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…

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The Voice of a Mom…Part I

I love nature.  There is such a peace I feel when I’m out in the woods, on the beach, or just sitting on my deck surrounded by the tall trees that are behind my house.  If there is water involved, like a babbling brook or ocean waves that is an extra bonus (smile).

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nThis tree is in my back yard.  I know it is hard to tell by the picture, but it is indeed one tree.  And yes that is both white and pink flowers that you see gracing it’s branches.  I LOVE this tree.  It is so unique. It was here when we moved into our house 18 years ago so I’m not sure how it came into existence, but I am so happy that it ended up in my backyard.  In many ways, this tree reminds me of the journey I’ve been on the past several years.

On the one hand, it reminds me of my faith.  The branches on the tree that have the white flowers grow up towards the sky.  The branches that have the pink flowers grow outward and spread out as if they are reaching for something.  The white version of the tree is my connection to God while the pink version is my desire to reach out to others to share His love.  To me it’s also a symbol of my once rigid belief system entangled with my quest to let God out of the box.

When I look at this tree, I also see the struggle of my son.  He tried to stay on a path that he thought was required of him. In doing so, he had to deny who he really was inside.  He tried desperately to stay on that path while on the inside he felt his true self reaching out trying to break off of the path that was never meant for him.  I see the part of the tree that grows upward and has the white flowers as the path, while the pink side is him reaching out to be himself.

I also can’t help but think of the transgender people I’ve met when I look at my tree.  Born as one gender while truly another. My tree is two trees intertwined into one.

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that things have gotten very heated towards transgender individuals.  The bill that was passed in NC and the whole Target bathroom announcement has caused some pretty ugly banter on social media.  What really surprises me is that some of these people who have the loudest voices don’t even know a transgender person.  Sadly this recent activity has caused suicide hotline calls to increase with the incidence of calls from transgender individuals doubling.

As I’ve shared my personal journey, I’ve tried to share the journey of others that I have met along the way.  I try to speak on their behalf and not speak for them, but that is really difficult.  As I’ve tried to relay what I’ve learned, it’s been in my voice.  It is so much better to hear it from the person who has experienced it themselves.  So I think this is the perfect time to hear from some other voices.  Voices that know first hand what it’s like to have a transgender child.  I have three amazing moms who have agreed to be a guest on my blog and share a part of their journey.  I know all of these moms personally.  I have witnessed some of their struggles first hand.  I’ve seen the pain of their children through their eyes.

I will be posting one story a week beginning next week and I will use the picture of my tree as the series picture since it is my symbol of this journey.  I’m excited for you to meet these moms through their written words.  It gives you a chance to step into their shoes.  To me, being willing to learn about another person’s story is an act of love.

And love matters…

 

No need to defend…

When you share from the depths of your heart, and put it out there for the whole world to hear, you are bound to get some feedback.  Between our church website, and the YouTube audio video that was created, the sharing of my story that I did at my church back on July 5th has been listened to 424 times.  Pretty surprising considering it’s about an hour and a half long (smile).

Some of the feedback that I’ve gotten has been really amazing.  It seems that listening to my story has helped some people in profound ways.  God uses our stories.  There are some, however, who have felt the need to tell me how wrong I am in my beliefs.  I find that surprising since none of these people have asked me why or how I’ve come to what I believe…or even what I actually believe.  They feel they are right and I am wrong.

I was having some trouble reconciling this in my spirit.  It’s like my brain knew all the right things to tell myself, but once my heart was bruised by people’s opinions of me, it was hard for my heart to get the message.  Through the amazing support of some moms in a private FB group, and a telephone conversation I had with John Pavlovitz last week, I’ve been able to pull myself out of the funk.  John referred me to a post he did on the topic of defending your faith and it was helpful to me so I thought I’d share it here because it’s something that a lot of us go through on this journey:

John Pavlovitz – Stuff That Needs to Be Said

Again…my head knows what I should do, but my broken heart isn’t always on the same page.  Part of this journey has been feeling the need to defend my beliefs.  Really there is just one authority that I need to be concerned with when it comes to my beliefs…and that is God.  He is the only one that has been intimately involved in this journey with me.  Not even my husband Mike knows the depths of prayer and searching I did with God as I do not know the depths of his journey with God.  When I share with people, I tell them I don’t expect them to believe the same way I do.  I get it.  They haven’t experienced it personally.  I just wish that some would extend me the same grace.

photo-2Love matters…but how we love matters even more.

