Sacred moments…

It’s finally a nice enough evening to sit on my deck to write.  It’s been a while because there has been tons going on.  Good stuff, hard stuff, meaningful stuff.  It got me to thinking about the sacred moments that God gifts us with when we slow down long enough to pay attention.  I think they happen more often than we realize…I mean God is omnipresent so how could they not.  Right?  Some of those moments though are so big that they can’t be missed.  I had two such moments like that recently…

The first being a weekend away.  Seems normal enough…but this was not your average get away.  It was two days spent with the most amazing women I am lucky enough to know.  A group of kindred spirits who for many met for the very first time…myself included.  It took place in North Carolina and was about a five and a half hour drive from my home.  But really I would have driven 20 hours to meet these women.

I’m part of a private Facebook group of moms with LGBTQ kids.  When I joined sixteen months ago, I was number seventy-eight…now we are over five hundred strong (smile).  The group is a safe place to go with questions, hurts, fears, victories… We support each other via cyberspace and we are located all over the United States and other parts of the world.  We share a common goal…to love our kids unconditionally.  The group is a remarkable place for resources and has been a life-saver to many.

As remarkable as it is to be a part of this group on the internet, it is even more meaningfull to get to meet a mom face-to-face. I’ve had the opportunity to do that with some of the moms that live closer to me and I’ve made incredible, life-long friends. But on this particular weekend, I got to meet twenty-five of these amazing moms (there were twenty-seven of us, but I had already met two of the moms in person).  We got to break bread together, cry together, laugh together, and share our powerful stories about our kids and the path that they’ve put us on and the journey that God has brought us through.  Each person’s story has a piece of our own…different…but the same.  And when the pieces all come together…fitting intricately each intertwined with the other…you get the perfect picture of God’s abiding love.

Me and Justin

Me and Justin

On Saturday, we had two special guests join us for breakfast.  Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian Network, and the author of Torn:  Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate, and John Pavlovitz, pastor and blogger who shepherds another private FB group of moms of LGBTQ kids where I am also a member.  It was lovely meeting them and I especially enjoyed my time chatting with Justin letting him know how much his book changed my family’s journey.  He is gracious and humble and it meant so much to me to let him know that his heart shined through his book and is making a difference.

Overall, it was an amazing weekend.  This group of women and all of the women who couldn’t be there are some of the strongest and courageous women I know.  We refer to ourselves as the Mama Bears because we fiercely love our children and will go to great lengths to protect them.  We have a mom in our group who is a graphic artist and she came up with the graphic below for us.  (If you are a mama or papa bear, or even a grandma bear and would like to visit her shop you can do so here.)  We could be our true selves without any fear of judgement.  We didn’t have to worry about what we said or how we said it because we knew our hearts were safe with each other.  It was an incredible, God-filled, sacred moment.  The timing of this weekend was a huge blessing to me as it led into my second sacred moment the following weekend.

Graphic design by Jennifer Stake White

Graphic design by Jennifer Stake White

If you ask anyone who knows me well how I feel about public speaking, they would tell you I would rather eat dirt then to do so.  I’m not a fan of being in the “spotlight.”  I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of girl.  So when my pastor asked if I would speak about my journey in front of our congregation I said yes with some fear and trembling.  I don’t like to speak in public, but more importantly, this had the potential of ruffling some feathers (to put it mildly).  The LAST thing I ever would want is for something I did to hurt my church.  I took it very seriously and honestly put a lot of pressure on myself.  The series that my pastor is currently doing is on Ephesians and this particular Sunday he talked about Paul standing in the gap for the Jews and Gentiles.  He felt that my journey of standing in the gap for gays and Christians would be a good modern-day example.  I didn’t hesitate to say yes because God had already been whispering in my ear that I would one day speak about this. Part of me hopes that this is all God was referring to (smile), but I’m not so sure about that.  Yikes!

