Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private facebook group for moms of lgbt kids

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The group was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 2,500 members. Each day moms of LGBTQ kids gather virtually to share a journey that is unique and often very difficult. The group is a place where they share a lot of information, ask questions, support one another, learn a lot and brag on their kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. The space was specifically created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBTQ kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBTQ kids. However, moms do not have to be Christian to be a member of the group. In addition to providing a space for members to share info and support one another, a special guest is added each month for a short time so members can ask questions in the privacy of the group. The guests include authors, pastors, LGBTQ people, bloggers, medical professionals and public speakers.

There are more than 40 regional groups that are available. The regional groups are independent of Serendipitydodah and are created and used by members to coordinate both social events and advocacy work with other moms in their area.

Serendipitydodah for Moms also has three subgroups:

Serendipitydodah MTK is a subgroup where the conversation is trans specific. It is mostly made up of moms of trans kids. All the members are in the main Serendipitydodah Facebook group.

Serendipitydodah Blue Ocean Faith is a subgroup for members of Serendipitydodah for Moms who want to connect with and become a part of the Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor community via it’s online presence. Blue Ocean Faith is a faith community that fully includes, affirms and supports lgbtq people and those that support them.

Serendipitydodah Mama Bears to the Rescue is a subgroup for Serendipitydodah Mama Bears who are willing and able to be available to do small acts of kindness for LGBTQ people in their local community who may need connection, care or assistance. This subgroup makes it easier for members to coordinate and organize to do things such as visit someone in the hospital, help someone get settled in a new area, provide some transportation, include someone in their holiday gatherings, provide temporary housing, send a note of encouragement, attend a wedding etc

Email lizdyer55@gmail.com to join Serendipitydodah or for more info.

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Mama Bear Story Project #34 – Vanessa Valenziano

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

Vanessa Nichols

 

I’m Vanessa, a 41 year old single mom of one amazing transgender son, age 9.

My Dylan, was assigned female at birth, but it wasn’t long before we noticed a rejection of everything female. Around age 2, he gravitated towards boy toys, clothes, TV shows, willfully demanding to remove his dress or hair bows.

As we followed his lead for the next few years, we assumed this to be a phase, or maybe that “she” was the proverbial tomboy. It was definitely on my radar, the possibility that he was transgender, but something I also pushed away, far out of my mind, denying that a child could know themselves well enough to realize such a thing. I was supportive of the gender fluidity of his person, yet consciously avoided researching if young children needed something more when they presented such an obvious rejection of their assigned gender.

I was scared. I was fully aware of the discrimination and difficult path this would mean for my child. And no parent wants their child’s life to be more difficult than it is a straight, cis-gender (non trans) person. So, denial suited me.

By age 5, he had consistently and persistently imaginary played as the male role, drew himself in art as male, and insisted on boy’s clothing from head to toe.

By 6, he was verbalizing that he “felt like a boy” in his “heart and mind”, even had tried on several boy’s names.

I kept an open dialogue with him, voicing my support if he was ready to make that kind of change, but he would tell me, “No, mama. I’m fine being a girl. It’s ok”.

Until it wasn’t.

By age 8, he was self-harming and isolating himself at school. He was unsure of where he fit in and was carrying around so much shame because of how he was feeling, which ultimately, and quickly, led us to his social transition.
He began using his preferred name and male pronouns at home, then with family and friends, and eventually came out at school.

A new child emerged. One I didn’t know existed. One with confidence, spark, and poise. I didn’t know how much hurt he had until he really lived his whole truth. This transformation can only be described metaphorically as a caterpillar to a beautiful, amazing butterfly. It was the most gorgeous, freeing, experience to watch my child bloom into who he really was.

As a mom, an advocate, an ally, and a recent activist, I’ve learned so much. But above all, I have realized what a true gift it is to parent this child. Yes, every child is a gift, but a raising a transgender child has brought so much clarity to my life. The amount of education that my son has provided me, the bravery he has shown, his self-advocacy and the incredible self worth that has emerged, it has truly changed me as a human. Children are brilliant and they understand so much more about themselves than we do. We simply don’t give them enough credit.

And this journey has taught me about unconditional love- not only the love that I have for him but the love that others have shown us. And it’s all been enlightening and rare and gorgeous.

Having a transgender child would have never made my top 100 list of parenting challenges, had someone asked me before having a child. But I am so glad I was chosen for the task.

It is my honor and my privilege to parent this gorgeous soul.


 


Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 2,900 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #33 – Amber Briggle

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

Amber Briggle

PRIDE: a mom’s reflection on raising a transgender warrior

I’ve always been proud of my kids. They are considerate and kind (to everyone but each other), they are helpful, they are bright, they are articulate, and they tell the best jokes. Our den is cluttered with box forts and half-finished science experiments, and our walls are plastered with their art and school pictures. They’re the best kids any mama could ask for — and that fact has never changed, even when I realized that my freckle-faced, brown-eyed first born is transgender.

When Max (as he’s called now) told me he was a boy, he was only 2 years old. I didn’t believe him. I explained that there were a million different ways to be a girl, and that we could “redefine girly” together. Eventually we let him cut his pigtails and wear Spider-Man t-shirts, and it wasn’t too long before this kid really did look like a stereotypical boy. For years, I would correct people when they’d compliment him on what a helpful “young man” he was. Proudly, I’d boast that this was my daughter, and that there was no one right way to be a girl, and isn’t this child basically the best for ignoring cultural stereotypes, blah blah blah. This continued for years before I finally noticed the way my baby would get embarrassed, and how he’d shrink a little more every time I explained that this was actually a girl (gasp!). After enough moments like this, I started to wonder: maybe the rest of the world wasn’t misgendering my child — maybe I was.

