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).

Love you to life…

01e9a0a2a24b4d1145d1518bce5df01bba8048fa80Last summer this was a vibrant, beautiful plant.  I usually take my plants off of my deck for the winter, but last year I never got around to it.  This pot sat outside all winter through all kinds of snow, sleet, and rain.  Now normally at the beginning of spring, I will bring all of my pots out of the garage and get some nice spring flowers to plant to make my deck look nice.  Well, if you are friends with me in real life, you know that my deck was in dire need of repair.  In fact, the whole thing needed to be replaced (except for the structure).  Since I wasn’t sure when that was going to take place, I never got around to planting flowers.  So, this pot sat on my deck with dead twigs in it.  I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but there are some twigs in there that have zero life sprouting from them.  And that’s how it looked all summer.  I did plant flowers for my front porch so every day I would go around and water my flowers…and the dead twigs on my deck.  I wasn’t really sure why I was watering a pot of dead flowers. Something in me just knew that flowers are supposed to have water…and although these were just twigs I felt compelled to water them.  And they stayed dead…all summer…until the first week in October when these beautiful little red sprigs blossomed.  I couldn’t believe it!  All that tender care all summer and it waited until the fall to spring to life!

I can’t help but be reminded of the people I have met along my journey when I think about this plant.  So many of their stories start with thoughts of death, despair, hopelessness, and they are barely clinging to life.  It’s when someone comes along and offers them unconditional love without fail that finally brings them back to life. They regain their spark, their zest for life, their love for themselves.  I have seen it happen in my own son, and in many people who I have met along the way.

I have been in a deep struggle lately.  It’s why I haven’t written much.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to be a part of the church…Big C church.  It is getting harder and harder for me to separate myself from what I’m seeing happening in the lives of so many.  There are too many lifeless twigs that are dying from the lack of love and my heart just can’t take it.  It is a daily struggle and I have to keep reminding myself that these people…”church people” do not represent the God that I know and love.  People have accused me of being divisive.  They say that I talk too much about the bad parts of the church.  I’m sorry, but I can’t ignore what is happening.  There is too much at stake.  Too many people that need love to thrive.

But rather than me share with you what’s happening, I invite you to watch this video to hear from the people who are actually living it.  It is an hour and a half, but it is worth every minute.  I sobbed through most of it because I have met people in these situations.  I have entered their stories.  I have shared their grief.  And some are no longer part of this world because no one loved them back to life.

If you call yourself a Christian, I urge you to watch this video.  Especially if you are a Christian that thinks you can’t be gay and a Christian.  I’m not sure what path God is going to take me on next…but I know that the status quo just isn’t going to work for me anymore.  If you watch the video and have questions, I’d love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you if you are local…or we can chat via email.  Be the love that so many desperately need…because love matters.

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams…

When I was in high school, there was a popular show on television called “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” hosted by Robin Leach.  Robin would interview wealthy entertainers, athletes, business people…well basically the rich and famous (smile).  I always loved seeing what kind of houses they lived in, the beautiful areas of the country, or world, where they resided, and how they got to where they were in life. It champagne-06was fun to dream of living like that someday.  I was pretty sure that would never be a reality for me, but I did have hopes that one day Ed McMahon from Publishers Clearing House would one day knock on my door with a bunch of balloons and a big cardboard check with a 1 and lots of zeros after it.

Ahhh…if only.  What a fun lifestyle that would be to live.  Lifestyle.  Way back in June I promised I would talk about why this word is such a thorn in the side of the LGBTQ community and here it is September already. Honestly I have no idea where that time has gone.  Did we have a summer??

So, something that I hear ALL the time from people is that they love gay people they just don’t agree with their lifestyle choice.  Sigh.  I really try to react to this with grace because I never thought that being gay was a choice so I can’t really relate. Now there were other things I believed about being gay that I no longer believe, but this was not one of them.

I can choose to live a healthy lifestyle.  I can eat the right foods, exercise, drink lots of water, or I can choose the opposite and eat terrible foods and live a sedentary lifestyle.  If I was rich, I could choose to live an extravagant lifestyle and have fancy cars, a really big house, trendy clothes, or I could save my money for my future needs, donate money to charity, and live a frugal lifestyle.

There is one thing I can’t choose…and that’s to live a straight lifestyle.  That’s not something that I choose…it’s something that I am…straight.  No one has ever said to me, “I’m so glad you choose to live a straight lifestyle.”  So why then do we condemn gay people for choosing to live a gay lifestyle?  It’s not a choice.  If you think it is…you haven’t met enough gay people.  You haven’t entered into their story. If you do, it becomes clear.

So…when you say, “I love you, but I don’t agree with your lifestyle.”  What you are really saying is I don’t agree with you.  And not in a “I don’t agree with your opinion” sort of way, but a deeper you.  Their very being.  Because if you ask a gay person, they will tell you they can’t separate their sexuality from who they are as a person.  And in this area, as a society, we tend to drill things down to sex.  A person is gay or straight whether they are having sex or not.  Again…it’s a part of who we are not what we do.

Robin Leach would always end his show with the tagline “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” because those are things that people associated with rich people.  I’ll end this post with this…

Once we learn that something we say or do hurts someone, we should try to do better.  So do better.  And love each other.

