Life from the unexpected…

I was looking through my vacation pictures the other day.  The most recent being of New England…specifically Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  I love that part of the country.  Everywhere you look you can see mountains. There was something really peculiar though…I was amazed at the trees that grew right out of the side of the mountains. I’m not talking about tree covered mountain sides…but trees literally growing out of rocks. I wish I could have gotten better pictures, but most of the time we were driving when we would see them.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150How does that happen??  I’m joining my fellow blogger Holley Gerth and her “Coffee for Your Heart” challenge to encourage others.  This week’s topic is “What are the encouraging words you want to hear when you’re having a hard day?”  To be honest, I’m not sure that there are words that I want to hear when I’m having a bad day.  Sometimes it helps me more to just have someone listen. So, when someone is having a bad day the first thing I do is listen to them.  Let them vent because it helps to get it all out.  I find that sometimes an answer to a problem comes just from talking about it out loud to a friend.  If the circumstances are right, I also use humor.  I’ll be the first to admit that I am just a big goof ball at heart (and my friends have plenty of pictures to prove it unfortunately [smile]).    Now I would never say this to someone in the midst of a hard day (I would probably get smacked upside the head), but the truth is…those hard days can turn into something that is good for us.

quarrySo how is it possible for trees to grow right out of rock?  How can something beautiful grow from something so hard and lifeless?  One of the places that we visited our first time in Vermont was the Rock of Ages Quarry.  They have amazing granite there, and as you can see, there are trees growing right out of that granite.  The tour guide explained that all it takes is a small crack to develop in the rock.  This allows the rain to get down in there and it slowly breaks the rock down into sand and dirt.  Add a little sunshine to the mix and some wind to blow some seed and low and behold…you get a tree!  So what can seem like a flaw in the rock, actually is something that brings forth life.

What does that have to do with a bad day, or month, or year?  Well there are times when life is just plain hard.  Things happen that we just can’t explain or understand (why would God allow this to happen?, etc).  We have a choice when this happens. We can close off our heart to God, our family and friends, and even to ourselves.  Or, we can choose to open up about our struggles.  Share them with someone…with God.  Open our hearts so God can rain down His healing power.  He can take a difficult situation, something that seems so impossible, and allow it to break us down, and grow us into something we never expected possible.  I don’t dare pretend that this process is easy.  But I can tell you that if you allow God to work through your bad days, amazing things can take place.  I never dreamed that having a gay child would strengthen my relationship with God, but it has done just that.  It was hard, it was confusing at times, and it has made me love Him even more.

So, if you’re having a bad day…know that God is with you.  He loves you more than you can imagine.  He cares about what you are going through. And someday, you will see how you’ve grown through the experience.

When it feels like everything is falling apart…remember this:

Love each other…because love matters…

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The land of what if’s…

FROSTY THE SNOWMANSeeing the commercials for the upcoming Christmas shows for kids always bring back fond memories.  I can remember the excitement of this time of year as a kid.  I loved watching those shows because it meant Christmas was getting close.  Some of my favorite characters were the Heat Miser, Rudolph, the Misfit Toys, and of course Santa.  But there was one show that made me cry EVERY year.  Frosty the Snowman.  It didn’t matter that I knew what was coming…seeing Frosty melt was just too much for me.  I remember trying to come up with a plan to keep Frosty “alive”.  As a child, I wanted to make a house out of ice that Frosty could live in year round.  What if that could really happen?  Then he wouldn’t have to melt…right?

As I’ve mentioned, when I first learned that my son was gay I went to Christian resources to find out what to do.  I read articles, listened to CD’s, researched, and prayed.  I found a lot of resources that promised change. However, the things that were referenced in the materials didn’t make sense for my family.  The things they “blamed” being gay on weren’t in our family dynamics.  I was always left feeling like my husband and I were responsible in some way.  What if…in the beginning of my journey was a phrase I used a lot.