Throughout all of this, Max was insistent, persistent, and consistent in his gender identity, and patient with me as he tried explaining in a million different ways that he was really a boy. I didn’t know that the word “transgender” even existed, let alone it could be an experience that a child could have. Yet I never questioned Max’s little sister, Lulu, on her gender identity — I had no reason to, since she identifies with the gender she was assigned at birth (a term called cisgender). Despite the fact that she’s four years younger than Max, no one has ever thought to challenge her on her gender identity. So why would anyone — including myself — think it’s okay to question Max on his?

A lot of research, prayer, communication, and discernment revealed the answers that my family was desperately seeking. A rise of visibility among young transgender Americans like Jazz Jennings encouraged families like mine to start talking with each other about their gender expansive kids, free from the shame or guilt that so many of us have been told to believe — that we had somehow failed our children by “letting” them be trans. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Because while a 2014 study by the Williams Institute showed that 41% of trans youth have attempted suicide at least once (a number that is nine times higher than the national average), those same transgender children experience the same levels of mental and physical health as their cisgender peers when they are supported, loved, affirmed, and embraced at home and at school. By rejecting a child’s gender expression and identity, we as their parents are slowly destroying them. The decision (if you could call it that) became clear at that point — Max didn’t choose to be transgender, but my husband and I chose to love him wholeheartedly. Ultimately, it was more important to us to support our son, than to risk burying our daughter.

These things take time. This wasn’t an overnight revelation, nor a quick social transition. But after years of watching, embracing, and supporting Max in everything from sports to dress to pronouns, he gradually became the person he was always meant to be — a brilliant boy with a soft spot in his heart for cats, tacos, and ukuleles.

This Pride Month, I am incredibly proud of Max for teaching me as his mama the true meaning of unconditional love and for changing the world in the process. When I was pregnant with him, I never cared if I was having a boy or girl — all I wanted was a healthy, happy baby. Nothing about him has changed except for his pronouns. Unfortunately, there are far too many LGBTQ kids who are kicked out of their homes, disowned by their parents, and ostracized by their friends once they “come out”. According to a report by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, queer-identified youth have a 120% higher risk of reporting homelessness than their straight or cisgender peers. Additionally, one in 30 LGBTQ teens have experienced homelessness at some point in the last 12 months. The people who should be protecting these vulnerable children are the very same ones who are harming them. Rather than being their child’s biggest fan, far too many parents have become their child’s biggest bully. And it breaks my damn heart. Because quite honestly, if it’s hard to love your kids, then you’re doing it wrong. Full stop.

Max challenges me every day to live my truth out loud, to be a better person, to live openly and honestly, and to advocate for the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the invisible. By being true to himself he has opened the eyes and melted the hearts of people across the country, and has influenced policy as a result. When Max had anti-LGBTQ Attorney General Ken Paxton over for dinner — a man who was actively suing the Obama administration over the DOJ’s transgender protection guidelines in an attempt to strip away the visibility and safety of hundreds of thousands of trans Americans in the process — and showed him just how adorable he was with his cute magic tricks and his Pokemon collection, the entire state of Texas watched. When Max was invited to the White House to meet President Obama, the most powerful person in the world paid attention to his story. And when Max travelled to Austin last year to practically beg Texas legislators to stop bullying him and to please not pass any “bathroom bills”, a reporter saw this sweet boy — exhausted, frustrated, and crying in my arms as we I comforted him on the cold, granite floor outside of Governor Abbott’s office. That reporter took a picture that went viral, and people from literally around the world saw what happens when we treat transgender kids as political pawns in pissing contests.

Of the 30 anti-LGBTQ bills that were filed in Texas in 2017 (which, for those of you keeping score at home, is more than any state legislature in the history of this country), we were able to defeat 29 of them — and, to our great relief, not a single bathroom bill passed. I truly believe this positive outcome — in Texas, of all places! — is because of the hard work and sweet faces of kids like Max, who is part of the newest generation of a half century’s worth of LGBTQ activists.

Pride began with another transgender individual: Marsha P Johnson, a trans woman of color who was tired of living in fear and being pushed to the shadows. So when the police showed up again at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, Ms. Johnson took a stand, and in turn started a revolution that we are still fighting today. Max is one of this revolution’s youngest warriors: but instead of fists and stones, he’s fighting back with his words.

And Max isn’t the only one. Across the country, we are seeing tiny-but-fierce trans girls like Kai Shappley and Marilyn Morrison living their lives authentically and elevating the conversation about gender and what it means to be nice to each other. We have National Geographic cover girls like Avery Jackson, living in America’s heartland, and bringing visibility to an issue and experience that so few of us had thought about before she came along. And we have national treasures like Gavin Grimm, a transgender young man who sued his Virginia high school for his right to use the bathroom, and was subsequently recognized in a federal court decision for being such an important human-rights hero, that the court’s opinion will bring you to tears.

