The best parts…

“What was your favorite part about the conference?” It’s the question I’ve been asked the most by my friends who know how much I wanted to go.  If you read my last post, On Holy Ground, you know they are referring to the GCN Conference.  I’m on week two since being home and I’m still processing.

img_1121I would have to say I have a favorite parts.  The worship was powerful, the speakers were inspirational, the breakout sessions were informative, meeting some new moms and reconnecting with others was fun, the vigil was moving…it was all really good stuff.  A time that I will remember forever.  But what were my favorite parts?…the atmosphere and the people.

The atmosphere was relaxed, affirming, loving and well…fun.  So many smiles.  A place where you felt totally free.  You could be yourself.  It felt really good being there because I didn’t have to worry what anyone thought about my family, I didn’t have to worry about what anyone thought about my parenting, I didn’t have to hold anything back or feel censored in what I wanted to say…it was amazing.  I was so happy for the LGBTQ people who were there.  If I felt the way I did as an ally and parent there, I can’t even begin to imagine how they felt. Being your authentic self is healing.

My other favorite part…the people.  They were genuine.  There is something so intimate about being invited into someone’s story…someone’s pain.  I mean think about…we didn’t know each other, but in one of the breakout sessions we sat in a circle and they shared their deepest img_1120feelings and experiences.  I just wanted to scoop every one of them up and bring them home with me because in the midst of the smiles there was also pain.

And the hugs.  I want you to think about this for a moment. How many strangers would you go up to and hug?  It’s perfectly normal to hug our family members, and we tend to be ok with hugging our friends…but strangers?  That might seem a little strange.  But for some of the people at the conference, this is a healing thing for them.  Human contact that they are denied on a daily basis.  Several of the people who shared at the mic night on Saturday mentioned how much they liked the “mom hugs,” …one even saying that a hug from a mom is better than Prozac.

So…atmosphere and people.  Since I’ve been home these two short weeks, I’ve learned of a mom in Brazil who stabbed her 17 year old son to death because he was gay, a young man who was attacked outside a Target and hospitalized because he is gay, and a young transgender girl who took her life because of bullying.  Being in an atmosphere that is accepting and being with people who are affirming is not only life changing as many attested to…but I would venture to say…is life saving as well.

I leave you with this post from the lesbian daughter of one of my dear friends in reference to the inauguration.  Many are told to get over it, but this is what the LGBTQ community lives with on a daily basis and why this conference is so important:

“I love my job, I really do. I figure as long as my back allows me too I will keep my CNA license and use my gifts as a caregiver. Yet tonight as I made my way from room to room, every TV tuned to the event I did not want to see, I held my breath and thought this could be it. In a state with no statewide LGBTQ anti-discrimination law, at a Christian non-profit organization, working an already high-turnover position, serving a population with a drastically different worldview, though I love those I care for dearly and feel loved dearly, I worry. I worry I will slip up when I give my standard why I don’t have a boyfriend answer, or why I cut my hair like this. I worry a coworker will intentionally or unintentionally “out” me at work. I worry the lady ranting about how the “gays” are ruining America will see that twinge of pain in my eyes as I gently lay her down in bed. I worry someone will ask me about it and I will have to lie again, because it has happened and I’m worried about that day coming when I could be told you are not allowed to use your gifts.”

I love this girl…and I love her mama and the many, many more who I have crossed paths with and even those I haven’t.  I invite you to do the same.

Because love matters….

On holy ground…

Life changing…one by one people came up to the microphone and stated this as their img_1099experience over the weekend….but I am getting ahead of myself.

Trying to put into words what I experienced is proving to be extremely difficult.  There is so much that I am still processing.  As I mentioned in my New Year post, I attended the Gay Christian Network conference last weekend.  (You can actually watch the keynote speakers if you click on the link and I would highly recommend it.)

I almost didn’t make it.  I had been sick for almost a week and I was supposed to leave on Thursday.  I was feeling like I was getting better on Wednesday only to wake up at 2am on Thursday feeling awful.  We were supposed to leave at 11:30am and I just knew that was NOT going to happen.  I was really disappointed and went into a bit of a panic.  You see…I have wanted to go to this conference since I first learned about it back in 2013.  I had just one problem.  I don’t like to fly (or at least I wouldn’t fly back then) and the conferences were always too far away to drive to…except this year.  It was being held in Pittsburgh and that is only a 4 hour drive from my house.  So when I woke up sick on Thursday I was devastated.  Truly devastated.

I did every homeopathic remedy I knew and could find on the internet.  I was squirting saline solution up my nose, doing hot compresses on my face (my sinuses were locked up), took cold medicine to help break things up, took every vitamin known to man, tapped on my sinus pressure points (which was extremely painful) all day on Thursday. Low and behold I woke up feeling  much better on Friday.  It wasn’t gone, but with some cold medicine it was doable so we loaded up the car (Mike, Kyle/Kai and I) and headed out.

