I don’t know where I’m going…but I sure know where I’ve been…

These lyrics from Whitesnake’s song “Here I Go Again” have been stuck in my head for quite some time.  It’s true…I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.  The last several weeks have made me more aware of that fact.

Trauma is a sneaky thing.  We are very aware of it while it’s happening and for some time when it’s over, but I think it throws us through a loop when it resurfaces after being stored in our bodies and our subconscious minds after many years.  This was very evident to me over the summer and it’s taken me some time to process through it.

First my son experienced it.  One day at work he received a phone call from his friend letting him know that her mother suddenly passed away.  She wasn’t sick.  It was one of those instances of having something in your body that isn’t detected until it’s too late.  Even though my son had just turned 3 when my mom passed away, his body and subconscious mind remembered it and this event brought it all back to him in a big way.  There were similarities.  My mom wasn’t sick either.  She was sitting on the floor playing with my kids and had a brain aneurysm.  She was only 50.  He of course was really sad for his friend…but he also had to process through his feelings of loss all over again.  It also scared him because I had just turned 50 and he couldn’t help but wonder if it would happen to me too.

I also had an experience this summer.  It’s really strange what can trigger a memory of trauma.  When my son got out of the hospital after being suicidal, there were a couple of things I had to do.  The first was to change the ring tone on my phone.  Because we got a lot of phone calls regarding my son before we made the decision to hospitalize him, the calls after he got home were just about throwing me into a panic attack.  Changing my ring tone sort of retrained my brain that phone calls weren’t always going to be bad.  The other thing I had to do was stop listening to music that I listened to during the 5 years that he really struggled.  It wasn’t all music, but you know how you can find a song that really speaks to you or brings you comfort during a difficult time?  Those were the songs I couldn’t listen to anymore because they brought me right back to the stress and heartache that I experienced during that time.

So what does all of that have to do with the summer?  Well I told you trauma is sneaky.  You just never know what’s going to trigger it.  And for me it was a phone call this summer.  It was an innocent enough phone call.  It wasn’t even about my son.  But there was something about it that was familiar to me and it took me back to my son’s hospitalization…like right.back.there.  And my brain didn’t stop there.  It replayed every painful conversation, every tear, every sleepless night listening to make sure my son was safe in his room at night, every morning I waited for a text message reply from him while he was at college to make sure he hadn’t taken his life, my anger at God…it just went on and on.  It was pretty brutal and it took some time to get over it.

I know so many families that have similar stories.  This is why I am so passionate about helping other parents and those who don’t have parental support.  This stuff is really hard.  It’s also why I’m passionate about things like marching in the Baltimore Pride Parade and participating in National Coming Out Day.

Last week our community college had some events for the students in what ended up being  Coming Out Week not just day.  I’m really impressed with everything they do for the LGBTQ+ community there and I’ve been honored to be a part of many of them.  Tuesday they had two viewings of the National Geographic documentary Gender Revolution.  It was great to see the amount of people who came out for the documentary…both students and faculty.  It was really well received.  I was asked to come back the following day for the event “Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!”  It was on National Coming Out Day.  It was a fun day of crafts, documentary screenings, and resource information.

I saw some “talk” on the internet about not needing a National Coming Out Day.  The point being made was if gay people want to be treated like everyone else then why do they need a day like this.  The same kind of sentiment went around the internet during Pride month.  If the LGBTQ+ community had the same rights as everyone else and were treated like everyone else, then we wouldn’t need things like Pride month and National Coming Out Day.  When they can walk down the street hand in hand with the person they love, and not be harassed or even have cars accelerate towards them showing aggression…then we won’t need events like these.

What I wore to the college for National Coming Out Day.

National Coming Out Day shows solidarity in the community.  Coming out is stressful and knowing that you aren’t alone is empowering.  So I support this day and all the other days that show this community that they aren’t alone.  My Facebook will be filled with rainbows and memes showing that support.  And I will proudly wear my rainbow “gear” to show that I’m an ally and someone safe to come out to.  I dream of a day that these things won’t be necessary, but we have a long way to go.

 

I’ve mentioned before that I am no longer working for my church.  I left my position in June.  So…I really don’t know where I’m going…but I sure know where I’ve been.  One thing I  will continue to do is fight for this community with everything that I have until the day it is no longer needed.  No more sadness, no more fear, no more trauma.

I went to pick up some pumpkins today and the Doobie Brother’s song “Long Train Runnin'” came on the radio.  I couldn’t help but notice the line that goes like this:

Without love, where would you be right now
Without lo-o-o-ove

If you have been lucky enough to be loved for who you are, where would you be without that love.  I’m guessing your life might look a little different.

Get out there and love…because love matters…

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For tomorrow is not promised…

I learned this important lesson at a young age…

I first learned it when heart disease took my grandfather when I was 16 years old.

I was reminded of it again when cancer took my grandmother when I was 17 years old.

Again when my uncle died of a blood clot when I was 18 years old.  And yet again when my cousin’s baby died from a rare disorder when he was just a few months old that same year.

When I was 19 years old, I was once again reminded when my great-grandmother died.

It was called to my attention again when my mom died of a brain aneurysm as she was playing with my young children when I was 28 years old.

And again as I sat in a psychiatric hospital with my son when he was 16 years old because he wanted to die.

