Messy faith…

One of my favorite shows when my kids were little was America’s Funniest Videos (AFV). I really shouldn’t find some of the videos as funny as I do.  When they do a montage of people falling down…I’m done.  My kids used to say, “Breathe mom, breathe!” I would be laughing so hard.

One video that really stuck with me was of a boy and his dad.  They placed an egg in their microwave.  They got close to the microwave window and you could see the egg in its’ shell rotating round and round.  The timer went off and the boy carefully took the egg out. It was in a little glass dish and the camera zoomed in to see that the egg was cracked a little and then…BOOM!  The egg literally exploded.  It was all over the boy’s face, on the ceiling, the walls…basically everywhere.  It was such a shock, and it was surprising how big of a mess one little egg made. Luckily the boy wasn’t hurt…he thought it was funny.

Life can be messy.  Let’s face it…it not only can be messy…it is messy.  But what happens when your faith gets messy?  We just finished a series at my church called “Messy Faith.” It was a great series that went through a lot of the things that can make our faith a little more complicated than we may have bargained for in the beginning of our faith journey.  I’ve mentioned before how my faith got turned upside down 9 years ago when I found out my son was gay. There are times when I long for those days when everything fit neatly into a box.  It was comfortable.  But that longing doesn’t last because my faith is so much deeper now. Back then I thought I had all of the answers…today I hardly have any answers.  Isn’t it crazy that I prefer to be here rather then where I was years ago?  As strange as it may sound it is very freeing.

I’ve deconstructed my faith…and it doesn’t all fit back together the way it did before.  I look at it like a puzzle.   You start out with the pieces scattered about and little by little you fit together the pieces to complete a picture.  Suppose the pieces don’t complete the picture?   Have you ever put together a puzzle only to get to the very end and realize you were missing a piece or heaven forbid more than one piece?!  That can be so frustrating! That’s how I see my faith and the missing piece or pieces are all of my questions.  Now some people would throw the puzzle away if it was missing pieces.  But I wouldn’t do that…something drew me to that puzzle.  There’s beauty in the puzzle and I can get satisfaction from it even if it isn’t complete.  Would it drive me crazy at times?  Yes!  But I would remind myself of what drew me to the puzzle in the first place and this is what’s gotten me through those messy faith times.  Something drew me to God. And through this messy faith journey I have discovered a deeper sense of love that really can only be explained as super natural.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  In my own way, I feel like I am part of the mystery of God.  I think we can all find ourselves there if we let go and let our faith get a little messy.

Now there is something that I have to remind myself of often.  When life gets messy and especially when faith gets messy, there are emotions that are involved.  Sometimes it’s frustration.  Sometimes anger, fear, anguish…a whole variety.  I need to be mindful of my actions and reactions during these times.  I need to try my best to not let those emotions explode onto others around me like the egg that was microwaved for too long.  To be an ally to the LGBTQ community, I need to interact with people who aren’t always going to believe what I believe, act the way I would act, respond the way I would respond.  Am I going to let that hinder my message of love?  I try really hard not to let that happen.  It gets messy, but that’s when that super natural love I talked about comes into play.  God is pretty darn amazing (smile).

How’s your messy life?  Better yet…how’s your messy faith?  Not messy yet?  Just wait…it will be at some point.  Remember what drew you to the One who can bring you through the mess.  His love will get you through, and then share that love…

Because love matters…

Sometimes a bark comes without a bite…

Lucy and I went for our walk this morning like we do every morning.  We had a little run in with another dog that left me sweating and my heart beating out of my chest.  I love dogs.  I really do.  If you saw me with my Lucy, you would understand how much I love dogs.  But…I’m also afraid of them…here’s why…

When I was 15 years old, I was hanging out with some of my friends.  We were outside of my friend’s house when her neighbor came pulling out of his driveway with his German Shepherd tied up in the back of his pickup truck. The guys we were with teased the dog.  Not physically…but they were barking at it and yelling at it…being obnoxious boys basically. You could tell it agitated the dog.  It was a short errand and we were still out front when he came back.  The boys again did their best to aggravate the dog.  We told them to stop, but they didn’t.  When the owner put the dog in the backyard, he didn’t realize that the gate wasn’t completely latched.  He went in the house, and the dog came tearing around to the front.  There was a block retaining wall that everyone jumped up on to get away from the dog…except for me. Being vertically challenged…I couldn’t physically get up there.  And although I wasn’t mean to the dog, he took his aggression out on me.  I didn’t run because I knew he would only chase me.  He jumped up on his hind legs and put his front paws on my shoulders.  Yes the dog was as tall as me.  I tried to push him off of me and that’s when he grabbed my right arm.  Have you ever seen one of those police videos where they show someone with protective gear getting attacked by the police dog?  Well that was me…except no protective gear.  My friends were yelling for the dog to get off of me, but he was shaking my arm like I was a rag doll.  The owner heard the commotion and came running out the front door calling for the dog.  It wasn’t listening.  As much as I hated to do it, because I would never intentionally hurt an animal, I punched the dog in the face.  That got him to stop long enough to hear his owner calling him and he went running to him. The owner came out to check on me.  I had a wind breaker on and it wasn’t ripped so he thought the dog must not have bitten me very badly.  The weird thing is that when I got home and took my jacket off, my shirt underneath was ripped.  You could see the imprint of the dogs teeth on my arm.  His whole mouth.  There was some blood and lots of bruising and the next day my arm was swollen as all get out.

So…this experience has made me very suspect of dogs.  Again, I love them, but I need to get to know them before I trust them.  Once they show me they aren’t going to try to rip my arm off, I’m usually good friends with them (smile).

