!” But is that what society would consider me to be? It seems that society focuses on what private parts we have to determine whether or not we are male or female. I of course would have still been a girl because my brain is what determines that I am a girl.

There are many complexities that go into what determines our sexuality and our gender. And sometimes our brains and our bodies don’t match up. There is tons of research about this and lots of resources out there to explain how this can happen. It saddens me that people are discriminated against simply because of how they were born. Not by something they caused or choose. I have transgender friends who have been disowned by their families, and in some cases they are just tolerated. My situation was of course completely different because it was an injury. I am in no way comparing what I went through to what my friends go through. Some transgender people find it necessary for their well-being to have surgery so that their bodies match their brains while others are ok with their bodies. Each individual is different and quite frankly…it is none of our business!

I share this story with you just as food for thought. I hope that before anyone would judge someone they would take some time to research and learn. And more importantly I hope that when someone shares with you who they are….

You believe them and show them love.

Because love matters…

 

 

 

 

 

Plop, plop…fizz, fizz…oh what a year it’s been!

If you are old enough, you will remember this catchy jingle to Alka Seltzer. It was the kind that you could get stuck in your head. “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!” Oh what a relief it is to say goodbye to 2020! I know not everything will magically get better now that the ball has dropped on New Year’s Eve. It is nice to have a clean slate and a new year to look forward to though.

I’ve been trying to find the words about what this year has been like. I’ve given up. I don’t think I can do it adequately. I also don’t think I need to remind anyone of all the turmoil that we experienced this last year. My Facebook memories these last two days have been of me and others expressing what the new year would hopefully bring us. Oh boy did we have NO IDEA what was to come our way. I have seen the worst and the best of humanity.

When my mom died 25 years ago when she was 50 years old and I was 28, I was reminded of how fragile life is and how we aren’t guaranteed how much time we have with someone. But then life gets busy and you tend to forget (or at least I did raising two little ones) until the next death comes along and knocks the wind out of you again. As hard as I tried, the fragility of it all faded. It was there, but never in the forefront of my thoughts. I’m not saying I should sit here wringing my hands worried about who is next. That is no way to live. Instead…I want to remember it so that I treat each day and more importantly each person that I come in contact with each day with love and kindness.

I don’t think this point could have been driven home any harder than what this year has done. I stood in this aisle at Target thirteen times this year. Thirteen. The most I’ve gone into this aisle others years is three. I stood here and over again trying to find the right card to express the sorrow I felt for my friends who lost loved ones. Nine of the thirteen times were due to Covid and the others were cancer or other natural causes.

Losing someone you love is hard. Having a good chunk of the population think that what your loved one died of to be fake is a pain I can’t imagine. Every time I saw someone online making fun of people for wearing masks or saying the virus was fake or some sort of conspiracy theory I felt the slap my friends must have felt.

2020 has definitely driven home the point that we don’t know how much time we have here. I don’t think of that and live in fear or worry. Instead it drives me to make each moment count. Each person count. I don’t know if I will ever forget this lesson now. I sure hope I don’t.

2021 is a clean slate.

I hope we can do better this year. I hope we can garner some much needed empathy for others. I hope we can do a better job at loving one another.

Because love matters…

Color matters…

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite summer time activities was coloring.  My grandmother watched my sister and me while our parents worked.  She didn’t have air conditioning so coloring was a good activity to stay cool. I can still remember getting a new set of crayons for the summer.  The jackpot was when I could get the 64 pack with the built in sharpener on the back (smile).  So many colors to choose from to create a plethora of masterpieces each day.  The crayons were like little soldiers waiting to be called on for duty. Crisp, clean papers encircled the sticks with the name of the color printed on the side. Each one having the perfect point to get you started.  If I close my eyes, I can still smell them. Ahhhh….

Having that big pack of crayons was important.  You had all of the hues at your fingertips to make your picture or coloring page to your exact specifications.

Color matters.

