Ebb and flow…

Growing up I was fascinated by the jade plants that my grandmother had growing in her kitchen.  Their leaves were fat….like you painted them onto the stems with puffy paint.  When I went out to San Diego back in 2016 for my niece’s wedding, I fell in love with the succulent plants that were in abundance there.  I found them to be so beautiful and so interesting.  They weren’t flowers, but some of them formed patterns that looked like flowers.   Just when I thought I had seen them all, I would discover a new one.   Such a variety of textures and colors.

I was really excited when I saw that our local craft store was starting to get some pretty realistic looking succulents.  I can’t have real ones because my cats will eat them.  I picked some of my favorites and put this together.  I love it because it reminds me of my trip out to California.

Last week I thought about faith a lot.  I was preparing for Easter.  There was a time when all of this faith stuff was much easier.  I hate to admit that I didn’t think of it much…it just…was.  Yes there were questions in the back of my mind, but I pushed them aside.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I was afraid of not having the answers.  Maybe I was afraid of where the questions would take me.  Maybe I was afraid of the answers I might find.

As I reflected last week, I realized that faith wasn’t easier then…it was more that I was just simply being lazy about my faith.  I’m so thankful for God bringing me…dare I say dragging me at times…out of the ditch my faith was stuck in.  I found that I’m not afraid of the questions any longer.  And even better…I’m not afraid of the answers…or the lack of answers.  It’s in the not knowing that we truly find the mystery of God.  It’s there that you discover how vast His unconditional love is for us.

Like the succulent plants that I discovered on my trip to California, my faith has more richness, more layers.  And I’m discovering something new at each turn.  It’s opened me up into a messy, deep, ebb and flowing kind of faith and I wouldn’t change it for anything.  It’s brought me to people I would have never met otherwise.  People that I love with a depth that I don’t even understand.

I had someone tell me recently that I felt like family.  That’s a good way to describe it.  My family has increased.

I know Easter was hard for many in my new family that has grown over the last 10 years.  Traditions of going to church have been replaced by new traditions because they are no longer welcome or they no longer feel safe there.  Families by blood being rejected by each other.  Pretty sure that grieves God deeply.

For God so loved the world…

Love each other…it matters.

 

 

Figure of speech…

The English language is a complicated thing to master.  Think about it.  We have so many words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings:

pair, pear, hole, whole, their, there, right, write

The list goes on and on.

In spelling class, we are taught “i” before “e” except after “c”…
and here’s a sampling of that not working out:

beige, height, leisure

Weird right?  (see what I did there – wink).

How about the figures of speech?  Yikes!  These were interesting when my kids were younger.  I would forget that they hadn’t quite mastered all the nuances of language yet.  They took things quite literally.  Like the time my daughter told me her leg was hurting.  I had her show me where and then I asked what the pain felt like.  She couldn’t quite explain it so I asked her if it was a constant pain, was it achy, or did it feel more like a shooting pain.  She looked at me with eyes opened wide and said, “I don’t know mommy…I’ve never been shot.”   Not exactly what I meant.  We were at the beach on vacation and we had just eaten lunch.  The rule was that you had to wait a half hour before you got in the ocean to give your food a chance to settle so you wouldn’t get a cramp.  I have no idea if that’s a thing, but that’s what I had to do as a kid so I passed it along to mine.  I was standing at the shore line with the other adults and my son kept coming up to me over and over again asking if he could get in the ocean.  Finally in exasperation I said, “Go ahead…knock yourself out.”  He looked at me with his little head cocked sideways and said, “Why would I do that?”  I just knew that figure of speech was going to land me on Dr. Phil one day.  “You know Dr. Phil…the trouble with my mom began when she told me I should knock myself out.”  The audience gasps.

Figures of speech can end up in some funny misunderstandings.  There are times though, where speech isn’t so figurative.  This type of speech has the ability to cut someone to their core.  I saw the effects of this first hand recently.  I can’t emphasize enough that entering someone’s story is the best way to gain understanding.  The labels just don’t stick when you are sitting face to face with someone you thought you had all figured out.

I had an opportunity to meet two young ladies who identify as LGBTQ.  They were both in their 30’s.  They both discovered that they were LGBTQ in their early middle school years.  I listened to them as they described what it was like to discover this about themselves.  They talked about the fear they felt of being found out.  So I asked them how they knew it wasn’t safe to come out.

