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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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Stranger in a Strange Land

I’m a Them.

We are all “them’s” in some arenas, but these days I’m pretty much always a Them. And it’s lonely.

Three years ago, when my son came out, I was hurled into the abyss of Them — those people with gay kids. THOSE moms who were so dominating that they turned their kids gay. Or who somehow missed and/or overlooked abuse. Who failed to teach her son the way of the Lord. THOSE people.

I was still a Christian, even more so than before, but I suddenly went from “us cool moms” to “those failed moms” in one fell swoop. An outsider.

Them.

And it just got worse. As I studied my bible more deeply and came to believe the passages on homosexuality were culturally based (think “braided hair and slavery”), the Them encompassed a different aspect of my life. Now I was a THEM who “ignored parts of her bible in order to justify her son’s lifestyle choice.” I had slipped from the pedestal of “true Christian” and landed smack dab onto prayer lists for “succumbing to Satan’s lies.”

While that required an extra spiritual gift heaping to look beyond the attitudes to the intent, God gave me what I needed, and I managed to roll my eyes and move on. After all, prayers are prayers, and I’ll take all I can get, any time. Plus, I had my fellow MamaBears — other moms of LGBTQ kids who were Christians and were facing the same skepticism and reactions from their own faith communities. Which gave me an Us. And Us MamaBears are fierce! It was strange to not have that Us be connected with my own brotherhood and church family, but at least it was an Us.

I’ll take the Us where I can get it.

I loved and still love my currently non-affirming church. They are good, kind, loving, seeking people. They haven’t been hurtful or mean. They fall more into the silent category. Most anyway. We have many who are privately supportive of us and agree with our affirming beliefs. Quietly. But for the most part, we get that look when the subject comes up. Oklahomans still fall under the Southern Way in many regards, and within the Southern Christian world, when you can’t say something nice about/to someone, you change the subject. The Facebook equivalent of unfollowing.

The vast majority of LGBTQ-affirming Christians leave non-affirming churches in search of peace and support and love. I get that. But God has directed our hearts to our church, at this point in our lives. And He is using my family there, though I don’t always see His direction and purpose. I feel it. With everything in me. So we stay. And that choice narrowed down our Us to an even smaller group, since many (most?) advocating LGBTQ allies take offense by people like me who stay and support non-affirming churches. They feel like we should take a stand by leaving. That we are taking the easy route by sticking with the status quo. I can assure you, that ain’t the case.

Us shrank, Them expanded.

And then there was Trump. I blame many things on our current sitting President, right or wrong, but one thing I can definitely lay at his golf shoes is the addition of another Them to my world.

A Republican. (Enter boo’s and hisses from 98% of the LGBTQ community)

For all of my life, I had self-labeled as a conservative Christian Republican. Turns out, God didn’t want me there. When He took me on this journey into the then-foreign-to-me LGBTQ world, He not only opened up my heart to those hurting people, but to ALL hurting people. Which suddenly made me not only a “bleeding heart” but embarrassed that I ever used the phrase “bleeding heart” in a negative way. Isn’t that a core tenent of Christianity? Compassion for others? For the poor? For foreigners (aka immigrants)? Widows? Orphans? Elderly? Sick? Jesus was the very embodiment of a bleeding heart.

My previous political stances on immigration and welfare and the like took a turn. I now find myself as a moderate. Frankly, I could be a moderate Republican or a moderate Democrat — I agree and disagree with both parties on various issues. But guess where that puts me, yet again? Yep.

Them.

That was brought straight to my heart just this morning. I was on social media, reading about the political struggle with OKC Pride. Seems a moderate group of Republicans in my county are affirming, and have organized to take a stand and request a position in the OKC Pride Parade … only to be turned down by the local Pride board of directors. I was reading post after post after post of LGBTQ people expressing anger and skepticism and fear over a group of Republicans who want to come to Pride.

Trump’s election polarized the political scene in ways I’ve not seen in my lifetime. And the social media forum allowed for people to say things they would never say face-to-face. You know, you were there. And to have Christians so publicly support a man who so obviously was anti-LGBTQ was cutting-deep hurtful to the entire community — even though I suspect many Right Wingers voted for Trump more as a lack of options than anything. Doesn’t matter.

Hence the extreme anger at the Republican party in general. Most days I know and understand this isn’t directed at me, but days like today, when the LGBTQ community that I very vocally fight for (and have lost friends and family over) attack all things Republican … well, it makes being a Them a very sad and lonely place to be.

To evangelical Christianity — I’m a Them

To liberal Christianity — I’m a Them

To the LGBTQ community — I’m a Them

To advocating LGBTQ allies — I’m a Them

To conservative Republican — I’m a Them

To liberal Democrats — I’m a Them

Wow. Serious Pity Party going on, right? And you would be right. I’m not trying to make myself out to be a martyr or anything, but this blog was created to chronicle my journey, and being monkey-in-the-middle is part of that journey.

My “Us?” My true tribe? My husband, my kids. My God. All a girl really needs.

