More than just a peanut…

When I was younger, I was a peanut.  Unfortunately, because of my size, I was a target for bullying.  There was one girl in particular in my neighborhood that was relentless.  When I was 8 or 9 I was so fed up with her picking on me, that I went to my dad and asked him to teach me how to punch.  (I am not an advocate of violence in any form.  I simply wanted to be able to protect myself if it came to that).  I don’t remember if I told my dad the reason, but he not only taught me how to throw a punch, but he also taught me how to block one.

My best friend at the time was also named Lisa.  Because we were always together, most people called us by our first and middle name.  So, I was known as Lesa Page (yes my parents spelled both of my names wrong).  We were out in the neighborhood playing one day and “bully” girl started harassing me.  She was always telling me she was going to “kick my butt” so I basically told her to do it and get it over with…I was tired of her threatening me.  So she did…or at least she tried. She pulled back and threw a punch.  I blocked it with my left arm and bawled up my right hand into a fist and hit her right in the stomach.  (again not supporting violence, I was 8 or 9 and at my breaking point). She was shocked and ran home crying.

5.0.2I few minutes later the “bully” girl and her mom were knocking on my friend Lisa’s front door (they lived across the street from her).  Her mom answered the door and “bully” girl’s mom proceeded to yell at her and tell her that she needed to control her daughter.  Apparently, “bully” girl ran home telling her mom that Lesa hit her (not using a middle name to distinguish which one).  Her mom assumed it was my friend, who was much bigger than me and her daughter.  My friend’s mom looked at the other mom and said “it wasn’t my Lisa who hit her, it was this one,” and pointed at me. When “bully” girl’s mom learned that it was me that hit her daughter, she just took her by the arm, walked off the porch, and went home.

So what’s that familiar saying…don’t judge a book by its cover?  Well obviously we should do this more often with people…and not just because they might haul off and punch you in the stomach (wink).  Unfortunately, the truth is that we do judge others.  Even in a place that should be a judge free zone…like the Church.  When I was younger, I was judged because of my size.  Today I am judged because my son is gay.  The judgement I receive, however, is nothing like what he receives.  I don’t mean to be crude, but in the eyes of many Christians, gay people are seen as a sexual act…not as human beings.  The thought process tends to be about what gay people do…not who they are as people.  This is why many of them stay away from church.  They feel either invisible or like a “problem” or “situation” that needs to be handled.  This is so devastating to them…and their families.  When I go to church on Sundays, and the ushers open the doors for me, metaphorically I am hearing church doors slam in the face of my son.  How will he ever find his way back to the One who created him if God’s people judge him harshly and unfairly?  I think Jesus would want us to be better representatives.  Don’t you?

By the way, I grew up to be a whopping 5 foot, half an inch (smile).

Love each other…because love matters.

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Buttons and shoestrings…

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

K&M Christmas

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

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

wordle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you go with me?…

One of the things I like about Facebook is staying in touch with childhood friends.  It really feels like it was just yesterday that we were all together. Really…it feels like it wasn’t that long ago.  The fact that my son is at the age I was when I got married gets me every time I think about it.  How does that happen?!  If you have little ones, cherish every moment because it goes so much faster than you can even imagine.

One of the groups I belong to on Facebook is from my neighborhood in the city where I grew up.  They have postings about the progress they are making on a new rec center.  When I was growing up, the rec center had dances every Friday night that my friends and I would go to.  There was great music, dancing contests and pizza.  What more could you ask for? (smile) The dances ended at 9pm and at that age I thought I was sooo grown up being out “that late”.  It was during my junior high years (6th-8th grade).

Seeing those posts about the rec center bring back a lot of good memories. One memory is of my first “boyfriend” (I use the term loosely).  I was in the 7th grade and back then we called it “going together”.  If you were going with a boy, it meant that you liked each other and would go to the dances at the rec center together and that was it.  Nothing serious…we were just babies.  I’ll never forget when my mom found out I was going with a boy in my class.  It was during one of our school plays.  The mom of the boy I was going with actually went to school with my mom and they were chatting after the play. His mom mentioned that we were going together. My poor mom wasn’t familiar with the term and asked “Where are they going?”…lol.  Logical question…it is a strange term for dating.  Believe me there were a lot of questions when we got home about what “going together” actually meant.

When a boy asked a girl to go together, it was a very technical process.  It went something like this:

Go with me

A folded piece of notebook paper passed from one student to the next (in the middle of class – secretly of course) until it made it’s way to the girl he liked.  She would answer and then pass the note back.

