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My Road From Damascus

My Journey as a Christian Parent of a Gay Child

My Road

I’m on a journey like no other. It’s not the journey I would have chosen — wouldn’t even have made my Top 10, truth be told. Frankly, had anyone ever suggested to me two short years ago that THIS would be my path in life, I’d have probably vehemently shaken my head, while inwardly giving a little shiver. But God sees things I don’t, and knows things I can’t, and pushed me onto this road, with me pretty much kicking and screaming.

Two years ago, I found out my teenage Christian son is gay.

I was raised conservative, traditionalist Christian, and while I had several gay friends that I loved dearly, I believed homosexuality was a sin. I didn’t WANT to believe that but I just couldn’t get around the seemingly black-and-white scriptures — even in the New Testament — that made it sound simple. Let me tell you, NOTHING about this is simple. For me, at least. And I dare say for any Christian parent of any LGBT child.
But for my son, it is simple. I asked him one day why he wasn’t struggling with the Bible on this topic and his reply pretty much blew me away: “Mom, being gay is as much a part of me as the color of my eyes, so I know it can’t be a sin or God wouldn’t have made me that way.” This he said calmly and with a confidence few experience. I actually heard inside my head echoes of Jesus’ words “unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)

If you aren’t familiar with the Biblical story of the apostle Paul’s famous life-changing journey to Damascus, it starts in Acts 9:9 and goes from there. In a nut shell, Paul (who was called Saul until the end of this story) had spent his life actively persecuting Christians, and when he left for Damascus he was “still breathing threats and murder” against Jesus’ disciples. While traveling, God basically halted him with a beam of light and asked him the famous question: “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” He identified himself to Saul as God, and sent him to Damascus. But when Saul got off of his knees, he was blind. For three days he journeyed blindly to the city, where God sent Ananias to heal him and send him out to share his story. He left a changed man of God.

When God used my son’s sexuality to halt my winding walk through life, I didn’t literally see a bright light from heaven, but I definitely fell to my knees in despair. For the next several months, I walked around as a blind person with no vision for where I was going and how I could get there. How could we live our lives thinking our son was spiritually lost? We loved him no matter what and would never reject him from our house or our lives, but the fear was blinding. But my good, good Father didn’t forsake me. Instead he put my own Ananias into my life and she helped direct me toward a path of study that dropped the scales from my eyes and allowed me to see God in a way I never had before — a God with no borders or boundaries. A God that doesn’t need our pitiful human help to change hearts, but who does use us to share His very real love to ALL of His people.

My Blog is entitled “My Road From Damascus” because it’s not about that fateful trip getting to Damascus, although I’m sure I’ll refer to those dark and scary days, as they helped shape me. It’s about the journey after I left Damascus, with a changed heart, a compasion for the LGBT community and an open mind: open to God’s children, to His calling. A heart overflowing with His amazing love. It’s my time to share my story.

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Writing is My … Processing

When I first was in panic mode over my son being gay, I did what all true writers do: I wrote. At first it was just feelings onto a page — no real organization, just a way to get my emotions out there and to start dealing with them. Especially since as parents, when our child came out of his closet, we went into ours. We hid in our Second Closet for many many months and it was a lonely, quiet place. That just didn’t work for me! So I wrote.

Eventually I realized what I had to say about my experience might actually keep other parents in the same situation from feeling the isolation and desperation. That’s when my journal turned into a book. I wrote sporadically — I’d knock out a few thousand words in a few hours, then it would sit untouched for weeks. At one point, at the pinnacle of my journey, my manuscript sat unopened for several months. When I went back to read what I had written, I cried. Hard. God had moved me so far from where I had started that even my word choices made my heart ache. I nearly deleted it all, but shut my computer in disgust instead. It wasn’t long after that I realized THOSE words and THAT mentality are real parts of the journey. Things pretty much every traditionally minded Christian feels and says and does in our position. And to delete it was to mar the message.  So I left it as is, and continued with the wording and heart God gave me at each time that I was prompted to write.

I am having to go back and fill in some important gaps, but if my plan truly is in line with what I believe to be God’s plan, you will be seeing a book on this topic sometime in the future.

If you read my first blog, you will understand what I mean when I say my book is getting me to Damascus. This blog picks up where my book leaves off and follows where God takes me from Damascus to …. ???

 

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The Pulse of My Heart

Silence.

That’s what I hear on the Facebook chatter today. Same as I heard one year ago today. The day of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.  The day an apparently homophobic gun man entered the popular Pulse night club and gay bar in Orlando with an assault rifle, a hand gun and explosives, and ended the lives of 49 innocents.

I was sitting in church when I saw the breaking news pop up on my phone. My guts clenched as I thought about those poor victims and the families and friends who were grieving. As I thought about all those moms and dads who didn’t yet know if their child was alive or dead. As I thought about my son laying on that bloody floor.

One year ago today, I was still coming to grips with the homosexuality of my son. In June of 2016, I had known my son was gay for a year and a half or so, but being born and raised a conservative Christian, it took me that long to start to truly breath again. And sitting in that church, surrounded by my Christian brothers and sisters, I was silent. And alone. We had only just told our immediate family, and were afraid of the reactions of our church community. This was a test of sorts. An unfair one, perhaps, but a test nonetheless. The same test I was giving to my world of Facebook friends: What would your reaction be?