The weekend was everything I thought it would be and more.  We got there and had some lunch and then went to a breakout session.  There were lots to choose from with different topics and speakers.  Mike decided to go to one just for dads, and Kyle and I chose one called “Making Faith Transitions.”  It was really good and he and I got to meet some new people and hear their stories.  After a break, we all went to a session called “Being an LGBT Ambassador and Bridge Builder.”   Really good stuff.  The three of us went out to dinner after that and came back in time for a candlelight vigil.  We were asked to speak names of people that we knew that had been impacted by violence this past year.  Then there was time spent where every name from the Pulse massacre were read.  Hearing all of their names spoken out loud one by one was very powerful.

The next morning the conference started with about a half hour of worship.  To say you could feel the spirit of God there is an understatement.  If you’ve never worshiped with people who are unable to worship elsewhere, there is nothing like it on earth.  I have to believe that because it is so moving, so holy, and truly spirit led.  For some, this was the first time in a long time they were able to use their God given gifts to worship because at home that privilege has been stripped from them.  A lot of people in the room with me had been told they can’t be gay and Christian.  I’m here to tell you…yes…yes they can.

The wonderful Bishop Gene Robinson was the keynote speaker.  His story is amazing. You should listen to it when you get a chance.  We liked it so much we decided to go to his Q&A for our first breakout session.  We learned even more there.  Wow…what that man has been through.  Amazing strength and determination.  But first we went out to lunch with my lovely friend that I met at the Reformation Project back in 2014 who happened to be at the conference.  It was so nice to see her in person again and catch up on our lives.

The last breakout session that we attended was led by Kathy Baldock called “Untangling the Mess:  A Historical Look at LGBTQ Discrimination.”  Man…lots of information in there.  A lot of it (if not all of it) is in her book titled “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon” which I have listed in my resources.  Check it out!  You won’t be disappointed.

I got to meet some moms from the private FB group that I am part of that I’ve mentioned here before.  It was so nice to hug the necks of so many women that I’ve chatted with in cyberspace.  It was so funny because more than once I heard, “I thought you would be taller.”  (smile)

There was a big white board out in the lobby area of the convention center meeting space that people could write prayer requests on sticky notes.  The other side was for sticky notes of encouragement for people that needed to hear positive affirmations.   I left that board in tears for many reasons.  And of course there were the mom hugs.  I wore my “Free Mom Hugs” button and they gave us moms, and dads if they wanted, time to stand in the hall to be there for anyone who needed a supportive hug.  Now some people were really social and came down the line collecting hugs and that was really fun.  But when someone hugged you, you could tell the ones that really needed it. Their hug felt different.  We had one middle aged gentlemen tell us he hadn’t had a hug from his mom since he was sixteen.  Tears…

All of this had a true impact on me, but nothing could prepare me for the open mic portion of Saturday night.  It lasted for 3 hours.  It didn’t feel that long to me.  Person after person got up there and talked about abuse…some physical, some emotional, some spiritual…some all of the above.  Kids kicked out of their homes.  Buying one way tickets to far away places.  Many receiving letters from their churches telling them they are no longer welcome because they are dangerous.  Letters.  Not a face to face conversation. Some had been attending their church for over 20 years.  It was hard to sit there.  Some of their stories were brutal to hear.  I felt heartbreak, sadness, lots of anger…well outrage really.  So many stories of attempted or thought about suicides. Too many.  But then came the joy.  What this weekend meant for them.  For some they had only recently learned about GCN.  This was the first time in years for some that they could truly be themselves. A place where they felt truly accepted, affirmed, and most of all loved.  Many described the conference as life changing.  It uplifted them to help them face what they had to go back to at home.

I have to admit it’s a bit depressing being home.  I wish I could live at that conference forever.  I wish I attended a completely affirming church at home.  But if I feel this way, I can’t even IMAGINE what the LGBTQ individuals who attended the conference feel like being home.  It breaks my heart to even think about it.  I’ve been praying for them all week.  It has to be so incredibly hard for some of them.

I hope I’ve been able to give you a small glimpse into what this conference was like.   It really is hard to explain and maybe I will go into greater detail at some point.  Like I said…I am still processing.  Next year it will be in Denver…and although I’m still not a fan of flying…I’m going.  I can’t imagine ever missing one.

So I leave you with this…love one another because love matters more than you can know or even imagine…

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy new year everyone!  I hope that you are well and looking forward to a new year.  I know a lot of us are happy to be putting 2016 behind us.  We have a clean slate…new determination…new beginnings.  There are some aspects that may seem dim when looking forward to this new year, but together we can make a difference…so don’t give up!

