Mama Bear Story Project #26 – Dawn Acero

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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.

Dawn Acero

 

Allow me to introduce our family. My name is Dawn and I am 46 years old. My husband, Elias, is 43. Our children (ages as of 2017) are Tobias (10), Eliana (8), Isaiah (6), and Buddy (4).

Elias and I wished for healthy babies, gender did not matter, yet when our first born was assigned male, my husband sat up a little straighter with his chest puffed out a little more, as we grinned at the sonogram screen. Tobias was perfect, inquisitive, active, empathic, and once his sister was born, bothersome as he raided her closet. My darling Elly, often lamented that Tobias was wearing her dresses, fancy hats, long gloves, and jewelry. My husband and I grinned at each other. We did not mind this as much as Eliana did, and we encouraged Tobias to be himself without limits.

Eventually I asked Tobias if he wanted a dress of his own. He did not. He was happy to raid his sister’s closet. At age 8 he went to a birthday party of his sister’s friend. The entire family attended, and I arrived late. I searched for Tobias and could not find him; my husband lovingly laughed at my confusion as he pointed out our boy. It still took me a while to spot him. Tobias had on a feminine wig, frilly shirt, leggings, a full face of make-up, and was swishing around the house in such a feminine manner that I had mistaken him for one of the girls! He was having the time of his life, and was the hit of the party with all the other attendees. His joy filled my heart.

I wondered if Tobias might be transgender, so I researched. I watched too many documentaries, read too many articles and books, and watched too many transgender You-Tubers. I told my husband that we would be excellent parents of a transgender child. These words would return to me years later. I also learned a lot about the sexuality spectrum that I did not know. Something new I learned is that not all drag queens are gay. One day I cuddled with Tobias on the couch and talked with him about Pride Parades, since it was that time of year, and although we had not attended any, I wondered if kids at school would talk about them. I described the people we may see in a parade, and when I described drag queens, Tobias absolutely lit up and said, “Oh, like me!” I was a bit shocked, although I don’t know why. I explained that these men are not trying to look like women; their goal is to show off femininity in a spectacular way. My boy smiled up at me with jubilance and a look of inner knowing.

I asked Tobias if he wanted to be a girl. He told me no, he is 100% boy and he really likes girl things. He described himself to me as a tom-girl. I admire that description. He grew his hair long for 2 years with the intention of donating it, which he did. Towards the end he was often mistaken for a girl, and said he didn’t mind this at all. Some mornings he uses a bit of my makeup as he gets ready for school (5th grade). As I am writing this very paragraph, he just walked up and asked if I could buy him earrings. We recently discovered that the last weekend of every month, a drag show in the cities puts on a family friendly event. We plan to attend the next one scheduled. His father and I have never felt nervous, confused or scared about Tobias expressing his tom-girl self. This is not true of the way we felt with the youngest of our family. The youngest was born, and Tobias immediately called the new baby his book end! It turns out he was quite insightful.

We named our child Lucia Genevieve, she was born into the world with lots of thick hair, and we let it grow long and curly. She was darling and grumpy. She would not tolerate wearing her long hair up, even on the hottest of days. She hated any sort of up-do. At age two she raided Isaiah’s toy chest to get at cars, action figures, and to play super hero. January of 2017, she was three years old and informed me that she was a boy. She repeated this 6-8 times a day, every day (no exaggeration), week after week, and month after month, consistently in a matter of fact fashion. She never cried or got angry. She was a boy and that was a fact, just letting us know, again and again and again.

As I noted her consistency, persistency and insistency, I sobbed weekly. I wasn’t upset that she may be transgender. I was upset because I was all Mama Bear in my head, making up stories of my fists forward, fighting fundamentalist family, school bathroom rules, doctors, insurance companies, and protecting my child from bullies and discrimination. I quickly dove back into research and shared with friends that I thought my girl may be a transgender boy. These friends were kind, yet none of them knew anything about the gender spectrum. I shared with my husband, Elias. He literally informed me that he was diving into denial, and did not wish me to share anything I was learning with him. I felt very lonely.

Early March I was introduced to a married, transgender man. He encouraged me not to label my kid as transgender, and instead focus on looking deeply into my child’s eyes, and clearly seeing my child rather than a description of my child, and fiercely loving my kid in the present moment. His advice was a game changer and dissolved my anxieties. I stopped looking at my kid as a walking problem to solve, and I got back to observing my youngest as one of the great loves of my life. March was the first time I dared to call Lucia, my boy. I remember being slightly surprised when the earth did not explode. What happened instead was that my darling, beamed at me and melted in my arms in a silly pool of pure happiness. The number of times, daily, I was informed she was a boy, dropped dramatically after that. Mama finally got it!

April came and the reverend who married me, posted an article on Facebook (FB) about a 3 year old child, assigned male at birth, who transitioned to being a girl at age 4. The author mentioned a secret support group on FB of Christian mothers of LGBTQIA+ children, and I got a hunting until I found it, and then discovered there were multiple groups! I finally found people I could talk to, and this was the greatest gift! Around that time my husband slowly began calling our kiddo a boy, having listened to me do it here and there. I quietly smiled all over our house!

The month of May arrived and 3 year old Lucia announced to the family we were to call her Buddy from now on, and that we were to drop all female pronouns and use male pronouns only. A three year old who knew the significance of pronouns, impressed me! Getting our brains to switch names and pronouns was very difficult, and I got set right away teaching Buddy the skill of offering others patience, forgiveness, and understanding. His three older siblings all had different processes towards becoming affirming. It took lots of time for everybody. The month of May also brought Buddy his first package of requested, Lightning McQueen, male underwear. He was thrilled! I felt stretched giving it to him, yet having read an article about another mother facing this same challenge, helped me greatly. June brought him male swim wear, and buying clothing from the boys section. He wore his new swim shirt and trunks every day for a week, even to church!

July had me contacting the school to enroll him in pre-K as a boy, and to my relief he finally requested a very short hair cut. I shared the news of our new son with some extended family I thought would be affirming, and they were. This was the second greatest gift I received. My heart swelled as they championed him. The third best gift was Elias. Cuddling with Buddy one day, he looked me in the eye and told me that Buddy was a perfect son, and that our parental arms and laps would forever be open to him. I cried tears of love, and then had to get jokingly mad at Elias. Are you kidding me? I spent a great amount of time researching and networking and sobbing to finally move from accepting to affirming, while my darling husband transitioned from denial to affirming with a snap of the fingers. It just wasn’t fair!

Elias and I attended two sessions with a gender counselor to make sure we were parenting correctly. The counselor told us that the best way to parent was to muddle through, and we were doing this perfectly well. I loved the description of muddling through. It made me laugh and feel more confident. Our counselor, our clergy, friends, school educators, and our medical teams all supported Buddy in being himself. There is some family on both my and Elias’ sides that are opposed to Buddy’s transition, and do not believe in the reality of a gender and sexuality spectrum. This, in an odd way, is a gift too because it began my heart searching for a way to love them as they are, rather than build up barriers against them. If love is love is love is love, as my t-shirt says, I want love to win in every direction.