I had watched and participated with hundreds of other social media users, changing our profile pictures to be ghosted with the faint colors of the French flag in a show of unity and sympathy for the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015. I had read countless posts of grief and anger at the senseless attacks. Memories shared of times in Paris. In times of attack, the human race manages to lay aside their differences for a short time period and unify. Would the nature of the victims in Orlando change that?

I watched to see.

Silence.

You, Christian, you were being watched. You ARE being watched. Daily. Not just by me, but by the world, by other Christians. You are being watched and judged. Yes judged. Are you a REAL Christian, or just the kind that talks the talk? Do you truly follow the greatest commands to love God and love others? Or is that just talk?

Silence.

I watched that day, as I watched today. I saw nothing.

No one I knew was ugly about it. I read, horrified, that people were posting that the attack on Pulse was God’s judgement on homosexuals; that they deserved to die for their behaviors. I was relieved that none of my social circle would say such hate-filled words. Then I realized, no one was saying anything at all. Not even those who always seem to inappropriately use situations like the Pulse massacre to make a point about gun violence.  It seemed to be a non-issue. Like nothing had happened. That was somehow worse to me — the murder of nearly 50 people wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar. Even today, I saw nothing on my news feed about remembering the victims of Pulse. Nothing about senseless violence.

And then I remembered how I reacted a year ago. I did express my grief and outrage at the loss. But when I added the Pulse rainbow frame to my profile picture, I stopped short of clicking the save button. I just couldn’t do it. I was afraid everyone would think, would know, I was an ally. Would judge me just for that. I wasn’t ready yet to associate myself with the LGBT community. I’m shamed by that.

By my silence.

The deeper and more involved I get with this world, the more I see them for who they are: people who are born different from the majority of the world, and are fiercely persecuted because of it. People who are ridiculed and beat up and belittled from early days. That’s not just a Mom’s perspective — watch the 2016 film “Moonlight” (you know, the one that ACTUALLY won the Academy Award for Best Picture), a story about three stages in the life of the main character, a gay black man, that explores the difficulties he faces with his own sexuality and identity, including the physical and emotional abuse he receives as a result of it. LGBT people are the most brave and patient people I know.

The year I was born, 1969, was the year of the Stonewall Inn Riots, which was considered the beginning of the gay civil rights movement. A few years later, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. “Homosexual activity” was illegal in our many states of our country until 2003. Gays have had to fight their way into the military (2010), into government jobs (1995), into marriage (2015). They lived and died through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and 1990’s, in which hundreds of thousands of people died and most of the country ignored or cheered it, claiming it was God’s wrath. I wasn’t just reading in a history book about separate drinking fountains or bus seats. I was LIVING it.

I paid some attention to the news, and knew some of the gay rights issues. But I was living my own life, and the “gay stuff” just didn’t pertain to me. Until it did.

Until I imagined my own son not being able to hold the job he wanted because he was gay. Until I thought about him not getting to marry the man of his dreams. Until I realized that had he been born in the generation before mine, he could have been arrested. Committed to a mental institution. Beat up by anyone with no legal consequences. It wasn’t until 2009 that the definition of hate crimes was expanded to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identify and disabilities. And you know what prompted that change? The death of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a 22-year-old gay college student in Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, and left to die, which he did six days later. In 1998, the year my own son was born.

I didn’t even know it had happened.

This month is Pride month, and at parades all over the country, all over the world, the LGBT community is loud and proud. I’m sure there will be a lot of too-short shirts, too-tight shorts, and too much glitter. So what. This group of precious people have earned the right to be loud and proud. I’m honored and excited to be participating in my first Pride events this year. I’ll be offering Free Mom Hugs at the table during the OKC Pride Festival, and will be walking the Free Mom Hugs banner in the parade, hugging everyone I can and telling them all they are loved and not alone.

I’m done being silent.

MamaBear on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day reflections were filled today with hope and joy, the first year in several that has been the case.

On Mother’s Day 2015, I spent most of the day in tears. Tears I pretended were in happiness, and they were in part, as my kids have always filled me with love. But that May, my husband and I were living deep in our own closet of secrecy, knowing our son is gay, but not knowing what to do with that. My heart was weighted with fear and sadness, not knowing how to marry his sexuality with my own scriptural beliefs. A darkness hung over me like a black cloud.

The next year, 2016, Mother’s Day started as usual with breakfast and coffee in bed. The cloud had lifted as God lead me to an online support group of Christian parents of LGBT kids, and my study of the topic began in earnest. That was the year of grace, love and hope, and I felt almost giddy at the lift in my spirit. And yet I wondered if this would be the last year my mom and mother-in-law might be speaking to us, as I knew we planned to share our son’s homosexuality with family soon and I was fearful of their reactions.

Still the tears didn’t start that year until I got on social media to share and enjoy all of the Mom posts and memories. As always, Facebook was filled with smiling moms and kids. So I clicked over to the MamaBears page and my joy bubble burst. Yes, there were smiling photos, but they were interspersed with so much sadness and regret and grief. So many moms had kids who had left home and were lost in addictions, who were in rehab or psychiatric facilities, who had committed suicide. So many LGBT people whose moms wouldn’t acknowledge them. Many moms had made mistakes when their kids came out and had caused walls of hurt that were difficult to climb. So much hurt on a day that should be filled with love.