But I wouldn’t mind finding a fellow progressive Christian mom of an LGBTQ kid who is a political moderate, social media addicted, and attends a non-affirming conservative church.

Just sayin’

Color My World

When did we become so worried about what other people look like? What they do? I don’t mean if someone else is about to swallow a bottle of pills, or bomb a local event or the like (not taking these topics lightly, I assure you). I mean things that don’t really hurt anyone. Things like what color they dye their hair, or how they dress or if they are following the current socially acceptable gender norms? (Who gets to pick those, by the way? I want THAT job!)

Why do we care if someone looks and acts differently from us?

We speak of individuality and celebrating differences at graduation ceremonies and annual meetings, but the next day snub our nose at the check-out girl with facial  piercings. Or the young man wearing guy-liner. What difference do those things make?

More importantly, what message are we sending? Especially as Christians.

We preach from the pulpit that we all members of the body of Christ. We send our warm fuzzies by assuring every one in their pew that we each have different functions within that body — heads, arms, heart, hands, feet — but we all work together as one. Do we mean it? If so, why then do we get so worked up when one of the parts thinks a little differently than we do. Somehow, “unique spiritual gifts” seems to not apply when Christ’s little finger is a Democrat.

I was raised in rural, conservative, white, middle-class Oklahoma. We were all 95% Christians, and 95% Republicans. That pretty much says it all. I had friends who were very different from me in my eyes, but that just really meant they liked AC/DC while I was more of a Duran Duran girl. Anything more drastic than that and … well, I didn’t really know, as everyone who fell outside those norms in my tiny corner of the world just kept quiet back then. And while that kept my happy little world spinning merrily along, I’m sure many of my classmates were quietly screaming inside at the chains with which they were shackled daily.

Three and a half years ago, my precious son yanked the tablecloth out from under my perfectly set table and sent my dishes a-flying. All with three little words: “Dad, I’m gay.” Three little, life-changing, soul-saving words, as it turned out. My husband and I have discovered how deeply ingrained social norms really have been in our lives.

I was ASHAMED. Of myself. Because at first I was embarrassed that my son was gay. I was worried that others would think we were bad parents. That my husband had been neglectful, that I had been overbearing. (All the time, I mean, because let’s face it, every parent is both neglectful and overbearing some days). That people would judge us for letting him be gay (what?!?). I was right to be ashamed.

Our family got our feet underneath us eventually, as we educated ourselves on homosexuality and the bible, and could breathe deeply once again. We went public. Then all of a sudden, our son got a little bit … more gay. His clothes got brighter and more “out there.” He started painting his nails. He pierced his ears. The gestures and mannerisms became MORE larger than life.

And we were once again uncomfortable. Did he HAVE to make such a public statement that he was gay? I mean, everyone who touches any of our social media accounts was already very aware of it. Why did he have to be so obvious?

That’s when it really hit us just how worried we were about what everyone else thought. About stepping outside of “norms.” Once again, we were ashamed of ourselves. Our son was, and is, amazing and why should we care if he likes dichroic earrings and shiny nails? So do I. Just because he is a boy? WHO MADE THAT RULE?? And why did we feel so deeply the need to follow it?

My husband isn’t as verbal as I am. Throughout our journey coming to grips with homosexuality and our traditionalist beliefs, we would have weeks in which he would ask me to not talk to him about it, because, let’s face it, I was pretty obsessed (yes, okay, still am but for good reason, people!!). So we would talk about everything under the sun, except the thing most heavy on our minds. When he would finally say he was ready to talk about it, it was like pulling the string on an old school spinning top …. I spun and spun and spun out weeks of words until I wore myself out. Then back to silence again. He is a processor, I’m a yapper.

He also is a strong, muscular, athletic, manly kind-of man (although he does have more shoes than Carrie Bradshaw and probably likes to shop more), and is a white water river raft guide on weekends during the summer. One Saturday morning last summer, he was gathering all of his raft guide stuff, had slathered on sun screen and was slipping on his Chacos, when I see an odd shimmer. He had quietly painted his own toe nails metallic silver. He caught me looking at them and just grinned. I almost cried happy tears.

Why can’t boys paint their nails? Or play with Barbies? Why can’t girls like cars and engines, without dressing like Megan Fox? In Europe, men carry bags and it’s cool. Here, they are ridiculed. In other countries, men wear versions of what Americans would call skirts. Here they would risk a beat down. And do.

My husband and I attended the Gay Christian Network conference in Denver last January. There we saw people being people. In whatever way that looked for them. And it was beautiful. One man in particular struck me. He was a handsome man, shaved head, trimmed stubble in a Jason Statham sort of way, wearing a nicely cut conservative gray suit and tie … and bright red pumps. And no one thought twice, except maybe to compliment his shoes.

As a group, the LGBT community has been judged and judged harshly by the very people who should be loving them unconditionally. And despite that, or maybe because of that, I have never before nor since experienced the level of humble worship that I witnessed that weekend during praise services. Again, beautiful.

