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…

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.

Just one is too many…

Sometimes songs just hit you right in the heart…especially when sung on a Sunday morning during worship time at church.  For me, there is something special about being with a big group of people all singing along.  This past Sunday for Easter that song was Worth by Anthony Brown and Group.  We had the added bonus of members of our congregation forming a choir and joining our worship band to sing it.  They did an AMAZING job.  The song is powerful and they brought it!  There weren’t many dry eyes when they were finished.

This is how the song starts out…

You thought I was worth saving
So you came and changed my life

You thought I was worth keeping
So you cleaned me up inside

You thought I was to die for
So you sacrificed your life

So I could be free
So I could be whole
So I could tell everyone I know

Like I said…it’s a powerful song.  You could feel an appreciation in the room.  An appreciation for being loved by God…even in our messiness.  You could feel an appreciation for being loved even though at times we don’t feel worthy of that love.

I think a lot of Christians would say that they aren’t worthy of the grace they receive from God.  It’s given to us freely.  It’s one thing to examine ourselves and converse with God about what He might want to change in us.  It’s something totally different when we look around and start to judge what someone needs to change or who is or isn’t worthy of that same grace.

Unfortunately there are Christians out there that don’t feel that the same love that is extended to them should be extended to the LGBTQ community.  I see it every single day.  They think that the community needs to change, that they need to be cleaned up, and that Jesus didn’t die for them.  They will say that Jesus died for everyone, but their actions surely do not show it.

I have this box on the shelf in my office.  It’s full of cards.  Birthday cards.  Graduation cards.  Congratulation cards.  Welcome baby cards.  Wedding cards.  Sympathy cards.  These cards don’t go to people I know.  They go to people who reach out for help.  Sometimes it’s from total strangers and sometimes it’s from fellow mama bears.

There are people who reach out to our private FB mom group asking for support because their church and family have abandoned them.  They aren’t asking for money or anything physical.  They are asking for love so the moms in our group send cards to let them know they aren’t alone and they are loved. Then there are the cards that go out to fellow mama bear’s children.  You see…when their child comes out there are no longer cards from grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, etc.  Birthdays, graduations, weddings all come and go without any acknowledgement from the people who once professed to love them.

This week the Supreme Court agreed to hear a trio of cases about whether anti-discrimination workplace laws apply to LGBTQ employees.  Federal appeals courts are divided about whether anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ individuals.  As these things are posted on social media, the posts from professing Christians are quite honestly shocking.  They write about how they are praying that the courts rule in favor of discriminating against this community (although the language they use to describe the community is not something I feel comfortable repeating).  On top of workplace discrimination, my trans friends have to worry about regulations that could allow health care providers, hospitals, and insurers to discriminate against transgender patients.  Again, the “cheers” online in favor of this are appalling.

We literally wake up everyday and wonder what fresh new hell awaits our kids.  Will it be from our own family and friends, the government, the church, or strangers on the internet?  And yes I know that not ALL Christians ascribe to this kind of behavior and beliefs.  The fact that even one Christian thinks any of this is ok is one too many for me.  They don’t bother taking the time to educate themselves and they make too many assumptions.

These behaviors are horrifying coming from anyone, but you certainly don’t expect to see if from Christians.  At least you shouldn’t, but sadly it’s what I expect these days.  Children are taking their lives because their families are kicking them out, or just simply pretending like they no longer exist.  People are leaving the church in droves and sadly some are leaving their belief in God behind.  If you need to turn your back on family, deny services to your fellow humans, discriminate in the workplace and healthcare field to secure your spot in heaven, quite frankly that’s not a heaven I want any part of.  Everyone of course has their own beliefs.  When we profess to be followers of Jesus, I don’t think those beliefs should be used to harm others.

“You will know me by my discrimination,” is not something Jesus ever said.  I think instead he would say…

You are worth saving.
You are worth keeping.
You are to die for.
So you can be free, you can be whole, you can tell everyone you know.

And I think he would say, “You are worth loving.”

Because love matters….




God doesn’t make mistakes…

God doesn’t make mistakes.  Who knew that four little words could be so painful.  I have heard these words used for many different circumstances.  Maybe you yourself have used these words to console someone during a difficult time.  The words seem harmless enough right?  And I think most Christians would agree that God doesn’t make mistakes.

I have a few friends who have children with down syndrome.  They are some of the sweetest kids I have ever met.  Their innocence and joy for life is contagious.  And these parents love their kids fiercely.  But when they first got the diagnosis, their worlds were turned upside down.  They didn’t know what the future held for their children and it was scary.  Some even wondered…worried even…that maybe they had done something to cause it.  Time and again they would be reassured that it wasn’t anything they had done.  These things happen.  It’s out of our control.  And besides…God doesn’t make mistakes.  They are told that their child is special and unique and here for a reason.  They have a purpose in life that can only be fulfilled by them…and those people are right.

I had a friend in middle school that was born with a hole in her heart.  It was discovered when she was born.  Of course her mom didn’t do anything to cause it…it was just something that happened.  She had to wait until she was 13 years old before they could perform the surgery to fix it.  I remember being so worried about her when surgery time came around.  She came through it with flying colors and is living a happy, healthy life today.

There are so many parents who deal with unexpected news about their child when they are born.  Whether it be down syndrome, a heart defect, a cleft palate, a malformed limb, autism….the list goes on.  It’s a scary time.  Parents wonder what the future of their children will look like.  And when they wonder why it happened, and if they caused it, they are reassured that it wasn’t their fault.  They are told that God doesn’t make mistakes.  They are reminded that their child is special and has a specific purpose for their lives.

In these instances, the phrase “God doesn’t make mistakes” is used as a comfort.  They are words to let the person know that they have worth.  But too many times, these same words are used in a way that are hurtful.

I don’t believe that I know one transgender person, or parent of a transgender person, that wasn’t told “God doesn’t make mistakes.”  In these circumstances, however, it is used as a way to say that who they are is wrong.

“You can’t be transgender because God doesn’t make mistakes.”  This is what they are told.  In many cases, the person telling them this hasn’t done any research.   They haven’t truly listened to their story.  They make a quick judgement.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  They assume that the person is just choosing to be transgender and they see it as dishonoring to God.

This isn’t something that someone decides on a whim.  In fact, it isn’t something that they decide at all.  The only decision in this is what they choose to do about it.  Are they going to live a lie all of their lives, or are they going to take steps to become their authentic self?

I think it’s safe to say that we agree there are differences between men and women.  It’s discussed on relationship reality shows, written about in books, and talked about in marriage counseling.  When we discuss these differences, we don’t reference our genitals as being the reasons we are different.  We talk about our brains.  Men and women’s brains are different.  I don’t know about you, but no one had to tell me that I was a girl.  And I didn’t have to check what was between my legs to determine that I was a girl.  I just knew…I was a girl.  This is the same for transgender people.  The only difference is that their brain doesn’t match their birth assigned sex.

This is something that happens in the womb like all of the other things that are out of the mother’s control.  There is a lot of information on the internet that explains this if you are interested.  Or you can contact me and I’ll direct you where to look.  When you tell a transgender person that they are wrong to be themselves because “God doesn’t make mistakes,” you aren’t disagreeing with them.  You aren’t having a difference of opinion.  You are telling them that THEY are wrong…that their very being is wrong.  And it is harmful.

Yesterday was Transgender Day of Visibility, I want to let all of my transgender friends know that you are not a mistake.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  God has a purpose and plan for you.  I see the authentic you.  I’m here for you.  And I love you.

Because love matters…