This year, Mother’s Day fell on my daughter’s college graduation weekend, so I was able to spend some time with both of my kids, as well as my mom and mother-in-law. No secrets this year, and still we sat in complete love. What a blessing. My tears this year were of joy and thanksgiving to my Father, who in His wisdom lead me and my family on this amazing journey.

The sermon in church this morning in Abilene Texas was entitled “A Momma’s Prayer” and focused around the biblical story of Hannah, who grieved and prayed her way through many years of infertility, to have her faith rewarded with a son, Samuel. While the sermon stopped at that point, I was reminded of how the next part of Hannah’s story got me through an important part of my own story.

I had spent many days deciding to mimic Hannah’s commitment of her son Samuel to God. I’d close my eyes and visualize handing my precious son over to God. He was already God’s, but I needed the reminder. As moms, we are in control of so much of our children’s lives; it was easy for me to forget that his salvation was never about me.

Right now, I’m in the car on the drive home from a family- and memory-filled weekend, and I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned about being a mom.

Honesty. Our family has gone through a lot in the last decade. The rough times started when my father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS in 2006. At the time, our kids were 11 and 9. We researched and knew there was no hope for a cure — this was fatal. How do you tell your kids that their grandpa is going to die, and probably within a couple of years? So we tried to protect them. We told them a lot of what to expect, but we avoided the question of his death. When eventually she found out, our daughter was very angry with us and told us it was always better to know we were telling the truth rather than wonder what we might be hiding.

We re-learned that lesson when we again tried to protect her and kept our son’s sexuality from her for nearly nine months. We had valid reasons but caused so much hurt, and temporarily fractured our family.

We are stronger united.

Unconditional love. That sounds obvious, I mean what parent would say their love for their child was conditional? But the reality we have seen over the path two years is many parents when put to the test, buckle.

Unconditional love means loving your child regardless of their sexual identify, sexuality, their choices, their friends, their habits, their weight, their IQ, their … whatever. Love them. No matter what. LOVE THEM. And tell them you do.

Be human. Don’t try to act like you always have it all together. Instead let them see that you recognize when you screw up (they already know you do). Tell them you are sorry. Tell them you made a mistake. They will learn more from you when you are human than if you pretend to be super human. Show them it takes strength to own up to mistakes.

Learn from your kids. When you embrace your imperfection and understand that doesn’t make you a lesser parent, it takes you to amazing places. As I’ve walked this journey with my family these last few years, we have learned together. God stripped me of my ego and false sense of control, and when He did, He opened me up to listening and learning.

My daughter’s faith and prayer life got me through. She encouraged me to be better and stronger. She became my peer, my spiritual mentor truth be told.

And my son’s courage and confidence in himself and his salvation caused me to completely re-evaluate what I had always held to be true. When I did, I learned I was wrong in so many ways. His unwavering patience gave me time to grow.

Our word of the year is “transparency.” And with that openness comes grace. The lessons of giving grace as well as receiving it are blessings. Share those with each other and grow together.

I still have so much to learn about being a mom, but each new phase builds on the previous one, and this last phase of our family has built a strong base for construction.

Next Mother’s Day, my daughter will be living her life several states away and another era of motherhood will be in full swing.

I can’t wait to see what that phase is.

Don’t Be THAT Parent

“… I’m gay, please don’t make me leave. I like living here, I like our family. Please don’t kick me out.”

Haunting words from a child. From MY child. From a well-adjusted, always loved and supported child. To parents that have not been negligent nor abusive nor overbearing. We were and are a happy, cohesive Christian family. We went to all our kids’ activities. We attended school parties and hosted teen parties, while allowing our kids to figure out friend and teacher drama on their own. We trusted our kids to make decisions, and usually allowed them to reap the natural consequences of those decisions. We didn’t helicopter hover, nor did we watch from afar.

Yet our kid thought we would kick him to the curb for his sexuality.

I have spent many countless hours steeped in parent guilt wondering what I did or said, or failed to do or say, that made my son think we would kick our birdie out of the nest before his time to fly.

Our daughter helped a bit when she rattled off the name of nearly a dozen LGBT teens my kids knew who had come out to their parents and had been forced into the streets. Every one of them. And that’s not in some distant city, but in my very own loving community in mid-to-upper middle class Christian suburbia. In my kids’ home town.

Statistically, 25% of LGBT teens that come out to their Christian families are immediately kicked out of their homes. Counselors dealing with LGBT kids instruct them not to come out to their traditionalist families until they have a back-up plan in place for their financial and physical safety, just in case. Smart advice, but so sad that this is reality.

I wasn’t that parent, but my son didn’t know that. And while his friends’ negative coming out stories strongly affected his level of fear and worry, I can’t push all of the blame away from where it belongs — on us. On me.

Hind sight is painful sometimes, but evaluating what I did right and wrong can help me going forward, and even more, can help you and your family. So let me beg you: don’t be sitting on your couch with your coffee, or in your car in the pick-up line thinking that this blog is interesting, but not take it to heart. This could be you. At this very minute your child might be panicking inside because he is finding himself attracted to boys instead of girls. Or your daughter because all she wants to do is hang with the boys and stop pretending to be a girl. This is real. You are where I was, only two years ago. Clueless and in denial. Not in denial because I refused to accept my son might be gay, but in denial because I refused to consider my son might be gay. It wasn’t even on my radar.