  • What if my husband didn’t have to travel so much when the kids were younger…
  • What if I didn’t have an auto immune disease that left me tired with fevers, headaches, and joint pain…
  • What if we had lived in a different neighborhood with more boys for my son to play with…
  • What if he went to public school where he would have had more boys to choose to hang out with instead of being with the same kids for all 8 years in the private school he went to…
  • What if we lived closer to family so he would have more male influences…

I “what if’d” myself TO DEATH!  I needed to change my way of thinking so of course I went to God for help.  I can’t tell you how many conversations I had with Him…and still have today.  I just wanted to do His will in this situation.  I got a little spiral notebook and started writing verses in it to help me focus on Him.  I filled that one and got another one…and then another one.  I carried these notebooks with me all the time…and still do to this day.  I have the Bible verses divided into sections with titles like these:photo (6)

Hope – Isaiah 40:31
Protection – Ephesians 6:12-13
Thanksgiving – Philippians 4:6
Praise – Psalm 95:1-2
Rest – Proverbs 3:5-6
Help – Psalm 147:3
Cares – Nahum 1:7
Faith – 1 Corinthians 16:13
Peace – Romans 5:1

This helped me so much.  It kept me connected to God during a time when I could have very easily stepped away.  I am so very grateful for His strength, love, hope, and confirmation that He loves my son no matter what. Confirmation that my husband and I did not cause this to happen.  So…

  • What if my son was given to my husband and I because God trusted us to handle it in a way that was honoring to Him…
  • What if God has given me a voice through this journey that He wants me to share with other gay people and their families that are ignored by the church…or worse…condemned by it…
  • What if the reason He didn’t “change” my son is because he is fearfully and wonderfully made exactly as God planned for him to be…

What if we are called to love because He first loved us…

Because love matters…

Garments of praise…

girl on swingI absolutely love music.  It feeds my soul.  Even as a small child, music was a part of my life.  I remember singing my little heart out on my swing in my backyard.  I’m sure it drove the neighbors nuts because I really belted out the lyrics.  Songs like “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, “American Pie” by Don McLean, “Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker, and on and on.  I recently looked up the lyrics to the Three Dog Night song and was glad I didn’t understand them back then (smile). Luckily my favorite part was the refrain:

Singin’
Joy to the world
All the boys and girls, now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

My love of music never left me and when I was in middle school I would camp out by my tape recorder every New Year’s Eve.  Casey Kasem from America’s Top 40 countdown on the radio would play the top 100 songs from the year that night.  I would record the whole thing…minus the commercials…just to be sure I captured all of my favorite songs from the year.  It amazes me how much I still remember lyrics to songs from way back then.  I’ve always said that if my studies were put to music in school I’d be a genius today.  It also surprises me how much the emotions that I was feeling when a song was popular come back to me when I hear it today.  Like I said…it’s a part of my soul.

I am thankful for music because it got me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  If you read my post Buttons and Shoestrings, you know that six years ago my son came out to my husband and I.  He was so distraught by his feelings that four months after he came out to us he was hospitalized because he was suicidal.

How did this happen?  We did all the things we thought we were supposed to do as “good” Christian parents. Our kids were introduced to church as babies and went to Sunday school when they were old enough.  They were taught to serve others starting at the ages of 4 and 3 by serving along side of us.  They both went to a private Christian school – nursery through 8th grade.  They went on mission trips and 6 youth retreats.  We had nightly prayers and devotionals on a regular basis.  Video games, music, and movies were monitored for content and the comment “that’s not appropriate” was met many times with groans.  I felt like we did everything possible to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it – Proverbs 22:6”.  We weren’t perfect…but surely we did something right.

When I try to find a word to express the emotions of the beginning of this journey, the first one that comes to mind is torture.  I was dealing with three issues simultaneously…my son was gay, he was so distraught about it he was slowly going into a pit of despair, and I was a Christian and knew what the Bible had to say about this issue.  I watched my silly, upbeat little boy change into an anxious, unhappy young man.  It was heart breaking.  His demeanor changed. His clothing changed (to dark and depressing choices).  His taste in music changed.  Everything about him was different.  I felt like I lost my little boy and it was scary.  I prayed everyday that things would change.  They didn’t.  By the time we got to the hospital stay four months later, I can say that this was the first time in my life that I was faced with a crisis of faith.  Where was God in all of this?  Why wasn’t He answering our prayers?

During this time, I was often at a loss of words for prayer.  I knew that the Holy Spirit had the words that I didn’t, but I needed something to feel connected to God.  I needed to feel Him.  I found that in music.  One song in particular at that time was a life-saver for me.  It’s by Robin Mark, a Northern Irish Christian singer/song writer, and the song is “Garments of Praise”.

