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.

Sticks and stones…

Did you have a nickname when you were growing up?  Maybe you still have it to this day.  I had several…the first of which I gave to myself…unbeknownst to me.  My name is Lesa Page (yes my parents spelled both my first name AND my middle name incorrectly).  When I was little, I couldn’t quite pronounce the two words and they came out as Esa Peach.  So, Esa Peach was my very first nickname and some family members to this day will sometimes call me by that name.  When I hit my teenage years, my nicknames became more related to the fact that I am vertically challenged.  A few of those names were:

Little
Little L
Stump – I of course didn’t care for this one too much
L – my dad calls me this today – I think he’s just lazy (smile)
Lesa Page – as a teenager there were so many Lisa’s that my friends called me by my first and middle name.  Kind of wish I would have stuck with that as an adult…I kind of like it.

When my son was a baby and toddler, his nickname was Booper.  My mom was so afraid that was going to stick.  I’m not even sure how Mike and I started calling him that, but it just seemed to fit him.  He was a pudgy little guy and Booper just seemed to work.  I’m sure he is happy that it was short-lived.  His nickname now is Kai (his name is Kyle).

It seems like yesterday that he was that little baby.  I remember holding for the first time.  To be honest, he looked like a little old man…kind of wrinkly and very little hair.  He quickly grew and like I said was a little pudge.  He unfortunately had colic as a baby.  And not the kind where the baby would cry during a certain time of day…it seemed to bother him all the time.  It made me feel so bad for him.  As I held him, his little legs would bunch up and he would throw his little head back with the most heart wrenching cry.  There were many days that I would cry right along with him as I bounced and paced the floors with him.  Man did I do a lot of pacing.

He eventually grew out of that and became a happy little guy.  I can still see his little face when I would walk into his room in the mornings to retrieve him from his crib.  He would say my name with his pacifier pushed to one side of his mouth and would give me the biggest smile.  It was as if his whole world just walked through the door.  I remember his first steps…arms stretched out like Frankenstein, teetering from one foot to the other with the biggest grin on his face.  He was so proud of himself.  He was a stubborn little bugger too.  The terrible twos are an understatement.  He was so smart which I swear made it worse.  Once he got something in his mind, boy was it tough to re-route him.  And the older he got, the harder it got.  Once he hit the elementary school age, it took a lot of creative thinking to stay one step ahead of him.  And when we really got stuck in a battle of the wills, it seemed like humor was the ONLY thing that would snap him out of it.  Good thing I’m a goof ball (smile).  It just took a little humor to break things up and then you could have a conversation with him.

He was always well liked in school by his teachers and classmates…especially the girls.  He was a straight A student all the way through high school.  I think he got a B or two in college, but seemed to always make the deans list even though he struggled terribly with anxiety and depression.  I’m really not sure how he did it.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we noticed a change in him around the age of 14 and things came to a head when he was 15 and we found out he was gay.  My friendly, preppy, kind boy turned into an angry, depressed, anxiety ridden boy.  The music he listened to changed, the clothes he wore changed, the kind of friends he had changed.  It was as if the internal struggle that he had been going through for years that we were unaware of came out to the surface in every way.  It was terrifying.  It was as if aliens had come in the middle of the night and replaced our child with someone who we didn’t recognize.  All of the hurt that he had hidden for so long was now out in the open.

I wish SO BADLY that I had the resources back then that I have now.  I would have done things SO differently.  I know I hurt him…before I knew he was gay…and after I found out.  You see, I lived in the place where I thought being gay was something that needed to be fixed.  I felt that way because that is what I had learned from the resources I had at the time.  I was given a lot of hope from those resources…unfortunately it was false hope.  Stories of change that were told later turned out to be lies. And I transferred that hope to him.  It gave him hope and when things didn’t change it only added to his frustration, hurt, and depression.

Society gives gay people a lot of grief about being gay.  Names are hurled at them like butch, fag, dyke, fairy…not exactly endearing nicknames.  And despite the little saying of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” they do indeed hurt.  The hard part though is when a gay person’s family is the cause of the hurt…not by name calling necessarily…although that does happen, but by attitudes and statements that are made.  Something I’ve heard more than once from a young gay person before coming out in regards to their family is this….

