FRIENDS, CLICK THE LINK AND WATCH MY VIDEO!!!
*If you read ANYTHING in this post, please skip a couple paragraphs and click the link to an article written by my friend, Sean Black.
I have five kids. They were sick kids for much of the last nine years. We have been told by doctors three times that they’re looking for cancer and they found it with Mollie. One of the boys was thought to have a brain tumor just a year after her tumor was gone, but after months of being very sick and being in a “declining” state requiring quarantine, we found he actually had meningoencephalitis (meningitis and encephalitis) and was sick as a result for many years. That’s barely scratching the surface of all their health issues, but those two things are enough to make a mom of five be consumed for a decade with just keeping everyone alive, loved, fed, and educated. Looking back over ALL their health issues, those years appear like war-torn rubble. Their health is now manageable. I’m happy to report Mollie is in remission for 8 years this month. She was even able to have a baby, something many women with her type of cancer are unable to do.
While climbing out from under the rock of what has now been 20 years of happily raising kids, I am discovering many surprises, pleasant and unpleasant. My kids are growing and going out the door. Mollie is out. I have three in high school this year. And another one who will be around for awhile. I view life so differently than I thought I would as a mom of mostly big kids. I don’t mourn dances or dates or driving and other various milestones at which teenagers arrive. I’m happy they’re ALIVE and living just as they should. I’ve also come to find great purpose as an individual (outside of being a mom to five). Even in the midst of the sudden devastation of a 20 year marriage, there is great, electrifying hope (although it took nearly a year to find)! I’m among people who enrich my life in so many ways. Everyone has a story. I’m positioning myself to learn from those around me whose lives look so different than mine, and also noticing I may have a thing or two to offer, especially in light of what my kids have been through. While I can’t get those difficult years back, they are beginning to yield radiance and great meaning. I’m growing in a desire to be a part in some way of helping others who struggle with similar challenges. I’m learning about people like the the woman in this link. Please read her story of an illness she carried from birth.
This last October, I did the AIDS Walk LA. If you’re new to this blog, this is NOT a pat on the back for myself because I’m not doing anything you can’t do. I’m much like you. I’ll tell you briefly about that event. I was swamped with life and didn’t heavily fundraise. I simply posted on my FB a handful of times and managed to get one financial supporter in two months of asking and she pledged $50 (Thank you, Kelly Satterfield….xoxo). I went because I wanted to learn about people so far removed from my bubble. I went because I wanted to pop that bubble and walk through life together regardless of religion, age, race, or any other demographic that might typically keep our paths from crossing. I went alone to get in touch with whatever I saw when I looked in people’s eyes and heard their stories because I’ve been so far removed from their stories that I literally couldn’t imagine what it is like to be them. And of course, I went with the idea that many people there would be gay. Guess what! In my opinion, gay people are actually, possibly even more fun than straight people (and I don’t pride myself on much but I do pride myself on my keen ability to sense when there is fun to be had and with whom it can be found). But I didn’t really expect this day to be about fun, and it wasn’t. I just wanted to learn something and maybe make a new friend or two.
First, I met an older woman who was representing Hollywood United Methodist Church. She was handing out stickers that said, “HATE is NOT a Christian Value” and that got my attention. I asked her to slap one on my back (after all the colors clashed with my shirt). I asked about her church and then she began to share that her daughter came out to her after she was finished with college back in the 80’s. She shared her experience with me and I imagined how much harder it must have been for parents to stand by their kids 30 years ago. We talked about how she had to find a new church that would not make her daughter feel worthless, and how she found that in this church for which she was volunteering. She invited me to come. I told her a have a church closer to my home where my whole family is quite welcome and all are “safe to belong”. ( https://www.voxoc.com ) I thanked her for paving the way for other kids and parents by accepting her daughter just as she was. I went on my way after squeezing her as tightly as I could squeeze an old woman. I walked around a little more. I knew I was right where I wanted to be when I accidentally met some porn stars and talked with them about their lives. These days, I am drawn like a magnet to people I might never have otherwise approached. I tried not to act like Buddy the Elf upon discovering why they were there. I know that might seem weird…but then I’ve never cared too much about seeming weird!