This Pride Month, and every month, I am proud of the LGBTQ Americans who live boldly every day — whose very existence is its own form of protest. And yet, Max and his peers don’t have political agendas — they’re just kids, worried about the same things that your kids are worried about: whether or not they’ll get to watch one more cartoon before bed, how much money the tooth fairy is going to bring them, and if the cat is going to be okay after eating that weird bug. Somehow, though, that very act of living out loud AND being simultaneously incredibly relatable and adorable is exactly the thing that is changing the world for the better. We saw it during the fight for marriage equality and the overturning of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and we’re seeing it today as we continue to fight for federal protections like the Equality Act, which would guarantee that Max could never be fired from his job or denied housing or services simply because he is transgender.

My son is just one in an army of hope, and I will follow him wherever he goes. He hasn’t led me astray yet — in fact, I and countless others are better for knowing him — and I believe that he and his peers will create a better, brighter, more equal future for us all if we are willing to give them the space they need to lead — not just during Pride month, but year round.


Amber Briggle is a member of Serendipitydodah for Moms who also blogs at Love to the Max


Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 2,900 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

The Age of the Spirit

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This post is part of the June 2018 Synchroblog which asks the question “Where does ultimate authority and meaning rest for Christians today?” You will find the links to the other June Synchroblog contributions at the end of this post.

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Many people are asking the same question:

Where does ultimate authority and meaning rest for Christians today? 

Christianity is rapidly changing and those changes may be connected to a cyclical pattern that history has revealed to us.

Bishop Mark Dyer claimed: “to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale.”

Bishop Dyer went on to say that historically three things happen when the rummage sale takes place:

A new and more vital form of Christianity emerges.

The organized expression of Christianity becomes less ossified.

Christianity breaks free from that which has encrusted it and the faith spreads.

For some context, we can consider that about 500 years ago Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg Castle and the Great Reformation took place. about 500 years before that the Great Schism occurred. And again, about 500 years before the Great Schism a council called in Calcedon determined what was and was not correct doctrine and then, of course, 500 years before that was when the main event took place and Jesus challenged the existing religious institutions to hold their own rummage sale.

At each of these intersections we see the question about authority being asked.

When Jesus comes to Jerusalem and walked into the temple the chief priests and elders came to him and asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things?” The council of Calcedon met to determine “correct doctrine” to serve as religious authority, one of the main causes of the Great Schism were disputes over papal authority, and the Reformation was a widespread theological revolt against the abuses and totalitarian control of the Roman Catholic Church that was seen as the ultimate religious authority at that time.

If Christianity is in the midst of another rummage sale that would explain some of the changes that we are witnessing and why so many followers of Jesus are asking ” where does ultimate authority and meaning rest for Christians today?”

As a Christian I have been trying to answer that question over the last few years and have come to the conclusion that the answer includes elements of scripture, science and community under the guidance of and imbued with the wisdom of the holy spirit.


SCRIPTURE

I spent much of my life in a faith community that embraced scripture as the sole authority but I no longer believe in the idea that the Christian scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.

I value scripture and believe it contains much truth and wisdom. I believe it is an important element in the life of a Christian but I think there is a danger in perceiving scripture as the sole source of truth rather than an instrument that guides us to live in a way that allows us to discover truth.

Barbara Brown Taylor shares some wonderful wisdom and insight regarding the Bible:

“I know that the Bible is a special kind of book, but I find it as seductive as any other. If I am not careful, I can begin to mistake the words on the page for the realities they describe. I can begin to love the dried ink marks on the page more than I love the encounters that gave rise to them. If I am not careful, I can decide that I am really much happier reading my Bible than I am entering into what God is doing in my own time and place, since shutting the book to go outside will involve the very great risk of taking part in stories that are still taking shape. Neither I nor anyone else knows how these stories will turn out, since at this point they involve more blood than ink. The whole purpose of the Bible, it seems to me, is to convince people to set the written word down in order to become living words in the world for God’s sake. For me, this willing conversion of ink back to blood is the full substance of faith.

This brings me to the best thing about the Bible, which is the way that it will not let you settle down between its pages. Pay attention to what is written there and it will keep pushing you out into the world—to look for the rainbow, scoop up the manna, wrestle the angel, seek the lost sheep, give your shirt to the stranger. Open your imagination to the divine stories it tells and the world stands a better chance of becoming a sacred place, if only because you are out there acting like it is.

Mary and Joseph lead me to pay more attention to my dreams, John the Baptist reminds me that the savior you hope for is almost never the savior you get, Mary Magdalene shows me how many kinds of love there are—and Jesus? There’s not enough time even to begin. Give to everyone who begs of you, pray for those who persecute you, watch out for the log in your own eye, love your neighbor as yourself. Thanks to him, I cannot even pass someone in the frozen food grocery aisle at the grocery store without seeing a divine messenger.

This is not something you learn in New Testament class—or Bible study either—at least not if you are there to discover the right answers to all your questions. But if you want to know more about the God-haunted seekers who came before you and are willing to take your place among them, then by and by you will decide for yourself what kind of authority the Bible has.”


SCIENCE
 

It seems to me that human beings have a natural desire for a cognitive narrative to make sense of the world around them. Two of the major premises used by humans to account for our observations and experiences are faith and science. They are often viewed as separate entities but I believe they complement each other. I believe that the integration of science and faith can lead to a more holistic understanding of both. If our goal is to discover truth about ourselves, others and the world we live in, then I believe the unification of faith and science will present new and better questions that lead us to answers that will enhance our knowledge, intensify our beliefs and cause us to live and love better.