There are times my Christian friends will ask me, “Why are gay people so angry all the time?  What do they have against Christians…they seem to hate us!”  Well that can be complicated, but the simple answer is…they’ve been “bitten.”  And what you see as anger or sometimes even hate comes from a place of self-preservation.  They may not understand that not all Christians “bite.”  I didn’t do anything to that dog, but he saw me as part of the group that did and he took it out on me.

Similar to a dog owner telling you, “Don’t worry.  My dog is friendly,” then uncharacteristic of the dog they try to bite you.  Christians should be people who others shouldn’t have to be afraid of, but sometimes they lash out in unfriendly and hurtful ways.  The good news is…they aren’t all like that.   I have some very supportive Christians in my life…even if we don’t see eye to eye on the LGBTQ community.  Now some have “barked” a few times…but it never resulted in a “bite.”  I have been hurt, but I knew it came from a place of ignorance.  Like I’ve said before…you don’t know what you don’t know.  Some of the people who have hurt me are now trying to be allies.  They want to learn.  If I had retreated and believed that all Christians would hurt me, maybe God would have never had the opportunity to grab hold of their hearts in this area.

I was attacked by that dog 34 years ago and I can still see it vividly in my mind as if I’m watching a movie. I know that not all dogs are mean, but it doesn’t change the fact that they scare me.  And as far as my fellow Christians go…I’m wary of them too sometimes.  I think it just comes with the territory.  When you’ve been hurt, it’s hard to let your guard down. I have shared some horrendous things that have happened to the LGBTQ community at the hands of people who call themselves Christians.  On the flip side, I want to tell you that I know many eager Christians that want to help, want to love, want to embrace the LGBTQ community and just don’t know how.  If we shut them down, they will never learn.

Once you learn what the LGBTQ community has gone through, you become really sensitive to the things that hurt them.  If I were in a Star Wars movie, Darth Vader would say, “The cringe factor is strong with this one,” about me.  If I’m that sensitive, how much more sensitive is that community?  I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to them…or allies…because you are afraid of saying something wrong.  I’m just asking that we be sensitive of each other.  We may “bark” at each other from time to time…but let’s not “bite.”  We will never get anywhere if that happens.  Let’s walk together and remember to have grace, mercy, and most of all love…

Because love matters…

(This post is meant to have us each think of what the “other side” might be going through as we navigate these waters.  I am in no way suggesting that if you are being abused you should remain in that situation, or allow it to continue.)

 

A picture is worth a thousand tears…

Well that isn’t exactly the saying is it?  It should be, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but this morning that wasn’t the case.

Pictures are amazing things.  They can transport us back in time in a blink of an eye. Sometimes they are memories that make us laugh.  Sometimes they are memories that make us swell with pride.  Sometimes they reduce us to a puddle of tears.  That’s what happened to me today when Facebook decided to remind me of a memory.

The picture that greeted me this morning was one that most people would think would be a happy memory.  After all…it’s a picture from a vacation 8 years ago.  But it was a reminder of one of the darkest times my family has experienced.  And in light of losing another young person to suicide this past week, it hit me hard.

Here’s the picture.  We are at the beach having our yearly end of vacation bonfire. img_1193Roasted hot dogs and of course smores were on the menu.  You can see how happy McKensie is with her marshmallows.  Now look at Kyle’s face.  Can you see it? When I look at this picture, the pain I see is palpable.  It crushes me.  And it brings me back to the fear and desperation I felt.  This was taken 3 months after we learned he was gay, and just four months before he landed in the hospital for suicidal thoughts.

I share this because of the suicide I mentioned that happened this week.  The young man who took his life was afraid to tell his parents that he was gay.  I don’t think people understand what a traumatic experience this is for the LGBTQ community.  I posted this on Facebook, but wanted to share it here as well in hopes that it might prevent another tragedy.

Why would a child be afraid of their parents?

  • They may hear them speak about the subject of being gay in an unfriendly, unloving manner.  Watch how you speak about it.  At least 50% of the parents I come in contact with had no idea their child was gay.  It totally threw them through a loop.  Why?  Because they have a stereotypical idea of what being gay is in their minds and their kid didn’t fit that mold.  Be careful what you are against because it could be the very thing you love most in the world.  Our.Kids.Are.Listening.
  • If they come from a Christian home, they may have heard that it’s a sin and that gay people are going to hell.   Let’s commit to love our kids towards God…not away from God.   Let your kids know you love them without putting the word “but” in the sentence.
  • They may know kids that have been kicked out of their homes for being gay, and they are afraid their parents will do the same thing.

There could be many more reasons.  Silence can be deadly as well. Talk to your kids. Having a difficult conversation with them is sure as heck better than burying them.

Of course parents can do all the right things and still may face the tragedy of their child taking their lives.  I’m not here to place blame or shame anyone.  I just ask us all to think about how we treat others.  This could have very easily happened to my family and I want to prevent it to happening to any others.

Fast forward almost 9 years and look at this picture.

15873064_10210942955391587_3781901443963125537_n

 

I hope you can see the difference that I see in Kyle. This is the face of love and acceptance.  Not just our love and acceptance, but the love and acceptance that he has for himself.  He couldn’t have gotten there without our love and support.  We went through such a dark time. This is what love, acceptance, and freedom look like. You can get there too.

 

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life and feel like you have no one to turn to, contact The Trevor Project.

trevor

 

 

 

Again, this post isn’t to place blame on anyone.  It’s just a reminder that words matter. Attitudes matter.

But most of all…love matters.

 

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.