For one of the women, it was when she was watching a movie with her mom.  The movie showed two men kissing.  She said it was a quick kiss, but her mother’s reaction let her know it wasn’t safe.  She was around 12 when this happened and her mom said, “That’s disgusting!” when the kiss happened.  She immediately thought, “Oh my god!  I’m disgusting!”  For the other woman, it was during a church sermon that she realized it wasn’t safe to come out.  The preacher yelled from the pulpit that being gay was an abomination.  She didn’t even know what that meant so when she got home she looked it up.  From that moment on she knew that people would think she was disgusting and would hate her.  She attempted suicide.

I could tell that as they were telling their stories that those feelings had stuck with them.  Even though they had moved on and were in loving relationships, the damage of those reactions and statements were being carried by them to this day.  I could feel it.  They took these words to heart.  They took them literally.  This was not a figure of speech misunderstanding.  Because of this, as I’ve stated before, coming out is a scary endeavor.  I am amazed by the harsh statements people make when someone comes out.  This is a very personal aspect of someone and they are trusting you when they come out.  Most of my experiences of telling people I have a gay son have been good.  But I have had people respond with, “I don’t agree with that.”   Really?  I was not asking you if agreed with it.  Then they go on to tell me that he is going to hell.  Well I don’t think I asked you about that either.  It’s happened to countless parents that I know and their children unfortunately.  I just can’t imagine saying this to someone.

How do you think things turn out for kids that don’t have support?  Being told over and over again that you are going to hell, that you are an abomination, that you are disgusting.  Do you think it ends well?

There are several passages in the Bible that warn about the tongue.  Maybe people should heed that since they can apply it to themselves and worry less with others.  Let’s leave that up to God.

Words stick with people.   Respond in love…because love matters.

 

 

 

Fear not…

One night last week while cooking dinner, I realized I hadn’t thought things through. When it was time to cook the broccoli, I noticed that the pot I needed to steam it in had my pork in it.  Whoops!  I quickly switched gears and tossed it onto a baking sheet to roast it.  Now my family loves roasted broccoli.  It is tasty, but I HATE how it makes my house smell.  Yuck! I am ultra sensitive to the smell and the next day was still bothered by it.  I decided to light some candles to try to get rid of the smell.  I realized that my lighter was out of fluid so I grabbed an old box of matches that I had in the junk drawer and was transported back in time.

When I was a child, my parents taught me about the dangers of fire and matches.  In fact, they may have taught me a little too well.  When I was old enough to light a match, I was terrified by it.  I just knew I would catch myself on fire.  I was 13 years old and I was going to my aunt’s house to babysit my cousin.  My aunt had a very old gas oven that you had to light each time you wanted to cook and I had to cook my cousin dinner. Really I just had to heat up a simple can of soup and there wasn’t a handy microwave to use.  My dad patiently sat with me in our kitchen trying to show me how to light a match so that I could do it when I got to my aunt’s house.

Well when it came time to heat up the soup, I just couldn’t do it.  I was paralyzed with fear.  I would try to strike the match on the side of the box, but my stroke was not firm enough.  My fear kept me from being able to do it and I had to call my mom to come light the stove for me.  Epic fail!  Fear is a tricky thing.  It can stop us in our tracks or send us running in the other direction and a whole lot of things in-between.

Recently the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood drafted a statement of faith referred to as The Nashville Statement (NS) relating to human sexuality and gender roles. It was signed by many pastors and has created quite a stir.  Rather than me explaining it here, you can click on the link to see what it’s about.

The statement is filled with language that is familiar to many in the church so it was no surprise to me.  It did, however, draw a line in the sand (Article 10) that I think might cause an exodus in the church that they didn’t take into consideration.  In my frustration, I posted the following as a post on my Facebook account:

“So according to the Nashville Statement I am not a Christian. A group of people, who don’t know me, decided that I am not worthy of their club. That’s ok. Because I don’t want to be a part of their club. In fact, I’m not a Christian. I will no longer associate myself with that name. I am a follower of Jesus and I love God and people as He has instructed me to do.”

I got some push back for making this statement.  I received some private messages over it. Some people were afraid that I was leaving my faith.   Some feared, as they have mentioned before, that I am following a watered down gospel.  And some feared that I was letting the authors of the statement “win.”

So, I thought I would put my thoughts down here…

My faith is intact.  It has not changed.  My identity in Christ has not changed.  The language I use to describe myself is what has changed.  I run into a lot of Christians who quite frankly are damaging to the LGBTQ+ community.  The NS which was signed by many prominent pastors is damaging.  I’m an ally to a community that is bleeding.  I’m not going to identify as someone who is causing that wound.  I want to be a safe place for them.  Sadly identifying as a Christian in my opinion is not safe for them (not everyone shares this opinion – this is just my opinion). There aren’t any winners here.  We are talking about lives. And although I don’t care what this NS says about me…I do care what it says about LGBTQ+ community.  I also care about what that community sees in me. To me the word Christian is…well just a word.  We should look at the actions of others to determine if they are following Jesus.  And that’s what I am…a follower of Jesus.