Carl Sagan said it well:

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”



COMMUNITY

I have come to believe that the best way to learn is in community with others where it is safe to ask questions, share doubts, challenge traditions and disagree. Those who are wholeheartedly seeking truth in a community where they can do those things will be able to accept a new idea, admit they changed their mind, adopt what they once opposed while at the same time living out their present beliefs with conviction. They will be able to be confident without feeling the necessity to be certain. They will accept the tension of knowing something while holding on to the idea that they may be wrong. I believe that community plays a big role when it comes to authority in the life of a Christian. Without community to challenge us, inspire us, motivate us we can easily become stagnant and set in our own ways hanging on to narrow views and missing revelations. Community gives us the opportunity to be refined when it rubs up against us and a place to gain humility when we recognize we are only a small part of something much bigger.  In community we learn to forgive, we discover our own worth and the worth of others, we learn to love, we learn to handle conflict, we learn to accept help and to be helpful. I believe that community is both the catalyst for spiritual growth and the key to restoring faith.

As Proverbs 27:17 states: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”


HOLY SPIRIT

Jesus said, “the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.”

I believe when elements such as scripture, science and community are imbued with and guided by the Holy Spirit we can trust the spirit to give us the ability to know how to live into the way of Jesus and love in the way of Jesus.

This “spiritual authority” is very different than the kind of certainty that many Christians have embraced in recent years because the Holy Spirit is full of mystery and unpredictability.

The concept of spirit is derived from the Hebrew word ruach. It is something that can be felt and not seen and is often translated as breath or wind. We don’t know which way the wind will blow. Ruach is unpredictable and mysterious.

I believe we are in “The Age of the Spirit” however, I think it is important that we not mistake this time as an excuse for mindless thought and action but instead recognize this is a time for deep introspection. This is not a time to carelessly say “God told me” or “the spirit led me” in order to try and give our own ideas more credibility. Instead, we should remain sensitive to the promptings and guidance of the spirit and as a result be a witness to God’s ways by letting our lives and actions reflect what a spirit filled life looks like.

“The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.” A. W. Tozer

However, many are resistant to the idea of the Holy Spirit being the ultimate authority in in the life of Christians. Many believe we need an institution, an educated leader, a book or a creed. I think what scares people the most about the idea of the Holy Spirit being the ultimate authority in the life of Christians is allowing people to depend on themselves.

People might misunderstand what the Holy Spirit is saying to them.

Some may purposely misrepresent the Holy Spirit.

Many are self serving so they may ignore some things the Holy Spirit is revealing to them. 

YES! YES! YES!

All of those things will happen … but none the less, I believe that the Holy Spirit is the correct source of authority for Christians today.

Brian McLaren points out:

“Jesus was short on sermons, long on conversations; short on answers, long on questions; short on abstraction and propositions, long on stories and parables; short on telling you what to think, long on challenging you to think for yourself.”

In the end, depending on the Holy Spirit means thinking for ourselves – discerning for ourselves. It’s risky but so are things like unconditional love and grace.

I believe the age of the Spirit has come, will you welcome it?


Phyllis Tickle would be a good source if you want to dive deeper. Here are two of her books I recommend:

The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church

The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why


CHECK OUT THESE POSTS FOR THE JUNE SYNCHROBLOG ON AUTHORITY:

Authority for Believers – Soulcare Ministries

Christian Authority – Done With Religion

Who Gets To Say What Is Right Or Wrong? – What God May Really Be Like

A Surprising Source of Spiritual Authority – Glenn Hager

Is it the Bible or Jesus that is authoritative for Christians? ANSWER: Yes – Jeremy Myers

Surrendering Our Authority To Jesus – K. W. Lesley

Under Who’s Authority – Layman Seeker

authority? – Metler

The Age of the Spirit – Liz Dyer

Proud Moms at Pride!

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They wear “Free Mom Hugs” t-shirts and buttons, they make signs, they carry banners, they walk in parades.

They are moms of lgbtq kids who go to pride events because they’re proud of their kids and want to show it!

They paint their faces, they wear lots of rainbow stuff, they listen to stories, they stand for hours with their arms flung wide ready to embrace those who need a hug.

They are moms of lgbtq kids who go to pride events because they’re proud of their kids and want to show it!

They go with their kids, they go alone, they go with other moms, they go with their spouse, they go with corporations, churches, organizations.

They are moms of lgbtq kids who go to pride events because they’re proud of their kids and want to show it!

They go for the first time. They go for the second, third, fourth time. They go early, they stay late. They work booths, they clean up, they serve drinks, they ride on floats. They go until they are exhausted.

They are moms of lgbtq kids who go to pride parades because they’re proud of their kids and want to show it!

💙💛💚💜❤️

Check out this video with lots of Pride pictures that members of Serendipitydodah for Moms are sharing …


Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 2,800 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #32 – Jamie Parnell

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

Jamie Parnell

 

Transgender. Transition. Transformation. Transparent. Transcend.

These are some of the words that come to mind when I think about the past 18 months of my life since my oldest child came out of the closet as transgender {female to male}. He was fifteen, at the time, and living as Kate, the daughter I had given birth to and loved with all my heart.

In that conversation, he told me he had never felt like a girl and that he couldn’t keep on trying to be someone he wasn’t. I listened to his story, told him I loved him more than anything in this world, and how honored I was that he had trusted me with such a deep and personal truth. And when he asked if I was surprised, I said no. You see, at age two, he had told me he wanted to be a boy, and at age six he told me he wasn’t my daughter…he was my son. So I had an inkling that this was a possibility, if not a probability. We had many more conversations in the weeks following his disclosure, and as a family, came up with a plan for Kate {she/her} to transition to Kaden {he/him}.

