The search is over…

Would you be willing to save a life?

Have you ever lost something and had to search for it?  The older I get the more often this happens (smile).  How about losing something precious to you?  Ever have that happen?

When my dog Lucy was a puppy, we called her the Houdini dog.  She could escape through the smallest hole in the fence.  In fact, she could escape even when there wasn’t a hole in the fence…she would just dig her way under it!  There were times when I would let her out and moments later find her in my neighbor’s yard “asking” if her doggie friend could come out to play.  She loves their dog.  Sure enough I would see a fresh hole dug under the fence.  Then there was the time when I thought I lost her forever.  She wanted to go out and just as I let her out the phone rang.  I stepped back inside to grab the phone and when I went back out…she was gone.  And she wasn’t in the neighbor’s yard this time. My heart sunk.  I always hate seeing the “lost dog/cat” posters on the street light poles in the neighborhood.  Makes me so sad, and I didn’t want to see my Lucy girls face on one of those posters.  I immediately ran out to try to find her, but she was no where in sight.  I grabbed her leash and made my way around the neighborhood calling her name.  I walked the same streets looking for her as I did when we would go out on our nightly strolls together.

It was a very stressful time when we got her, but she was a good distraction.  Training classes and the homework we were given kept my mind off of things.   We got Lucy about a year after I found out my son was gay, and I didn’t know anyone else with a gay child…it was very isolating.  The people I once felt safe with I was no longer sure I could trust with this piece of news.  Walking Lucy each night, I would look at the houses and wonder if the people living there had a gay child.  I would walk her in the evening so no one would see my tears as I pleaded with God to change him.  It wasn’t just that I didn’t want him to be gay…I didn’t want him to suffer…and he was suffering badly.  As strange as it may seem to those who aren’t dog people, Lucy kept me sane back then. She could make me smile no matter what the circumstances were because she just simply loved me no matter what.  I could tell her my secret and she didn’t care.

Halfway through the neighborhood, my phone buzzed with a text message.  It was my daughter McKensie telling me that she found Lucy.  Relief!  I thanked God the whole way home.  I just couldn’t imagine losing what felt like part of my lifeline back then.

June is Pride month and this time of year seems to be a common time for kids to come out.  They are going to be searching for someone safe to share this truth about themselves.  If you are chosen, how you respond is important.  I invite you to read Brett Trapp’s words about what it’s like for them to tell you.  He wrote his coming out story in “Blue Babies Pinkand this is an excerpt from it about a child coming out to a parent…but kids (or adults for that matter) don’t always choose to come out to a parent so the person they choose may be you. Here are Brett’s words:

I think a lot of really good parents act really terribly towards their gay kids because they’re reacting out of their own pain.

The news has a victimizing effect on parents I think. And victims don’t empathize well with other victims. This is tragic because a child never feels more like a victim than they do in that very vulnerable moment. And victims need help. They need someone to listen and ask them what they need. They need long, enduring empathy and tears from someone who is trying—albeit imperfectly—to understand their pain.

I wish I could find every parent who will eventually have a child come out to them, look them in the eye, and tell them:

When you least expect it, a battered child who’s been lost at sea will show up on your doorstep. This is your child, but it’s a version of them you’ve never met.

They will be haggard—long tangled hair, skinny, ragged clothes, dirty feet. They look like this because they’re worn out—exhausted—from many years at sea, alone in a lifeboat with no water, no map, and no paddle. You had no idea, but that’s not your fault. 

Next, welcome them inside. Offer them a drink.

After a few moments, they’re going to swallow hard and tell you they’ve been on a journey. Know that by the time they get to your doorstep, they will have had to muster every last ounce of courage and energy. In fact, getting to your doorstep may have been the hardest part of their journey. 

Your next job is to listen. And believe what they tell you. 

When they tell you they were on this journey for all those years, alone and scared, believe them. 

When they tell you they never asked to be on that boat believe them. 

When they tell you they tried to get off that boat many times and swim to shore, for God’s sake, believe them. 

If they feel like talking, ask them what it was like out on those seas . . .

Ask them about the storms. Ask them about the wind and the rain and the swells. Ask them if they were scared. Ask them what they did to survive. (Remember, this child of yours is very strong, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived this journey.)

Ask them about sleeping in a raft alone under midnight skies.

Ask them if God was there—if they felt him, if they talked to them. (They might have, but you must remember that God feels very distant for people in lifeboats alone at sea. They might even be mad at God or think he doesn’t exist at all. That’s okay.

Remember that theology lessons aren’t helpful when their clothes are still wet with seawater.)

Regardless, remind them that God loves his little lost sailors very much, and that he never stopped loving them, even on those nights when it was just them and no moon and big shadows circling in black water. Remind them. 

And dear parent, whatever you do, don’t lecture them.

Don’t shame them for being in that boat. Don’t tell them that God hates people in lifeboats. Tell them that God loves those few souls in rafts just like he loves the rest on land. And remember, that you aren’t the survivor here. They—THEY—are the ones that have been on a long, lonely journey. Remember this.

Ask them if they ever saw land in the distance.

Ask them if they ever saw land-dwellers on the horizon and if they ever screamed for help. Apologize for those people that didn’t hear them or the ones who held up giant signs saying, “GOD HATES PEOPLE IN LIFEBOATS.” Tell them you’re sorry they had to see that and that you would have ripped up those signs if you could. 

Ask them if they ever put a message in a bottle and tossed it into the sea, hoping it might reach someone on land.