These are memories that make me smile.  We were so young and it was so exciting to know that someone liked you. Imagine for a moment of what that was like for you.  The butterflies in your stomach, the chats with friends, the nervousness of wondering if the person you liked had the same feelings for you.  Now imagine for a moment if the feelings you had caused confusion.  What if you liked someone of the same-sex?  What is up with that?  Instead of the magic of young infatuation, you had feelings of shame, fear, and self-hatred.  What if you grew up in the church and you knew what the Bible said about homosexuality.  You pray and pray for the feelings to go away…but they don’t. Where is God??  Why isn’t He helping you?  You go to church, pray, study the Bible…but it doesn’t seem to help.  You don’t send any folded notes…and if you receive one…you don’t know what to do.  What if someone finds out?  You begin to shut down and tell yourself that there is no way anyone would ever like you.

These are some of the feelings that gay youth experience.  I know that it isn’t that way for everyone…and I am grateful for that.  But for many…more than you can imagine…the experience of puberty is a painful one.  They would do anything for those feelings to change.  My son tried for 3 years to deal with his feelings on his own before we found out.  Our journey was difficult and often times very scary.  I will be sharing that journey in hopes that other parents can find hope in it as we are all doing much better now.

Yield – to produce or provide something…

This fall our pastor is doing a message series on love.  I’ve been enjoying the series because hey…love matters (smile).  He has talked about loving relationships, loving ourselves, loving others, and this Sunday he will be talking about loving our enemies.  We talked about that in staff this Tuesday (I work for my church).  Since our meeting, I’ve been thinking about enemies.  Do I have any?  Well at times my body feels like my enemy.  With headaches, unexplained fevers, chronic fatigue, and joint pain…there are days where I feel like I’m in a battle with myself.  But what about other people?  I wanted to find out exactly what the definition of enemy is so I looked it up…not that I didn’t already know what enemy meant…I just like to look up words to see the exact definition to make sure I completely understand what the word means.  This is what Webster had to say:

en·e·my

noun \ˈe-nə-mē\

: someone who hates another : someone who attacks or tries to harm another

: something that harms or threatens someone or something

: a group of people (such as a nation) against whom another group is fighting a war

Pretty much what I thought.  I can’t specifically remember any, but I’m sure when I was younger there were people I would consider my enemy.  I know that there were people who considered me their enemy.  Growing up our neighborhood was divided by railroad tracks.  I lived on one side, but had friends who lived on the other side so I would hang out with them over there.  I dated a guy “from the other side of the tracks” and apparently the girls who lived there didn’t appreciate me “coming into their territory”.  His ex-girlfriend let me know that when she sucker punched me coming out of a store one day.  It got to the point where I would have to call my mom to come pick me up because there would be a gang of girls on the corner waiting for me and I couldn’t walk home. Crazy!  But I really don’t ever remember hating someone…disliking yes, but hating is such a strong word to me.

I did a search on enemy and found this:

yieldIt reminds me of the passage Matthew 5:43-44:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

I came across another blog the other day and I think it’s one of the reasons this enemy thing has been stuck in my head.  It was written by a Christian mother whose son was gay.  She and her husband told their son that they loved him, but there was always a “but” attached to their statement.  “We love you, but what you are doing is a sin.” “We love you, but our church doesn’t agree with your lifestyle – it’s embarrassing.”…the same message…just different ways of saying it. Their son committed suicide.  He never felt truly loved by his parents. The parents realized that how they handled their son was wrong and she is trying to make it right by writing a blog.  This poor mother gets hate mail from other gay people who tell her that she killed her son.  I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of receiving those letters/comments.  She also gets negative posts from conservative Christians because she is speaking out about how she and her husband have changed their thoughts about their son’s homosexuality.  This really makes me so sad. Especially since it could have been my story.  My son was suicidal and the fact that this family is getting “persecuted” from both sides of the fence is just heart breaking.

I found it very interesting that the statement above “Love your enemies…no exceptions” is written on a yield sign (well sort of – that was the first thought I had when I saw it so I went with it).  So, you guessed it…I looked up the word yield and this is what Webster had to say about it:

yield

verb \ˈyēld\

: to produce or provide (something, such as a plant or crop)

: to produce (something) as a result of time, effort, or work

: to produce (a profit, an amount of money, etc.)

So maybe this love thing takes time, effort, and work.  Just maybe putting forth that effort will produce understanding.  Stop arguing…stop trying to prove you are right when maybe you don’t know all the circumstances.  Another definition of yield is to surrender or submit to another.  I think it’s time we surrender all this hate and learn to have empathy for one another.  It’s ok to not agree, but it’s not ok to hate.

Just some late night thoughts…love your enemies…because love matters.

yield signPS:  In case you know me personally and are now afraid to drive with me, I want to reassure you that I know what a yield sign looks like (smile).  I was really tired when I did this post and yield sign is what popped into my head…it wasn’t until I was finished the post that it dawned on me that it wasn’t.  Sheesh!  Something else you should know about me…when I’m tired my brain squishes words together.  I will be searching for the right word and my brain will take two words and put them together.  For instance, it will take snippet and tidbit and it becomes snidbit.  Hopefully none of those will sneak in here, but consider this fair warning (smile).