So why was this a sacred moment?  I’m not going to tell you what I said because I’m going to include the link so you can listen for yourself if you like.  It was sacred because God was present.  I had weeks to think about what I was going to say.  I had conversations with my pastor asking if particular things that are part of my journey were ok to discuss.  But how do you sum up an eight year journey on a Sunday morning when SO much has happened?  You let the Holy Spirit take over (smile).  I let go…I told God that this is the journey You’ve taken me on…You tell the story the way You want it to be told.  And He showed up…in a BIG way.

I woke up that morning shaking so badly from nerves that I could hardly get my the toothpaste on my toothbrush.  I knew I had lots of people praying for me and took a moment to zone in on those prayers.  I had an incredible sense of peace come over me.  So much so, that I had to remind myself while sitting in the pew waiting for my turn that I was actually about to get up there and speak (smile).  I got up there and shared my journey.  I survived!  The response I’ve gotten has been overwhelming now that the message is on the internet.  I can barely keep up with the comments I’ve received and I’m humbled to be used in such a way by God.  It was a sacred moment…one that I hope you will take a moment (well a long moment – smile) to listen to:

Standing in the Gap  – I come in around the 20 minute mark.  I have this in written form as well.

 

sacred moments

Love matters…but how we love matters even more.

Do you speak love fluently?…

I realized in high school that I did not have a knack for learning a foreign language.  I was required to take two years of a language that was not my own in order to graduate.  I decided to take French.  I quickly learned that I did not have the patience it was going to take to master this language.  I wanted to be able to have normal conversations.  Unfortunately, the curriculum was not set up that way.  I was taught individual words, but the teacher focused more on phrases.  Things I would need to know if I traveled to France like…  “My name is…, What time is it…I would like _____ to eat, Where is the rest room?” I found this very boring.  I managed to make it through the first year, but if I don’t use something, I loose it, and I did not use the French I learned over the summer.  I mean…who was I going to talk to?  And what if I wanted to say something other than the phrases I had learned?

Year two came along and I realized I was in big trouble the first day of French II class.  The teacher was not speaking English at all.  I had no idea what she was saying.  Honestly I think this was really unfair…shouldn’t this be saved for French III?  I guess she figured it was the best way for us to “catch on.”  I was totally lost.  I was sitting at my desk one day with a bad headache.  I guess my teacher could tell something was wrong so she asked me something in French.  I thought she asked if I had a headache so I responded “Oui – yes.”  She responded in English, “I should fail you for that.”  Uh oh.  “Why?” I asked. “Because I asked you if you were bored and you said YES!”  oops. (smile).

Unfortunately, today there is another language that many do not understand.  It’s the language of love.  I have learned over this last year that people do the cruelest things in the name of love.  The results of this misuse of love, or lack of love, are tragic.  If Jesus’ greatest command to us is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40), don’t you think we should learn how to love better??

…Especially as Christians…

…sadly we are failing.

There have been 5 suicides of LGBT youth in the last 15 days.  In addition, there was one suicide attempt, and one close call (someone found a note and was able to stop the person in time).  And these are just the ones I know about.  I’m sure, unfortunately, there were others.  The unnerving part of all of this to me is that these kids report in suicide notes that they are leaving this world because of the rejection they feel from their families and from the church. This makes my heart hurt more than I can even put into words. At times I find it hard to even catch my breath at the thought of it.  I’ve been grieving these last two weeks for these young souls who felt life was too hard to endure.

Where is the love that Jesus speaks of?

Despite the bullying, discrimination, and hate that they experience, the LGBT people that I have met are some of the most loving people that I know.  Their ability to forgive and love the people who hurt them the most amazes me.  We could all learn something from them.

Do you know how to truly love?  Could you make improvements?  Is there more you could learn?

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Love matters…but how we love matters even more.  Learn how to love fluently…

One of these things is not like the other…

Disclaimer:  I got permission to share what is in this post.

I was awakened by the telephone ringing.  I opened one eye and looked at the clock.  4am.  I knew who it is was, or so I thought.  There was only one person that would be calling me in the middle of the night…my sister.  I picked up the phone and said hello dreading what I was going to hear from the other end.  I had been here many times before.  A male voice asked if I was Lesa Schepers.  My heart quickened as it was not who I expected.  “Mrs. Schepers, I’m officer ____ and I am here with your sister.  We need you to come to your parent’s house.”