Caution…deconstruction up ahead…

One of my favorite shows on television is Top Chef.  You would think I liked to cook with as much as I watch it, but in reality I really don’t.  Part of the reason I find it unpleasant is all of the dietary “restrictions” that are in my family.  For instance, my husband hates tomatoes, and any color pepper.  I guess it could be worse…when I met him all he ate was boxed macaroni and cheese, and stove top stuffing (smile).  My daughter hates anything Italian, and doesn’t care for garlic in her meals (there are many other dislikes, but the whole post would be about that).  My son is a vegetarian. He isn’t always home for dinner so that isn’t much of an issue, but when he is I am at a loss for what to feed him.  This also means no chicken or beef stock in recipes for him.  Then there is me.  I’m not supposed to have white potatoes, rice, pasta, or bread.  So, it’s a whole lot of no fun when trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  Sigh…

Despite all of that…I love the cooking shows…especially Top Chef.  They put those poor chefs through the most tc_episode_504_14difficult challenges.  I like to see how they come up with creations with all of the wrenches that they throw at them.  Not only do they deal with some strange food sometimes, but the kitchens that they give them to work in aren’t always the best…in fact…they aren’t always kitchens!  And the amount of time they give them to come up with elaborate dishes…forget about it!  They rush around the kitchen, cooking like crazy, waiting for the dreaded words, “Hands up – utensils down.”

One of the things I find fascinating is when they deconstruct a dish.  You will hear them say, “this is chicken pot pie deconstructed” and it looks nothing like what a chicken pot pie is supposed to look like.  The chefs break down the original recipe by looking at each ingredient individually.  Sometimes they elevate the ingredients by choosing a more healthy option, or a more gourmet replacement.  When they cook the dish, they make it their own and arrange it in a completely different way.  It’s the same, but it isn’t. (smile).

Well I can say that my faith has been deconstructed.  I’ve shared before that when I first learned that my son was gay, I was afraid to read my Bible.  I didn’t want to read that I would need to abandon my son.  I didn’t want to read that I shouldn’t love him anymore.  I know that sounds crazy, but there are churches that teach this doctrine.  I never heard this teaching at my church yet I was afraid.  This intrigued me.  Why did I feel this way if it was never taught from the pulpit?  As I’ve met more people, I’ve realized that this is really common…even in churches where it wasn’t talked about.  I think it stems from the overall message from the Christian community.  It’s an unspoken belief in many cases.  Since I believed something that was never taught directly to me, I wondered how much more of my faith was “tainted.”

I read the Bible and I’ve been in tons of Bible studies.  But even given that, my faith was flat.  The scary thing is that I didn’t realize it.  I took the different teachers at their word.  I didn’t really question what they were telling me.  I’m not saying that what they taught was false, but I decided that I should dig deeper.  So that’s what I did, and it’s been amazing!  I have learned so much.  When something hits you personally like this, it has the tendency to turn your faith upside down.  And that’s ok.  I would say that it’s actually a good thing.

I took the pieces of my faith that had shattered to the ground.  Questioned them. Examined them.  Then took the parts that made sense to me, elevated the ones that were weak, and turned them into a gourmet faith that has deeper roots and bears more fruit.  At least that’s my hope.

Strong-faithTab

I was so inspired by the faith of the people who attended The Reformation Project conference that I went to in November.  I sat in the back of the church the first night.  As worship began, you could feel God’s presence.  I had already met several people who stories with the church were not good stories.  As I watched faces turned upward, hands lifted, and voices raised tears flowed down my cheeks.  I couldn’t get over the expression of love that I was witnessing.  This coming from some who weren’t even allowed in churches in their home towns.  People who have been told that God hates them.  Told that they are an abomination.   They were finally free to worship God in a church with fellow believers.  Their faith was strong and it flowed out of them like a river of love for God.  It was beautiful and it has changed me forever.  Despite their trials, they had a deep faith and love for God and it was inspiring.  My prayer is that they will one day no longer feel rejection and be free to worship where they want to worship being loved for who God created them to be.

Love matters…now go show the world.

 

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Get out of here you monkeys!…

When I was a little girl, I watched the Wizard of Oz at my cousin’s house.  It practically scarred me for life!  It wasn’t the wicked witch that did it either.  It was those darn monkeys!  Oh my goodness they scared the bajeebies out of me.  Let’s face it, they were horrifying, and my poor parents paid the price.  I was terrified to go to bed.  I just knew those monkeys were going to come out at night and get me.  For whatever reason, I thought they lived in my closet.  So every night when it came to bedtime, I would cry and get hysterical about the monkeys in my closet.  My mommonkeys would open the closet and show me that there weren’t any monkeys in there, but it didn’t matter.  In my mind, they were going to magically appear just as I fell asleep.  What’s a parent to do?  You get “monkey spray”…of course. My mom got a can of Lysol and proclaimed that it was monkey spray.  All the monkeys hated this spray and it made them go away. And so it began, the nightly ritual of spraying away the monkeys.  My mom would open the closet and exclaim, “Get out of here you monkeys!” as she sprayed the can of Lysol.  And I bought it…hook, line, and sinker. Genius! And…I had the most germ free closet in America (smile).