Don’t be me. Don’t be that person, that parent. The one that doesn’t open their eyes to possibilities. Learn from me.

Watch for indicators.

I can tell you some stereotypical “gay behaviors” my son has had through the years, but I can also tell you a host of other young men with those same behaviors that are straight. Yes, he is in musical theater, and lots of musical theater people are LGBT, but lots aren’t. I understand that stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, but they aren’t an infallible method of “diagnosing” LGBT. As a parent, look for those. Don’t block them — I’m not saying to not let your male toddler play dress-up in sister’s dress up clothes, or play with Barbies, nor am I saying keep your little girls off of baseball and football teams and in dresses. What I AM saying, is when you see things that might be stereotypical signs, notice them but don’t make snap judgments, nor make the mistake of thinking participating in softball is going to be make your daughter a lesbian. That’s not how it works. She might be a straight girl that just likes softball.

There are signs, however. Don’t look for a list, as I think it’s different for everyone. But in talking to other parents of LGBT kids, I’ve seen some commonality. The biggest that we could see in looking back, was the fact that our son’s best friends were always girls. ALWAYS. He had male friends, but inevitably his besties were female, even back as far as preschool years. I didn’t really think much about it, other than thinking he was “good with the ladies” from a young age. (That’s the thing about transparency — it doesn’t always put me in a good light.) But thinking back, even as our son hit adolescence and puberty, those relationships with female friends didn’t evolve into awkward flirty situations. They stayed true best friends. I missed that sign — that lack of physical attraction in a time when that should have been paramount in his hormone-plagued world.

Again, caution: don’t think having friends of the opposite gender is going to make your child gay or trans. That’s not going to happen. Having female best friends didn’t make my son gay; having female best friends might’ve let us know he related emotionally and intellectually with women more than men, which might be an indicator he is gay. Or maybe not. Again, no check list here.

Most important part as a parent: You aren’t looking for signs of homosexuality or transgender for any reason other than to be able to be there for your child and help them deal with their confusing feelings in a healthy way. That’s all. Not to fix them, but to love them more thoroughly.

Be prepared for The Moment

I know it’s tricky, as a Christian parent. One on hand, you love your child completely and want to support them. On the other hand, if you believe in the traditionalist view that homosexuality is a sin (as I did), that mucks it all up. Believing that, the loving thing as a parent to do is to help your child recognize their feelings as sin and help them work through those feelings and come up on the other side. That’s what I did. What I tried to do. Which takes me to a pivotal moment of regret.

One day, a year or so before we found out he was gay, my son and I were chatting in the kitchen. One of his friends had come out to his conservative parents, and his Christian parents made him move out. The young man was reaching out to his friends, looking for a place to stay for a few nights while he figured out what to do. Then my son asked me a question:

“So what would you do if I came out to you?”

I took the question completely hypothetically. Didn’t for one moment imagine that he was actually asking for himself. I replied with something to the affect of:

“Well, I guess it depends on how you came out. What your attitude was. If you were like, ‘hey, I’m gay, suck it up and deal with it’ it probably wouldn’t go well. But if you were more like ‘mom, I’m struggling with feelings of same sex attraction and I need some help dealing with it,’ then we could work together on it.”

There was a pause, a deep sigh, and the conversation moved on.

I was actually pretty proud at the time of that statement, believe it or not. I was trying to give the friend’s parents the benefit of the doubt and assume there was more to the story than him simply being gay. I couldn’t imagine anyone kicking their kid out for that alone. But that’s not what I said. And while the words above are what I did say, this is what my son heard me say:

“I might or might not kick you out, depending on your attitude. If you agree with me that it’s a sin and are willing to work with me on that, we are good. If you believe you are gay and that isn’t changing, I might kick you out.”

I promise, I meant NOTHING of the sort, but he and I were coming at this from a very different place. I felt it was a sin, he felt he was born that way. If your Christian child comes out to you, odds are pretty solid that he or she has already struggled hard with the difference. That they have already tried with everything they have to get rid of their confusing feelings. And as a parent, when you say you have to admit you can change, you are simply making your child feel like a failure. And in this world, that all too often compounds on itself with year after year of fruitless attempts to become straight, and takes your precious child on the path of cutting, panic attacks, extreme anxiety, self-hatred, suicide attempts and successes.

Don’t be that parent.

Educate yourself

Where I was that day, I didn’t have a better answer because I didn’t understand that there was a different way of believing that was still bible-based doctrine. I had never given the topic that much time and effort, because it didn’t really affect me much. Or so I thought.

Even once my son came out, I didn’t know how to study any differently than I already had, which simply amounted to searching for the word “homosexual” in my study bible topical study guide and reading those six passages.

If that was how you tried to study slavery, you would be convinced it was still a valid biblical principle that we should be following to this day. Obviously, that’s wrong. But my point it, there is more to the topic than the verses in Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, I Corinthians and I Timothy. Way more. But this study is tricky: I can’t quote a chapter and verse to show you that being gay is okay with God. This study takes a commitment. It takes a true seeking. That search for me began with the book “Torn,” by Justin Lee. That is what gave me the direction for my study, and then God and I took it from there.