The group of people who got together and wrote the NS were expressing their beliefs. They have the right to do that.  Just as I have the right to believe what I believe.  They read the Bible and interpret it one way, and I read the Bible and interpret it another way.  I took the Bible, historical context, and the studies of many people much smarter than me to get where I am with my beliefs.  But more importantly, I listened to the Holy Spirit.  I still have questions.  I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m ok with that.  It seems that it’s ok to look at other historical documents to prove that Jesus existed, but it’s not ok to look at cultural and historical information to formulate what a Bible verse might be saying.  I don’t get that.

These are just my thoughts.  Many people in my situation are still ok with identifying as Christians and of course that is perfectly fine.  I think each of  our personal experiences shape our journey and everyone’s journey is their own.

I spent too many years in fear of doing the right thing…believing the right thing.  Too many years concerned about what others thought of me.  My fear paralyzed me to the point where I didn’t know what to believe, and at times I isolated myself because I worried I would say or do the wrong thing.  Thankfully I have gotten over that.    Like I said in my FB post…God calls me to love…there’s no fear in that.

Fear not…and love…because love matters.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up…

If you have kids, or nieces and nephews, did you ever badger them with question after question when they were younger to marvel at the progression of their little brains? What does a cow say?  What does a duck say? What color is this crayon?  What color is your hair?  Where’s your nose?  How old are you?  What’s your name?  The list goes on and on and you can tell when they get just a little more than perturbed at answering all of your questions.  The question I think kids hear the most though is this:  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Some kids know right away…for others it takes a bit longer to figure out.  Heck…I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up (smile).

Have you ever known a kid that was really talented at a sport? Someone that everyone keeps their eye on because they just know they are going to be something great when they get older.  Their parents dream of college scholarships and before they know it scouts are checking them out. They get to college, they are playing great, their future looks bright, their dreams of playing professionally are within their grasp and then it happens.  An accident. Whether on or off the field…it doesn’t matter…the dream they’ve had since they were a little kid is done. There’s no chance of them grasping it now.  The future they always dreamed of looks very different now, and they are faced with coming up with another plan.

I read a post recently that stated the following:
“We are told we don’t accept LGBTQ people for “who they are” when they can’t accept themselves for who they are.”
There is some truth to that for many, but I believe that is grossly simplifying things. Many LGBTQ individuals discover they are LGBTQ when they are a child.  It ranges anywhere from very young to the teen years.  It is rare that a person doesn’t realize it until they are an adult.  I won’t say it never happens, but it’s not the norm.  I’m sure it was years ago when it wasn’t talked about, but today kids are coming out…well when they are kids.

Since I know others have had this thought, here are some things that I’ve learned and even witnessed in many cases on this journey…

As I’ve already mentioned, we are talking about children.  Can you imagine processing being LGBTQ as a child?  Hang around some middle or high school kids for a day and it doesn’t take long to realize that gay kids are made fun of and bullied.  When a child realizes they are gay (using the term gay to make it easier), it is terrifying to think that they will be treated that way.  They hear gay people called pedophiles, gross, disgusting, etc.  Hiding who you are is exhausting and stress inducing.  Try processing all of that as a child.

The other thing that they deal with is the fact that their future now suddenly looks very different.  The little girls that dreamed of growing up and marrying their “knight in shining armor” now realize that this isn’t going to happen.  They wonder if they will ever find love now.  And remember…this is a child processing this. The future they dreamed about suddenly is different.  It takes time to envision and adjust to this new future.  When I asked my son about this, he said that it would have been helpful to him to have some examples in media of gay people being in love.  It would have helped him realize that love was a possibility for him too.  When they begin to go through this, many feel like they are the only ones in the world going through it.

If they grew up in the church, this adds another tension to the mix.  When some evangelists call them “a plague on the nation”, an abomination, that they are destroying family values, they are sick, demon possessed, etc., this is a heavy load to carry as a child.  It’s hard enough as an adult. Sadly sometimes the advice parents are given by their child’s youth leader is to ground them, beat them, put them in counseling and seek out conversion therapy,  home school them, pull them out of youth group, and if none of that works….kick them out of the house.