I have so many friends that are becoming grandparents.  It’s been fun to watch their excitement.  All of the pictures on social media counting down the months and letting you know how big the baby is getting are fun to peruse.  From blueberry, to apple, to acorn squash, to honeydew melon and lots of things in between.  But the thing I see them get the most excited about is the revealing of the gender.  They do this in many different ways.  Some have cakes made with the pink or blue icing in the center declaring whether it’s a boy or girl.  I’ve seen balloons popped with pink or blue confetti spilling out revealing what was to come.  I’ve seen firework type cannons shooting out billows of pink or blue smoke to announce the news.  In all of these scenarios…

Color matters.

Another way that color comes into play in our lives is with sports.  Here in Maryland we say we bleed orange in the summer for the Orioles, and purple in the winter for the Ravens.  On any given Sunday during football season, you can tell who someone is cheering for just by observing the color they are wearing.  Here in Maryland we even have purple Fridays during football season to get everyone excited for the game on Sunday.

Color matters.

Another thing that you see on social media right now are the freshly graduated seniors declaring with pride what college they are attending in the fall. You can usually see them in a t-shirt or sweatshirt with the name of the school printed in big letters splayed across their chest in you guessed it…their school colors…

Color matters.

If color matters in all of these fun, but in most cases trivial things…how much more does or should color matter when it comes to the color of one’s skin?

I don’t think I need to tell you what is happening in our country right now. It saddens me to my core. We have so much to learn! I’ve sat with this for some time because so much has already been said about it. I guess this is my way of documenting my thoughts at the time. My hope is that when I see this next year or at least in the years to come I will be able to see changes that have taken place.

Just like the church doesn’t have to condemn gay people from the pulpit for them to get the message, one doesn’t have to be outright taught racism for us to have some tendencies towards it. I definitely grew up with preconceived notions about black people. It took me time to work through them. I think the majority of people don’t want to be racist (of course there are always the exceptions). I also think that most people don’t even realize that they may have racist ideas.

I think people hear the word racist or racism and immediately become defensive.  I see it time and time again. Communication gets completely shut down. People stop listening. Even if those words aren’t used just the idea gets people so worked up that they can’t see the pain the other person is experiencing.  We once again have people arguing whether or not they are right and the human experience gets stomped on in the process.

One way that I’ve seen this when engaging in this topic is the statement that black lives matter. I’ve seen so many people respond to this with all lives matter. I posted something on my FB page that explained that when someone says black lives matter it doesn’t mean that only black lives matter. We know that all lives matter it’s just that black lives need our help because they are being hurt. I had someone go on and on about the Black Lives Matter Movement. I told this person I wasn’t referring to any movement. I was referring to people’s lives. They went on to call me names. I couldn’t convince this person to look at human life. All they saw was a movement.

Yes all lives matter. Of course they do! Our society, however, does not treat people as if all lives matter.

There have been some examples of Jesus on this topic floating around the internet. One example is the beatitudes. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” the crowd doesn’t respond “all lives are blessed!” When Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” the crowd doesn’t respond “all lives are blessed!” Jesus declares these people blessed precisely because they never have been. Their society never blessed them. If you don’t see a disparity in how black people are treated in certain circumstances, I’m going to ask you to look harder. The other example that has been given is Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the 99 to find the one that is lost. That doesn’t mean the 99 aren’t valuable or loved by the shepherd. It simply means that they aren’t in trouble and don’t need him at the moment.

I went to a seminar at a church about two years ago and the topic was racism. I think I even wrote about it here. I was sickened by what I learned. I left so distraught for the people of Baltimore. I learned about systems that were put into place years ago that are still in place today. I encourage you to look up things like red lining, blockbusting, and systemic racism.  Learning about these things will give you an idea of what white privilege means. Mention that and people lose their minds. “But I worked hard for what I have. No one handed me what I have!” are their mantras. It’s not what it means. I would offer that if things like that offend you dig deep to understand why.

We have lost the art of empathy. We don’t listen. We jump to conclusions. I could go on, but I won’t. I certainly have tons more to learn. I’m sure I still have things that need to be unlearned. It’s a process. I’m just so disheartened by people’s reactions.

I hear, “Let’s not make it about race.” We can only do that when everyone is treated equally. “I don’t see color,” sounds nice. I believe for most people that comes from a good place, but God did not create the multitude of shades of our skin for us to ignore them. They are beautiful!

Color matters…and right now love matters more than we can imagine.

 

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.