It’s taken me some time to get over myself and my background. My cultural unwritten laws. To let go of fear and judgement of differences, and instead to see people as they are, where they are. It takes daily work.

Isn’t that what Christianity should look like?

When we got pulled into the LGBT world in 2014, we didn’t get to pick the letters. It wasn’t just the “G” community we became part of; we got the “L,” the “B” and even the “T.” The T was the scariest and most confusing for me. I was having a hard enough time getting used to homosexuality, now I had to accept transgender as well? I wasn’t ready for that. It was just too much at first. Target made me face it.

A few years back when Target became the target (see what I did there?) of the conservative Christian masses due to the store chain’s stance on transgender restrooms, I watched my Facebook world LIGHT UP in indignation. And in jubilation, with my newest LGBT community friends. Being Switzerland was not an option. I was going to have to take a side.

I decided not to say a word until I had researched on my own. I still heard the haunting cries of “witchcraft” and “boycott” from the angry mob when the first of the Harry Potter series was originally published. Ironically, those original attackers finally read the amazing book, begrudgingly joined the JK Rowling fan club and were first in line for the release of Deathly Hallows Part 2. I wasn’t going down that road.

I tried to do some medical research, and did my best, but the jargon quickly swallowed me. Then I found and read this amazing blog by Christian pediatrician Joani Lee Jack called “Unfolding Miracles” about the fetal development, chromosomes, hormones, etc. in connection to the topics of sexuality and gender identity. Fascinating. Joani’s blog cut to the chase pretty well for a non-medical person like myself.

The nutshell version I gathered from her article was this: the external male/female body parts of a fetus are formed at the end of the first trimester (which of course is what causes male or female assignment at birth). The brain sexuality (Mars/Venus behaviors and reactions and thought patterns) finalizes in the late second or early third trimester. In between are all sorts of hormone surges. Homosexuality and transgenderism occur when the body parts and brain sexuality don’t match, which can be from those hormone surges, or from a bazillion different developmental factors that are going on at that time to create a little miraculous person. Obviously this is MUCH more complex than my basic summation, but that is the Transgender Biology for Dummies version as I understood it.

And this made sense.

So when I heard the most common conservative Christian argument against transgender people — “God doesn’t make mistakes” — I could have my “hmmmm” moment with no prick of conscience.

God doesn’t make mistakes … tell that to the mom and dad with the baby born with a cleft palate. Or autism. To the person born with spina bifida. With ADHD. Should we not separate conjoined twins? Medicate bipolar disease? What about “correcting” other things? Should we not have nose jobs? Breast implants? Plastic surgeons and Rogaine would be out of business if we didn’t try to “correct” the way we were born or developed naturally.

So why is it any different for people who are born wanting their bodies to look differently? To match what they feel inside? What’s the big deal?

Alexa joined our family at Christmas. And if you don’t think she is part of our family, you are crazy. My husband says her name every morning, before he even says mine: “Alexa, snooze.” We have a running joke that she ignores me and purrs out “as you wish” in response to my husband’s commands.

Aaron set her up somehow (don’t ask me how) with a technological “fence” around the house so when we drive up within a certain distance, the staircase light and kitchen sink light come on. Very welcoming to not enter a dark house.

Society verbally celebrates individuality, but the reality is we put a “fence” on what is acceptable individuality. Those that meet those unspoken requirements can enter our fence and bask in the light of our love. But those that fail to meet those standards are kept in the dark.

Fortunately, Christ’s specialty is bringing light into the darkness.

 

As Christians, we ARE all parts of Christ’s body. But that body is a Frankenstein of colors and shapes and sizes. The maker of animals and plants and insects and flowers and weather loves variety. He celebrates diversity.

And He blessed me by replacing my old rose-colored lenses with new, crystal clear, rainbow-colored ones to help me see people through His eyes.

What I see is beauty.

Freedom. FREEDOM.

My cousin called me last night to break the sad news that she had just lost her dad. We were sharing stories and memories and tears, as I had punched the time clock at their house many, many days growing up. Having lost my own dad almost 10 years ago, I was also able to feel her hurt as one who has been there. I told her that her reality had just changed. Forever. “Normal” would never again be the same for her. And it’s true.

Key moments happen in everyone’s life that forever alter their worlds — marriage, child-birth, job loss, job acceptance, geographical moves. Those all create physical change. Emotional change. For me, my spiritual life was pretty stationary through all that. Picture a line graph … extreme peaks and dips on both the physical and mental lines, but the spiritual line was pretty much plotting along with slight undulations throughout the years of my life.

Enter death.

When my dad died on the heels of my father-in-law, my faith took a dip. A plunge of sorts. Not because I was angry at God, nor blamed Him really. I think I just let go of Him to deal with me. My spiritual life was still there, but with little energy or effort put into it.

Enter October 2014.