Tell them you wished you’d found that message. In fact, grab them by the shoulders, look them right in the eye, and tell them you would have done anything to find it if that meant getting to you sooner. Tell them you would have drowned yourself to get to them. Then tell them you wished we didn’t live in a world where scared kids had to put messages in bottles. Tell them that’s unjust. 

And finally, tell them they’re no longer alone, no longer out on those high seas.

Tell them they’re on land now and land has homes. And homes are filled with love, and love is the thing that makes the boat stop rocking. Love is the thing that calms those storms. Love is the thing that scares off black shadows in black waters. And that as long as they are breathing, they will have a home, and they will never ever be alone. 

I wish everyone would read Brett’s story.  I encourage you to do so…even if you don’t have a gay child.  It is a quick summer read (way shorter than a book)….just 44 of what he calls episodes.  You can also listen to it as a podcast.  Many people ask me for resources, or ask how they can get involved in helping the LGBTQ community.  I say start here.  Read his story.  And if you do…let me know what you think.  I would love to chat about it with you.

Losing my dog for that brief time was hard, but I can’t even begin to imagine losing the very people who are supposed to love me.  As you can see, this coming out process is a tough one.  And the people coming out are searching for a safety net or life-preserver to cling to.  Some will lose the very people they love and trust the most in this world.  They will search for a community that they feel comfortable in…somewhere they can be their true authentic selves.  Something precious to them.  Be that person.

How you respond can save their life.  Will you be their life-preserver?  Can they step out of the lifeboat into your loving, caring arms?  I hope so. They are searching to be understood…and most of all loved.

Because love matters.

*If you find yourself without a safe place to land, please know that you are not alone.  In this world of modern technology, there are ways to communicate that are more personal than a letter in the mail, or a text message on your phone.  Contact me via my contact page.  I would love to chat with you.

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.)

 

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….

Hold onto those rabbit ears…

3d1d2912d5f866f10ad8c197590f15d1So they say God works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes He works in really weird ways too.  I recently got back from a trip to Florida.  With potty stops and gas ups, it’s a 16 hour drive.  So as you can imagine I was pretty tired when I went to bed on the night I got home.  I woke up early the next day to go to church and the first image that popped into my mind when I woke up was an old television..and I was specifically focused on the antenna or as some people call them “rabbit ears”.  I wasn’t dreaming about televisions…it just was the first thing that came to me.  AND I got the impression from God that I needed to write about it.  What??

Maybe you are young enough that you don’t even  know what I’m talking about when I mention a TV antenna.  Showing my age (sigh).  Back in the day, when you wanted to change the channel on your television you had to actually get up and turn a dial on the TV.  There were only a few channels and you were lucky if they came in clearly.  This is where the “rabbit ears” or antenna came in handy.  You would have to position them in different ways until the picture came into focus.  Sometimes as soon as you let go and stepped away the static would return.  We would gently let go and creep away as if to sneak away from the television.  Hence the aluminum foil you see in the picture.  That was a trick we would do to mimic the pressure of our hands.  It was a delicate process and it was so frustrating!

In my last post, I talked a little bit about the election and why some people might be upset about the outcome.  Since then, I’ve seen a ton of back and forth between people on Facebook.  The one thing that really jumps out at me in these conversations is the need for some to be right.  They argue their point so much that they lose sight of what the other person is trying to say.  They dismiss the other person’s feelings.

When you look at someone’s situation, it may not be clear to you why they feel the way they do about what is happening.  You may only see “static”.  It doesn’t make sense to you.  But for them, it is very real.  Take the time to stop and listen.  Flex your compassion muscles, even if you don’t totally understand, and maybe the “picture” may become a little clearer.  It’s easy to dismiss someone’s feelings when we don’t understand.  Try stepping into their shoes.  Can we just agree that if you aren’t in a group of people who are marginalized, you might not get why they might be upset about something?  You have nothing to worry about…but maybe they do?

I’ve seen so many people reply to comments, “Get over it already!  There have been plenty of presidents that have won that I didn’t like.  I wasn’t a cry baby about it.” These people aren’t “hearing” why these people are upset.  Yes, maybe they voted for Hillary and she didn’t win.  They are more upset about who won because of what it might mean for them.  And again, if you aren’t in one of the marginalized groups, you may not get that, but for them it is a real concern.

I was hoping things would have calmed down by now.  And it’s on both sides.  We need to respect each other.  Maybe agree to disagree at times.  I can say that I see people with really strong opinions about things that they really don’t know anything about.  I’ll give an example of something that I run into a lot…

People have admitted to me that they are starting to be able to wrap their brains around someone being gay.  They don’t “get it” totally, but they understand it a little more.  And then they will say, “But I just can’t get behind the whole transgender thing.”  9 times out of 10 when I ask them what it means to be transgender they either don’t know, or they have it completely wrong.  How can you be so against something that you know nothing about?  And these are the types of things I see in the arguments on FB.  Again, it’s all about being right…not about understanding.

So, I guess the bottom line is this…

Let’s have some compassion for one another.  Let’s listen to one another.  Let’s realize that people are feeling a little raw right now.  They may need space, they may need some understanding, they may need to be heard, and maybe they just need someone to hold onto them until the picture of their life is clearer.  Let’s be gentle, let’s offer support, let’s not back away from things that make us uncomfortable (and are sometimes frustrating).

We used to put so much time and effort into getting clear pictures on our television screens.  Shouldn’t we at least give that same time and effort into seeing and understanding our fellow-man?

I never said love was easy.  But it matters…now more than ever.

…And here’s hoping I don’t wake up to any more random weird images (smile).