The police officer explained that my sister called 911 and was threatening to take her life.  He said that she was drunk.  They confiscated all of the alcohol that was in the house and told me that I needed to come get her.  It was New Year’s Eve a year after my mom died and my dad wasn’t home.  I told them I was on my way.  I hung up the phone and explained to my husband what was going on.  He was not happy that I would be traveling an hour in the middle of the night…especially a night that there was a high incidence of drunk driving.  At the time, I didn’t realize I could say no to the officer.  I thought I had to go.  So I left my two babies, aged 4 and almost 3, my angry husband, and I drove to my parent’s house.

To say that my sister was drunk was an understatement.  When the police officers left her (they did not wait for me to get there), she proceeded to drink all of the cough medicine that was in the house.  I got there at 5:30am and after chatting with her for about an hour I decided that I would try to get her into rehab.  I brought her to my house where I could do some research with her insurance company and they found a place near my house.  It was approaching evening by the time we got there and she had not completely sobered up yet.

We walked into the facility and they took her into a room to chat with her and go over her insurance.  I was sitting in the lobby when suddenly a very angry young woman (a resident at the rehab) came up to the Christmas tree, knocked it over, and stomped on every glass ornament that was on the tree breaking them.  She was upset that she wasn’t going home for a visit that she felt she should be allowed to do.  I sat there contemplating if I was doing the right thing.  I felt guilty…wondering if my mom would agree with me pushing my sister to do this.  I had always been my sister’s protector and this place didn’t seem very safe so far.  Someone from the office came out and escorted me to another room so that they could clean up the mess.  In that room, residents were sneaking back into the facility through the window. Needless to say, it was quite the adventure.  I was definitely rethinking this particular place for my sister.  Turns out her insurance wouldn’t pay for the stay after all and I left bringing her with me.

I would like to say that things got better after that, but sadly they got much worse.

So why do I bring this up?  I’ve heard it mentioned many times from Christians that they believe being gay is like being an alcoholic.  I don’t quite understand that logic.  Alcoholism is a disease.  A person’s sexuality is not a disease.  A person can choose to take a drink, but a gay person can’t choose their sexuality.  Not like the otherAlcoholism destroys lives.  I’ve seen it first hand.  I’ve shared this story because I have been in the trenches of addiction with someone.  It is ugly and it ravages lives.  It makes the person addicted very selfish.  Their alcoholism can also be destructive to their family and any one who loves them.  A person who is an alcoholic eventually learns that the alcohol is their enemy.  If they take the steps to stop drinking, their lives change for the better.  They are able to bear fruit.   Asking someone who is gay to give up their sexuality does the opposite of what happens when an alcoholic stops drinking. It causes them to hate their sexuality and since sexuality is a part of who they are…they end up hating themselves.  This often causes depression and unfortunately thoughts of suicide for many.  It’s a very different picture from a recovering alcoholic.  I guess some would argue that a gay person accepting their sexuality and acting on it causes destruction in their lives, but that is a conversation for another time (smile).

Note:  I am happy to say that today my sister has been sober for 11 years.  She made the decision to get clean 7 years after our New Year’s Eve adventure. She has shared her story and helped to change many people’s lives over the years.  I am very proud of her.  She is one of the strongest and most resilient people I know.

Remember to love each other…because love matters.

 

Is that something in my eye…

“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  How many of us have heard that over the years from our mothers?  Not a bad motto to live by, but it seems that some people just can’t help themselves.  I’ve run into my fair share of bullies.  It seems that they didn’t learn the “golden rule” of being nice.  For the most part, I eventually learned to ignore them.  My sister on the other hand had a bully that tormented her endlessly.  She was more sensitive to it and offered the reaction that the bully was looking for time and time again.  She would come home in tears day after day because this boy scared her and bothered her on the bus ride home.   It got to the point that my dad knew something needed to be done.  So he sent me.