The walk began and we were off under overcast skies through the streets of LA. What struck me the most was that it was a mix of happy people and really somber people. There were a lot of people walking together as extended family as well as several companies represented by their employees. Music played and kids dance groups cheered on the walkers. One church had its doors opened. Familiar, live worship music played and the halls were lined with tables of snacks where people munched on goodies while waiting to use their restrooms. Back on the streets, protestors screamed stuff into bullhorns on the other side of barricades, and for once, that was very funny because on our side of the barricade, teenagers volunteering for the walk were intentionally drowning out the protestors with their screams and cheers for the walkers. Finally, being around SCREAMING kids was a good thing (one of the few times they can and should be screaming and naturally mine were at home)!
The highlight of this somewhat uneventful course on city streets was the moment I noticed a man photographing walkers. I was standing next to him for a minute after laughing at the kids completely overriding the protestors. We didn’t talk for more than two minutes. That was all it took for me to confess to him that I didn’t know how he could take photos at events like this, actually absorb the experience, AND do good work! He asked if anyone had taken my picture that day. I said, “You mean besides my selfies? No.” So he took my picture. He gave me his card and told me to look him up and he gave me a A&U magazine. I’d never heard of it, no big surprise to you I’m sure. In case you haven’t participated in a fundraiser like this before, people are always giving you tons of literature. I threw everything away that day except his magazine and card. I finished the walk awhile later, drove home, and plopped down to read it. I was totally blown away by how informative and well done it was. I pulled out the business card again and took another look. Who is this guy? Sean Black, Senior Editor for A&U AMERICA’S AIDS MAGAZINE. I looked up their Facebook profile so I could follow them and continue to stay informed because I have soooooooooo much to learn. I’m a 41 year-old white woman. How do I know so little about how this disease and how it is impacting the world in 2016? I don’t even want to talk about AIDS because I am so ill equipped. Well, I jumped up and wrote Mr. Sean Black an email thanking him for his work and mentioning to him that he should have hope because I never would have imagined someone with such a conservative background like myself would be coming out to support HIV/AIDS and yet, here I am, a fair amount less conservative, much more loving, and I expect more and more like me will follow. The more kids end up feeling safe enough to come out, the more people there will be to come support the AIDS community, not to mention all the other supporters of those who contracted AIDS through no “fault” of their own. I told him how as the mom of a gay son, I am extremely grateful for his work.
Sean and I sent a couple emails back and forth. He was so kind. A few weeks later, I sat across from this white, 48 year old gay man who is HIV+ because he contracted the disease through what he openly shares were his own “poor choices connected to low self-esteem.” We ate, swapped stories and I made all kinds of confessions about what I used to think and where I am today in my beliefs and my conviction that the God in whom I believe, loves us all extravagantly, just as we are. We laughed, I cried, we connected on a divine level.
I realized that something was stirring within my soul while he spoke about having lost so many friends to AIDS, and he shared what it was like to watch them die week after week back in the 80’s, knowing then there was no cure or end in sight, nor were people in political power paying much attention. I decided I am meant to get involved with people who are suffering with HIV/AIDS in the near future. Nothing huge or grand is on my radar. I just want to make time to be with them and I want to share their lives. He let me ask him anything and answered everything he could. He never made me feel negatively for not already knowing those answers. I told him I had one last question. “Tell me this, Sean, what can the church (and by the church I mean all religious organizations) do for people with HIV/AIDS?” He said, “Hmmmm….I’ll have to think on that. I think that’s a bigger conversation for another time when I can answer more carefully.” All I could think was, “Oh no. Please…don’t tell me you have not been asked before?”
We left each other but we chat on the phone and text throughout the weeks that have since passed. I informed him that ready or not, I am his Forever Friend. And I come with a whole bunch of kids so I hope he’s ready! Sean could have been so angry at me and people who come from the same conservative background. Not one time, ever, did he act remotely angry. And it would have been ok if he had! His peaceful demeanor and love for all people overwhelmed me. He inspired me with his desire to believe in the youth of today in the wake of an election that alarms so many. He isn’t asking for a thing from me or anyone. In fact, he is giving to countless people through his professions and his activism as well. He wants to see people living and living well. He wants to see a cure for AIDS. He’s not bitter at people like me who helped to keep him on the fringes of society because he is gay. He’s walked a brutal road and he’s willing to meet me halfway to help me understand what it was like. Maybe I can tell a tiny bit of his story and you will think of someone whom you can befriend. We would have had many differences years back but we have far fewer now, and I found his friendship and vulnerability to be so beautiful given all the division in our country. Sooner or later, if we really want to, we really can come together regardless of our lack of awareness or differences if we keep love, kindness, and understanding at the forefront of our thinking. It is then that loving people for simply being people becomes possible, at least for me.