My emotions were all over the place. I felt deep sorrow that my child had walked this earth in silence, unable to express his true identity for fear of rejection from his family, especially from his dad and I. I felt grief for a loss that I couldn’t quite define. After all, I still had my child, but I was trading what I knew…a daughter, even as unhappy, and in pain as she was, for someone and some life I couldn’t see, understand, or feel yet. The temptation to run away and hide was unbelievable. I felt moments of gut wrenching pain and wondered if I would ever feel joy again. I was scared for Kaden’s future and all of ours, too. I was scared that he would be the victim of violence or experience horrible pain from surgeries or loss of relationships. I was scared that my younger kids would suffer, as well. I was also scared that we would lose our family, friends and church. That being said, I was convinced that allowing our child to be his authentic self was the only right decision to make, no matter the consequences to the rest of us. I knew this choice was a matter of life and death as the suicide rate for transgender youth is alarmingly high. There were a few moments, however, when I considered resisting his transition, but a darkness I cannot describe, would come over me and I would feel immense pain which would only resolve when I let go of the fight to keep Kate. I now realize that those dark moments were when I was stuck in my head, trying to logic it all away. When I would check in with my heart, feel the unconditional love I had for my baby, and shut down my fear based thoughts, everything became clear. Welcoming Kaden was our only choice.

Those first few weeks after the haircut and the beginning of Kaden’s social transition, in December 2016, were difficult, to say the least. Everything felt new and unfamiliar. I wasn’t used to Kaden. I struggled with his name and pronouns and I did not yet recognize this person living in my home. That first week of school, as Kaden, was so hard on him and yet he told me EVERY SINGLE DAY, that as painful as it was {being talked about, being told he was an abomination to God, being rejected by some of his bible study friends, etc.}, it was far easier than living a lie {pretending to be ok, so that everyone else could feel ok.}. There are some things in life that you just can’t wrap your head around, so you must use your heart instead. That was, and continues to be, a huge lesson I was learning more and more each day. I had to trust that God had us in His capable hands and that He would get us through….though I had my moments of doubt. Thankfully, Kaden only had to endure one week of school before Christmas break, which was a huge blessing and absolutely part of God’s amazing timing. The break gave us all some time to get acquainted and adjusted to this massive change in our lives. I still did not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and just came to accept that our path would be illuminated bit by bit, and the best thing I could do for myself and my family, was to stay in the present moment. I wasn’t to know what our future held, so I needed to let go.

After a few months, I began to feel a distinct change within our family. We went from living with a kid who hated himself and resented having to play a role, to having one who lived authentically and free. He was no longer angry that his brother had the life he always wanted and no longer hated being grouped with a sister he didn’t relate to. He was so much happier and his relationships with Cameron and Claire changed dramatically. He was patient, kind, and gentler with his words than he had ever been before. He also had empathy for the challenges and pain they were experiencing with his transition. And they responded to this new dynamic with acceptance and love. It was so beautiful. I remember being on a road trip with the three of them, in April 2017, and was blown away at how well they got along together and truly enjoyed one another’s presence. I told Scott then that I wouldn’t go back to the way it was, even if I could.

Our life since Kaden began his transition has been excruciating and extraordinary, both of which I will continue to share about on my blog. Much of my writing will be about Kaden, but I’ll also share about my own transformation through this journey of supporting and unconditionally loving my transgender child. I hope you’ll join me.

xoxo


Jamie Parnell is a member of Serendipitydodah for Moms who also blogs at My Life in Trans


 

Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 2,800 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #31 – Cynthia Corsetti

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

Cynthia Corsetti

A Mom’s Perspective of Pride
For me, PRIDE Month is a time to reflect on a journey that I take as the mom of a gay son. Trust me, it is a journey like no other.

The journey began the day my child came to me and shared a deeply held secret that he had attempted to hide for his entire life. I felt shocked at first. Shocked that there could be something so BIG that I didn’t know about my own child. I interact with him every day, I lived with this person, I raised him, I thought I knew every… single… thing there was to know and then BAM, he tells me he is gay. The initial shock hit like a freight train.

Soon, the shock subsided. It happened rather quickly. Next came remorse. Not remorse that he is gay, that part changes nothing of my love for my child; but remorse for all the years that I didn’t know. How much pain had he endured all those years? Was he fighting it? Was he praying that God would change him? Did he think it would change my love for him? My beautiful amazing son that God himself made exactly as he was, was he feeling that I might think less of him? Remorse hit hard and I had to learn to forgive myself so that I could move on.

The Fear is Overwhelming at Times
Once the shock and remorse began to wane, another emotion reared its head. This one hit harder than the first two combined and it is not one that I will entirely overcome. This emotion is unimaginable fear. Fear because there is so much hate in this world and often the LGBTQ community is the target of this hate. From the moment I heard the words, “mom I’m gay”, there has not been a day without that fear entering my awareness. It does not go away. Not ever. I’m reminded of it each day when I see hate being spread in social media like wild fire. I learn to live with it and I remain steadfast in my belief of a higher power that ultimately will allow love to conquer hate.