One day I waited at the bus stop for her to get home.  I was about fifteen which means she was 10.  This bully lived in our neighborhood so I knew that he would be getting off at the same stop.  So there I was on the busiest Seddie12street in our neighborhood….waiting (wearing my catholic school uniform no less).  My sister got off the bus and I had her stand behind me.  The young man got off as well.  He was older than my sister and had no business picking on her.  I marched up to him, grabbed him by his shirt collar (probably had to tippy toe because he was taller than me), and told him that if he ever bothered my sister again I would rip his face off.  Then I gave him a little shove as I let go of his collar.  He never bothered her again.

Now I have said this before…I do not believe in violence of any kind.  As someone who was picked on for being small, sometimes my bark had to be worse than my bite so to speak.   But I promise I was and still am a nice person (smile).  Just don’t ever tick me off (wink).  All kidding aside this bully issue is a big deal.  The official definition says that to bully someone is to frighten, hurt, or threaten someone.  I think this list should include talking badly about people in a way that makes them feel small or less than.  I think sometimes we view bullying as physical or really threatening, but it can be subtle.

I was at lunch one day with a group of moms.  Our children all went to the same Christian school for years and that is how we all met.  These moms all professed to be followers of Jesus.  At the time, I knew my son was gay, but was not “out” with it yet.  One of the moms made a comment that she was never watching the Dr. Phil show again.  When someone asked her why, she proceeded to say that he had a gay person on his show.  She felt that was wrong.  In fact, she thought God should strike all gay people dead and send them straight into hell.  I felt bullied.  I felt like my son was being bullied and he wasn’t even there!  I was really taken aback by her disdain for gay people.  What did they ever do to her to evoke such a strong reaction?  I had to hold back the tears.  This was my child she was talking about.  (I held it together though and I promise I didn’t threaten to rip her face off) (smile).  I forgave her because I knew she didn’t understand.

I’d like to say that was the last time that happened to me, but I can’t.  And as upsetting as it was to me, I cringe when I think about my son hearing something that hateful.  The psychological damage is great.  What many probably don’t realize is gay people tend to already have that negative language in their minds about themselves  because of what they’ve been taught.  Add to that the verbal attacks from others and no wonder the suicide rate is so high.

Every day people are bullied out of their jobs, denied service in stores and restaurants, and are not invited to family gatherings because they are gay.  I saw a post on FB about a lesbian being hired by the Girl Scout organization.  The person who posted it was appalled that this could happen.  I have to wonder…what do people think is going to happen?  That her lesbianism is going to rub off on the girls?  That she is going to teach them how to be a lesbian?  Do they think that this lesbian will not be able to control herself around these girls?  All misconceptions of gay people.  I bet the person who posted it never thought that they could be contributing to the possibility of ruining that person’s livelihood, but it happens a lot.

Unfortunately, in some cases church goers are the biggest bullies in this area.  Christians use the Bible to put others down.  I really think they feel that they are helping…that somehow they are “saving” those that they are pointing the finger at.  But what they don’t understand is that they come off as “holier than thou”.  It may not be their intent, but the Bible also tells us to worry about our own sin before we point out someone else’s (Matthew 7:3).  That goes for any topic of concern. You don’t know what is in someone’s heart.  You don’t know the conversations that they’ve had with God.  Your “helping” could be the very thing that makes them run as far as they can from God.  Do we really think that is what He wants?  Lord help me to always check my eye, my heart, before I check my neighbor’s.

I got coffee from Starbucks this morning and this was written on the sleeve:

blossom

 

 

The negative things we think about someone and how that comes out is what ultimately makes them shrink down to less.  We should be building people up.  So don’t think that you have it all together and know everything when engaging with someone.  God has created everyone with a unique purpose to achieve what He created them to be.  Don’t be the one to get in the way of that.

This is really easy if you love each other…because love matters.