That pivotal day when our son told us he was gay was another day that changed my reality. Forever. And I grieved, as I had when Death attacked my family. I grieved not the loss of my son, but the loss of the life I had planned for him. For me. I grieved the fact that I would never have a daughter-in-law. That my son wouldn’t have the traditional fall-in-love-get-married-have-babies story that I had always expected. I grieved what could have been.

Inexplicably, my spiritual line spiked. As I struggled through the huge scriptural issues that go hand in hand with conservative Christianity and homosexuality, I NEEDED God. In ways and with a depth of yearning I never had experienced before. I prayed constantly for help, for comfort, frankly for the gay cup to pass from me. I turned my radio station from country to Christian, and the words spoke to my heart, to my soul. So much that I often had to pull my car to the side of the road and sob out the confusion and fear with my Father’s arms around me. I was weak. I was hurting. I was helpless and hopeless.

Enter God.

When I was at my weakest, He was at His strongest. Once I was able to — was forced to — let go of all semblance of control, He took my hands and led me where He wanted me to go. I was stumbling along, trying not to see the scary things in my peripheral vision, but  rather to keep my eyes on Him. My gracious all-knowing God is full of surprises. He took me not to the end, but to the beginning.

Is there a God? Is the bible really from Him? Was it dictated by God or inspired by God? Are the words and stories literal or allegorical? Who chose the books? Who did the translations? How were they done? What do I do with the differences translation to translation? If I can’t count on every word being 100% from God, how do I know which ones are and which ones aren’t?

Having grown up standing on the Word of God my B-I-B-L-E,  I found these to be very knee-knocking questions. Surely this was Satan, not God, leading me to question everything I’ve ever been taught, everything I’ve ever believed. Why would God want me to challenge my faith?

In my neighborhood, I pass by a row of big, luscious crape myrtles near the neighborhood pool on my way out. I watch them all summer, thick and full with heavy clusters of fuchsia flowers, and am always amazed that even as the temperature tops the century mark, the flowers never seem to wither. Then Fall hits, the leaves drop, and tall, now-naked branches reach for the sky. And every year, I’m shocked on the day that some gardener has hacked them down to nearly a third of their original size. So sad, all that majestic height and thickness broken down to short stripped bare trunks. But without fail, Spring hits and all of that hidden built-up strength bursts into life, transforming the barren to the laden. To the glorious.

God pruned me. He pushed me to deconstruct my faith not to destroy it, but to get rid of all of the weak and brittle offshoots so I could focus my energy on the roots. On strengthening the trunk so it could support the branches that would bear fruit for the kingdom when the fullness of time had come.

I got to know God in ways I never had before. I saw His face in faces I had never looked at before. His eyes in eyes I had never looked IN before. His arms in my own as I wrapped them around people I had never hugged before.

God is love. GOD IS LOVE. The bible says it over and over, in simple words and in complicated parables and in everything in between. I always had believed it, but I had never lived it. Not really. I was too buried in my unrecognized self-righteousness. What else can I call it that I thought following all the rules, and making sure everyone else did, too, was going to take me to the pearly gates? I knew Jesus’ blood is what saved me, but somehow I felt I had to do 90% of the work to get to the gates, and then the blood would push them open.

That explained why the parable about the vineyard owner paying the man who only worked a partial day the same as the man who worked all day had always really REALLY irked me. Because I had worked my whole life for God … I had earned my heavenly place. And in thinking so, I had loaded down my spiritual body with chains of slavery. Slavery not to sin, but to the law. To obedience. Slippery slope, I know, as God does expect obedience. But what did Jesus say are the most important things of all things to obey? Loving God with everything I am, and loving others as myself. Everything else hinges on those two things.

THUNK!!

That was the sound of the thick bands of heavy chains letting go of my soul and falling to the floor. My chains are gone, I’ve been set free!

My soul soared with the lack of weight and I physically took in a deep breath … freedom. Fresh air and freedom. The freedom of Christ. For the first time in the decades of my Christian life, I felt released from worry about following every letter of every law … as a woman, could I speak in class? could I read scripture in class? lead a prayer? can I drink a glass of wine? beer? whiskey? in public? in the privacy of my home? could I dance? slow dance? fast dance? at a bar? with my husband? did I have to tithe every Sunday? did it count toward my 10% if I gave to another charity? were Wednesday night services required? did I have to say amen for a prayer to be “submitted” to God? do I have to teach bible class and bring casseroles to sick people and … etc etc etc … it was exhausting. And impossible. And the constant barrage of trying to follow every nuance of every word in every translation beat my spirit down. Not into submission, just down.

Ahhhhhh …. freedom.  My spiritual line was off the top of the chart.

My new spiritual reality was to focus on loving God with all of my heart, soul and strength and on loving others … THAT I could do! And ironically, keeping my eyes on loving God and other people has made all of the rest fall into place naturally. I can offer help to a homeless person without having to qualify why he is homeless and if he is trying not to be and if he “deserves” my help. I just love him and help him. Let God figure out the rest. I can love people as they are, where they are, without feeling the need to identify their sins and what I need to do to change them. I could never do that anyway — GOD changes lives and hearts, not me. I’m just here to share His love with all.