The list goes on…

Harsh reminders that tomorrow is not promised.  I know that we’ve all had these reminders…or most of us have had at least one.  And if not, you will.  It’s a hard part of life.  And although I carry these loses with me every day, I sometimes forget the bleak reality of it all.  I get busy and I forget.  Then a tragedy hits…whether personal or global and it hits me again.  Tomorrow is not promised…

So…

Greet each day with thankfulness…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Say hello and share a smile with your neighbor…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Call a friend, eat the cake, dance in the rain…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Marvel at God’s beautiful creation…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Stop and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Say “I’m sorry”…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Disagree, but do so with civility…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Fight for your rights without tearing down others…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Love your enemies…
for tomorrow is not promised.

A diagnosis, a natural disaster, an accident, a finger on the trigger of a gun…
for tomorrow is not promised.

We are all ONE in our humanity…don’t miss the beauty in that every day…
for tomorrow is not promised.

Love one another with fierce determination…
for tomorrow is not promised.

And love matters…

Fear not…

One night last week while cooking dinner, I realized I hadn’t thought things through. When it was time to cook the broccoli, I noticed that the pot I needed to steam it in had my pork in it.  Whoops!  I quickly switched gears and tossed it onto a baking sheet to roast it.  Now my family loves roasted broccoli.  It is tasty, but I HATE how it makes my house smell.  Yuck! I am ultra sensitive to the smell and the next day was still bothered by it.  I decided to light some candles to try to get rid of the smell.  I realized that my lighter was out of fluid so I grabbed an old box of matches that I had in the junk drawer and was transported back in time.

When I was a child, my parents taught me about the dangers of fire and matches.  In fact, they may have taught me a little too well.  When I was old enough to light a match, I was terrified by it.  I just knew I would catch myself on fire.  I was 13 years old and I was going to my aunt’s house to babysit my cousin.  My aunt had a very old gas oven that you had to light each time you wanted to cook and I had to cook my cousin dinner. Really I just had to heat up a simple can of soup and there wasn’t a handy microwave to use.  My dad patiently sat with me in our kitchen trying to show me how to light a match so that I could do it when I got to my aunt’s house.

Well when it came time to heat up the soup, I just couldn’t do it.  I was paralyzed with fear.  I would try to strike the match on the side of the box, but my stroke was not firm enough.  My fear kept me from being able to do it and I had to call my mom to come light the stove for me.  Epic fail!  Fear is a tricky thing.  It can stop us in our tracks or send us running in the other direction and a whole lot of things in-between.

Recently the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood drafted a statement of faith referred to as The Nashville Statement (NS) relating to human sexuality and gender roles. It was signed by many pastors and has created quite a stir.  Rather than me explaining it here, you can click on the link to see what it’s about.

The statement is filled with language that is familiar to many in the church so it was no surprise to me.  It did, however, draw a line in the sand (Article 10) that I think might cause an exodus in the church that they didn’t take into consideration.  In my frustration, I posted the following as a post on my Facebook account:

“So according to the Nashville Statement I am not a Christian. A group of people, who don’t know me, decided that I am not worthy of their club. That’s ok. Because I don’t want to be a part of their club. In fact, I’m not a Christian. I will no longer associate myself with that name. I am a follower of Jesus and I love God and people as He has instructed me to do.”

I got some push back for making this statement.  I received some private messages over it. Some people were afraid that I was leaving my faith.   Some feared, as they have mentioned before, that I am following a watered down gospel.  And some feared that I was letting the authors of the statement “win.”

So, I thought I would put my thoughts down here…

My faith is intact.  It has not changed.  My identity in Christ has not changed.  The language I use to describe myself is what has changed.  I run into a lot of Christians who quite frankly are damaging to the LGBTQ+ community.  The NS which was signed by many prominent pastors is damaging.  I’m an ally to a community that is bleeding.  I’m not going to identify as someone who is causing that wound.  I want to be a safe place for them.  Sadly identifying as a Christian in my opinion is not safe for them (not everyone shares this opinion – this is just my opinion). There aren’t any winners here.  We are talking about lives. And although I don’t care what this NS says about me…I do care what it says about LGBTQ+ community.  I also care about what that community sees in me. To me the word Christian is…well just a word.  We should look at the actions of others to determine if they are following Jesus.  And that’s what I am…a follower of Jesus.

The group of people who got together and wrote the NS were expressing their beliefs. They have the right to do that.  Just as I have the right to believe what I believe.  They read the Bible and interpret it one way, and I read the Bible and interpret it another way.  I took the Bible, historical context, and the studies of many people much smarter than me to get where I am with my beliefs.  But more importantly, I listened to the Holy Spirit.  I still have questions.  I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m ok with that.  It seems that it’s ok to look at other historical documents to prove that Jesus existed, but it’s not ok to look at cultural and historical information to formulate what a Bible verse might be saying.  I don’t get that.

These are just my thoughts.  Many people in my situation are still ok with identifying as Christians and of course that is perfectly fine.  I think each of  our personal experiences shape our journey and everyone’s journey is their own.

I spent too many years in fear of doing the right thing…believing the right thing.  Too many years concerned about what others thought of me.  My fear paralyzed me to the point where I didn’t know what to believe, and at times I isolated myself because I worried I would say or do the wrong thing.  Thankfully I have gotten over that.    Like I said in my FB post…God calls me to love…there’s no fear in that.

Fear not…and love…because love matters.

 

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.