Say it isn’t so…

When I was 10 years old, my friends and I loved to skate board.  Now we are talking 1977 so it wasn’t the cool skate boards of today.  The boards were much different back then.  They were very thin, barely fitting your foot – not like the wider versions of today.  And although the wheels weren’t metal like the roller skates back in the day, they weren’t the greatest.  My board was bright yellow and as I think back to what it looked like…it was like riding a banana (smile).  One fateful day as I was riding my skate board home, I had a little accident.  One of my wheels hit a small rock.  The skate board stopped…I didn’t.  I went flying through the air and landed…on my face…specifically…my mouth.  As I was picking myself up off the sidewalk, a little piece of my tooth fell out of my mouth.  It was pretty small so I didn’t think anything of it.  I picked up my board and walked the rest of the way home.

I walked in the front door and told my mom what happened.  She looked at my tooth and admitted that it wasn’t that bad (in fact…she had chipped the same tooth – in the same pattern).  But then she said eight words that rocked my world, “If your tooth dies, it will turn black.”  What?!  Your tooth can die?  She explained that when you injure your tooth sometimes the root dies and it can turn black.  I started crying.  I didn’t want a black tooth.  It was my front tooth! Everyone would see it!  Moments ago I landed on my face and didn’t shed a tear, but my mom tells me that my tooth may change color and I completely fall apart.

When I first learned that my son was gay, it was upsetting.  Not so much because he was gay, but at the time I believed that something somewhere along his life went wrong.  It was my fault…or his dad’s.  I never believed it was a choice, but rather something that could be “fixed.”  So although it was upsetting, I had hope that he could change.  I read everything I could get my hands on regarding the subject.  What I found was very conflicting information.  Upsetting information.  From the Christian standpoint, orientation could be changed.  I read articles from organizations from ex-gay ministries that were very hopeful.  Stories about how people were able to become attracted to the opposite sex.  From the LGBT standpoint, orientation could not be changed.  I read articles from people about how the ex-gay ministry techniques had hurt them.  Stories from parents that had lost their children to suicide because the shame and pain were too much for them to handle when the change they prayed for didn’t happen.

I read my Bible and articles from people who study the Bible.  Scholars of the different languages and cultures of the time.  I found the same thing here.  Compelling arguments from both sides of the debate (Christian and Gay).  What was I supposed to do?  What should I believe?  I found myself distancing myself from God.  I started to read my Bible less, and my prayer life was dwindling.  I felt like I had to make a choice.  Love God, or love my son.  It seemed the two could not co-exist.  I realize now that I didn’t come to this conclusion from reading the Bible, or from reading the articles I had found.  It came from the body of Christ.  The conversations I was hearing among believers on this subject.  People didn’t know that I had a gay son so they spoke freely in front of me about how they felt about gay people.  And what I was hearing was ugly and hateful.  I felt so torn…I didn’t believe what my fellow believers were saying, but I also didn’t want to be blinded by my hopes and dreams for my son.

So I went straight to God.  I told Him that I needed His help.  I didn’t know how to do this.  I was confused.  I so desperately wanted to do the right thing.  I told Him I was at a crossroad…I couldn’t take all the back and forth information.  I didn’t know if I was strong enough to do whatever it was I needed to do.  It was scary because I wasn’t sure I was ready to hear what He would tell me (just like I didn’t like hearing my tooth might turn black).  This is the gist what I heard:

“In case you haven’t noticed, I am God…you are not.  Stop trying to figure this out.  I got this.  It’s between myself and your son, the child that I created.  I love him and it is ok for you to love him too.”  My response was something like, “But God he has stepped away from you right now.  How is he going to hear you?  How will he know what you want him to do?”  And again I heard that it wasn’t for me to figure out…just to love him.  “But what if he dates someone.  What am I supposed to do then??”  And I heard, “Love him too.”  WOW…really?  Well, I can do that (smile).

dont worryI found this on the internet this week.  It reminded me of my brief crisis of faith through this experience.  There were lots of tears, many prayers, and unbearable pain at times.  God saw me, He heard me, and He gave me peace.  I am so thankful for that.