If it worries you to read outside your bible on this topic, then stop reading your concordance, your foot notes and end notes printed in your bible, your books of the bible introductions. All of those were added by man. The modern translations were all done by man. Try as hard as you can, you just can’t keep man out of the picture completely. Pray for discernment for knowing true from false doctrine. Is your study bringing you closer to God, or farther away? Is your study producing good fruit? If so, it’s a good tree.

Read both sides. See what makes the most sense to you. Pray. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. Here are a few starting places:

“Torn,” by Justin Lee

“God and the Gay Christian,” by Mathew Vines

“The Good Book, Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart,” by Peter Gomes

Read the testimony of Jenn Hatmaker and her husband Brandon. Jenn has been a very successful Christian speaker and author, and not long ago went public with the fact that she and her husband had been convicted to study homosexuality and now believed it was not a sin. They don’t have an LGBT child, at least not that they know of yet, but still were lead by God down that path.

Here is the thing: Even if you never believe that homosexuality isn’t a sin, you will see and understand how others can believe that. And that changes everything.

The highlighted points in this blog are really out of order. Educate yourself should be first and foremost. Once that happens, they you WILL be open to signs of LGBT and it won’t hurt or worry you. You won’t live in fear of “what if.” You will understand that your child might have a different life path, and you will lovingly help them along that path. Once you are more educated biblically on the topic, you will be ready for those big moments and questions.

Had I had a more thorough understanding of the scriptural side of homosexuality, my response that day would’ve looked more like:

“I’d love you regardless, and be there to talk to. I’d be happy that you trusted me enough to allow me to know you that much better. Do you think you are gay?”

Regrets. Regrets I wasn’t that mom. Not then anyway. I’m giving myself grace, in understanding that as moms, as parents, we can only do the best we can with what we have and where we are at any moment in time. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow in my footsteps. I’ll tell you that those words carelessly spoken to my son, caused him an extra year of fear and loneliness and darkness.

Don’t be that parent.

 

Christians, Step Up

There is an amazing group of Christian young adults in Oklahoma City. They were brought together by a common bond — the LGBT community. Some are 18, some are 25, some are 45. They were brought together by rejection.

I attended one of their open meetings last weekend, and was sharing Mom hugs for anyone who wanted one. They all did, as many of them don’t get hugs from their own moms. With one exception. One young lady stood stiff as I hugged her, then slipped away. Later in the meeting, she approached me and quietly said, “You made me cry.”

“Oh I’m so sorry.” I was dismayed. “Why did you cry?”

“Because I didn’t know people like you existed.”

People like me — Christians who offered hugs, not hurt. Moms who got over themselves enough to love their own kids, regardless of … just regardless. Seriously, this beautiful young lady was truly shocked that Christian adults in our community would offer love and support.

What’s wrong with that picture?

I’ve been blogging and publicly posting on social media for about six months now. I have seen a trend that I find very telling, and extremely sad. I can post pictures of my dog or comments about my diet and I will have 50 or so likes within a few hours. But if the word LGBT in anywhere in my post, I can only expect a dozen or so likes, AND 90% of those will be from my friends who aren’t part of my church brotherhood or community.

I get that on blogs in which I’m stating my theological beliefs on homosexuality, as I am not so blind as to realize my beliefs are definitely in the minority in the religious world. But what about when I’m just talking about sharing the love of God?

I have to be completely honest and say I avoided anything LGBT myself, only two years ago, prior to being thrust into the LGBT community when my son came out. But what I saw when I got here was shocking. The overall rate of suicide in the LGBT community is 10 times higher than in the general population, and an estimated 25% of LGBT youth who come out in religious circles are immediately turned away by their families.

Every time I attend some LGBT function, I hear stories of rejection that break your heart. Comments like, “I wish I knew what it felt for my mom to love me as I am, the way you love your son,” or “My parents haven’t kicked me out, they just refuse to talk about the gay stuff and that’s nearly as bad.”

God pushed me into this world, and I went, very reluctantly. But I have gained so much. You see, I didn’t just join the world of homosexuality, but the world of transgender and pansexual, gender fluid, asexual (yes, it’s like being back in college again). Sharing love with this group opened my heart up to all marginalized people — homeless, immigrants, mental health. It’s an ever-widening circle, but each new ring just brings me closer to God and puts my feet in the footprints of Jesus.

Free Mom Hugs is a group of Christian moms of LGBT kids who have decided to publicly love the LGBT community unconditionally. It’s not a political group, nor a religious one (although really isn’t that the heart of true religion?). Several Moms in the group are still struggling with faith issues in regards to the topic. But that doesn’t matter — we recognize a community that is shunned and hurting and in desperate need of love, and we are going to give it. Even when it ostracizes us from our own Christian communities.

Sharing unconditional love.

NOTE TO CHRISTIANS: just because you show love and support to the gay community, doesn’t mean you theologically agree with homosexuality! It just means you believe God’s love is for all. Isn’t that really what Christianity is all about? Sharing God’s love with all, but especially with the broken and down trodden?

The theme of the Christian LGBT group meeting last week was how to react in a loving way when Christians toss “scriptural grenades” in non-loving ways. Did you catch that? Here is a group of Christian young people who are constantly hurt by the church communities, yet they are praying for and working towards reaching out to bridge the gap with the very people who hurt them. THAT is God shining through.