Then Life Happens
But then, even with that belief, an event like the Orlando Night Club shooting will happen and it cuts to my very core. My heart literally breaks for the other moms. The moms whose most horrific fears were realized. After an event like this, it takes a while to regain my sense of strength so that I can go on without the fear consuming me.

But, alas, I must continue my journey as a mom. I love my child completely so I must look beyond the fear. It is time I decide to stand strong and push the fear to the deepest crevasse in my mind; knowing that I must allow the love to be stronger than the fear. And THAT is when I recognize that PRIDE truly outweighs every other emotion – including the fear.

It was at this point, once my journey had taken me through all the other emotions, I began to swell with PRIDE. PRIDE that he not only survived holding this deep secret for so long, but he thrived. He remained solid in his own faith and convictions. He held onto his own self-worth and when the world was pulling him down and felt he couldn’t reach out to his own family, he stood strong. Yes, PRIDE began to fill my heart.

The Pride Grows
The PRIDE continues as I admire this young man. He is so considerate of those who judge him; instead of getting angry, he simply respects their feelings and forgives them. He comes home for Christmas year after year alone; never bringing the man that he shares his life with. Not because he wouldn’t be accepted in our home, but because my son is more concerned that his elderly grandfather will feel uncomfortable than he is with his own desire to share the holiday with his partner.

For me, the PRIDE grows even bigger when I see the man he has become. A compassionate, kind, strong, ethical human being and such a blessing to know. I am so proud to the be the mom of a gay son. God honored me personally because He knew that I would not only love this child that He created, but that I would stand for him, fight for him, protect him, and honor him with absolutely every fiber of my being.

I Will Celebrate
So, yes, I celebrate PRIDE Month. I celebrate it with more PRIDE than I ever knew I could feel. I celebrate not just for the PRIDE I have in my own amazing son, but for the PRIDE I feel for the entire LGBTQ community. These wonderful people who have been unfairly judged discriminated against, hurt, exiled from their families in many cases, and abused in others. A tribe that remains authentic to their souls and they stand strong. I feel PRIDE that my son opened my eyes to a world where I would notice things I might otherwise have missed.

For me, (and many other moms like me) PRIDE Month is a sacred time that honors a blessed journey that we, the moms, are privileged to travel.


 

Cynthia Corsetti is a member of Serendipitydodah for Moms who also blogs at CynthiaCorsetti.com


Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 2,800 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Oh, Hell, NO!

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This post is part of the May 2018 Synchroblog, “To Hell and Back” , thoughts about the controversial subject of hell. You will find the links to all the other contributors at the end of this post.

hellno

I don’t believe in hell.

There, I said it.

I cringe a little every time I say it out loud because I come from a place where I was thoroughly indoctrinated into the idea that there was a place called hell. It was where those who did not believe in God/Jesus would go when they died … but, if you believed in God/Jesus you would go to heaven instead of hell.

No one ever said what would happen to you if you didn’t believe in hell but it was kind of an unspoken assumption that if you didn’t believe in hell you probably weren’t “really” a “real” Christian and that meant you probably didn’t believe in God/Jesus and well … no need to repeat myself … you get the picture.

Once I got the picture I realized right away that I didn’t want to go to hell. It was an easy decision for me … believe in God and get a ticket to heaven … which by the way was the complete opposite of hell – it was a place where everyone was happy – so happy that no one ever shed a tear, and it was pretty too! Duh! – that’s where I wanted to go. So, I believed and I “confessed” that I believed and I got dunked and that was that … I was safe. I had my insurance and hoped everyone would be as smart and nice as me about it so no one would ever have to go to that horrible place called hell.

And what I was taught about hell was truly horrible. It was a place where those who “went” there would endure horrendous pain and suffering forever. The picture I had in my mind was a place where people were actually on fire – burning for eternity! The sounds I imagined coming from that place were even more horrible than the scenes that were conjured up by the hell fire and brimstone sermons I heard. In my imagination the people were in so much pain that hell was filled with constant screams of agony that were louder than the music at a rock concert. Hell was a very scary place and any time I thought about it I was glad that I wasn’t going to go there when I died.

Then several years ago I began to seriously think about what I believed and what I based those beliefs on. That was when I realized that the idea of hell sounded out of place and wrong. It didn’t fit with what I believed about God. So, I began to re-examine what I believed about hell. Right away I discovered that the word hell (Sheol) in the Old Testament has nothing to do with a place of punishment and in the New Testament it (Hades and Gehenna) is used symbolically and masks a ton of metaphor.

It can be difficult for someone like me to see what scripture does and doesn’t say about hell as I had been thoroughly indoctrinated with what I’ve come to think of as “one hell of a lie”. But, a thorough study of scripture combined with a little knowledge and understanding of historical context and original language clearly revealed that scripture was being misrepresented and being made to appear as if it said stuff that it didn’t say.

From there it wasn’t a big leap for me to come to the conclusion that I had bought into a lie and although I might not have all of the answers about the afterlife I certainly couldn’t find sufficient evidence to support the idea of hell.

After more in depth research I have come to believe that hell is the invention of man and surprisingly, most, if not all, of our popular concepts of hell can be found in the writings of Roman Catholic writers like the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, author of Dante’s Inferno and the English poet John Milton, author of Paradise Lost. But, none of our concepts of hell can be found in the teaching of Jesus Christ!

Since I have stopped believing in hell I have found that I am free to serve God because I love him and his ways – not because I am afraid of what will happen if I don’t. I feel more compelled to love others just for the sake of loving them – not to convince them to believe something. And without hell I don’t find that there is as much need for thinking about who is “in” and who is “out” which can lead to more unity which means we can do more good together.