“They don’t like me….but they don’t know that they don’t like me.”

What we need to understand is that they are absorbing every remark, comment, facial expression, body language, etc. when it comes to our attitudes about gay people.  The first time I heard that from someone…my spirit was crushed because I know that my son felt that way before he came out.  Looking back…it explains a lot.  I’ve never said anything bad about gay people. I’ve worked with them, have a gay family member in my extended family, etc. and I’ve never felt anything but love for them.  But when you come from a place where you think they are broken and can be fixed, it is hurtful.  And I know my son overheard comments from me regarding this.

I don’t write this to make you feel guilty if you have a gay child and have gone about things differently then you would have like to or feel like you have messed up.  I can tell you that I messed up.  You can move past it.  You can ask for the person to forgive you…and then do what is hard and forgive yourself.  I still struggle with that part.  This post is more for everyone else who may or may not have a gay child, family member, or friend.  Be careful what you say and how you say it.  You never know who is listening…and if they are struggling they will be hyper sensitive to your speech and demeanor.  Let’s not have another child think…they don’t like me…but they don’t know that they don’t like me.

Today my son is a young adult.  The other day we were leaving for work at the same time (he is living at home to save money to one day move out).  I was sitting in my car as he walked down to his car that was parked in the cul-de-sac.  As I watched him in my side mirror with his slouchy hat (to control his curls), skinny jeans, and messenger bag slung across his shoulder, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for his forgiving spirit for a mom who didn’t have a clue when he first came out.  I’m so thankful that his spark is back and I once again have my funny, happy boy.  He knows without a doubt that I love him.  But he can also say…

She likes me…and I know she likes me because she shows it in her words and actions.

Love each other…because it matters.

I’ve had the radish…

When my family planned a trip to New England a few years ago, my friend from Vermont taught me a few of the sayings that are from there.  Her family was traveling with us so it was really fun to have our very own tour guide.  We visited Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine both times that we vacationed together up there.  The saying, “I’ve had the radish” was the funniest to me.  I mean…what do New Englanders have against radishes (smile).  She explained to me that when her mom was at her wit’s end with her and her brothers she would let them know that she’d had the radish.  They knew then that they better settle down or they were going to get it.  They would also say it when something was worn out or ready for the trash.  Pretty funny, but then again being from Baltimore has its own little world of sayings as well.

This is how I’m feeling right now…I’ve had the radish.  I’m wondering seriously if this is even real life.  Am I living in one of my crazy dreams?  It feels like it.  My chest physically hurts, and the only thing that keeps going through my mind is what breaks God’s heart is breaking mine.

broken-heart-with-hammer

A young man who I met about a little over a year ago took his life yesterday.  I remember hearing his story.  I remember sitting with his mom as she tearfully told my group that her church refused to baptize her son.  How distraught she and her husband and her son were about that….rightfully so.  I can’t get his face out of my mind.  His shy demeanor, his intelligence, his compassion.  The church was going to meet with them to discuss this with them further.  After many attempts to do so…and simply just being blown off…I guess they waited too long.  I wonder if these leaders will sit down with this family now.  (he suffered from depression, but I promise you the church’s response did not help)

The church and their statements…their policies…I wonder as they sit in their meetings if they consider the consequences of their decisions.  Do they know any LGBTQ people?  Have they learned their stories?  Asked what they needed?  I am often asked, “Why don’t the LGBTQ people who aren’t happy with their churches find an affirming church?”  The answer is simple…in many areas of our country…there aren’t any affirming churches.  There are the churches that will say they are welcoming, but they don’t have anyone LGBTQ attending.  If you were truly a welcoming congregation, you would have them attending because they would know that you were welcoming.  In many cases, churches tolerate the LGBTQ community and then pat themselves on the back that they let them attend.

The Mormon church recently introduced a policy in November regarding the LGBT community.  Since then there have been 32 LGBTQ suicides in the last 81 days.  Let that sink in…  While it’s impossible to know whether the new policy triggered the reaction of these suicides, the circumstantial evidence can’t be ignored.  The church was asked about this and they replied, “they do not reject LGBT members.” Really?  Have you asked them how they feel about your new policy? Clearly there is a disconnect.