When I’m carrying my Free Mom Hugs banner down 39th Street with fellow moms and dads, I’m pretty sure Jesus is not only in our midst, but helping us hold up our banner. You should be, too.

Caution: Rough Road

So it’s gotten very real. As I knew it eventually would. Going public meant setting ourselves up for a lot of junk — cutting comments, being unfollowed and unfriended on Facebook, name calling (to me, not my son), cut off from long-term friends and even family. I’m a heretic. A liberal (gasp). I ignore my bible, twist my bible to justify what I want it to say, don’t love my God, am a bad parent, am a soft parent. Sigh.

UNTRUE.

I love my God more than ever, and have dug into my bible and the environment in which it was originally written to a deeper level than I ever have before. Yes, I’ve questioned everything I’ve ever known from a religious standpoint. Everything. Is there really a God?? Yes, no brainer there. Why DO I believe in my bible? Is my bible inerrant? Who wrote my bible, in what language, when, to whom? How was my bible assembled? Who assembled it? How were those decisions made? Why are there so many translations and who translated them and when and how? Are the translations inspired by God, as was the original texts? To what extent?

Asking those questions and studying the answers doesn’t make me a heretic, it makes me a Christian. If you haven’t asked yourself those same questions, and actually researched the answers, maybe you should. Going through that was scary — as it is any time you question deep truths in your life — but it didn’t make me a weaker faith follower, but a stronger one. I have experienced for the first time in my life the freedom of Christ. I thought I had felt that before, but let me tell you, I hadn’t. THIS is freedom. Freedom from slavery to law (NO, I don’t mean I’m ignoring obedience), freedom found in the blessed, all-covering love of God.

The road I’ve traveled has been fraught with pot holes and rocks, but has lead through some beautiful scenery. It’s been a hard journey, but God has blessed the path and has taken me to places I’d have never seen before. Beautiful amazing places. And He has been the driver, while I’ve just ridden shotgun.

I want to share it. I NEED to share it. I get, again for the first time in my Christian life, the yearning to share this message. His message. This journey. How He changed my life through through my struggle with the topic of homosexuality. I used to force myself to mumble about God to friends, afraid of reactions and labels. I justified my silence by claiming I was sharing God and Jesus by my actions (although really those actions weren’t all that special). Now, it’s different. I’m bubbling over with this amazing understanding of the magnanimous love and grace, and I can’t NOT share it. I don’t mean that as I’m something special, but God has used me in ways to truly affect people. That’s such an honor.

As a family, we decided to go public because my son wanted to stop hiding who he is. I started blogging because I was still raw from the smothering loneliness we felt when we first learned of our son’s homosexuality, and I wanted others that I knew were out there to know they weren’t alone, and that there is hope. I’m continuing to blog and share our story and journey because I have to. It makes a difference. I have scared moms and siblings and gay Christians reach out to me regularly, so grateful to have a rope to grasp, and I will not stop being that rope until God tells me it’s time to stop. So far, I’ve got a glaring green light.

It’s frustrating sometimes (most of the time) that I have this knowledge now that is on such a different level than it was before, and I know if I could just help others to go on this same journey with me, they would see it too. And everything would be different. But I’m inadequate. I don’t know how to give others that “bright light” moment on their own road, and open their eyes. Because I can’t. And I know that’s not up to me. I have to be content to share my story and my heart, plant the seeds, maybe water some, and let God provide the growth.

So meanwhile I pray for patience. When people share their support for my family, but do it in a whisper because their kid is in the car … patience. When people ask me if I have read my bible … patience. When my son is no longer allowed to be around certain kids unsupervised … patience. The Christian world is starting to see things differently. Slowly, very very slowly, but they are. I am honored God is letting me be a part of helping that change in my own corner of the Christian world.

I’ve been very transparent with my trip. I’ve hopefully never given the impression I am all that and a bag of chips. I have made a lot of mistakes and blunders. I’ve used some poor word choices, and reacted with looks and expressions that I know were likely offensive to my son. I was thrown into a foreign land with no manual and no mentor. Logging into an LGTB website for the first time is comparable to walking into a Starbucks for the first time — pansexual, asexual, gender fluid, what??? We had to wing it. We learned early on to rely on those gut feelings and let the Spirit lead us where we needed to go. Those early days were the Between-The-Bright-Light-And-Damascus days in which Paul was walking blind and being led to his temporary destination.

I was clueless, but I took that first step, one arm out streched and groping, and the other clasped hand-in-hand with my Savior, blind as a bat, but willing to go.

I confess — there are days I still lay in bed crying, praying earnestly for this to all be a dream. That this isn’t what I want my life to be, my son’s life to be. I sometimes wish I was still in the dark ages and ignorant and peaceful in my rose-colored former world. I think that’s normal. A 180-degree change in a long-held belief takes some time to fully adjust. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is. It isn’t easy for most of the people you know and love to think you are crazy and getting crazier. To worry physically for your son and his boyfriend when they catch a late movie in an iffy part of town. It’s a hard road. But those days of regret are becoming less and less frequent as I embrace the life path God has chosen for me.

I remember in the early days of this journey hearing moms who have walked this path for years say how they were thankful God made their children gay. I didn’t think that was a possibility for me. Ever. Yet hear I am, and I’m almost there. Not quite, but close. I can honestly say I’m thankful for my son as he is — which is really the same thing — but I’m not quite able to say the words: I. Am. Thankful. My. Son. Is. Gay. Give me time.