At the same time not believing in hell has led to other questions which anyone reading this might be asking at this very moment. In an effort to give you some answers and much more food for thought here are three resources that you might find helpful:

One resource that I found especially helpful was the work of Crystal Lewis. She has written an excellent E-book called Quenched – What Everyone (Especially Christians) Should Know About Hell. In the book she covers all the Old and New Testament verses that mention hell, the origins of the idea of underworlds and why people continue to believe in hell. You can download her E-book here

Another good resource I ran across was the story of Bishop Carlton Pearson. He was a super star preacher with a huge, devoted following. He rubbed elbows with the most powerful political and religious leaders in the U.S. He had it all. He was on top of the world. Until one day while watching the evening news he realized that he had bought into one hell of a lie and had been spreading it. He was so convinced that the hell he had preached about was a lie that he risked (and lost) everything to share what he believed to be true.

Here’s a little bit of Bishop Pearson’s story in his own words:

My kids were real small. My daughter, who’s now 16, was an infant in my lap. And I was watching the evening news, about the Hutus and Tutsis returning to Uganda. I was angry with God and very disgruntled – these poor African people were suffering so violently and I was overwhelmed with compassion and grief and guilt and anger.

I thought: “I’m here with this little fat-cheeked baby, and I’m eating my dinner watching the news in my lovely home, Mercedes in the garage, beautiful wife, everything going great.” I looked at children like my daughter, with flies around their eyes. And I assumed they were non-Christians under the judgment of God and going to hell.

You could see the little babies’ bellies distended and swollen, and they were scratching and crying and their mother was sitting there with this blank expression on her face, with her breast deflated, the child pulling at it, no milk. I thought, they’re probably Muslims or into Juju, they’re headed to hell.

I said to God: “How could you allow that? Call yourself a God of love? You let those poor people suffer, then suck ’em right into hell.”

And that’s when I felt I heard God say: “So that’s what you think we’re doing?”

I said: “Well that’s what the Bible says. They’re not Christians. They’re going to hell.”

“Can’t you see they’re already there? That is hell and I’m pulling them out of there, out of that place that you as humans have created for them and yourselves.”

You can find more of Bishop Pearson’s story here or watch “Come Sunday” on Netflix – “Come Sunday is a movie that tells the story of Pearson’s personal journey from leading a religious congregation to being labeled a heretic.

And finally here is an excellent response from Shane Hipps that concentrates on the reality that whatever any of us believe about the afterlife it’s all purely speculative. I particularly like this piece because Hipps concludes by pointing out that perhaps we should be spending less time pondering the afterlife and more time on the here and now – which is something I wholeheartedly agree with!


 

This post is part of the May Synchroblog, in which numerous bloggers around the world write about the same topic on the same day. Links to the other contributors are below. If you enjoyed my article, you will probably also enjoy reading what the other contributors have to say about the topic of hell.

 

 

Rise Up Like A Phoenix – A Mother’s Day Message

Watercolor “And still I rise” by Jessica Buhman

As a mom myself I know the ups and downs of motherhood. It’s one of the most overwhelming, fulfilling, challenging, thrilling, terrifying experiences in the world.

Nothing can really prepare us for motherhood. It’s scary and wonderful at the same time – it energizes and exhausts us simultaneously – it inspires and paralyzes us regularly – it’s a pleasant surprise and a terrifying shock day after day – it messier and harder than we ever imagined.

Just when we think we have it all figured out our kids change and throw us a curve ball – they keep growing and changing and somehow we have to keep up.

The constant changes we have to face are probably some of the most challenging aspects of motherhood because change always involves loss.

In her book “Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow” Elizabeth Lesser writes about how life is full of change, how human beings resist change and how ironic it is that the difficult times we fear the most end up being the very things that break us open and help us blossom into who we were really meant to be. She calls it the Phoenix process.

If you haven’t heard of the Phoenix before, it is a mythical, magical bird which lives a cyclical life as it regularly dies and burns and is reborn and rises from the ashes to live and fly again.

Lesser likens parenting to a spiritual practice that produces transformation and causes us become a better version of ourselves.

She writes:

“If you would like to be broken open—if you want to pursue a Phoenix Process of the highest order—I would recommend raising children. Parenthood is a clumsy yet majestic dance in the flames. When you parent you fall in love with a person who is always changing into someone else, and whom you know will leave you. Yet most parents will say that they have never given themselves to anyone as fully as they have to their children. Parenting is a career with the crazy-making job requirement of simultaneously surrendering to and letting go of someone you love, over and over and over again.

Parenthood is a never-ending journey down a wide river of worry and love. You get in that boat with your kids and you never get out. They get out—they build their own boats and row into their own destinies—but you stay in the original boat, always their parent, forever caring and forever kvelling (a useful Yiddish word that describes how parents express pride in their children).  

Sometimes the act of parenting is an awe-inspiring adventure. Your heart expands to accommodate a vastness of feelings so tender and unselfish that you step boldly into the nobility of your true character. And sometimes parenthood is tedious yet unpredictable, demanding yet ever-changing: Just when you get the hang of sleeping upright in a rocking chair and changing dirty diapers, your child sleeps through the night and poops in the potty, and the job description changes. It’s a lot like the comedian George Carlin’s complaint, “Just when I found out the meaning of life, they changed it.”