I’d love to be a part of a world where Princess Diana and Elizabeth Taylor aren’t remembered for their AIDS foundations, but for the many other talents and passions that drove them. But that’s not where we are so I ask myself, “What can I DO?” I’m reminded that there are many faces of HIV/AIDS and Sean is just one of them. He is first and foremost a human. There are a lot of other words I could use to describe the man I met in LA that day, but simply being human is enough for me to proceed with action. Many people who are HIV+ or have AIDS seek to be seen as individuals who are quite compassionate and actually really want to help others as opposed to people who just want to take from whomever will give to them. They are of great worth to us all. Many are making something beautiful from their lives despite the shame society has cast on them. They’re often treated as Lepers and labeled as irresponsible or worse, even in 2016. I don’t know what that’s like. I know what it means to carry shame. I have a lot of shame about not knowing the stories of people like Sean who watched as his dearest friends suffered and died from AIDS. That shame is different than a shame society places on you as you find yourself completely in the margins and likely feeling quite alone.
You might think getting involved with marginalized people will really benefit them. It’s tempting to me to look and see how I can make a difference in their lives because I’m passionate about them. Let me be clear. It is without a doubt, a two-way street where both people have something to give and something to gain. Both have great value when they share each other’s lives. Especially when they intentionally let go of their preconceived notions about one another. Just like my Forever Friend, Sean did.
I’m not one to decide for anyone else what they should or should not believe. For myself, I believe that a love overflowing in this almost magical way can only come from God.
1 John 4:19-21New American Standard Bible (NASB) 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
Photo taken by: Sean Black, A&U Magazine
Don’t forget to read Sean’s article about the woman born into illness! You can also see some of his beautiful photos on the Facebook page for A&U AMERICA’S AIDS MAGAZINE.
In 2015, a year after my son came out to us, I took my family to a Gay Pride Festival in West Hollywood. He was 17. More to come later on that experience and how it shook me to the core. I saw so much joy and pain there and I got a lot of ideas that day. One thing I planned to do from the moment I went in 2015, and I saw the angry people screaming hateful things, was to come back as an agent of love. When I was little, the first marginalized group of people I loved were those with disabilities. Needless to say, I’ve added the LGBTQ community, although I really wish that wasn’t necessary. I wish there were no marginalized people and all were treated equally and we could focus on things like making sure everyone has enough food and water, etc. However, to me, being present means looking at the place in which I live and the people around me today! So I knew I was meant to do SOMETHING unusual at Pride 2016.
I went on Saturday to volunteer at the PFLAG booth. PFLAG is a support group for anyone who loves a person that is LGBTQ. Some are wrestling with the person coming out, others are strong allies….and to be honest I’ve never even been to a meeting! But I read their emails and I have been doing a lot these days to just learn about gay people. I tend to just jump in the deep end because with so many kids, I don’t always have time to learn new things beforehand and I end up learning as I go! Hey it’s better than not learning at all! The booth and festival experience was awesome but mostly because I met Shawn who was volunteering with me. He graciously shared his story with me and helped me become less green about a few details. Maybe someday I’ll tell you his story. When we weren’t becoming fast friends, we happily handed out pens and wristbands. I won’t forget a woman in her 50’s who stopped at the booth and recalled something to the effect of being much younger and going to PFLAG to get a hug knowing it was the only place where people knew who she really was as a lesbian and hugged her anyway. Can you imagine her story?
I came home and began to think about what I would do for Pride on Sunday. I knew I wanted to go to the parade and make a sign expressing love. I text three options to a gay friend to explain that this was something I knew I was supposed to do and to ask could he screen my three ideas so I could make a sign. I still hadn’t made my sign when I awoke this morning. But I was pretty sure what it would say. Then I saw the news about Orlando and I knew that what I had planned to say was PERFECT for more reasons than I initially thought. I got ready, and this year instead of taking off my necklace that represents my faith for fear of being percieved as one who would wish to condemn them, I put it on so that they would know that my Christianity is precisely why I love them. In fact the actual necklace was broken and I safety pinned it together. I decided I wouldn’t say anything about my faith unless I was asked. My job isn’t to change anybody. It’s just to love. And I was asked.