I’m on a mission, but it’s not my own. The journey has taken me far from where I started, and the scenery just keeps getting better. I guess now, I feel like I’m in a forest and have to walk through some pretty dark shadows, but every time I do, I can see the bright beams of light just another few steps away, leading me on.

And I keep walking.

The Answer!!

After hours, days, weeks and months of in-depth research on the topic of homosexuality and the Bible, I have a very exciting announcement to make: I have the answer! For real. I’m so excited to finally be able to share what God has so clearly opened my eyes to.

Before I go there, let me be clear:

I could share with you the fact that the modern English bible versions have strongly chosen words in the passages relating to homosexuality that did not appear in ancient texts.

I could discuss the fact that Sodom and Gomorrah’s condemning sin is a lack of hospitality per Jesus.

I could mention that Leviticus is aimed at separating the Jewish nation from the foreign nation into which God injected them after their wandering was complete.

I could quote the verse in the old law that describes loaning money with interest as an abomination, and how that word didn’t mean then what it means now.

I could share that all of the new testament verses that mention homosexual behaviors are speaking to heterosexual people who have homosexual behaviors.

I could go on and on and on about how many times Jesus and Paul and other new testament writers emphasize agape love as THE commandment. How all other laws hinge on this.

I could re-examine my pages upon pages of notes and highlights and bookmarks in my bible and multiple other sources — notes that express thoughts and ideas that I believe to the absolute core of my being that God lead me to.

But I’m not going to. I’m instead going to sum it all up for you in six words … are you ready? Really? Because this just might shake your world up a bit. Here I go:

God doesn’t care what I think.

Did you get that? GOD. DOESN’T. CARE. WHAT. I. THINK. What I believe about this topic doesn’t mean squat to the creator of the universe. My opinion, no matter how educated and rational, doesn’t change one single thing. 

All of this debate, both within the church and the world, on whether or not homosexuality is a sin and gay people are condemned or saved … is all futile. God knows the truth. And God is going to do what God is going to do. He is going to extend grace to those to whom he wants to extend grace. No manner of knowledge or begging or works is going to change that.

It’s such a simple concept. But it’s not an easy one.

As humans, we value education and knowledge. We value research and study and science. And we should. But we also should always remember not to rely on our own understanding, but on faith. On grace. On love. Above all, on love. On God’s love for us, on our love for each other. That beautiful, unconditional love that glosses over all of our faults and weaknesses.

When I found out my son is gay, I threw myself into study. And still am. That’s not wrong, but I have to remind myself that the study and knowledge is for me. My knowledge doesn’t change my son, nor God, nor God’s will in my son’s life. It changes me, by giving myself over to God’s direction and calling in my life, and it HAS changed me. That’s really what study is about. About changing my heart. My spirit.

God doesn’t care what I think about homosexuality, as he already has it all figured out. But he does care very much what I think about him.

 

 

Pit Stop at the Capitol

I stood today literally on the pedestal of the Native American Woman statue that sits in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol Building holding high above my head a sign in loving support of my LGBT child.

Who’d have thunk it?

My spiritual journey since I put God in the driver’s seat has been a crazy one. Today, it took a pit stop at the state capitol building along side 15,000 of my closest friends. As part of the Women’s March on Oklahoma, several of us moms of LGBT kids wormed our way through the crowd of mostly progressive Okies holding high a banner reading “Free Mom Hugs; Moms who love LGBTQ Kids.” The reaction was crazy — kids, adults, grandparents all came to us, needing that touch. Needing a Mom hug, even from a total stranger. Many had tears flowing.

“My mom won’t hug me.”

“Both of my parents are dead.”

“I haven’t had a hug from my own mom in years.”

“I’m afraid to tell my mom I’m gay.”

Tears. Heartbreak. Loneliness. I got where I could see it in their eyes. People would look across and see our sign, and the need and longing showed clearly on their faces. I watched people literally pushing their way through to get to us, so much was that need. Some would even seek us out for another round of hugs. When my kids were younger, I read in a book once that you should hug them until they started to pull back — you shouldn’t pull back first. I did that today. I held on as long as they wanted to. That’s often when the tears started — when the hug lasted longer than a couple of seconds and they felt that connection.

My own maternal instincts were on high alert all day at the yearning these kids felt. Let me clarify — “kids” as defined as someone’s child, not by age. The woman who told us her mom won’t hug her was probably 60 years old. The hurt was palpable. I was constantly amazed by comments about how awesome the five of us moms were for being there. All we were doing was loving our kids unconditionally. Isn’t that what all moms should do? What all parents should do? What all Christians should do?

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Early afternoon, I gave my aching shoulders a break and stood in the very lengthy food truck line. While waiting, I pulled out my phone to see what was going on in Facebook world. I was proud at how many of my friends were at Women’s Marches here or in their own states, or showing their support in their own ways. And I was appalled by the comments about people boycotting the marches because of the connection with Planned Parenthood. What? I don’t get that. I am pro-life and I know many if not most of those 15,000 people there today are pro-choice, but so what?? I don’t feel the need to agree with everyone around me in order to have peace. If I did, I would never find a church home, I wouldn’t have a job, and I actually wouldn’t be married! If our country doesn’t start to understand and embrace the concept of unity despite our differences, we won’t be a country for long.