Buddy came home from preschool one day in August, and told me he has a best friend named Axel whom he is going to marry. Our darling boy is gay. Buddy told me theirs was to be a prince and prince wedding with absolutely no princesses! I told him I look forward to the day I can walk him down the aisle. Buddy turned 4 years old this past September, and getting ready to blow out all of his birthday candles, he enthusiastically shouted, “Now I am a real, true boy and will be forever!” Big brother Tobias was the first to respond with, “Hooray!”

 

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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

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Mama Bear Story Project #25 – Deb Woodman

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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.

Woodman, Deb

Here I sit, on the longest night of the year, a woman who is somewhere in her forties who tells herself she can still ignore that unfortunate little reality. It’s the last blaring delusion I allow myself.

I have two wonderful children and a husband of 25 years. I grew up in a strict conservative Christian family. I married my husband when we were both too young to understand how crazy we were to think that we were old enough to marry. I was only 19-years-old when we married and then we immediately moved out of state and started the great adventure of growing up together and building our own little world on our own terms.

I escaped from my family’s dysfunctional and spiritually, emotionally, physically and sexually abusive household (the Duggar family is not a freakish anomaly and hits way too close to my childhood reality). I was determined to create a stable environment, where love wasn’t something that I continually had to work so hard for. That’s a hard habit to break and it seems like a never ending process for me. My husband and I decided to strive for the perfect family environment that we always longed for. We are by no means perfect, but we continually aimed for unconditional love.

My husband is a keeper alright. His father walked out on his family when my husband was an infant. Despite the absence of a role model, Dan managed to become an amazing father to our children. His quiet strength never ceases to remind me that he will always be the love of my life. Plus, he somehow manages to put up with my goofy self.

We were blessed with two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. We worked hard and were fortunate enough to live in financial security. We had attained the American Dream. We raised our children in the south, in what is often jokingly referred to as the buckle of the Bible Belt and attempted to give our children a strong foundation built on a loving God and a loving family. The God of love that I was denied knowing in my childhood.

When my youngest started school, I went back to college and attained a degree in psychology at a well known southern Baptist university. I began working in nonprofit mental health organizations as a crisis counselor and then a mental health social worker. It was in this atmosphere that my son, Zak became a staunch Republican. I, myself, had always been a socially liberal leaning independent, rocking the boat sometimes in my university classroom discussions and within our southern conservative church. While I was working with the underprivileged and becoming more aware of my growing social liberal views, my son was listening to Rush Limbaugh and growing in a different direction. There were times my son and I butted heads concerning his political beliefs. However, he was such a good Christian kid, so morally upstanding, what parent in their right mind would argue with his strict moral code and convictions. I supported immigration, social welfare, and gay rights, but I kept my mouth shut in our home to avoid arguments with my son and husband. I should have argued. I wish I had argued more and forced him to see things other than in black and white…moral or sinful. My son once called me a cultural relativist, as though it were the worst thing he could think of.

By the age of twelve Zak was blogging about abstract political and economic concepts that I couldn’t completely comprehend. My husband and I monitored his internet use and observed that he was being followed by well known conservative politicians and journalists who discussed with him intense opinions on economic policies and political philosophies. We would shake our heads and laugh and then tell him it was past his bedtime and to turn off his computer, that we knew he was a kid even if his readers had no idea. Outside of his political writings, he was a nervous kid. He struggled with bullies at school. Always, he had problems relating with his peers and felt more confident talking to adults about issues that most kids were oblivious to. Looking back, I knew he was different…but I could never put my finger on how or why. When a group of boys called him a fag, I told him that he should ignore them. They were ridiculous. I should have stood up for LGBT rights then, but I didn’t. He found friendships in church youth groups and video gamers, he loved hockey and political blogging. I was always so worried about internet porn and online predators, I never imagined that it would be his strict conservative internet connections that would become his greatest predators.

Skip forward a few years…we relocated back to our home state of Michigan when my husband got an offer for his dream job and my son was in high school. My mother was immediately diagnosed with breast cancer and then my father had open heart surgery. Having forgiven my family for past abuses and having had been away so long, I felt it was my responsibility to come full circle and take care of my aging parents. They sold their own home and moved to the same small town that we had settled in. They became a daily fixture in our household and we offered whatever means we had to assist them with their financial and physical needs. I put my career on the back burner and became a full time care giver to the people that had given me life. I told myself that I was doing the right thing. What I didn’t realize was I was slipping right back into those old emotionally abusive patterns that I now see were generations old. I was so eager to find love and acceptance from my parents. For the first time in years, I began silently suffering from nightmares, panic attacks, and struggling with self confidence and depression.

My son graduated from high school and accepted an academic scholarship to attend his first pick college, Hillsdale College, an extremely conservative college. If you’re a Rush Limbaugh or a Sean Hannity fan, you’ve heard it advertised, no doubt. All of the sudden he blossomed socially, he was academically successful, and he was making amazing social connections with high profile people who were promising him a future of his choosing. He had finally found his fit. For a while.

The summer before his sophomore year, I noticed a change in him. He seemed depressed and more anxious than I’d ever seen him, he was questioning his religious faith and his political beliefs. I just threw it out there one day while we sat talking in the car that there was nothing that could ever make me love him less or make me freak out, even if he told me he were gay, I wouldn’t freak out. I have no idea why I blurted that out, but he immediately responded that he thought he was bisexual but that he didn’t really want to discuss it. I just told him it was all going to be okay and to let me know what he decided. I actually thought that it was something to decide, what kind of car to buy or what his college major would be. I left it alone. Meanwhile, inside, I guess that I kind of was freaking out, worried about what this meant in the conservative environment he had surrounded himself with. I began researching peer reviewed articles concerning how to help LGBT youth in crisis. I felt so helpless with this secret. Three months later he came out to my husband and me as gay, confirmed to us immediately that this was not his choice and then asked me if I thought God saw him as an abomination. Up until that moment, I had not really concerned myself with what that means. Was it a sin? Was it even possible that this beautiful child that God had given me was somehow an abomination? I couldn’t see that being feasible. I said a little prayer that if I was going to err, I was going to err on the side of unconditional love and told my son no. I saw him only as my son and if I loved him unconditionally then surely his creator loved him even more.

He decided that he was living a lie and that he had no choice but to come out at his college, but wasn’t ready to come out to our other family members. He came out of the closet to us and my husband and I promptly moved into our own lonely closet. He said that he had chosen this college despite knowing their view of homosexuality, but that he felt that his sexuality didn’t define him. He could just put off pursuing any relationships until after he had graduated. But that he now needed to live honestly, even if he was still unready for a relationship. He knew of no other gays there. He was so naive in his 19-year-old skin. I was terrified. I began to notice all of the anti gay statements other family members used. I watched the news and it was as though all that I could see was how hateful the world was towards the LGBT community. What was this gay agenda that they kept talking about? Would my own child ever be free to love another human being the way I loved his father without facing judgement and hate at every turn? Would I ever be able to have grandchildren? If I did, would they too suffer at the hands of unloving Christians who deemed them to be created in deviance and immorality? Why couldn’t people see that homosexuality was about love and companionship, instead of defining it narrowly as a choice of sexual position? How could anyone define the beautiful and multifaceted person that was my child, the amazing and unique human that I loved under one narrow, socially constructed label? Every homophobic comment felt like a new cut that I couldn’t protect myself from. I suddenly had a glimpse of what it felt to be in Zak’s world. It was excruciating.