This is an issue that deserves our attention.  Those of us that have gay children feel like we have been plopped down into the middle of a war.  A war we didn’t ask for, a war that our children didn’t ask for.  I have read story after story from parents about how they and their children have been treated by the church…by other believers, in very unkind, unloving ways. Kids are dying.  I love my church…I love the Church.  I just think we need to have some conversations.  I would like to tell people things like think before you speak.  You have no idea what it is like to go through this unless you experience it first hand.  Have your opinions, but speak them with love.  It is possible you know.  And maybe before you give your opinion…ask questions.  Make sure you truly understand the impact of what you are going to say.

We all have trials in this life that we go through.  Whether it’s having a gay child, going through a divorce, dealing with illness, having an addiction, chipping your tooth (smile).  God always sees, always hears, and He will deliver. Most of the time in very surprising, unexpected ways.  By the way…my tooth didn’t turn black.  And after many years of harassment from my dentist…I finally got it fixed 12 years after my accident (smile).

Love each other…God commands it…because love matters.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

 

Who inspires you?

Inspire 

: to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about   what to do or create

: to cause (something) to happen or be created

: to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion)

Who knew that seven simple letters could accomplish so much.  I find a lot of things inspiring…God’s beautiful creation, words of encouragement, someone’s personal story.  These things can spark my imagination, spur me on to do something I might otherwise think I can’t accomplish, and touch a part of my soul that connects me to the One who created me.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150I’m joining Holley Gerth and her “Coffee for Your Heart” challenge to encourage others.  This week’s theme is “Who inspires you?”  Hmmm…well anytime I see someone overcoming adversity…or striving to survive while in the midst of it…I am inspired.  So naturally the first person to come to my mind is my son.  Since my blog deals with our struggles over the years, I thought I’d take some time to brag about some good stuff (smile).

My son inspires me…it started when he was a little boy.

Anytime we were out and about in a place that there was an opportunity to play with kids he would join them…and he was always asking if they could come home with us to play…even though he just met them.  They were his instant friend.  In the second grade, he was voted the “king of kindness.”  The whole school voted and he won complete with crown and bag of candy (smile). For his 8th birthday, he decided that he didn’t want presents for his birthday, but instead wanted his friends to make a donation to the Johns Hopkins Children Center.  Our local radio station was having a telethon at that time to raise money for the hospital.  After his party, we went to the radio station and presented the money that was collected.  He was so excited, but at the same time very shy about it.  He may joke around today that he doesn’t like people much, but when it comes right down to it, he cares deeply about his genuine friends and even when life may separate him from those friends…they remain a friend to him forever.  He cares and that inspires me.

When he reached puberty and discovered he was gay, he definitely went to a dark place.  It seemed that depression and anxiety were going to overtake his life and he struggled a great deal with both. I am amazed, however, at what he was able to accomplish during that time. He had an English teacher in high school that encouraged him to write and he discovered that he is a very talented writer.  He won state contests and was able to read one of his pieces in front of a live audience.  I’m not sure how he did it since he struggled with crippling anxiety, but he did it…and that inspires me.

He decided in high school that he wanted to learn how to draw so he took an art class.  He discovered that he is a talented artist.  It takes him some time, but he has many amazing pieces to show the talent that God has given him. The fact that he pursued something that he was interested in at a time when he doubted everything about himself…in fact at times hated himself…inspires me.

He got really good grades in high school and went off to college where he has made the Dean’s list every semester. May not seem like a big deal, but throw in panic attacks and suicidal thoughts and it’s pretty amazing if you ask me…and it inspires me.

He decided that he wanted to learn how to play the piano, took a few lessons, and when school consumed too much of his time, he went on to continue teaching himself and in a short time has become quite the piano player.  I played the piano when I was younger and had lessons for years and never reached his level…and that inspires me.

Today he gets up each day knowing he may face discrimination because he is gay.  But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to pursue the things that are important to him.  He went from having so much trouble socially (from years of bullying – making him closed off to people), to totally blossoming this year.  He actually says that he is sad that this is his last semester of college because he is finally having fun.  He decided at the end of last semester that he wanted to learn how to swing dance.  He got a few friends interested, they went and took lessons, and now just about every weekend they head to the city and dance half the night away.  As he puts it, “hey mom…I started a thing.”  They all love it and it’s become an important part of their social life…and that inspires me.