A couple of family members knew that Cooper and I were headed to pride and suggested we not go at all because of what happened in Orlando and because of the man in Santa Monica who had just been arrested with explosive chemicals and assault rifles in his car (he was headed to Pride). All I could think was, “If well meaning people just want to call and tell me they’re upset and concerned then nothing will ever change. It would be nice if they would say, ‘I’m concerned, how can I help?’ But because they won’t, I have to. I was reminded of a time when I was like them and I told our cousin who volunteered on a bone-marrow transplant floor at a children’s hospital, “I don’t know how you can do that! I would be so depressed!” And then my own kid got cancer and I sat with those parents in waiting rooms and watched them hand their babies over to doctors and walk away collapsing in each other’s arms. It didn’t take long for me to call that same cousin and say, “I take it back….HOW COULD YOU NOT?! What can I do?!” Part of why I am here on the earth is to attempt to make the world better for my son and everyone like him (and anyone who is marginalized and in my path for that matter). So I continued on the freeway, parked, made my sign, and stood right in the middle of Santa Monica Blvd on the median, where the parade route ended at Robertson.
Can I just tell you what happened? My target audience were those IN the parade. Countless people stepped out of their place in the parade to come give me hugs and kisses, some barely keeping back the tears and holding on to me for so long their group had marched on without them. TONS mouthed or yelled the words, “Thank You” and/or “I love you”, while they blew kisses, made the shape of a heart with their hands, or gave me the peace sign. I couldn’t believe it! I just thought I’d talk to a couple young people who might stop for a hug. Oh NO! I had my picture taken more today than any other day by people in the parade and others standing around me! I was shocked! I became such a spectacle that I got interviewed by ABC news, NBC news, some French channel’s news, and some local newspaper I couldn’t even hear the name of, nor did I care by that point. I thanked them all for raising awareness. By the time I was on my third interview I started feeling a little funny because it wasn’t what I came for. I came to send a message to the people of that community. But these media outlets came to me, I didn’t go to them. On the fourth one, I was right in the middle of a great conversation with a lesbian girl who was raised by southern baptist missionaries and who had attended Biola. I had to go find her to chat more since we were interrupted. I always tell these people I will message them on FB and to remember me because I need their help getting educated! And I do! Then I can love more people! I came to LA Pride with my sign to love people like HER. And people like SHAWN. I came for MY SON! I may have come for YOUR SON! And do you want to know why I really came? I came because I want nothing to do with the intentional marginalization of the LGBTQ community that so many people of faith exhibit. I came BECAUSE I am a Christian and I desperately seek to be an agent of healing from a group who has done immeasurable harm. I don’t have all the answers so don’t ask me a bunch of questions. I just know I love God and I love people as best as I can and I still have to work at it because I am just like you….imperfect. That’s good enough for me for today.
Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
19 Christmases. My how they’ve grown. With their growth has come experiences and emotions I have never known. And this is life. We carry them, bear them, fall in love with them, and raise them. We dread the day they will grow and go, and then we don’t as we see it’s their turn to live their lives and we have done our job. We look forward to Christmas and other holidays in new ways as our nests fill with those we have let go to take on the world, their way. We realize relationship is the real gift. We see love comes with a very high price, quite worth paying and sometimes it’s just keeping your opinions to yourself. Love says, “You can come share your heart and I will step back and listen as best as I can,so that you have a safe place to rest when you want to.” Love makes your nest that soft spot for your chicks to land. Love doesn’t mean people wrestle for our approval and jump through hoops of achievement. Love is given regardless of what one’s performance looks like. I often remind myself of that. It means I’ll love you when our friends and family fade away. I will desire your presence when schools and churches won’t. It means we will walk together because God gave us to one another for a lifetime of mountains and valleys. Yes, even when the road is full of circumstances that I couldn’t have predicted, I will see your value with pleasure. Because you are mine and you are loved, and because relationship with honest imperfections is the real gift we give each other in sunshine and shade. All the Santa pics and Xmas letters full of everyone’s dreamy activities are just the parts people want to tell about. But they aren’t real life. Real life is full of those joys but it’s full of even more angst. And yet I look at my wall with all my Santa pics and I am reminded this is all I ever wanted and I have it. It looks so different than what I thought it would and that’s ok because we do live it together and we are alive. Family says, “I love and support you ALWAYS.” So go ahead and tell me you are gay. Go ahead and tell me I’m going to be a grandma at 40. Surprise me! Still all I want is you alive and healthy for my lifetime. And that is a real Merry Christmas.