His life in college quickly turned into a nightmare. Word traveled fast at that small college. He was shunned by his peers, the college administration deemed him a problem and the dean of men told incoming freshmen not to associate themselves with him because he was unstable. Despite the fact that he had not yet experienced his first kiss, he was called out as a sexual deviant at public speaking events and in the classroom. One “well meaning” student even took it upon himself to corner him in the dorm bathroom and attempt to cast out his homosexual demons because he had suffered a panic attack which had caused a stress induced nose bleed, apparently proof that he was under the influence of Satan. Another fellow student, who was the college academic superstar and was in his previous friend group, urged my son to kill himself so there would be “one less gay soiling the world”. (The majority of this I found out after the fact while in counseling) In a few short months, I watched my son slowly slip away. My husband and I tried to convince him to transfer schools and threatened to pull our financial backing if he didn’t…he refused to be a quitter. He thought that he could change them, make them see things differently. All of this took place in the midst the harsh political climate surrounding the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.

My son was the only openly gay student in a college that openly condemned the LGBT community and referred to them in a college wide email as an abomination that they prayed would be abolished by God. Zak became a target for all of their homophobic pent up religious, righteous rage. He was tortured, he received numerous internet threats by email, on his blog, on Facebook. He finally confided to me during a panic attack, middle of the night phone call that he was feeling suicidal. I dropped everything, drove three hours to find him curled up in his car. I took him off campus for the weekend, tried to talk sense to him. Still he would not come home. I wish I had forced him to come home.

I got him into counseling where he was, but that entire tiny little town seemed controlled by the same insane mentality. Even the counselor insisted that it was best that he continue his education at that “wonderful college, with their classical educational tradition and limitless opportunities and social connections”. It was a living nightmare. I was in constant fear for his emotional and physical safety.

In the midst of it all, he was outed by a friend to my family on Facebook. Regardless of his emotional state, my mother insisted that he had asked for it, everything that he was going through was of his own making. He was reaping what he had sown. Sinful nature equals a life of sorrow. She continually announced at family gatherings that she was praying for Zak’s healing from his homosexuality, as if it were some infection that God could remove. My abusive brother claimed that it was my soft parenting that had caused him to become homosexual, that and the fact that my husband didn’t hunt or fish with him and pursue manly activities. He pointed to the fact that we raised a daughter who was a strong female that could shoot a rifle better than most men and had a black belt in martial arts. We hadn’t stuck to culturally appropriate gender norms in our family and it had emasculated our son and made him think ungodly thoughts. My sister stated that she loved him despite of his “lifestyle choice” but told me that she hoped that he wasn’t going to be “one of those gays that pushed it in other people’s faces”. What in the hell did that even mean?

It finally clicked one Easter Sunday, while we gathered with the family that I was born into and bowed our heads to bless our meal. My mother said the prayer, which she promptly twisted into a plea for God to cast out the homosexual inclinations in my son so that our family could know peace in His love. My mother actually stood there and attempted to pray away the gay! She had judged my son to be a sexual deviant, while my unrepentant sexually abusive brother (her son) stood in the same room nodding in earnest agreement. Something clicked that day. Something broke in me. Or perhaps, something already broken within me finally began to heal. I saw that I had somehow permitted an all too common false Christian narrative the power over my own self worth. I had given an outright lie way too much space in my mind. I silently looked up from the prayer that I was passively accepting and took in the faces of my my lifelong abuser and the people who had enabled that abuse, the people who were now mislabeling my own child as the deviant, and the chains that bound me finally began to crumble. The hypocrisy of it all made me want to vomit on the meal I had slaved over all afternoon in order to feed the people around me who were starving my soul of love. I wish that I could say that I cast those chains away in one fell swoop, but it doesn’t happen that simply. I’ve had to perform countless emotional surgeries on my own heart, removing each link of the chain. It’s been a painful and tedious process. The current political climate and the constant barrage of social discussions concerning our nation’s vapid rape culture certainly haven’t made it any easier.

Regardless, I saw that I had no choice but to untangle my parents and siblings from my life. Not just for my son’s sake but for my own. How could I expect my son to leave his toxic environment within that conservative college, while I remained immersed in my toxic family who refused to respect my boundaries and continually held me frozen in emotional blackmail. How could we survive amongst those that condemned my son’s sexuality yet condoned and secreted their own history of sexual child abuse. To this day, my mother blames our severed relationship on my intolerance of their religious opinions concerning my son’s sexuality. That pains me, but I know the truth.

When I attempted to seek guidance from the pastor of the church we attended at that time, I was told that it would be better if I sought a different pastor from a different church for that “sort of problem”, this pastor was too busy to deal with this politically problematic subject. I called other churches, I couldn’t find anywhere in our community that was open to discussing the subject. I could not locate a house of God where we were affirmed as a loving family, rather that merely tolerated. For the first time in my life, I was spiritually homeless. I had become a refugee of sorts. I felt like a wounded victim in a ditch that day, no Good Samaritan in site to stanch the bleeding in my soul. I haven’t been to church since.

Meanwhile, my son was on the same quest three hours away from me in the little town of Hillsdale, Michigan. Church and his strong belief in God had always been his refuge and source of strength throughout the storms of his young life. No Christian church in the community would accept him. They all had no place for the LGBT community, especially with the political atmosphere that was going on. He grew bitter against Christianity, I couldn’t really blame him. I was having my own crisis of faith.

Finally, summer break came and my son came home to us a shell of the young man who had gone off to college two years before. He was rail thin and hunched over, he looked to me like a prisoner of war from a documentary on WWII. My husband and I decided to find him a therapist close to home and grew determined that he would never return to Hillsdale. A few days later, my son woke me up at six o’clock in the morning confused, delusional, scared, and told me that he wanted to hurt himself. He had received more internet threats the evening before. We had no choice but to take him to the hospital for a psych evaluation. It was a horror that no amount of education could ever prepare me for. Having worked in the mental health field, I understood the lingo too well. I knew the side effects of the antipsychotics they put him on. I feared their tentative diagnoses. I had professionally worked closely with mentally ill teens admitted to psychiatric hospitals…it was so different to see my own son there. He spent days curled into a ball, crying and confused. He was afraid to eat the food because it was the same food service company as at the college. He thought they were stalking him. He clung to me at visitation times. His one friend from college, who would later become his boyfriend, visited him and stayed with us. Together we held him, combed his hair, stroked his curled up back. His hospital roommate’s mother became outraged. She told the nurse that her son would not be roommates with a homosexual. She threatened him, saying that gays were sexual predators. How could this be happening? Couldn’t she see that he was broken? That his 105 lbs, emaciated frame was incapable of being any kind of threat to her football player sized son? Was there anyplace safe for him? I slipped into social worker gear, advocated for him, I had to get him out of there. Then bringing his friend into our home, I realized that I had two broken kids to deal with. At the time, his friend had no one who truly accepted him within his own family. He was scared and angry and sad, and my son’s breakdown triggered his own grief and anguish.

My son was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. With medication, outpatient therapy, and unconditional love, we watched him slowly come back to us. My husband and I had a whole lot of learning to do that year. In all of our parenting research and planning, we had never considered how to handle having a gay son. I felt so inept, so tired, so broken. We’ve adjusted, we’ve grown, and we’re both better for it. That first year though, it was a a tough one.