It’s that simple.

It’s that freeing.

 

I Am YOU, oh Christian. For Real

I am you. Just one major experience and a few years removed.

I ALSO am a multi-generational Christian who believes in her God, her Savior and her bible. I’ve always believed the bible holds the answers and the ultimate truths. I still do. And I know you have a hard time believing that.

One of the most frustrating parts of being a Christian parent of a gay Christian child is that everyone believes I had to ignore parts of my bible in order to accept my son’s sexuality.  I understand why conservative Christians believe that, because I used to think the same thing. But it’s not true. I have spent two years studying nothing but homosexuality in regards to the bible. I’ve not ignored parts of my bible; I’ve studied those parts more thoroughly and deeply and from every angle I could imagine. To have my hard-earned beliefs discounted simply because I have a vested interest is more than frustrating.

It’s shocked me that so few of our Christian friends and family have actually asked us what we saw and read that changed our beliefs. The lack of willingness to ask and listen to me is indicative of a complete lack of respect in me as a Christian. I assume the lack of questions stems from the desire to not hurt my feelings or argue. But that in and of itself indicates the belief that nothing I say could be right. WHAT IF I am right?? What if I have studied and found something you don’t know, dear Christian? Are you truly so confident in your own knowledge that you are willing to ignore the possibility that you might be wrong?

Again, I know what that’s like. I was there. Three years ago, I never believed there was the possibility that homosexuality might not be a sin. God showed me differently. Yes, you read that right: GOD SHOWED ME DIFFERENTLY.

When our son came out to us, we freaked. Total fear. We spoke to no one, and for months walked around believing our son was condemned to hell. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but when you read those few NIV verses, it seems so clear. And that was unimaginable pain.

We didn’t take this lightly. We jumped onto our proverbial horse to run in and save the day. We showed him the bible verses. We sent him to Christian counseling. We made him confide in and talk to a minister at church. We prayed CONSTANTLY. I can’t emphasize that enough. We slept little and I prayed through every minute I was awake, scared, at night. It was my DUTY as mom to show him the sin and help him work beyond and through it.

But here was the problem — he did everything we wanted him to do, and he wasn’t changing. No matter what we said or showed him or did. That idea had never occurred to me. We had done everything we knew to do, and … nothing. We were literally at the end of our rope. We had no control, ZERO.

But when I was at my weakest, God was at His strongest. I was folding laundry one day and was in despair at how I was going to live my life knowing my son was lost.

God spoke to me … “because you ALL are lost.”

That was my answer. That’s when things changed. When God convicted me of my own self-righteousness, and the fact that I had this secret idea that I was earning my way to heaven through obedience, rather than relying on His gift of grace, whom He gives to whomever He chooses. That’s how the thief on the cross made it to heaven — he didn’t earn it, but it was given to him. A beautiful gift with a big red bow on top. One he never deserved.

My son is a good Christian young man, and my job as mom hadn’t changed at all: I am to love him unconditionally and do whatever I can to help him develop a personal relationship with God, and the rest is up to him. He is a baptized Christian, and the Holy Spirit lives in him. I have to have enough faith to believe the Spirit will convict my son of whatever sin is in his life.

I was Hannah. The biblical Hannah that prayed for a child and promised to give him to God, and did so as soon as she was able. I had this clear mental image of physically handing my precious son (in toddler form, of course, since it seemed weird to picture my 6′ tall bearded boy cradled in my outstretched arms) over to God each and every day. He was/is God’s anyway, but I needed the mental exchange to remind myself to give up the control. It gave me a sense of peace, and put me firmly in the passenger seat so God could lead me where HE wanted me to go.

Where He took me was a candlelight vigil for our local university SAFE (Student Alliance For Equality). There we listened. And shared. And met some dear Christian LGBT kids. God lead me to OKC’s Gay-borhood on election night, where I comforted people who truly feared for their future. My Father walked with me at the Pride Parade, where I hugged literally hundreds of LGBT people with His arms. People who had not had a hug from a parent, much less a Christian, in years.

God took away my reputation, and gave me instead a mission. Not to seek and save the lost, but to love. To LOVE. To love the very people I had spent my life condemning. How humbling. How rewarding.

We ARE all lost. All of us, straight, gay, trans, whatever and whoever. We all have sin in our lives. Maybe you believe the sin in LGBT people’s lives is their LGBT-ness, maybe you don’t. But THEY are just like US. Actually they ARE us. Sin is there, just like it is in our own lives. We all rely on grace. Maybe instead of spending so much time and energy on labeling which sins everyone has that keeps them from God, we should instead love each other and encourage personal relationships with our Father and Savior, and let Him handle the rest.

Let’s stop trying to change hearts (since that’s not our job anyway) and start to share hearts.

That, my dear friends, is where this terrifyingly wonderful journey has taken me. And it’s been worth every single scary step.