Most people wouldn’t believe this really happened. And yet, IT DID. So admit it….those of you who know this kind of stuff happens regularly at my house….THIS is what you really wanted me to blog about! Well here you go.
I was literally in my restroom with a young person who had come to see me. She was sharing through tears about something deeply personal and I was right there with her emotionally. All of the sudden, Jack burst through the door telling me he needed help because he snuck Bobby’s bike lock and had gotten it stuck on his neck! I literally had to tell myself to take a deep breath….and that all would really be just fine. I remembered countless scenarios like this that I lived through with the older four and wondered why I had a flash of anxiety over this sight with Jack! BECAUSE MAMA IS WORN OUT!! THAT IS WHY!!! So all tears and conversation were put away as I began to figure out how to get this off without calling the fire dept. After a few minutes of me thinking, Jack said, “Oh I know! I can go get the combo from Bobby….” I looked at him a little wild eyed and said, “What?! Bobby can unlock this?! Why are we standing here?!” Jack informed me that actually this whole thing was a big joke that Bobby had thought up. NOT FUNNY. Just not funny. You never know what will happen over here. Think twice before you and your tears show up thinking this is a safe place.
You are my pride and joy, my pleasure and sometimes my pain. I’ve spent my life on loving you and it’s been worth every second (minus the arguing…haha). We’ve had some great times and some hard times. The great times were frequent when you were little. We spent countless days and nights dancing at Disneyland just because. We watched movies while snuggled up with each other in front of the fireplace, eating cookie dough. I read out loud and we loved most of the books. There was a lot of time in the car when school years started, and we took road trips for days and days on the breaks(who am I kidding? The girls mostly flew with the baby and the big boys took those road trips across the country). We had our day in, day out laughing, laughing, crying and more laughing. We had fun times with TX family and friends in the country, especially July 4th! There were also city adventures with CA and NY family stirring excitement for time together and life buzzing with theater, art, grand architecture and the sight of yellow taxis. All along the way,we looked for veterans and soldiers so we could all line up and shake their hands, one by one, thanking them for their service to our country (until you did it automatically) so that we would never forget their sacrifices for our freedom. We are CA and TX with I LOVE NYC in between. We love(d) Laguna Beach and all the boogie boarding and sand crab digging one can handle with Bj’s for dinner and rides home, watching the sun slip down with the glow of sunset all around, until it silently disappeared (and we played music loud on PCH until we hit the lights). We’ve watched you all play sports and act and sing. And every day, I have tried to stir an awareness of my faith (ok so I tried to make it yours for a good 15 years….my intentions were good, I just thought if I tried hard enough you’d make it your own…..it really doesn’t work like that). You can count on me to pursue fun, cultivate gratefulness, and to chat about what it means to love others, especially each other. Equally important to all of those things, in more recent years, I have championed you being good to yourself, as I realized I myself haven’t done enough of that. Do you remember lots of these good times?
More recently, days and years have been full of hard surprises! Today’s struggles just can’t compare to Mollie pooping under a table at The Gap, a jar of peanut butter Cooper wiped on the underside of the table, Bobby’s orange juice spilled on the floor of the car and undiscovered until it smelled like a dumpster, Lillie’s hissing at another old lady touching her curls, my accidental drinking of something unmentionable in the McDonald’s cup, and Jack throwing up all over because he saw Mollie’s bloody nose, or food felt funny in his mouth, or he saw gum. Those were temporary problems with no long term affect. We’ve tried to shield you from some of the heavier burdens as they are only for the adults to bear. Others couldn’t be hidden because we live together and there are a lot of us. If one of you disappeared, we had to go look for you, over and over, all the while wondering what on earth was causing you to experience so much pain and hoping you were ok. If one of you was being bullied, we all knew, and we stood by you but we cringed to think that kids and adults can be so mean. When some of you got so overwhelmed, we heard you sobbing in your room, we all knew, and we all ached with you. We hoped and prayed you would be strengthened and relieved of your discomfort and that you would find peace and happiness. When each one of us has had various roads thrust upon us that we couldn’t change or imagine traveling, we did the best we could for you. We talked, we thought, we watched. We started learning and decided to travel those difficult roads together, because no one should walk alone, ever. This is real life. This is love. This is family.