In addition to wishing you a happy new year, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my readers for taking the time to stop by in 2016.  I appreciate your shares and your comments when you feel inclined to do so.  It helps to spread the word that love matters (smile).

I like to take a look back at how the year went to see if this is something I should continue to work on.  It’s always amazing to me how far-reaching something so simple like a blog can become.  In 2016, this blog was viewed in 68 countries. Pretty amazing!

Below are my most viewed posts for the year.  If you missed one, I invite you to check it out.

You don’t know what you don’t know…
Send your light out into the world…
Love matters now more than ever…
Champagne wishes and caviar dreams…

One of my popular posts was a series that I did which was something new for me this year.  I invited moms of transgender children to be guests and share their stories.  The posts were very informative and I received a lot of positive feedback.  If you have questions about what it means to be transgender, these posts are really helpful.

The voice of a mom series… (parts I, II, III and IV)

I’m starting off the new year doing something that I’ve wanted to do for years now and that is to attend the Gay Christian Network conference.  I’m sick right now so I am hoping I am well by Thursday so I can still go.  I’m sure I will write a post about my experience when I get back.  As we look forward to a new year, I wish you all the very best. I hope your year is filled with good health, laughter, light and love…

light-love

Because love matters…

Do you have joy this Christmas season?

b0a72c0de8112cec62b8a7de13c7eedaIsaiah 55:12 (ESV)

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Joy.  The last word in my series, and an important one…especially as 2016 comes to an end.  It’s been a tough year for a lot of people.  Six of my friends have lost a parent this year, my dad lost his third wife, there have been cancer diagnoses, other illnesses, suicides…the list goes on.  How do you find joy in the midst of all of this?  I think you have to choose it.

When I feel overwhelmed, I look for joy in the simple things.  It may seem trivial…and of course it does not take away the pain of what is going on, but it does help me to take the focus off of the bad.  Some of the things that give me joy:

Spending time with my hubby.
Having family time with my kiddos…which is hard because their schedules are so crazy.
A cafe mocha from Starbucks (hey don’t underestimate a good cup of coffee).
Walking in the rain with Lucy…I can talk to myself and no one can see me doing it because of the umbrella (smile).
Hearing a baby laugh.
Being in nature…if it’s the ocean that is a bonus.
Coming home to my dog Lucy…she always makes me feel like I’m the most important person in the world…and I guess I am since I’m her person (smile).
Puppies and kittens…luckily the internet is full of these so I don’t have to adopt any more furry babies…four is enough for me!
Laughing with a friend.

These are just some of the things that bring me joy.  They are simple, but things don’t have to be grand to bring us joy.  My friend Tara has a great perspective on joy that she shares in her blog Songs of Joy“.   You should check it out!

I encourage you to find joy in the simple things.  Life is too short and finding joy can help bring us peace, hope, and love.

Peace, Hope, Love, Joy…the words of this holiday season.  I hope you have them all, but especially love…because love matters.

Do you have love this Christmas season?

John 3:16 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This Christmas season I’ve been reflecting on the words that we often see on Christmas cards…peace, hope, love and joy.  This week my word has been love and I’m sure you know that this one is my favorite (smile).

When I became a mother for the first time, I could not believe the immediate, overwhelming feeling of love I had for my son.  I knew I would love my child, but I really had no comprehension for the intensity of that love.  I couldn’t imagine loving anything or anyone more than I loved him.  Of course I loved my husband and my family, but this was a love I had not experienced before and it was very powerful. So much so, that I couldn’t imagine being able to love another child as much as I loved him.  It just didn’t seem physically possible to me.  I was actually really concerned about it when I learned I was pregnant with my daughter.  Could I possibly love her as much as I loved him?  The answer is yes.  I don’t know how it is possible, but my heart just expanded to depths I didn’t know were possible.  I did indeed love her every bit as much as I loved him.  To me, it really is quite the miracle that we have the capacity for this much love.  And it’s beautiful because to me it is a picture of how God must love all of us.  We are all His children so just imagine how big His heart is for us.  My mind just can’t comprehend it!

As I prepare for all the festivities of Christmas, I try to remember why Jesus came to earth…because God so loved the world.  Love.  God is love and to me Jesus is the greatest example for us of that love.  Jesus showed us what love looks like.  He didn’t let anything stop him from loving others, and he commanded us to do the same.  It’s not easy.  Love is easy, hard, and messy all at the same time, but it is so important. This article posted on Un*Lost shows us how important it really is to human beings. Science has shown that the need to be loved could be considered one of our most basic and fundamental needs.  Science also shows that we have a parallel need to love and care for others.