All throughout this long haul, my teenage daughter has grown into this amazing, empathetic young woman. After witnessing her brother’s struggles, she started a gay-straight alliance in her small, rural high school. It didn’t gain her any popularity points as we live in a very conservative area, but she has been able to reach out to and give support to some kids who truly needed it. My daughter is amazing and kind and she’s so much smarter and braver than her mom could ever imagine being. Earlier this year, she told me that she thinks she might be bisexual but that she’s still figuring it all out. She isn’t ready to act on it or come out in any grand way. She said that she’s unsure of what she feels, she just didn’t want to shock me if someday she fell in love with a woman. Whatever happens, she knows she’s loved and accepted. I suppose I’ll eventually see where that path leads when she’s ready to walk it.

My son fell in love with the other student who had also survived the torture of Hillsdale College and had graduated the year before Zak came out there. Together, he and Mason have found healing and acceptance in new communities, and unconditional love inside our home. They’ve had their trials, their own separate issues to work through. I don’t know if their relationship will withstand the difficulties of living separated by miles, as they live in different cities, but I have faith that they are each capable of greatness, whether it be together or apart. They also both claim to be atheists now and avid libertarians. The atheist title breaks my heart a little, but I am confident that the one who created their hearts, intimately knows their hearts, understands their responses to the social abuses that they’ve suffered, and loves them unconditionally. Mason comes home to us each holiday from his new adventures of living and working in Washington DC. As I look around at our crazy, silly group of laughing kids, I feel blessed in being surrounded by beautiful hearts.

Zak returned to college. This time at a public university in a beautifully diverse community. It’s an hour away from his previous school, yet it might as well be on an entirely different planet. I’ve successfully resisted most urges to be a helicopter mom since he moved into his new apartment and that struggle was somewhat painful. It’s been scary, wondering if he’s truly okay now. He finally seems to be putting all of it behind him and is slowly moving forward. Other closeted LGBT people from his college have connected with him, and he has offered himself as a safe haven from the oppressive storms when needed. He’s still an introvert and he sometimes struggles with anxiety (I do too), but he’s come a heck of a long way.

My daughter has also spread her wings and moved off to college. She’s a beautiful force to be reckoned with. She’s smart, she’s kind, and I cannot be more proud as I watch her blaze her own unique path. I watch in awe, as she demonstrates to me on a daily basis what modern women are capable of in this ever changing world. Whatever path she travels, I will always be there to cheer her on and applaud her strength and courage.

We’ve all come a long way. I’m such a proud and thankful mama bear. I’m still learning every day to be a stronger woman and a better parent than I was yesterday. I still struggle with the old concepts of God and all the fears that the evangelical church that I was raised in instilled in my mind. Sometimes it seems overwhelming and it brings me to my knees. But I keep fighting to get back up, determined to do my part in making the world a kinder and safer place for kids like my own.

There was a time when I thought I had it all figured out…religion, philosophical perspectives, parenting styles, psychology…ha how silly of me! Maybe I will never have it all figured out. Maybe it doesn’t need to be figured out. I am increasingly convinced that the greatest gifts in life cannot be neatly packaged and labeled by society’s standards. My greatest gifts have come in the midst of chaos and are packaged in asymmetrical boxes decorated in rainbow ribbons, reminding me that real love is immeasurable, undefinable, and timeless.

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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

Serendipitydodah for Moms – The Best of 2017

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids.

best of 2017

2017 has been another great year for Serendipitydodah for Moms!

We sent out 33 letters of support and thanks this year!!

We had 15 special guest events – 12 of those were Facebook Live Streaming events.

We added more than 950 moms to our community this year.

We continue to have tremendous levels of engagement. More than 75% of our members are active in the group each month and that is a very high percentage rate for any group.

We started the Mama Bear Story Project in January. The project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms. The portraits and essays are posted on a public Facebook page and on the Serendipitydodah blog. There were 24 essays published this year and those essays had a combined total of more than 90,000 views!!

In November we partnered with the Banner Blanket Project, which was started by Mama Bear Anita Cockrum, and more than 30 no sew fleece blankets have already been made and sent out to lgbtq teens and young adults who have lost the support of their family due to their lgbtq status.

AND we started two extension groups … Serendipitydodah MTK is an extension of the main group created especially for moms of trans kids and Serendipitydodah Blue Ocean Faith is an extension group that was created to serve as a space for members of Serendipitydodah for Moms to connect with and become a part of the Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor community via it’s online presence.

The Serendipitydodah Mama Bears continue to love their kids well, learn and grow together, share support and information with each other and people outside of the group, change hearts and minds, and support the lgbtq community and their advocates.

We are better together!!

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Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group created as an extension of the Serendipitydodah blog. The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. The group was started in June 2014 and as of December 2017 has more than 2,400 members. The space was especially created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBTQ kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBTQ kids. The members call themselves “Mama Bears” and their motto is “We are better together”  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. The guests include authors, pastors, LGBTQ people, bloggers and public speakers.

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

Come on, people! Let’s hand out some radical, extravagant love this holiday season!

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Every year at this time my heart breaks for so many of my lgbtq friends as they have to agonize over the kind of reception they will or will not receive from family. Will they be invited? Will their husband or wife be welcome? Will they be expected to act straight? Will they be gossiped about before, during and/or after the get together? Should they go? Should they decline? If they don’t go should they explain why? If they go should they act straight? If they go should they pretend that their boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife is nothing more than a good friend?

It’s easy to tell them to not have anything to do with people who don’t completely accept and affirm who they are but it’s so hard to be alienated from one’s family and this time of year accentuates the pain and sorrow.  I’ve noticed over the years that most people will go to great lengths to stay connected to family, even when it is hard or painful, and most kids will especially go to great lengths to stay connected to their parents.

So, when I feel my heart breaking over these things my next thought is not to tell them to stay away from the hurt and do their own thing, even though that may be good advice. No, my next thought is …

Come on, people!! Let’s demonstrate the spirit of love this season! Let’s hand out some radical, extravagant love and grace to the lgbtq people in our lives. Let’s make our homes a haven of love and acceptance this season. Let’s call them up and encourage them to bring their significant other … and call their significant other by their name and use the correct label (boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband). And when they arrive let’s hug them and tell them how happy we are they are with us and how much we love them just the way they are. If they are a couple let’s introduce them as the couple they are. Let’s ask them about their life and what has been going on. If they got engaged let’s congratulate them. If they are planning a wedding let’s find out all about it and let them know how happy we are for them and the life they are building together. If they got married let’s encourage them to tell us about all the wonderful details of their wedding. If they are new parents or hoping to be soon let’s join with them in their joy and excitement.

Let’s show them we are safe and loving people and that our homes are a place where they can relax and be themselves.

Let’s make sure when all the festivities are over and they are leaving our homes that they go away feeling happier and more loved than when they arrived.

#BeLove #BeKind #LoveIsTheMovement
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I have a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. The group was created especially for open minded Christian moms who have lgbtq kids and want to learn to love and support their lgbtq kids in a way that helps them grow into the best version of who they were created to be. The group has more than 2,300 moms and is a place where a lot of support and information is shared each day. Our motto is “We Are Better Together” and we call ourselves “Mama Bears” because our love is both cuddly and fierce. If you are mom to an lgbtq kid and would like to join the community you can email lizdyer55@gmail.com

You can also click here to find out more info about the group.