You’re living through seasons of life and you are sharing it together. When you were little, joy was automatic. Happiness was almost constant! If you hadn’t lived to see that it’s also incredibly painful, you wouldn’t appreciate the beauty of the happy days. You wouldn’t treasure your good memories as much. You wouldn’t know what it means to walk together through thick and thin. You wouldn’t know what it means to celebrate that Mollie and Jack are ALIVE, HEALTHY and not needing to visit Texas Children’s Hospital. Yes if it weren’t for our harder times, you wouldn’t know the grace God so freely gives us all to think and ponder who He is and why we experience all we do. You wouldn’t know that being able to speak is taken for granted if Jack wasn’t literally speechless. You wouldn’t value or hope for miracles if the structure of Mollie’s neck wasn’t restored in the way it was. (Remember, the medicine made the LCH tumor go away, but doctors couldn’t explain why her neck was fully restored to its original state?) And I bet you wouldn’t appreciate learning if you didn’t watch some of your siblings struggle with the retention or expression of their academics. Why them and not you? Why you and not them? You wouldn’t value courage, acceptance and the warm embrace of a loved one as much if you hadn’t watched Cooper come out. You won’t stand firm in a faith (if you choose to have one) if I forced mine down your throat. You wouldn’t appreciate your ability to run and play and be tickled if you hadn’t seen Jack’s ability to do so comfortably come and go. You wouldn’t know that it’s ok to make mistakes. That this is one way we learn. You wouldn’t know for sure that Daddy and I will love you always, no matter what if you hadn’t seen us walk that out on the most difficult of days! Or that our love isn’t just words and hugs, it’s bigger than that. It’s how we live every day. Sure we make our own mistakes and forget in our frustration that we are being unkind and impatient, but remember there are five of you and again, we are not perfect. Our love for you is unparalleled. We hope you love each other that way, especially on the days it really counts, when the whole world seems to be against you. Or maybe this all seems normal to you and one day when you’re grown, you’ll realize just how different we all are and how that really can be a gift. There is a price to pay for happiness, and sometimes in real life, it is initially paid with personal pain and watching other loved ones fight their uphill battles. Being human means I can’t honestly tell you I wouldn’t trade the struggles and pain for an easy life. I’m still in the middle of it so I can’t clearly see. However, I know when the good days come, you should go all out and really celebrate! Life is hard enough! Make sure you recognize the good when it’s right in front of you.
So next time you are buried in the real life, remind yourself gently that you have a family that adores you. Some days are hard and that’s all there is to it. There are also lots of great days! Be real always. Be vulnerable often. Laugh as much as possible. Be a friend. Love the golden rule. Embrace the unloved. Make sure when you are gathering friends, you make some who will “love at all times”, and make sure they know what love really is. LOVE BIG, or go home. I need that t-shirt!
I love you. You are so precious to me because you are mine. That will NEVER change.
PS – I think Daddy will teach you all to drive so I can continue to say this.
While Cooper is fresh in your mind, I’m going to write a little more about people like him and people like me, the parent of a gay son. It will not be the only topic on which I blog. However, it is a kind of chapter in my life that needs to be caught up given that it has been almost one whole year since Coop came out. I’m here to cause thought among those who’ve never had a reason to think about it (I was once there). I’m also here to reach out to the LGBTQ kids whose parents didn’t give the affirming response they hoped for. I’m here to personalize the issue for so many in the church who are untouched by this kind of experience. These are real people. They were once someone’s precious babies, greatly anticipated, raised to the best of one’s abilities, and hopefully, loved so very dearly. They are not a political or religious debate, although until they have the same freedom you do, they will largely be viewed as such. These are our loved ones. They are soldiers fighting for your safety and freedom or neighbors making sure you are safe. They are teachers dedicating countless hours to our children or doctors literally saving the life of the one you love most. They may be the best thing that ever happened to you. Be good to them just as they are, without expecting them to change. We have all the time in the world to be completely kind to each other.