Dear LGBT, Love Christian … and Vice Versa

Dear LGBTQIA+

First let me start by saying I don’t even know what all of those letters mean! Your world is foreign to me. I have friends and loved ones who are part of that world, of your world, and I love them. But I don’t get it, being LGBT, I mean. And I don’t want to bring it up and ask them any questions. It’s uncomfortable to ask someone about their sexual attractions, and seems very rude. Plus I’m afraid if I do ask, my beliefs in what the Bible says will come up and will cause hurt feelings and damaged relationships. And I don’t want that.

Dear Christian

I understand you. Somewhat. I actually grew up in your world. I have friends and family who are still part of your world. But ever since I discovered I was gay when I was in junior high, I haven’t felt welcome in your world. It doesn’t take much looking around to know you think all LGBT people are going to hell. Many Christian LGBT people stopped going to church when they figured out their sexuality. They believed if they spoke up and talked about their feelings, everyone would try to change them. And that pushed many away from Christians, from church, from God. 

I love you, as I do all people. But above all else, I love my God. And while I’ve looked a couple of different times, everything I see in my Bible says that homosexuality is wrong. I don’t know how to avoid that. I have to love God more than anyone or anything else, and that dictates how I handle this situation. Regardless of what my logic or my heart might say. That may seem crazy, especially if you don’t have a background in religion, but my life is based on faith in things I can’t see, but know are there. Many think that’s naive, but we all believe in the unseen, don’t we? In gravity, in the ultimate reaches of space. Even in the truth of history.

Christians are supposed to love everyone, but that isn’t what I see. I see judgement and a lack of desire to have relationships with gay people. I see posts on social media about how sinful we are, and how we are all condemned. I don’t understand how you can say you are loving Christians, and yet not show actual love to so many people. That is sometimes the worst thing we deal with, did you know that? When you say you love everyone, but then can’t love me, it makes me believe I’m not lovable. And if people who claim to love everyone can’t love me, how can God? Yes, I believe in God, even still. Lots of LGBT people do. But no one who claims to know Him will talk to me about anything else but how I need to change.

I also believe that God inspired my Bible, so everything in it is accurate. Oh, I know it’s been through centuries, and traversed through many languages to get to my English NIV, but the faith I have in God lets me believe He has made sure His words survive human hands. But it’s this very deep believe that causes our rift, you and I. You see, if I believe in God, and I believe the Bible is His words here on earth, and I believe in its perfection, then I don’t get to pick which parts I like and which ones I don’t. I have to believe it all. And what those worn crinkly pages tell me is homosexuality is a sin. And if it’s a sin, I don’t (I can’t) believe God created people to be LGBT, because that would be condemning them from birth, and I also think we have free will to decided whether or not to sin.

I know my B-I-B-L-E. I believe in it, too, actually. Again, I’m sure that surprises you. I know you don’t believe it’s possible to be LGBT and a Christian. But I want you to know … IT IS. So many of my queer and trans friends believe in God and the bible and it’s premises; we just don’t have very many places to worship God and to commune with other Christians. The bible is inspired by God, yes but I don’t believe it was dictated by God. Big difference. I came to that conclusion by reading the same passages in different translations and finding a lot of inconsistencies. I see it as the telephone game we played as kids — the one in which you whisper in the person next to you’s ear, then they whisper the same thing to the person next to them, and so on, until finally the person at the end says aloud what the message they heard was. It was never the same as when it started, and the longer the line of people, the more distorted the message. I see the bible that way, to some extent. My faith tells me God wouldn’t let His message become so distorted that it was no longer true. So maybe the parts that are inconsistent translation to translation really aren’t salvation issues but more cultural issues?

No, I’m not blind. I see kids that even from a young age seem to be gay. And I don’t have the answers, I just know it can’t be that they were born gay. I do think everyone is more tempted by some things than others, so maybe LGBT people are just more pre-disposed to be tempted by same-sex attraction? That makes sense to me. Fortunately, the scriptures also say God won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, so I know even if your same sex attraction temptation is as strong as an addiction, if your faith is strong enough and you try hard enough, God will see you through. I truly can’t imagine how hard it must be to have that strong of a pull that you constantly must resist, and my heart hurts for you.

You see me as living my life succumbing to a strong sexual temptation. But what you aren’t hearing me say, is my homosexuality isn’t just a sexual thing for me. Just like your relationships aren’t all about sex either. I’m drawn to my gender in every way — personality, emotions, mannerisms, everything. Always have been. You know how my best friends have pretty much always been people of the opposite gender? That wasn’t because I was already checking them out at age 5, but because I related to them. This isn’t a sexual temptation, but a way of being. It’s so frustrating when you think you know me and what I’m feeling and going through more than I do. And when you tell me if I have strong enough faith, God will change me, then He doesn’t it just makes me feel like a failure. Like I’m not good enough. 