I gotta be honest.  I feel sick…I feel hopeless…and I feel helpless.  It makes me want to have NOTHING to do with the church.  I know that’s harsh.  I know there is a good possibility that we all may never agree, but making people feel as if they are unworthy of love…thrown away…is not how we should handle that disagreement.

If you have a conversation with someone about God, Christianity, the Gospel…whatever the topic regarding faith…and they leave feeling less than, unloved, belittled, etc…you are DOING IT WRONG.  As Christians we are to bear good fruit. What kind of fruit are you bearing?  How many lives must we lose?

For now I will remind myself of Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to comfort all who mourn, 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.

beauty-from-ashes

Lord bring us beauty from ashes.  Love each other…love matters…and how we love matters even more.

 

 

 

Lesa did you know?…

I can’t believe another year has begun…and we are past the middle of the first month already.  Maybe it’s because Christmas hasn’t quite been over for us yet.  We just had our family Christmas with my in-laws this past Saturday, and this coming weekend was supposed to be Mike’s holiday party at work, but because of all the snow they are calling for it is now going to be at the end of February.  So, I guess the holidays are going to last a bit longer for us.

Have you ever had a year where you just couldn’t get into Christmas…maybe even felt a little sad?  I had one of those this year.  I’m not even really sure why this year bothered me.  I know people who struggle with depression during the holidays and although I miss my loved ones who are no longer on this earth every holiday, I don’t usually get the blues.  I didn’t get as much quite time with God and that may be why…but for whatever reason…I was pretty weepy…and certain Christmas songs sure didn’t help.

One of my all time favorite Christmas songs is Mary Did You Know? written by Mark Lowry.  Right now my favorite version is by Pentatonix.

As a mother, it isn’t hard for me to connect to this song.  I try to imagine how Mary must have felt raising Jesus.  There is a scene in the movie Passion of the Christ that will forever remain with me.  It’s when Jesus is walking with the cross and he falls.  Mary is in the crowd and as she watches him fall she has flashbacks to when he was a toddler learning to walk. They show him falling as a toddler and then they go back to the scene of him as an adult.  That scene hits me right in the heart.  Our children are our children until the day we die…no matter how old they get, and when they hurt…we hurt.

As I listened to the song this year, I couldn’t help but wonder what life would have been like if I’d known sooner that my son was gay.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Lesa did you know that your baby boy would one day discover he was gay?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Lesa did you know that your baby boy would be called an abomination?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Lesa did you know that your baby boy would be discriminated against? (there are currently 115 anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced in state and local legislation)
Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm the storm with his hand?
Lesa did you know that your baby boy would have preachers calling for his death from their pulpits. (these aren’t outlandish Westboro Baptist type churches – they are every day churches – I won’t put their names here because they could be a trigger for someone, but if you want more info you can contact me.)

Would I want to know these things as I held my baby boy?  No, I have to say that I’m glad I didn’t.  As much as I wish I could have prepared him for what he was about to face, I wasn’t prepared to handle it back then.  I, of course, wish I could have protected him from the pain he went through with the coming out process, but I know that it has shaped him into the strong person he is now.  I am a different person now having gone though this with him.  I shudder to think of how I may have handled it if I had known back then.  (please understand that I am not comparing raising a gay son to raising Jesus so don’t email me about that – smile).

There were a lot of engagements happening this Christmas…and maybe that was part of my sadness.  It’s a reminder that my son may not have the same joy of that occasion.  Yes, he can get married at the moment…but…

Will he have a clerk refuse to sign his marriage license?
Will he have a baker refuse to make his cake?
Will he have a florist refuse to create his flower arrangements?
Will the venue find a reason for him not to have his reception where he would like it?

These are the kind of things that our kids are faced with on a daily basis.

So, these have been my holiday musings.  I hope one day I won’t have such things to ponder.  I share them with you as a reminder that there is still work to be done.  Because whether or not we agree on things, the one thing I know for sure is that everyone should be loved.

There’s a line in the song that pertains to Mary and myself:

This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you.