I should be honest about how I got to this point as a human with a compassionate heart who is willing to reconsider most of what she thought. To be fair, I don’t know what kind of a response I would have had if Cooper had told us he was gay when he was 12. I may have panicked inside. I have a very conservative Christian background and have been so busy with my own kids and their significant health struggles that I’d never really never been intentional about MY thoughts on the matter until the last five years. On some topics with which I was unfamiliar, I just adopted the thoughts of others around me for a time until I had one (can you believe that? one?) very good friend who came out. I thought some about him and for the first time homosexuality was touching my life through our friendship. So I thought on it when I had time and was certain the topic of Christians and homosexuals deserved much more consideration, only I was busy with babies and didn’t have much time for new thinking. Time is so precious and we are all busy with something important. I was easy on myself but spent time thinking when he came to mind.
Within a couple of years after my friend came out, I did have someone else very dear to me whom I suspected might be getting ready to come out. My suspicions grew. I felt so sad that this person wasn’t telling us what seemed really obvious. I wanted to be a part of this person’s life and share a continued connection. I took a hard look at myself and thought about why this person might not tell me. I didn’t like what I saw. Someone lacking humility, who had life, moral and spiritual all figured out in her mind and heart. I saw someone who needed things to be black and white in what is really a world full of beautiful grey. I saw someone who was comfortable mentally dictating how others should and shouldn’t live. EW! Eventually, I saw someone who had known God all her life yet literally only knew of God’s grace, but hadn’t fully lived in it. I believe God gave us brains for a reason, so I slowly started to use mine in a different way. I freed myself to ponder deeply everything I’ve known in my own way and my own time, trusting that God had grace for me as I reconsidered how to best love Him and love others (and I’m still pondering!). Friends, I spent years carefully wording things and thinking thoughts through as to how I would respond if this very dear person were to ever come out to me. It took that long because I was also chasing my little ones and getting my bigger kids to all their commitments. I realized I had so many preconceived and inaccurate notions based on hearsay, a lot of which came from some people’s interpretation of the Bible. These ideas about homosexuals and their lifestyle were like myths I’ve come to see! And religion aside, they were not based on people really being free to live their own life, their way, regardless of whether or not the world was in agreement with them. I thought again and asked myself over and over what a loving response looked like. I asked myself, things like would I ever go to a gay wedding? Would I celebrate their ability to adopt? Would I ever vote for their ability to access true freedom? The answers have changed over the years and YES is my answer to all of those today for a variety of reasons, mainly that I kept refining the answers until they couldn’t possibly make someone feel like they weren’t good enough just the way they are. I attempted then and now to be unafraid of new thinking, possibly changing theology, and maybe even a different approach to the Bible. Getting to that point made me thank God for that precious person who may or may not ever come out, and for my friend who is out (actually now I am impacted by more than the two I knew then, but you get the point). I knew that I was approaching a place where I could honestly respond and was fully prepared to offer love and love alone if ever this person were to come out to me. Only guess what! Friends, you may know, I ended up saying that sweet speech of affirmation to my very own son. Time is a gift and sometimes a luxury.
I never want to appear to have it all figured out again. What I do know, I can’t go wrong with, because it won’t hurt anyone, especially my own family. I don’t want to raise my kids to be those kind of people….so sure of how exactly everyone should live. I want my kids to focus on how they should live before a God who created them, knows them, and loves them deeply, and on how they can love others. (Pardon the repeating theme.) If I’m wrong about this, and I really believe what I believe about God looking at the intentions of my heart, it’s still all well enough. I’ve got a lifetime to grow.
It’s not a bad idea for everyone to have a little speech prepared for the moment when someone comes out to you. Sooner or later, someone WILL say those words to you, UNLESS of course, they are convinced that their heart is not safe in your hands. How sad that would be. I hope and literally pray that everyone who reads this will be able to say words expressing love, acceptance, and affirmation when that day comes because no one should have to walk alone.
Also, take a look at this blog: http://justbecausehebreathes.com/
It is a story of another mom and her gay son and a different approach she and her husband chose. I am immeasurably grateful that she shared her story. When I read it, I knew I’d made the right decision for how I would respond to my son and any others like him. Now, you can see two of the many options.