12391764_767543386681173_2827549231088575546_nI really like this quote by Liam Neeson.  As we celebrate Christmas with friends and family, let’s remember that there are some who have been abandoned by their loved ones.  There are some that have been told they can’t love or be loved.  Lets change that. Lets be Jesus to others.  Lets love beyond our capacity because that is when God shows up. Lets love one another as He has loved us.

Because love matters…

 

 

Do you have hope this Christmas season?

Well another week down and another week closer to Christmas.  McKensie was remarking to me yesterday that she can’t believe it’s December already.  Even at 22 years old, time is starting to go faster for her.  She said that it seemed like November didn’t even exist.  Well dear… the older you get the faster it goes….doesn’t seem possible, but it does.

Last week I reflected on peace.  This week I’m reflecting on hope.  I like Romans 15:13 because it reminds me that God is the God of hope:download-1

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That in itself gives me peace (smile), but I’m focusing on the hope.  Of course I find hope in God.  It’s where I get my strength because I know He is always by my side. And who doesn’t want to overflow in hope??  But I’ve been thinking about hope that I can see on a daily basis.  And again, you can see God in lots of things everyday, but I’m thinking of people kind of hope.

When I look at our world, my hope lies in the younger generation.  To be specific the millennials.  I’m not making a blanket statement here.  I know that there is good and bad in any group, but honestly I think they get a bad rap.  There are many things I like about this group, but this is what I see in the millennials I know and why they give me hope:

They are socially and environmentally conscious.  They “see” people…like really see them.  They are less judgmental.  They are accepting.  You don’t have to be just like them to be in their world.  They are diverse.  They take social justice seriously.  Like really seriously. They aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.  They voice their opinions. They do not remain silent when they see injustice.  Instead of relying on an election to change their world, they go out and be the change.  They look out for those who need looking after.

Now I know some people who would like to give me a list of the opposite of what I mention here.  Does it exist?  Of course it does…no one group is exactly the same. Like I mentioned there is good and bad in any group.  I’m speaking about the people I know.  I really admire them.  They inspire me.  They are far more like the Jesus I know.  I want to be like them when I grow up (smile).

motivation-picture-quote-hopeThe world sure can be a discouraging place sometimes.  How are you doing in the hope department?  My wish for you is that you also have something you can see that gives you hope.

Let’s be the kind of people that restores hope in others.  And while you’re at it…be the love that restores people…because love matters.

Do you have peace this Christmas season?

I can hardly believe that it is December 6th already.  The older I get the faster time goes…which is really scary because I can’t imagine it going any faster.  Before you know it, Christmas will be here and then we will be counting down the new year. 2017…I remember when the year 2000 was a big deal and we are almost 17 years in already.  Crazy!

During this time of year, there are four words that we hear a lot about…

Peace
Hope
Love
Joy

And the reason for these words this time of year is this:

Luke 2:10-11
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

christmas-peace-on-earth-christmas-peace-on-earth-peace-on-earth-6kfnr3-clipartBecause I need to remember these four words this holiday season, I’ve been reflecting on them a lot lately.  Today I’m going to start with Peace. How are you doing in the peace department?  I have to be honest, it’s been tough for me.

So much has happened lately.  In recent months, several of my friends have lost a parent.  The election…need I say more?  I’ve seen way too many suicides, physical assaults, property damage, etc.  The KKK paraded in North Carolina this weekend for goodness sake! I feel like I’m in the twilight zone.  The list goes on and on.  How can I expect to have peace in the midst of all of this?

I’ve had experiences where peace will just come over me.  It’s like a magical experience where all the stress and worries are just lifted away.  Have you ever experienced that?  It’s amazing when it happens.  But what if it doesn’t happen?

Sometimes I think we need to create peace for ourselves.  It might mean unplugging from social media for a bit, practicing a discipline that centers us, making time to do something that we enjoy, etc.  When things are stressful, we tend to fill up our days with busy work to distract us.  To gain peace, sometimes we just need to be still.

One thing that helps me is to be in almost constant communication with God. There is so much happening in this world that I just don’t get.  And it can be really frustrating and feel hopeless at times.  Seeing the hurt in others that I see on a daily basis can be really overwhelming.  So I talk to God a lot.  I ask Him a lot of questions.  And I’m still and listen for His voice.  And of course especially at this time of year, I reflect on the gift of Jesus.

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I think the most important thing I can do to bring peace to my life is to try to be a peace maker.  It is not always easy.  Sometimes I hear people say things and my gut reaction is to just want to cut them out of my life.  I always try to take a step back and look at things from their perspective.  I remind myself that we aren’t always going to agree with each other.  And, after all, I am called to love even those who I strongly disagree with.

So let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with me.

And I think a little peace could bring some love into the world…and love matters.