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….

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.

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.

IMG_0624 (1)

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…

 

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.