Love Others and Hate Your Own Sin

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Recently, my husband and I were interviewed at our home by the good people who create the Christians Talk videos.

During the interview they asked me what I thought about the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”

You can watch their video HERE that includes responses from several Christians about the phrase.

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What I wanted to say but probably failed to say because I was nervous that day when we were being interviewed was this:

Instead of saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” Christians should be saying:

“Love others and hate your own sin!”

The phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” doesn’t honor the basic tenets of Christianity because it leads Christians to focus on hating rather than on loving.

When someone says “love the sinner, hate the sin” the focus is not on “loving” – the focus is on “hating”

The person using the phrase is thinking about how much they hate the sin of homosexuality and how much they want to get that point across.

The lgbt person hearing the phrase is thinking about how the person who is using the phrase hates who they are at the core of their being because they know that being lgbt has more to do with “who they are” than who they might have sex with.

As someone who is serious about following Jesus I always want to know what Jesus had to say about it and as it turns out Jesus never said “love the sinner, hate the sin” – in fact, no one in the bible said it.

But …

In Matthew 7 Jesus did say:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

In other words, Jesus was saying worry about your own sin and when you have rid yourself of all your own sin then you can worry about hating someone else’s sin.

Jesus also said:

“love one another: just as I have loved you”

So …

I think “love others, hate your own sin” would be a better phrase for Christians to use.

Or even better, let’s just shorten it to “love” and leave it at that.

#loveisthemovement #loveoneanother #love #greatestcommandment


 

Liz Dyer is founder and owner of Serendipitydodah for Moms, a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids.

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 2,300 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 

Stories That Change The World #38 – THIS IS MY BODY by Caitlin J. Stout

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Stories have the power to change the world … they inspire us, teach us, connect us. This is the thirty-eighth installment in the “Stories That Change The World” series.

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Caitlin J. Stout is an out and proud gay Christian, doing her best to navigate faith and friendship while attending a non-affirming evangelical university.  She has her own blog where she writes about the joy, pain, anger, and beauty of being #FaithfullyLGBT. Caitlin originally posted this piece on her own blog. I am sharing it here with her permission. I love the way she lays her heart open and shares so transparently. She doesn’t have all the answers but she gives us a lot to think about and reflect on. Her stories are powerful because they are real and true. Her stories are changing hearts and minds. Her stories are changing the world.

THIS IS MY BODY by Caitlin J. Stout

Imagine for a moment that you strike up a conversation with a young woman sitting next to you on a long flight. You exchange pleasantries, talk about work, family life, etc. She starts to tell you about her boyfriend. She tells you that the two of them have been together for years and that she has no intention of ever leaving his side. She talks about the joy that he brings her. She says that she cares about him, and that she wants the best for him. The longer you listen, the clearer it is that this woman has fallen head-over-heels in love.

The conversation starts to take a turn when she admits that her boyfriend is far from perfect. Sometimes she thinks that she puts more work into the relationship than he does. Actually, if she’s being perfectly honest, he can be pretty hurtful. He scares her sometimes. He threatens her. He makes her feel undesirable, and he doesn’t even try to understand her feelings. He has a tendency to treat her as a lesser human, and she spends a lot of time crying about things he has said when he thought she couldn’t hear. She calls him out when he does this kind of stuff, but he always finds a way to turn it around and insist that he’s just acting out of love. She wants to believe that he’s telling the truth, but sometimes she just can’t. She stays anyway.

After all, he’s not always like that. On good days, she feels like she and her boyfriend could change the world together. Those are the days when she feels known and wanted and understood. On good days, she knows that she belongs with him and she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of her. Yes, she’ll admit, it seems like those days are becoming fewer and farther between… Like she said, he’s not perfect. But she’s pretty sure that if she sticks around, she might be able to fix him. Besides, she needs him.

What would you say to her?

Would you tell her that she’s in an unhealthy relationship?

Would you say that she’s being abused?

Would you tell her to move out and end it?

Have you ever heard an LGBTQ Christian talk about the Church?

This weekend, as a part of the Reformation Project Conference in Chicago, I attended a seminar on spiritual abuse and trauma, led by Teresa Pasquale Mateus, the author of “Sacred Wounds.” She started the workshop by asking the room full of Queer Christians, “What words or phrases do you associate with spiritual abuse?” The answers came rolling in with a disturbing level of ease, requiring no deliberation or second thoughts.

Fear. Control. Threats. Dehumanization. Gaslighting. Blame. Shame. Homophobia. Scapegoating. Isolation. Rejection. Forced compartmentalization. Second class. Silencing. False security. Abandonment. Feelings of inadequacy. Manipulation. Conversion therapy. Anxiety. Dependency. Conditional love. Damnation.

As these words were spoken, faster than Teresa could write them down, I looked around the room and saw weary heads nodding in understanding and legs bouncing nervously. I heard deep and troubled sighs, occasionally accompanied by exasperated laughter. The kind of laughter that says, “This isn’t funny at all, it’s just so incredibly fucking true.” It was devastatingly obvious that no further explanations were needed.

The parallels between the non-affirming church and an abusive partner are startling. And I don’t always know how to deal with that. I don’t always know how to reconcile my genuine love for the Body of Christ with the ways it continues to do harm. I don’t always feel like the relationship is justifiable, and I don’t know if I can tell LGBTQ Christians to keep pouring their energy and affection into an organization that barely tolerates them. I don’t know how to not be angry with the fact that some churchgoers would ignore the hypothetical abusive boyfriend, but lose their minds if the imaginary woman on the plane were dating a female metaphor instead.

I carried this abusive partner analogy in my mind for the rest of the day after that workshop, hoping desperately that it was insufficient and praying for the metaphor to break down.

That night, we took communion.


During the summer, I would sometimes creep into church halfway through the Sunday services. I’d time it so that I got there right after the sermon and the passing of the peace, that way I could walk in, take communion, and then leave before anyone spoke to me.

After coming out, the Eucharist is what kept me coming back to places of worship. I can say with confidence that it is the only reason I still go to church at all. I think for a while I saw taking communion as an act of resistance, and I still acknowledge that there is something powerful about participating in a sacrament that certain people would rather deny me. I felt a need to claim my seat at Christ’s table, even if I wasn’t yet ready for the post-service coffee and fellowship hour.

My understanding of the Eucharist has evolved since then, though I still don’t have the theological language to fully express its beauty or its meaning or its centrality to my faith. I can’t explain the mystery of it, or how the enormity of concepts such as “unity, inclusion, remembrance, and love” seem to somehow be contained in a wafer and a sip of wine. But I can tell you that as I partook in the Lord’s supper on Saturday night with several hundred of my LGBTQ siblings– these refugees and exiles whom I call my friends– the abusive partner metaphor began to weaken.

The thing is, Queer folks are not dating the Church, we are the Church. And I’m beginning to realize that as soon as I start talking about the Body of Christ as an entity separate from myself, I am doing what non-affirming Christians have been trying to do to me for years. Spiritual abuse makes you see yourself as an issue up for debate. It distorts the beauty of the sacraments and turns them into these badges of belonging that you have to fight and work and bleed for. But the reality is that God has already given you a seat at the table. Jesus has already invited you to take and eat. The Body of Christ is already Queer.