Because love matters…

Baltimore Pride…

For about the last three years, I’ve been wanting to attend a Pride parade.  It just never seemed to work out.  I would either totally not remember that there even was a Pride parade until it had already passed, or I would be on vacation, or have one of those nasty summer colds.  I just couldn’t seem to get there.  Until this year.  Since I help run a PFLAG group, it was on my radar screen and I was excited to finally be able to attend. Double bonus that this year it was on my birthday!  So yesterday I spent my birthday marching in my very first Pride parade (smile).

Many people ask me…why Pride?  Why do the gays have to have a special day?  The straight people don’t have that…there isn’t a straight pride parade.  My basic answer is you don’t understand it because you don’t live it.  You aren’t gay.  Every day is straight pride day.  You can walk through the streets and be yourself.  Every day.  You can hold your loved ones hand and not think a thing of it.  Every day.  You don’t have to fear for your safety because of who you are…every day.  The LGBTQ community in most areas do not have any of those luxuries.  Pride is a time for them to be together with like-minded people and be their authentic selves.  No masks.  No hiding.  No fear.  No judgement.  Until you live without that…you probably won’t understand why they value the Pride celebrations so much.

If you’ve been a reader for some time, I’ve mentioned before that when I was younger I used to march in parades (post 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8).  I know what it’s like to feel the energy of the crowd, and the excitement I feel when I hear the marching bands start to play. It’s fun.  So, I kind of knew what to expect.  Now I’m just going stop here for a moment to tell you how hot is was out there.  It was HOT!  Like fry an egg on the sidewalk hot.  I looked at the weather app on my phone for yesterday and at the time we were there for the parade it was 99 degrees.  That does not take into account the humidity and heat index. Yikes!  I took the biggest bottle of water I could find and let me tell you it was just about as big as me.  The down side to that was as it got towards the bottom of the bottle I seriously could have made hot tea with the water that was left…it got that heated.  Yuck!

Ok…back to the parade.  My PFLAG group lined up and waited for our turn to start down the parade route.  I could feel the excitement in the air, but more importantly I could feel the love and acceptance in the air.  As we rounded the corner, I was amazed at all the people who were there on the sides.  They had gates set up so they couldn’t go into the road and in some places the people were 4 and 5 rows deep.  Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in parades before, but I had never seen anything like this.  I read today that the Baltimore City Fire Department estimated that 10,000 people were in attendance.  I have to tell you…hearing the cheers as we went by, seeing the happy faces…I was overcome with emotion. I’m in tears just thinking about it now.  It’s something that I will never, ever forget.

We walked on and the cheering never stopped.  People were holding hands.  People were happy.  But it wasn’t without its protesters.  I saw four.  They were holding large signs with the usual things you see at things like this telling us to repent or the fires of hell were coming to get us.  I saw about four interesting outfits…hardly any clothing on, but other than that it was pretty tame. The rest of the people were dressed like me, or what you might see at the beach.  In fact, I’ve seen worse at the beach.  When we got to the end of the parade route, we were able to go over to the gated area to watch the rest of the parade go by.  One of the really encouraging things I saw were a group of churches go by.  There were several denominations: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, and others that I can’t remember because there were so many passing by.  It did my heart good to see them there.

Since I’m not gay, why go to a Pride parade?  There are a several reasons.  The first being that our PFLAG group wanted to get the word out that we are here.  We are needed…and we want the community to know that we exist in our county.  The second being that anything that is helpful to my son I want to support.  Even though he didn’t attend (it was too hot for him – and he isn’t a fan of big crowds)…it’s a place where he can be himself if he did attend.  The third is that I just want to be where people need love and support.  I feel such a strong calling to that and honestly I am the happiest when I am doing it.  The event isn’t just for LGBTQ people, but also for the people who love and support them.  I can’t wait to go again next year!

When I’m with my PFLAG group, or with LGBTQ folks, I feel comfortable.  I’m not on guard.  I don’t have to worry about what other people think of me.  I don’t have to be prepared to “debate” someone for supporting my kid.  As parents, we don’t have it as bad as our kids do, but we do deal with being preached at, lost relationships, sometimes lost jobs, etc…just because we love and support our kids.  With all of the negativity in the world right now regarding the LGBTQ issues, it is nice to have a place to go where you see some positive.  Just this morning one of the moms in my private FB group posted this (I got her permission to share):

Hello mamas! I have been, like a lot of us lately, really struggling with all of the negative stuff on social media that just seems to be constantly circling about. I am still learning to just walk away, get off of FB, etc. because even at this stage of the journey, I tend to knee jerk react sometimes and that usually isn’t helpful at all. So today, I was looking forward to getting to church-many of you know I attend an open and affirming church here in Hickory, NC (for reals 😃)and I love it there! Safe place with lots of love! I pulled into the parking lot and dang if we didn’t have protesters today!! 😳They had huge signs and bull horns and the thing that sent me over the edge was that there were small children with them!!! 😡 WTH??? They were yelling that the all the people that died in Orlando were burning in hell right now and we were going to burn with them! They were calling for our pastor to come out and face them- they called him a liar and a coward. It was awful! They said that they were standing far away from us so that our perversion wouldn’t touch them. It was just unbelievably awful! So much for peace 😰

These are the types of things that we and our kids deal with on a daily basis.  It’s hard sometimes to not just crawl in a hole some where and never come out.  It gets to be exhausting.

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This is my extended family. Love them!

I told my son yesterday I wished there was a Pride parade every weekend (smile).  But while I wait for 2017 Pride, I will be searching for ways to show this community that I love them, that God loves them, and that they matter more than they can imagine.

Because love matters…