Sadly there are parents out there that are listening to this.  Punishment and beating your child is not going to change anything about their sexual orientation.  It’s going to create a child that develops self-hatred.  Conversion therapy has been proven not to work and has been outlawed in several states because it is harmful.  Let’s take them out of youth group and leave them isolated without any friends when they need them and God the most. Kick them out of the house. Is there any wonder why a child would have trouble accepting themselves??

Listen…I know this example is pretty extreme, but it doesn’t have to be this extreme to do damage.  People get upset with me for bringing this up.  I know that not all Christians are like this.  My Christian friends find this behavior appalling.  And there are affirming churches out there, but the fact of the matter is that it is happening, more than we would like to believe because it seems so unbelievable.  Just because we ourselves are not doing it, or the people we know are not doing it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  There are pastors calling for the murder of LGBTQ people for goodness sake. These are the kinds of things that bring that lack of self acceptance and depending on the damage done…it goes with them into adulthood.

These are some reasons that make it difficult to come to terms with being LGBTQ.  I am filled with compassion when I think of what these young people go through.  I hope you are too.

You know what kids want to be when they grow up?

LOVED.  And I bet you do too.

Because love matters…

 

 

Why I marched on June 11th…

This past Sunday I marched in the Equality March in Washington, DC.  This is how their website describes the event “the ‘Equality March for Unity & Pride’ is a grassroots movement which will mobilize the diverse LGBTQ+ communities to peacefully and clearly address concerns about the current political landscapes and how it is contributing to the persecution and discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Mike and I went on a bus with 32 other people who were marching either for themselves or for a family member.  We knew only a few people, but that didn’t matter. Really we are a family.

I wish I knew how many people were there for the march.  It. Was. Packed.  We stood in the heat of the sun (man was it HOT) with thousands of other people as we waited for the march to start.  You know how cars are bumper to bumper in a traffic jam?  Well we were shoulder to shoulder.  It was difficult to move at times.  We had to wait for quite some time before the march started.  Someone would periodically blow a whistle and the crowd would roar with cheers.  We were ready.  In the crowd, I saw anger, hurt, resolve, determination.  Tears flowed as the crowd united for the task at hand.

There were lots of messages displayed on shirts that people were wearing and signs that people were carrying.  Many of these signs portrayed people’s frustration with the president.  Some signs depicted reasons why that person was marching…either an actual person like their child, or a policy that they felt needed to change.  People marched for themselves, they marched for family members or friends, they marched for those who couldn’t march for themselves like the 49 victims of the Pulse shootings.

I had a sign, but I took a different approach.  I knew that there would be many people there at the march that didn’t have support from family.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m part of two private Facebook groups of moms of LGBTQ children.  When we go to events like this, we like to take buttons and/or signs that say “Free Mom Hugs” so that we can show support to those who don’t have it.  This was my sign (which my artist daughter McKensie was very sweet to make for me).

Did I mention how hot it was on Sunday?  There were lots of sweaty hugs given and received (smile).  You can tell a lot from a hug.  There are the “what a great idea hug – I want a hug” hugs.  There are the friendly “thank you for your support” hugs.  Then there are the hugs that linger.  The person holds you tightly.  You can feel the emotion in it. Even though it may be brief, you can feel that the person NEEDED that hug.  It’s a chance to tell that person through touch that they matter, that they are important, that they are seen, and most importantly they are loved.  I gave hugs while walking to the march starting point.  I gave hugs while waiting to start.  I gave hugs afterwards at the festival…and even a hug at the train station where we were meeting our bus.

So why did I march?  I marched for my son.  I marched for my LGBTQ friends.  I marched because I think things need to change.  There is too much discrimination and violence towards this community.  I did it in a respectful way.  I was a presence so that this community knows that someone cares.  The following is an Instagram post by one of the young teens that were with us that day.  This…this is why I was there…

“I just want to say today was one of the most impactful , beautiful and moving days of my life. I was surrounded by strangers who felt like family.  I met some of the kindest, strongest people ever.  Thank you to everyone who made this possible because I am more than grateful to you and I am so so blessed to have been able to come out here and have this experience today. Much love to everyone that shared this experience with me, you made it possible.  Everyone who was there was part of my day.  I was so proud of who I was instead of being ashamed or afraid.  It was a liberating, once in a lifetime moment.  I seriously recommend attending a march or pride event in your area if you can and are LGBT or a straight ally.  One of the most powerful days of my life.”

These gatherings are so important because it is the one place that this community can truly, totally, be themselves.  The teen that wrote that has great family support and it was still so important and impactful to her.  There are some kids that can’t even be themselves in their own homes.  That’s why I marched.  That’s why I was present. That’s why I shared sweaty hugs that spoke of love without words.

Because love matters.