Truthfully, in the quiet secret place in my soul, I wish very much that I could let this one go, and go jump on board with letting the LGBT community live their lives as they see fit. But it just goes against everything I’ve been taught, everything I know as a Christian. And I just can’t do it. I would be turning my back on my Bible, my faith, my God. And I won’t do that. No matter what. I’m sorry for that, as I know I make your life difficult. I know I often get caught up in the topic, and forget the people. It’s not on purpose, but you guys are on the fringes of my world, and it’s easy to lose sight of your faces and names.

I can see the world view of homosexuality has shifted — when same-sex marriages became legalized, I saw that as a victory for Satan. I don’t say that because I think you are evil, but because to me it’s legalizing sin. I have to fight that. Boldly. It’s not against you, as people, but against your actions. I love you as a person, I just hate your sin. But if I have to be honest, at times I lose sight of what I’m really fighting against and I do get attacking. I’m sorry. I just want you by my side in heaven one day.

I know the LGBT community speaks up loudly against Christians. And I understand why. As a fellow Christian, I know you aren’t trying to judge and hurt. And I should speak up in your defense more. I’m sorry for that. It’s easy to forget to stand in your shoes sometimes. I hear the hypocrisy in my own words when I am condemning you because you are condemning me. I see the irony of proudly sporting a “coexist” bumper sticker while really only believing that applies to people who agree with me. But when you work towards not letting me marry the one I love, the one I want to commit my life to and speak vows in front of God with, it’s easy to get caught up on the topic and forget “Christians” aren’t just an entity, but are people. It’s not on purpose, but you have become the primary attacking force against my world, my life, and it’s easy to lose sight of your faces and names.

Do you know that when you spout “love the sinner, hate the sin” it makes me cringe? Do you hear how condescending that sounds? How it makes you look like you think you are better than me? That you don’t have sin? Sure I have sin in my life, so do you. We all do. I just don’t think one of my sins is my homosexuality. Can we just agree to love people and hate sin?

I don’t know how to close the gap between our two worlds: Christianity and LGBT. It seems to be growing and growing. But it scares me to see so many Christian leaders even publicly stating that they now affirm monogamous same-sex marriages. How can that be? Everything I see in my Bible about marriage is male/female, about homosexuality is condemning. All I know that can explain it is Satan is winning. And that just means I have to fight that much harder.

I’m joyful that some well-known Christians are digging more deeply into their bibles, and are putting the passages into context. The context of who wrote what, to whom, when and why and what was going on the world at that time. Those things are how I can be an LGBT Christian. I am not ignoring parts of my bible — I’m enriching them with a deeper cultural study that puts the whole bible, including the passages the deal directly with LGBT, into the appropriate filter. Instead of trying to read 2,000-year-old scripture through a modern lens, I’m working constantly to read it through a 2,000-year-old lens, then apply it to my world today. That’s a very different way to read the bible, but I’d think you’d agree there is nothing sinful or neglectful about that direction of study. 

I’ve heard the stories of fellow Christians who have to make hard choices when loved ones are buried in the LGBT lifestyle and refuse to stop. They have had to speak out against you publicly, have had to not attend your weddings, have even had to make you move out of their homes. How horrible to have to make those choices! That’s tough love — a love that places your salvation above their desire to be with you.

When you cut LGBT people out of your life, it doesn’t make them to want to change. That makes them want to turn away from whatever caused you to make that choice in the first place. That always includes you, the one shutting them out, and often includes the bible. I actually think a lot of times, when a Christian makes their LGBT teen move out of their home, it’s not as much as a way to make them change, but more a way to push away their own shame and embarrassment. And I doubt it takes me to tell you how that knowledge affects a person.

Ultimately I guess as a Christian, my message to you is this: work hard to solidify your relationship with God, and He will deliver you from this lifestyle. If you never agree with that, then at least know that God loves you, where you are, no matter what. I love you, too, even though I don’t always seem like it, and I am making the choices I make with what knowledge I have and where I am spiritually at any given time.

Ultimately I guess as a gay Christian, my message to you is this: being LGBT is not a lifestyle choice, but how God created me. And if you never agree with that, please know and accept that my beliefs, while different from yours, are scripturally based. I love you as a fellow Christian, even though I don’t always seem like it, and I am making the choices I make with what knowledge I have and where I am spiritually at any given time. 

Love, Christian

Love, LGBTQIA+

Mansion Over the Blacktop

I am the Temple of God, the very house where God dwells. Me. ME. A part of God lives inside me. That’s a crazy amazing idea. I’ve grown up knowing about the Mansions Over the Hilltop, and I can’t wait one day to walk the streets of gold and see what my gracious Father has prepared for me. But meanwhile, I can’t lose sight of the fact that I am the house of God right now, at this very moment of my life. And as all home owners know, that takes some upkeep.

My house has a solid foundation built with years of growing up being taught and shown who God and Jesus are. How He loves me. How He saves me. My house grew as I matured into adulthood and found my own faith and my own personal walk with God. I constructed many different rooms for different purposes. It was a pretty, decorated house, with fresh paint and flower boxes on the windows.