So you go back into on-the-job training. By the time you have mastered communication with a tantrum-throwing toddler and become addicted to the warm, wet smell of your little one after a bath, he squirms away and goes to kindergarten. Now you have to learn to deal with play dates and social studies reports and parent-teacher conferences. And then school plays and Little League games, and friends and hurt feelings, and that shifting boundary between granting them freedom and giving them direction. Soon they are teenagers and there is no manual for that, so you take it one day at a time, difficult decision by difficult decision, and finally, if things go the way they ought to, your children leave home, they leave you, and they push off into the future.

Parenting in all of its stages is a spiritual path with mythic twists and turns. If your spiritual goal is to embrace life, moment by moment, in both its rapture and its pain, then parenting offers you that opportunity every day. Holy texts throughout the ages tell us that the truth is to be found between the seeming opposites in life—between your own will and a greater will; between limits and liberty; between the call to care for others and the need to care for yourself. In the parent-child relationship these concepts become supremely real. And you get excellent feedback all the time from a pint-sized spiritual master—your own kid—whose specialty lies in teaching you how to keep on loving even when you are tired, scared, confused, or pissed off. Isn’t that what every seeker is after?

At each stage of your child’s growth, you are given ample opportunities to use parenthood as a mirror. Whatever it is that wants to be transformed in your psyche will be revealed as you parent. If you accept the challenge, parenting becomes a perpetual process of change and transformation—a dynamic experience of being broken open by love.”

I love that! The Phoenix is the perfect symbol for motherhood!

As mothers we all know what it means to be broken open and changed by love.

Mothers are the Phoenix.

We keep on rising, spreading our wings and flying again and again, day after day.

****

So, my message to all moms this Mother’s Day is …

Keep rising up like the Phoenix that you are!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mama Bear Story Project #30 – JoAnn Forsberg

The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.

JoAnn Forsberg

 

1984. After hanging up the phone, I went and turned on the shower. Standing in there crying, head upon the wall. Thinking everything I knew for years in fundamental Christianity was washing down the drain with my tears.

It wasn’t my son, yet. It was my brother who had just came out to me as gay. Gay in an era when people still whispered in church pews about anyone who even remotely seemed different than the picture perfect post card we all joked about. You know, the postcard with the picture of a white (straight) American Christian.

At that moment everything I knew about Christian life was now over. For if God was going to hate my brother, he would have to hate me too. The search began as I tried to imagine how a loving God could reject any child of his?

Of course, the normal happened. I was asked to shut up or leave church. So I left. I started studying every theology book I could find. It was a tough study, but, I was no longer going to rely upon a preacher to teach me. I wanted to know what great minds of history had to say.

No internet yet, just a soul seeking knowing in my spirit that God had to be more vast than the minds teaching Christ.

In 1989, my third son, Chad, was born, by the time he was five, we realized this creative child was unique himself. So, when he “came out” at fifteen it was more a celebration of him being able to feel comfortable with himself. To be comfortable in his family. To be fully loved and embraced.

Today, in this family, we joke about half of our extended relatives being gay. Some are “adopted in” as we will wrap our arms around any who need a family.

It’s normal, it’s just real life, it’s just family. We don’t even think about who is gay or who is straight. We are just family.

Blessings. JoAnn

That’s A Really Good Question #2 – What do all the letters mean and which acronym should I use?

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. This series will address common questions that often get asked by members of the group. For more information about the group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

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There are some common questions that we hear over and over from moms of lgbtq kids and one of those questions goes like this:

What do all the letters mean in the longer lgbt acronyms and which acronym should I use?

To answer the first part of the question here are some of the longer acronyms and what they represent:

LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA –  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Curious, Asexual, Pansexual, Gender-non-conforming, Gender-Fluid, Non-binary, and Androgynous

LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP – stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Genderqueer, Bisexual, Demisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Twospirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, Allies, Pansexual and Polyamorous

LGBTQQIP2SAA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-Spirit, Asexual, Allies


Which acronym should you use?

That’s a harder question to answer.

There isn’t one acronym that has been designated as “the best,” but, I do think it is important for us to strive to be inclusive.

One way to be inclusive is to add more letters to the lgbt acronym but that isn’t the only way.

Presently I’m using LGBTQ and plan to use it until something shorter or something that rolls more easily off of the tongue takes over. Queer is becoming widely known as an umbrella term that includes all sexual orientations and gender identities, therefore, the LGBTQ acronym is typically seen as inclusive

BUT, I still feel like there is something better on the horizon.

Here are some examples of some of ideas that are circulating:

MOGAI – Marginalized Orientations, Gender identities, And Intersex

GSD – gender and sexual diversity

GSM – gender and sexual minorities

Many think that either GSD or GSM will end up being the primary acronym to replace the longer acronyms, if for no other reason than it is becoming increasingly difficult to say the longer acronym out loud when you are speaking on the subject.

But, there are others who think we should give up all the letters and just go with the word “Queer”

Those who are advocating for “Queer” point out that the word is inclusive of everyone in the lgbt community and doesn’t highlight just a few. They think as the community continues to strive to recognize and validate ALL genders and orientations we desperately need a word that reflects the community’s diverse membership.

I actually like the the idea of using “Queer” instead of acronyms and the only reason I am still avoiding it is because I have several LGBTQ friends over 40 who still cringe every time they hear the word.


Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 2,400 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com