Today’s March wasn’t specific to policy. It wasn’t a Trump protest. It was a chance for people to take a positive stand for what they believe in and to make a strong statement to our local and national politicians that we are going to take our rights seriously, and we want them to as well. I stood today for the rights of my gay son and his friends. I stood asking for respect as a female. I stood for other races that I believe are being bullied. I wasn’t commenting on specific laws or policies. I was just standing for equality. Today was about solidarity and moving in a positive direction.

I stood in a large crowd of marginalized people, and I shared love. I didn’t ask anyone who wanted a hug if they were Christians, or what their political affiliation is, or what they believed about abortion. I didn’t preach or pass out fliers. I hugged them. Plain and simple. I hugged people. I hugged men, women, children. I hugged homeless people. I hugged black, hispanic, asian, native american and white people. I hugged straight, gay, trans and people who I really wasn’t sure what their gender is. I didn’t care.

And I’m confident that Jesus been alive today, he would have been right there with me. Actually, I’m confident he was.

Fighting for the Dream

“I have a dream that my four kids will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character,” Martin Luther King Jr, Aug. 28, 1963

Like most of you, I read this famous speech in history class back in high school. It struck me then as interesting, but at the time I was living in a community that was rural, white and straight (to our knowledge).  We understood economic differences, but that was the extent of diversity in our town. It was a good town, don’t get me wrong, but it was a sheltered town. So I didn’t really get it — the speech, I mean.

I had my first black friends in college, where I also dealt with the new-to-me concept of bi-racial couples. I remember that concept pushing my comfort zone, and of feeling the need to double-check for the bible’s approval. Seriously. I’m not proud of that, but in the late 1980’s, nearly 30 years after MLK Jr’s spoke of his dreams, that’s how it was. At least in my neck of the woods. It still amazes me to think that wasn’t that long ago.

My family moved to Dallas in 1999, and there we truly experienced diversity for the first time. Our neighbors on one side were Mexican, and on the other were Jewish, so we ate some seriously good backyard tamales, and my kids learned to play dreidel. My husband worked in a small office, and all three of his co-workers were gay. I know it sounds cliché, but we went to some killer Halloween parties! It was a shake up for us, but in a very positive way. We got to know them, and we loved them all, quickly learning to embrace the differences and recognize the similarities.

Back in Oklahoma now, we once again live in a bit of a bubble. So imagine my surprise, when now, more than 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, I share his sentiments in a very personal way.

I, too, dream a dream that one day my son will live in a nation, in a world, where he will not be judged by his sexual orientation, but by the content of his character. A world in which ignorance is ended and the love of God envelops us all. I’m struggling with the realization that christianity is the main roadblock to that dream becoming reality. I am a christian. I love God, and I love my fellow Christ-followers, but I’m battling disillusionment. As a christian, when things go really wrong in your life, your community really helps get you through. So it’s staggering to realize that very same community of God-loving people is now the biggest obstacle to my son’s love and acceptance for who he is. And all in the name of God.

Racism has deep scriptural roots. The truly religious Southerners believed their slave-owning lifestyle to be completely justified by the bible. And anyone who disagreed was just ignoring verses that were obvious and weren’t real christians.

Sound familiar? Have a conversation with a christian about homosexuality, and these are the exact concepts you will hear.

I know racism isn’t dead, to our society’s great shame, but (to my knowledge) Christians no longer quote scripture to support racial bigotry. And there is plenty there to support. Both old testament and new testament speak to how slave owners should treat their slaves, and how slaves should respect their owners. The bible never condemns slavery. And yet christians today realize the insurmountable impact the culture of the times had on the various writers, and they recognize Jesus’ instructions on love are timeless. That God doesn’t support modern-day slavery or racism. Yet christians are unable to see that same love applies to homosexuality — a topic which is far less addressed in the bible than slavery. People of various races and people of various sexual orientations are all born as they are. And neither having a different color skin, nor being attracted to certain people, changes in the least what’s inside a person. What the content of their character is.

I don’t believe christians are bad or evil. My family and my son and have been shown a lot of love and support from our own christian community since he publicly came out, but it’s always with limits. And with an undertone of judgement. I know they have a sincere desire to obey the word of God to the best of their ability. I do, too. But we need to be careful not to make the current translation of the physical word of God of greater value than the eternal spiritual word of God that we have living inside of us.

So now I have a dream. My dream is that one day my son be able to legally have a happy family of his very own, and that his family will be loved and supported not just by the world, but by the christian world. By his christian family and friends. By his christian community. And they he will be able to serve his God in the manner in which God leads him to serve, with no roadblocks.

Turns out I actually grew up in a more diverse small-town community than I realized. Skin color can’t be hidden, but attractions can. Several childhood friends have reached out to me on this journey, and have shared their own homosexuality, or that of a relative. Hearing their stories, I know my son’s world is already a better place than it was 20 years ago, or even a mere decade ago. And I’m grateful for that. But it’s not enough.

“I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream — one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,'” MLK Jr.

To that end, I’m not just going to dream. I’m going to fight.

What Did I Miss? Guest Blog Re-Post

I was invited to be a guest blogger on the website http://www.liveequal.net. I wanted to share that blog here. Hope y’all are having a great holiday season.

What Did I Miss?

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