This is not to minimize the very real abuse that does happens within the Body. This is not to say that anyone needs to stay in a congregation where they are not celebrated as equals. This is a reminder that “Child of God” is a title that cannot be revoked, and when we internalize that title, we are liberated. We can no longer settle for being tolerated, nor can we ignore the ways in which we have been hurtful to others. After all, the Body of Christ is also Black. The Body of Christ uses a wheelchair. The Body of Christ is undocumented. The Body of Christ is hungry and homeless.

Yeah, sometimes I still worry that I’m acting like the woman on the plane. I still don’t know what kind of advice to give to my fellow gay people who so desperately want to follow Jesus and remain in fellowship with the Church. But I know that when the love of my fellow Christians is insufficient, Christ’s is enough. Christ’s perfect love casts out fear, along with shame, homophobia, manipulation, abandonment, isolation, damnation, and all those other words that we shouted out during Teresa’s workshop.

Christ’s love does not ask me to fight for a place at the table.

Christ’s love says, “This is my body, given for you.”

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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 2,300 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #24 – Jackie McQueen

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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.

Jackie2

 

On April 8, 2014 my life was changed forever. That day marked the beginning of a painful journey my family would be forced to travel. It is only now that I can honestly say it was a journey worth taking, and it took a long time to come to this realization.

My husband was approaching his 10th anniversary of ministry in our current church, as a Southern Baptist Pastor. We were in the middle of revival services and he called me at work to ask me out for lunch. I always love a lunch date with my husband, but when he asked during such a busy week, I knew something was up. When I pressed him, he told me that our youngest son, Addison, had told some kids in the youth group that he is gay. When I heard those words, my heart sank. I felt true panic. I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified.

Although it was a shock, I must admit it really came as no surprise. We had suspected this for most of Addison’s life, yet we dared not speak of it. But now it was real. The one thing I had dreaded and feared most for my son. He had spoken the words we would have never ever said ourselves. He said, “I’m gay.” The news had already spread to other parents and church staff, leaving us no option to handle this privately as a family. We were forced to deal with it immediately, and there was much more to consider than just our son, even though he was, by far, most important. We were a Southern Baptist minister’s family and I knew what that meant for us. Fear overtook me as I imagined what lay ahead for my family.

I used what little time I had that afternoon to research, “How to talk to your kid about being gay.” I didn’t find much, but I did come across these statistics. 40% of homeless youth are LGBT. 30% of gay youth attempt suicide near the age of 15. Almost half of gay and lesbian teens have attempted suicide more than once. Upon learning this, my mind raced back to when Addison was 14 years old. He went through the normal awkward teenager stage just as his brothers did before him, but it was more than just that. He was angry, and he seemed to hate everything about his life. One night, I caught him on his way upstairs to his bedroom, carrying a ziplock bag of pills. It was a mixture of Advil and Tylenol. His excuse was that he wanted to keep medicine upstairs for convenience whenever he had a headache. The youth minister revealed to us shortly after, that in a youth group meeting, Addison shared having suicidal thoughts. Around that same time, he came to us wanting to be re- baptized. He said he just didn’t feel like he had been saved before. We were very puzzled by this, but Scott counseled him and he prayed to receive Christ, followed by baptism in our church. We watched him very closely during that time, and things eventually got better. But looking back, I realized what my precious son must have been going through years earlier and it scared me to death!

That night, after an emotional wait, we finally had the opportunity to talk with Addison. We approached the conversation with an undeniable love for our son on one hand, and our deeply imbedded conservative theology on the other. When we confronted him, he admitted to telling his friends. He had participated in an “honest hour” online where people can ask questions and you must answer honestly. Someone asked if he was gay and he simply said, “Yes”. He did not intend to come out that way, it just happened. I never will forget hearing Scott tell him how disappointed we were that he had made this choice, and then seeing the look on my son’s face when he said, “Dad, this is not my choice! Why would anyone choose this? If I could choose anything, I would choose not to be this way!” He said he had prayed every night for years for God to change him, only to wake up the next morning, still the same. He had always heard from us that being gay is a sin. He heard his dad preach it from the pulpit, and he heard me say it at home. We had unknowingly created in him such a fear of rejection that he was too afraid to talk to us about it. He said he believed what the Bible said, but he couldn’t understand why God would say it’s wrong and still create him like that. It was at that moment I began to wonder the same thing, as I sat there with my heart breaking for him. Scott ended the conversation that night by making a deal with Addison. They both agreed to make it a matter of serious prayer and seek God’s direction concerning this. Scott told him if they both did that, he was convinced God would change one of them. I began praying too. I desperately wanted to pray for my son not to be gay, but instead I just prayed for answers. I had so many questions! Could it be that my son really was born gay? If so, why would God’s word clearly condemn homosexuality when it’s not a choice? Why would God give us a gay son, knowing it meant the “death penalty” for a Southern Baptist minister? We couldn’t reject our son, but were we wrong to accept him? How could anything good come from this? It felt like a curse!

For the next several days, well…actually weeks, I grieved. It took a conscious effort to even breathe as I merely went through the motions of my daily routine. I finally came to terms with the fact that this was real. It was not going away. I grieved the loss of my hopes and dreams I had for my son. The dream that one day he would marry one of those pretty girls he hung out with. The hope of him giving me grandchildren. I looked back at my son’s life and wondered where I went wrong. What could I have done differently? Did I mother him too closely? I guess I had a full blown pity party. Then one day I realized that this wasn’t really about me. It wasn’t about me at all. My son was gay. What did this mean for him? It meant that he would have to face prejudice throughout his entire life. Prejudice from people just like me who saw this as a sinful choice. A prejudice that could cost him family, friendships, employment, safety and basic civil rights. A prejudice that could leave him exiled from the church, and even worse, could cause him to leave his faith behind. This was my son. My son. MY SON! And then suddenly, I felt myself go quickly from “poor pitiful me” to “protective Mama Bear!” I went from, “Oh my God my son is gay!” to, “Yeah, my son is gay, what have you got to say about that?!” That’s when I realized God was changing me.

Meanwhile, my husband was devoting every spare minute he had to research, desperately searching for answers to reconcile our faith with our reality. He plowed through the Hebrew and Greek, researched Biblical culture, and read every book he could find on the subject. The more he read, the more he began to understand the scripture like he never had before. God was changing him too. I remembered the deal that Scott made with Addison that night in our bedroom, and I realized it wasn’t our son that God wanted to change. It was us.

I wish I could say that everything was easy from that point on, but actually, that’s when things began to get worse. Not only Scott’s job, but his career was hanging by a thread. We knew that if he left the church because of this, no other Southern Baptist Church would want him. What would happen to our family? Would we have to sell our house? How would we pay the bills? Were we facing bankruptcy? We hoped and prayed for the best, but tried to prepare ourselves for the worst, while keeping these worries from our son as best we could. Scott began looking for other job opportunities, but with no success. Ministry was the only thing Scott knew and he had poured his heart into nothing else for over 30 years. We feared for our family’s future, but we wanted to honor God with our actions. I knew it would be difficult to hold back words as our family went under attack, but Scott and I made a conscious decision to treat the church with the
same grace we desired for our family. We were convinced that God would protect us somehow if we trusted Him through this.