My son has delivered me from the box I was living in, and had God stuffed in there with me, and helped me love others unconditionally.  I am forever grateful for that and it makes the journey a little less painful.

So let me ask you…

Do you know…that you are loved.  If you don’t, contact me.

Love matters…but how we love matters even more.

A place to belong…

When I was little, I had an addiction.  Not a dangerous one, but one that had a social stigma to it nonetheless.  As a baby, I never took to a pacifier…instead I preferred my thumb.  And since this habit went beyond my toddler years…boy oh boy did I hear about it from my extended family.  When I was about four years old, my grandfather used to tell me that if I didn’t stop sucking my thumb he was going to put duck poop on it.  Ewww….right?.  But since we lived in the city and I had never seen a duck wandering around, I was pretty sure that he was bluffing (smile).  It was a habit that brought me comfort.  I had it so bad that when I was in kindergarten I would go over to the water fountain to get a drink, but instead would sneak a quick “hit.”  Like a smoker going out for a smoke break.

Now breaking a child from the habit of using a pacifier is tough…I did it with both of my kids.  But a child who sucks their thumb…even tougher because let’s face it…it’s not like you can cut their thumbs off to stop them.  I eventually got to the point where I was able to go all day without sucking my thumb (no more sneaking to the water fountain).  Bedtime was really hard though.  It was how I was used to falling asleep.  When I was six or seven years old, my aunt was babysitting me at my house with her boyfriend.  It was time for bed and she tucked me in for the night.  She asked me if I still sucked my thumb and I assured her that I was a big girl and no longer needed to do that.  I guess she didn’t buy it.  She went downstairs and waited a few minutes before sneaking back up the steps.  The next thing I knew she burst into my room, turned on the light, and exclaimed, “Ah ha!” She had caught me in the act and I immediately began to cry.  For one thing, she scared the bejeebies out of me.  Secondly, I was embarrassed.  The last thing I wanted was for my aunt to think badly of me so from that day forward, I never sucked my thumb again.

I didn’t need anyone to tell my five-year old self in kindergarten that sucking my thumb in public would not be a good idea.  I didn’t need anyone to tell me that I might be made fun of, or might not have friends because of it.  My classmates weren’t doing it, and I wanted to fit in.  I wanted to belong, and I knew that belonging was important.  It wasn’t something that I was taught…the sense of belonging was just a natural part of me.

As human beings, we have a strong desire to belong.  I’m sure it’s because that is how God wired us.  We, of course, belong to Him…He created us…but we have a deep longing to belong with people too.  As I reflect on the holiday season, I am reminded how important belonging really is to us.

This Thanksgiving was really tough for some of my friends with gay children.  Decades of family traditions have ended because their children were no longer welcome and so they in turn were not either.  Can you imagine not feeling a sense of belonging in your own family?  Recently I’ve learned of two teens that have been kicked out of their homes because they are gay.  Rejected so easily.  No one to belong to in an earthly sense.

This deep desire to belong is one of the reasons that suicide is so prevalent among the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, when I speak with people about this they attribute it to the person not knowing God and turning to evil things.  It is quite the opposite.  Most of the suicides that I know about are Christian LGBTQ people.  They know God and have a deep love for Him, but the ostracism they face from fellow Christians is too big a burden for them to bear.  They have no sense of belonging.  Has someone ever said to you that they are a Christian, but they don’t feel the need to belong to a church?  What have you been taught to say to that person?  Are we taught to tell them that being part of the body of Christ is important? That’s what many LGBTQ people that have grown up in the church have been taught as well…and then suddenly they find themselves being turned away from the very thing that they are trying to obey.

This desire for belonging is not to be taken lightly.  It’s in our DNA.  The church needs to get better at this.  I have found that there are churches that are welcoming to the LGBTQ community, but there are conditions.  No one feels welcome when there is a “but” associated with it.

Welcoming with conditions does not give a sense of belonging…it gives a sense of being tolerated…and that my friends is completely different.  My heart goes out to those who have been separated from their families…especially during this holiday season. We may belong to God, but we need His people to show up and love as He calls us to do.

Belonging matters…love matters…but how we love matters even more.