There really aren’t words to express how much things have changed for him.  You would have to know the deep despair that he felt. But somehow, through the darkness, he has found the strength to press on…but not just press on…to thrive.  He is a delight…he is quirky…he is funny…and he is super smart.  He inspires me to pursue my own creativeness, to try things that might be scary (like starting a blog), and my heart swells with love whenever I think of him.

People have told me that I’m brave to be so honest here.  I’m not the brave one…he is…

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Now it’s your turn…who inspires you?

Garments of praise…

girl on swingI absolutely love music.  It feeds my soul.  Even as a small child, music was a part of my life.  I remember singing my little heart out on my swing in my backyard.  I’m sure it drove the neighbors nuts because I really belted out the lyrics.  Songs like “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, “American Pie” by Don McLean, “Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker, and on and on.  I recently looked up the lyrics to the Three Dog Night song and was glad I didn’t understand them back then (smile). Luckily my favorite part was the refrain:

Singin’
Joy to the world
All the boys and girls, now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

My love of music never left me and when I was in middle school I would camp out by my tape recorder every New Year’s Eve.  Casey Kasem from America’s Top 40 countdown on the radio would play the top 100 songs from the year that night.  I would record the whole thing…minus the commercials…just to be sure I captured all of my favorite songs from the year.  It amazes me how much I still remember lyrics to songs from way back then.  I’ve always said that if my studies were put to music in school I’d be a genius today.  It also surprises me how much the emotions that I was feeling when a song was popular come back to me when I hear it today.  Like I said…it’s a part of my soul.

I am thankful for music because it got me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  If you read my post Buttons and Shoestrings, you know that six years ago my son came out to my husband and I.  He was so distraught by his feelings that four months after he came out to us he was hospitalized because he was suicidal.

How did this happen?  We did all the things we thought we were supposed to do as “good” Christian parents. Our kids were introduced to church as babies and went to Sunday school when they were old enough.  They were taught to serve others starting at the ages of 4 and 3 by serving along side of us.  They both went to a private Christian school – nursery through 8th grade.  They went on mission trips and 6 youth retreats.  We had nightly prayers and devotionals on a regular basis.  Video games, music, and movies were monitored for content and the comment “that’s not appropriate” was met many times with groans.  I felt like we did everything possible to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it – Proverbs 22:6”.  We weren’t perfect…but surely we did something right.

When I try to find a word to express the emotions of the beginning of this journey, the first one that comes to mind is torture.  I was dealing with three issues simultaneously…my son was gay, he was so distraught about it he was slowly going into a pit of despair, and I was a Christian and knew what the Bible had to say about this issue.  I watched my silly, upbeat little boy change into an anxious, unhappy young man.  It was heart breaking.  His demeanor changed. His clothing changed (to dark and depressing choices).  His taste in music changed.  Everything about him was different.  I felt like I lost my little boy and it was scary.  I prayed everyday that things would change.  They didn’t.  By the time we got to the hospital stay four months later, I can say that this was the first time in my life that I was faced with a crisis of faith.  Where was God in all of this?  Why wasn’t He answering our prayers?

During this time, I was often at a loss of words for prayer.  I knew that the Holy Spirit had the words that I didn’t, but I needed something to feel connected to God.  I needed to feel Him.  I found that in music.  One song in particular at that time was a life-saver for me.  It’s by Robin Mark, a Northern Irish Christian singer/song writer, and the song is “Garments of Praise”.

You can take a listen to it here:

Isaiah 61:3 – (NIV)

    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.

I have to tell you…I would sing this at the top of my lungs in my family room, tears streaming down my face…and yes, at the part when the songs lyrics are:

Hallelujah, sing hallelujah
We give all honor and praise to your name
Hallelujah, sing hallelujah
We trade our sorrows for garments of praise

I did my own little version of Riverdance.

Psalm 9:2 – (NIV)
I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High

To be continued….love each other….because love matters.