Now why did the “monkey spray” work?  Maybe in my mind I really thought that it killed monkeys.  But I think it had more to do with the trust I had in my mom.  I knew that she loved me and would protect me no matter what…even if it meant fighting terrifying monkeys.  If she said that the spray made them go away, then of course I believed her.

We are in the middle of a series at church on faith.  In looking at the series, I noticed that one of the week’s topics was “What do you do when your faith is tested?”  I’ve been pondering that idea because I feel that my faith has been tested on different occasions.  I came to the conclusion that for me faith is really a matter of trust.  Do I trust that God is going to do the things that He says He is going to do?

I was given a gift by God when my mom died that helped to build this trust with Him.  At her funeral, when I felt like I was going to just lose it, I prayed and told God I couldn’t do it alone.  I needed Him to take over for me….and He did.  I felt such a sense of peace that it actually felt like the stress and anxiety were literally being sucked out of my chest.  It was in that moment that I knew for sure that God was real.  He wanted to take my burden, and He did so in a big way.  That gift has helped me through many difficult times in my life since then.  I trusted Him…until one fateful day.

I’ve shared before that when I learned my son was gay I heard God clearly say that it was going to be ok.  I took that to mean that we would discover why this had happened and we would “fix” it.  I was led to believe that it could happen.  I went to places on the internet like Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, and Exodus and read story after story about how people had changed their sexual orientation.  I prayed every day for God to help my son discover why this had happened to him so that he could also have that change.  It is what my son prayed for as well.  As the weeks, months, and eventual years passed, I started to lose my trust in God.  I put Him in a tiny little box and kept Him at arm’s length.  Was He the God that I had believed Him to be?  Why was this happening?  I got to the point that I was afraid to read my Bible because I was scared of what I was going to find, and when I did read it verses like this just led to more confusion:

Matthew 21:21-22
Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more.  You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.  You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”

140316133840-largeI did have faith.  I trusted that God would listen to and answer my prayers.  But my trust was fading.  I truly believed that God could do anything (I still do).  I still prayed, but the prayers felt forced.  The Bible tells us that when we don’t have the words to pray, the Holy Spirit will pray the words for us.  I had run out of words so I knew that the Holy Spirit had taken over.  Surely he would know what to pray to make God move in this area.  The change never came.  So, I had to take a look at that.  If this was something that God “hated” so much, why wasn’t He helping my son?  My son was willing, asking for help, but nothing changed.  Why?

Throughout this journey, God was speaking to me.  I just wasn’t listening. Instead, I was listening to people.  It took a lot of time…years even…for me to realize that it wasn’t God that I had lost faith in…I had lost faith in God’s people. Those stories I had read about change turned out to be untrue.  The change that people professed was false.  I can’t tell you how damaging that was to not only me, but to so many others.  I wasted so many years believing that lie and blaming myself for it not happening in my family.

I decided to let God out of the box I had put Him in.  I had to remember that His ways are not my ways.  I was hearing from Him all along.  He was telling me that it was ok to love my son.  He was telling me that He loved Him too. He told me to stop listening to people and focus on Him.  It was hard…it still is some days.  Through this journey I have met so many people who have had horrible experiences at the hands of God’s people.  I know a woman who was told that God gave her a very serious illness because she didn’t kick her gay child out of her home.  I know a family that was banned from their church because they support their gay daughter.  I know families that are torn in half because family members believe that by supporting their gay child they are leading them straight into hell.  And others feel the need to constantly quote Bible verses to us…a common one being this:

2 Timothy 4:3
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching.  They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.

I’m learning to silence the voices of people and listen for the voice of God. Getting rid of the monkeys (smile).  It is challenging at times.  But I want to fight the good fight, run a good race, and I want to keep the faith.

I love this quote:

A true faith in Jesus Christ will not suffer us to be idle.  No, it is an active, lively, restless principle; it fills the heart, so that it cannot be easy till it is doing something for Jesus Christ – George Whitefield

The heart cannot be easy till it is doing something for Christ.  God has given me a strong desire to help families who are on this same journey.  It is so isolating and painful.  He has also given me a passion for the children who are kicked out of their homes.  I don’t know where it’s going to take me, but I am open to His leading.

I found this quote from John Ortberg this week and I absolutely love it:

“In a contagious world, we learn to keep our distance. If we get too close to those who are suffering, we might get infected by their pain. It may not be convenient or comfortable. But only when you get close enough to catch their hurt will they be close enough to catch your love” ~ John Ortberg

Oh Lord…may I get close enough to another’s hurt so that they catch my love….because love matters.

Trust-building-blocks

 

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