People were beginning to gossip in the church. Imagine that! Scott tackled it head on, meeting with the deacons to address all their concerns. He shared deeply from his heart. He told them he was studying to find answers and he didn’t know how it would affect his theology. He assured them that if and when he found himself in conflict with SBC doctrine, he would resign. The deacons said they were in 100% support of Scott, but they had some conditions. They wanted him to take three weeks off “to deal with our family crisis.” (Our family was just fine; the only crisis was with them.) They also wanted assurance that Addison wouldn’t try to “sway” any of the other young people to become gay (yes, really!) and prohibited him from talking about himself or doing anything “gay” on church property. And they wanted Scott to address the church when he returned, announcing to everyone that our son is gay, but that he did not support him and still firmly held to his beliefs according to Southern Baptist doctrine.

Scott did take a couple of weeks off. He honestly needed the break from the deacons! He used that time to research everything he could get his hands on, and we prayed for guidance on how to handle conflict with the church. Our son was our main priority, but we loved our church and we desperately wanted to protect it too. Scott decided against making a church-wide announcement. He met with the deacons when he returned and explained that for him to make a public announcement about our family’s personal affairs would be no different from them announcing all their family secrets. Were they willing to line up behind him to make their announcements as well? Nothing more was said concerning an announcement, but it made me wonder why all the attention was on our son, when all he did was go to school and come straight home to a few chores and homework every day. He had no social life. He wasn’t “doing” anything.

As time went on, the tension only grew as rumors were spread, private meetings were held, Scott’s sermons were picked apart, our parenting was criticized, and our family was put under the microscope like never before. Adults were even stalking Addison on social media, forcing him to close his Facebook account. We pulled him out of the youth group his senior year to protect him from the adult youth leaders, whom we no longer trusted. I was the Women’s Ministry Leader and very involved with the ladies of the church. Those that knew of our situation began avoiding me like a plague. I lost a best friend in the church who just couldn’t support me through this. Another close friend asked me, “Does Addison think he can still be a Christian now that he’s decided to be gay?” One of the ladies suggested my son had a disease and she was sorry we didn’t know about it soon enough to get him help. Another said, “I just want you to know I love your boys, AND Addison.”

Those words hurt me deeply, but what hurt most was the silence from the staff and leadership of the church, who knew our family was hurting. They did nothing to support us or minister to us. Maybe they just didn’t know how. I realized the vast majority of members were not even aware of the issue, and we tried very hard to keep it that way. But I felt so completely alone and isolated. It was a struggle to continue, putting on my smile week after week, as if nothing was wrong. As much as we tried to protect him, Addison became aware that some of the adults didn’t want him to be there. I’ll never forget him saying to me, “Mom, if they don’t want me at church, I can just stay home and Dad can have church without me there.” I told my son, “The day you stay home, I’ll be staying home with you!” My heart ached for him, and there was absolutely no one that could understand.

Friendships were lost, but God was so gracious. I prayed for people I could talk to, people who had been where we were. I was randomly searching the internet one day and landed on The Gay Christian Network (GCN). There, I found a wonderful support group of Christian people, but not like the Christians I was surrounded by at church. These people knew what it was like to be judged by other Christians and exiled from their churches. These people were gay Christians, and they became my new best friends. They were patient and understanding, even though they knew I saw them as sinners. They traveled my journey with me, treating me with unconditional love and compassion as they watched God change me right before their eyes.

Another life saver for me was a private Facebook group of moms that I found. You name it; these moms have been through it, from being outcast from their churches, losing their jobs, having their spouse leave, being disowned by family, and some even losing their gay child to suicide. I’ve cried with these women and they have cried with me. Although I may never meet most of them in person, they are my true friends.

Out of all our church members, God blessed us with two great couples that stood by us and loved our family through the fire. I realize the courage it took to support us, and the cost to them was great. Scott and I desperately needed them when others betrayed us, and I’m so thankful for their friendship.

With Addison’s permission, we told our family about his news early on. His brothers said they had known all along, and they both agreed that he is their brother and they will love him no matter what. Aaron, his oldest brother, said, “If anyone gives Addison a hard time about it they’ll only do it once!” It made me happy to know his brothers had his back. My sister offered her shoulder for me to cry on, and I used it often. That’s what sisters are for, and I’m thankful she was willing to listen. Scott agonized over telling his mom, but when he finally did, she said, “Well I could’ve told you that young man was gay years ago but it wasn’t for me to say!” My mother was supportive as well, although neither mom really understands what it means to be gay. They both think Addison could change his mind someday and they’re holding onto the hope that a pretty girl might turn his head.

As time went on, God continued to reconstruct our faith. One day Scott said to me, “I’ve changed and I don’t think the church can handle me anymore.” He had come to the place where he could no longer continue to pastor the church with integrity. It wasn’t even about our son anymore. My husband was not the same person he had been a year earlier, and there was no going back. He’s always been one to follow God’s call even when it doesn’t make sense, and even when there is no safety net. In May of 2015 he met with our personnel team leader to share his plans to resign, without another job waiting. Our prayer for the past year had been for God to show us if and when to close that door. Now we had to pray for Him to open a new one, quickly! God answered that prayer when a Chaplain from Hospice of West Alabama contacted Scott, asking him to submit a resume. God rewarded my husband’s faith by providing a fulfilling job where he could minister to families and make a real difference. Although this position created a substantial pay cut, we knew it was God’s answer to our specific prayer for provision. He announced his resignation to the church, and was able to leave under the best of circumstances; yet, it was by far the hardest thing we’ve ever done in ministry. We’ve left churches before, but this move was different from all the others. Not only were we leaving an 11-year pastorate, we were leaving our denomination behind. Thirty-two years of ministry as we had known it was now over.

We’ve considered visiting to find a new church home, but for me personally, the risk is just too great. I will never subject my family, particularly my gay son, to abuse by another church, ever. After the church family we loved and gave so much of ourselves to for eleven years chose not to support us, I can’t imagine how a new church, with no connection to us would fully accept our family. We no longer consider ourselves Southern Baptists. We’re just Jesus followers. And I must say, it feels good!

We’ve been accused of compromising our beliefs to accommodate our son, but nothing could be further from the truth. I believe God gifted us with a gay son and used him to bring about much needed change. Sometimes it takes something huge to get us to reconsider our lifelong interpretation of God’s Word. Our son’s life was important enough to search for the truth. And it was in our search that we discovered having a gay son was not the problem, but rather the means to finding the solution!

Our journey has been difficult to say the least. But God showed His grace to our family by offering protection, provision, and now healing.

What once seemed like a curse has turned into the biggest blessing of my life! I have changed and I would never want to go back to the way I was before. I am learning more and more every day what it means to REALLY love people like Jesus. To lay judgement aside, to show grace and understanding, and to walk a few steps in another’s shoes.

I’ve taught Addison all his life to love everyone, and to never put himself above another person. But in the last year, I’ve learned that more from him than I could have ever taught. I’m so proud of him. My son is brave, loving, smart, funny, creative, sensitive, caring, sooo handsome, …and oh yeah, he’s GAY! His two brothers are pretty amazing too!