You can take a listen to it here:

Isaiah 61:3 – (NIV)

    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

I have to tell you…I would sing this at the top of my lungs in my family room, tears streaming down my face…and yes, at the part when the songs lyrics are:

Hallelujah, sing hallelujah
We give all honor and praise to your name
Hallelujah, sing hallelujah
We trade our sorrows for garments of praise

I did my own little version of Riverdance.

Psalm 9:2 – (NIV)
I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High

To be continued….love each other….because love matters.

Buttons and shoestrings…

dress upWhen I was a little girl, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say I wanted to be a mom.  I couldn’t really think of anything else that I wanted to be…it just seemed like that is what I was meant to do. My friend and I would play for hours pretending to be mommies.  Her aunt had the most amazing collection of clothing, hats, and accessories.  I think she liked to go to yard sales and flea markets and we were allowed to play with the items before they were put up for sale.  This isn’t us, but it’s a pretty good depiction of what we looked like.  So you can imagine how happy I was when these two came along (smile).

K&M Christmas

I have to tell you…being a mom has been the most rewarding job by far. It has also been the most difficult. Being responsible for little beings is a big responsibility, and most of the time you just hope you are doing a good enough job.  As my kids grew, it was so rewarding to watch their little personalities take shape.  My son was very strong willed…oh was he challenging at times.  And my daughter was always willing to express her little temper.  Her nickname was “little miss attitude”, but overall they were really good kids.

There are times in your child’s life when you get to experience overwhelming joys with them, and at times immense pain.  When your child hurts, there aren’t words to express the hurt that you feel with them.  This became real to me on April 20, 2008.  My husband and kids had just gotten home from an Acquire the Fire event.  God had been whispering to me that something was wrong for some time, and I asked my husband to check our son’s computer.  We found that he had been to a website on homosexuality. We called him into the family room to ask him about it.  He told us that he was working on a paper for school that needed to be about a controversial topic.  He chose the topic of homosexuals and the military.  I then asked the question that changed our lives forever.  “Do you have any questions about homosexuality?”  That is when the tears came flowing down his cheeks.  He told us that he was confused about feelings that he had for his friend…a friend who was also a boy.  It’s hard to describe all the emotions that I was feeling when I heard those words.  It was like getting the wind knocked out of me…a jumble of emotions and if you could see inside my brain it would look something like this:

wordle

We immediately told him that we loved him no matter what.  His response was that we had to…we were his parents (he later learned from other gay teens that isn’t always the case).  Through uncontrollable tears, he told us that he was a terrible person…and that he had been praying for a while for God to take away these feelings.  He told us if God was real He didn’t love him because He never answered those prayers.  It was a long night and I have to tell you that I really had no idea what to say to him.  I was completely taken off guard…and I had so many questions myself.

It was clear that he felt really badly about himself so he started counseling.  There were times when he wanted to hurt himself so there were many sleepless nights sitting up with him to make sure he didn’t. And when we were not sitting up talking with him, we certainly weren’t sleeping soundly.  We were on constant pins and needles; terrified that if we let our guard down something awful would happen. Every little sound was amplified to deafening decibels. This went on for four months.  In August, we found a note that he had written.  Let me just say that it was a note that no parent would want to read.  We called his counselor and we were able to meet that same day.  We concluded at the end of that meeting that we needed to take him to the emergency room.

The hospital psychiatrist met with him and then told us that he would need to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The doctor was so concerned for his safety that we were told if we didn’t agree to hospitalize him, our parental rights would be taken away.  There weren’t any beds available at the time so he had to spend the night in the ER.  You have no idea what it is like being told that your child’s care is basically out of your hands.  There is no researching doctors…finding the best care.  Your child will go wherever a bed becomes available.  My husband stayed with him overnight and I went home to get his things.  I was given a list of acceptable things to bring.  For clothing they had listed shirts without buttons, shoes without shoe strings…the last time I packed my son’s bag for an overnight stay there were legos and stuffed animals in it.  Now I was worried about buttons and shoe strings being used to hurt himself.  I had to cut the drawstring out of his pajama pants. No one ever should have to cut the drawstring out of their child’s pajama pants so they can’t strangle themselves with it.  No one.  After I packed his bag, I laid on his bed and cried…and prayed.