As life happened, I got a bit neglectful. I got lazy with cleaning and repairs. I was too beat down some days to change the light bulbs, and the interior got dingy and dark. At first, the outside stayed neat and tidy, but in time, even the exterior showed wear. You know that house a few doors down and that makes you cringe as your drive by? That was mine. The color became outdated, the paint started to peel, the front porch got shaky. Even the grass was weedy and overgrown. My house still stood, but looked like it had been through some serious storms — which in fact it had. Life’s storms are rough on houses, and we have been through our share — miscarriage, job losses, financial strains, family illness, surgeries and deaths, not to mention just having kids! Oh, I still lived in my house, as did my Holy Father, but I had pretty much pushed Him down into the basement.

Abandoned-House-in-Bruce-County

But nobody puts Baby in the corner, and no one keeps God in the basement. A couple of years ago, my son came out as gay, and in doing so, beamed a big huge spotlight on my Christian house, and I saw clearly for the first time how truly negligent I had become. I never decided to let my house go, I think I just got tired and complacent, and didn’t repair after the winds and rains swept through. Then one day I found myself with a house that was pretty dilapidated.

So I got off my recliner, and decided that before I pulled out my hammer and nails, I needed to know just how much damage I was dealing with. I started with my foundation, because I knew the importance. I was honestly afraid to test it, afraid that it wouldn’t pass the test and all my life’s work would have been destroyed. But I should have known God never weakens. Rock solid. I breathed a sigh of relief — with a solid foundation, anything else can be fixed. It just might take a lot of work. And it did.

I evaluated what still worked for me and my God and what didn’t. It’s hard to take that step back from what’s been comfortable and truly look through His eyes and see what my house, what HIS house, needs to look like. What it needs to look like now anyway, as I think the plans need freshening with different stages of life. This stage required an overhaul. Like a “Move that truck” moment. I debated on just bulldozing and starting over, but so much of the structure was still in tact and strong. So I did a redesign instead, tearing out the inner walls that had kept the rooms small and separate and compartmentalized. I created a large open floor plan that would hold many people. I stretched tiny clerestory windows into large picture windows to let in as much natural light as I possible. Once that was done, I discovered that I didn’t need any artificial lighting at all!

Now that the framework is in place, I’ve started settling into my updated residence. It’s still a work in progress (much like my earthly home). I still find dark corners that I can’t seem to keep lit. I miss the comfort of the familiar sometimes, and feel a little lost. But on those days, I hold out my hand and God takes it from my living room where He now resides. I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to finish my renovation, if ever, as the master plans haven’t yet been revealed. But I know they will include a wide open front door to welcome anyone in need of shelter.

I have learned something very important during this massive spiritual remodel: it’s all about the foundation. Seems obvious to say, as I’m sure you have had the children’s song circling in your head since the first “foundation:”

The foolish man built his house upon the sand, the foolish man built his house upon the sand, the foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the rains came a-tumbling down! OH … the rains came down and the floods came up, the rains came down and the floods came up, the rains came down and the floods came up, and the foolish’s man house went SPLAT!! (large clap of the hands to emphasize)

The wise man built his house upon a rock, the wise man built his house upon a rock, the wise man built his house upon a rock and the rains came a-tumbling down! OH … the rains came down and the floods came up, the rains came down and the floods came up, the rains came down and the floods came up, and the wise man’s house stood firm!

Seems like a simple and basic concept, right? But I can say it was a new thought to me simply because I now see it in a different way. I used to focus on the visual part of the house — the part others saw. I spent my time and energy worrying about every little detail that went into the look. But now after completing a pretty solid gut job, my house is still standing on the same sturdy beautiful everlasting foundation. Changing the visible didn’t change the invisible.

Post renovation, my house looks a lot different than it did, and it now looks different than most houses in my neighborhood. That would have concerned me a few years ago. In my younger days, I used others’ homes as my model. I measured my Christian success by others’ standards. But isn’t originality what gives neighborhoods character? I love my current neighborhood. I see so many beautiful welcoming homes. Some that are a bit worn or dark, but so many that are inviting and loving. I now see the value of variety in designs and structures. God is the same to all, but He looks different to everyone. He appeals in different ways to different personalities. I don’t like the neighborhoods that require cookie-cutter homes.

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Now, if I notice a neighbor whose home is getting a little neglected, as mine once was, I’ll be knocking on their door with some fresh-baked banana bread to check on them. But no longer will I complain if the house down the street turns all of their lawn into a flower bed.

I’m also done with telling people where they need to build, and trying to give them the construction plans. I never felt very qualified with that kind of building anyway. And it seems to me it doesn’t work very well. Those houses tend to be the ones on sand that aren’t still standing once the storm blows over. My new neighborhood role is to wander the streets looking for wanderers and give them a message: You can build right where you stand. God loves you where you are and who you are, and He has the tools and materials you need to help you build a foundation of your very own. And if you need to borrow a wheelbarrow, I’ll give you a hand.

I’ll be a good neighbor. I like that.

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 Jen Hatmaker and her husband Brandon. Jen 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.

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