One of my friends from GCN sent me these words that I have hung onto. “There is a difference between acting like a Christian and acting like Jesus. When you act like a Christian everyone at church will praise you and reward you. But Heaven help the Christian who starts acting like Jesus. When believers act like Jesus there is a price to pay. You won’t be understood and the church won’t be very happy. But the end result is a relationship with the living God that is real, and honest and loving. It is full of grace.”

These days my focus is pretty simple. I just want to act like Jesus.

Jackie1

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Jackie’s husband, Scott McQueen, a former Southern Baptist pastor of 31 years, has written Reasonable Doubt: A Case for LGBTQ Inclusion in the Institutions of Marriage and Church. The book is being published by CanyonWalker Press and will be available through Amazon and other outlets in paperback and e-book in January, 2018.

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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 2,000 members. For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 

Go the second mile & bake the second cake

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I haven’t been able to find anything in scripture that indicates that Christians should not sell their goods or services to people who they think are sinning and that goes for those who are in the business of selling goods and services for weddings.

After reading scripture and considering what Jesus taught it seems to me that refusing to bake/sell/serve a cake at a same sex wedding because you don’t approve of same sex marriages is not something that honors the basic tenets of Christianity.

Jesus’ teachings seem to indicate that a Christian baker in the United States, where same sex marriage is legal, should be extra accommodating, helpful and generous towards a same sex couple planning a wedding.

In fact, if Jesus were here today he might be saying “go the second mile AND bake the second cake”.

 

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In Matthew 5:41 Jesus said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

As usual Jesus was saying something that might have sounded shocking to his audience.

You see, there was a Roman law that could require men to drop what they were doing and carry a Roman soldier’s equipment for him for up to one mile.

The Israelites who lived in Rome were disgusted about having to pay taxes to Caesar and obey Roman laws such as this because they saw Romans as evil and ungodly.

So, when Jesus said “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” you would have heard a lot of gasps and grumbling among those in the crowd.  In fact, it was probably one of those times when many just got up, left and stopped following Jesus. This was not a message they wanted to hear.

But that didn’t stop Jesus. He went right on challenging them to be extra generous and accommodating to those they saw as evil and ungodly. He went right on challenging them to put their reputation on the line for love and kindness.

Jesus wasn’t worried about people talking bad about someone for associating with the wrong people or for helping a Roman soldier more than was required.

Jesus was willing to risk his own reputation when it came to radical love and inclusion and he was telling his followers they should be doing the same kind of crazy, shocking, upside down sort of things.

I love what Jessica Kantrowitz had to say to Christians about this when she blogged about it back in 2015:

”If someone forces you to bake a cake for a gay wedding, bake for them two.

Christians, our Jesus said to not only follow the law, but to rise to a higher standard of love. Christians should be the FIRST people baking cakes — for everyone who asks us. We should be known for our cake baking. People should be saying, “There go those crazy Christians again, baking cakes for everyone. They just won’t quit!” Then, when we share the reason for our wild, all-inclusive love, people will want to hear it. “Let your light shine before others,” said Jesus, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”


If you believe gay marriage is immoral (I don’t, myself) and a gay couple comes into your shop and asks you to bake a cake for their wedding, what should you do? If God causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the wedding days of straight and gay couples, then what is our responsibility? If it is against the law to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, but you believe strongly that their lifestyle is immoral, what should you do?

Jesus said, “Go with them two.” – Jessica Kantrowitz

 

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My oldest son, who is gay, got married earlier this month. I was so thankful for the love and support we received from so many of our friends and family members. Much of the support and love we received came from affirming Christians that we know and love, but there was a deafening silence coming from some non-affirming family members who refused to express any happiness or joy for my son. That silence hurt us deeply.

There was only one person among all the non-affirming Christians we know personally who broke their silence and offered a sincere, positive wish of happiness for my son in regards to his marriage. It was just a short message they posted online expressing their good wishes and happiness for my son. It was a comment posted on a picture from the wedding I shared on social media but that simple comment meant so much to us. It was shocking to me – in a good way. I was immediately impressed that this person wasn’t worried about what anyone thought about them as they sent best wishes to my newly married son. It reminded me of the way that Jesus loved others and how he was willing to risk his own reputation when it came to loving people. It reminded me that Jesus calls his followers to do the same thing.

It may be rare, but there are Christians who are really invested in and committed to loving like Jesus loved. I’m so thankful for them!

May more of us who claim to be followers of Jesus be willing to shock the world with the same kind of radical love and generosity Jesus demonstrated and taught.

May more of us who profess to be imitating Jesus be willing to risk our reputation the way Jesus did when he hung out with and loved those that the religious people thought were ungodly.

May more of us who call ourselves Christians be willing to go the second mile and bake the second cake.

 

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Liz Dyer is the founder and owner of Serendpitydodah for Moms, a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ+ kids. 

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 2,000 members. 

For more info about the private Facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 


Stories That Change The World #37 – Superheroes Are REAL

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Robert Clancy said, “We all have the capacity to be a superhero… The cape and mask are optional accessories, but a kind heart is essential.”

There are a lot of superheroes in Serendipitydodah for Moms – the private facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. They may not don a cape and mask but they do have some of the biggest, kindest hearts I’ve ever witnessed.

Not only do these moms love and support their own lgbtq kids but they often dream up ways of sharing their love with others.

Here are a few examples …

One mom in the group wanted to find a way to offer support to young lgbtqi people who have been rejected by their family – so, she started a project called the Banner Blanket Project. She delivers handmade blankets to teens and young adults who have experienced the loss of their support system based on their lgbtqi status. Her project was inspired by the scripture in Song of Solomon that says “his banner over me is love” Her goal is to show God’s love in a practical way. #BannerBlanketProject

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A mom shared with the group how her child was being bullied at school and was receiving a lot of horrible text messages from other kids at their school. One Mama Bear in Serendipitydodah stepped up and is organizing a project that will result in the child who was being bullied receiving a bunch of cards with encouraging messages from a large number of moms in the group. She is organizing the project so 2 or 3 cards a day will be delivered over a period of several weeks! #MamaBearLove

Serendipitydodah Equality March relaxed T Shirt Zazzle

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Another mom in the group started “the “Free Mom Hugs Tour” this year. The idea of moms in the group giving out free mom hugs started a while ago. Moms in the group often go to pride parades, gay bars, gay christian conferences and other places looking for the opportunity to give free mom hugs to lgbtq people. One mom took the idea to a whole other level. She toured across the country during the week before mother’s day this year and stopped in several cities along the way to meet with community leaders and parents of lgbtq kids in order to help them learn about how important it is for lgbtq people to have support from their families and the communities they live in. On the last day of the tour she arrived at The Stonewall Inn in New York City on Mother’s Day. She plans on doing it again in 2018. #FreeMomHugs

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There are SO many more stories I could share with you. These are just three examples of superheroes that are a part of the Serendipitydodah for Moms Facebook group.

I’m constantly amazed and blown away by the passion and compassion of the wonderful moms who belong to the group. Not only do they love their own kids well but they are changing the world with their loving kindness.

***For more info about Serendipitydodah for Moms email lizdyer55@gmail.com