The next morning a bed became available.  He was taken by ambulance to the next hospital, and we followed in our car.  We got him checked in and they put us in a room to wait for a doctor.  First they took him and did a strip search to make sure he wasn’t hiding anything on his person that he could use to hurt himself.  How humiliating for him. The doctor came in and chatted with him briefly and then we were told we would need to leave.  When the doctor left the room…he freaked out.  He started screaming that he couldn’t believe we were doing this to him.  He said it was going to make him worse.  He said he would run away.  And when he had nothing left to hurt himself with…he used his own body.  He took both of his fists and started punching himself in the stomach….like a samurai warrior would do with a knife…dying the “honorable” way.  I’ve been thinking about how to put this into words for days.  There are no words.  There is nothing in me that can describe what this was like for us.  There are still nights when I close my eyes and I see my baby hurting himself.

It was time for us to leave.  We were given the times for visiting hours, and we left listening to our baby boy’s screams….and from all the Christian literature we had read so far…this was ALL OUR FAULT…(to be continued).

(So as you can see…this is a very personal post.  Why did I feel the need to share it?  Well first because it is part of our journey.  Second, I think it’s important for people to get a glimpse of what it might be like to be gay, or to have a gay child.  I know not everyone’s journey is the same, but I think some people in the Christian culture have this idea that gay people are defying God deliberately…that it’s a choice that they make.  I’m here to say respectfully that they are wrong… and I will believe that until God tells me otherwise.  I no longer believe that this is my fault and my hope is to tell you how I came to that conclusion in other posts).

Beauty in ink…

I have a confession to make…I am absolutely fascinated by tattoos.  I think they are so beautiful (well most of them…some are downright scary).  If you asked my kids, they would probably tell you that I am totally against them.  It’s not that at all. I’ve just always told them if they are going to get one to be smart about where it is on their body…and to make sure they will still like it when they are 80 (smile).  I really appreciate the artistic expression of a tattoo. I envy the talent and confidence it takes to draw something permanently onto someone’s skin.  I’m sure there are times in public that people think I’m a total creeper for staring at their tattoos.  I’m just fascinated about the story behind them.  One of these days I’ll get up the nerve to ask someone.  Every once in awhile I will catch one of the reality TV shows that have competitions for tattoo artists.  It is just amazing to me.  As much as I appreciate tattoos, I personally do not have any.  I’ve never come across a design that I like enough to put on my skin forever (that I would still like when I’m 80).
Flower-Orchid-Pretty-Tattoos-Designs
The shows that I watch give the stories behind the tattoos that people get.  Sometimes it’s to honor someone in their lives…maybe someone they were close to that has passed away.  Others get tattoos to pinpoint a moment in their lives that is meaningful to them.  At times, it’s because they have a design that they just really like and want to be reminded of on a daily basis.  And let’s face it, there are those who get tattoos when they’ve had one too many to drink.  Regardless of why, it’s always a personal choice to get a tattoo.  It got me to thinking…what if we didn’t have a choice.  What would we do if God decided to tattoo our bodies with our sins.  Something to help us to remember what we’ve done…maybe as a deterrent to not do it again.  Things like…

I’m a cheater

I’m a thief

I am prideful

I’ve lied

If God did decide to do this, I guess we could cover up the tattoos.  There are many people who get tattoos and no one ever knows about them. As a matter of fact, this year will be the first year that a Miss America contestant will show her tattoos.  She said that many girls have them in the pageant, but they choose to cover them up.   But if they were our sins, how could we ever cover up all of them…

I harbor bitterness

I hold onto anger

I’m jealous

How about…I’m gay

I think if you are a believer you can agree that we all sin.  Many of our sins are private…no one knows about them (except for God of course).  But if you are gay, and you come out, that is something that is very visible.  Something that the church calls sin.   I feel, however, that most believers (I know not all of them) treat the person themselves as sin.  Someone to be totally avoided. And because of that, many gay people go to great lengths to keep their true selves hidden.  It is a terrible way to live.   This brings me to my point…and the point of this blog.  My son is gay.  I would like to share my journey that began six years ago when I learned this about him.  I know for “church people” this is a controversial subject,  but I invite you into my story to share with you what I’ve learned along the way.

There is another reality show on TV about tattoos that is my favorite.  The artists help people who have the most embarrassing, ugliest tattoos and transform them into beautiful works of art.  It is truly amazing what they are able to accomplish.  When they are finished, it’s like the old tattoo never even existed.  As believers, we have someone who does that for us too…Jesus.  He takes His blood, covers our ugliness, and transforms us into new beings.  Forgiven…the old is gone.  Why…because He loves us…even gay people.cross And…love matters.