4 Things To Know If Your Child Comes Out To You

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I’ve been affirming of the LGBTQ community for years, so I always assumed that if any of my children came out, it would be no big deal. Of course I would love them, of course I would support them. These things weren’t up for debate. I would read posts by parents who talked about what they would do if any of their kids were gay and I nodded my head. Yes, having a gay child would be easy.

Then a few years ago one of my kids came out as pansexual and genderfluid. Two letters not even in the regular LGBTQ initial grouping! I kind of understood pansexual – sexual attraction, even if it’s not like your own, is pretty straightforward. If you experience sexual attraction, then certainly it will have different expressions. But I didn’t really get what it meant to be genderfluid. I understood that it meant that sometimes they felt male and sometimes female, but not feeling like your reproductive parts match your gender was completely foreign to me. I tried to empathize with them, bought some opposite gender clothing for them for those days, and didn’t really do anything beyond that. Supporting their pansexuality was easy because they were in a relationship with someone of the opposite biological sex. Supporting their gender fluidity was a little bit harder because I didn’t understand it, so I mostly ignored it.

Being a supportive parent was challenged a bit when they started dating someone of the same biological sex. It wasn’t that hard to communicate love to my child and their significant other, but there were times when I wondered if I was really supporting them well when I didn’t post pictures of them on Facebook or when I didn’t mention them to family members. Some things that I read said that they wouldn’t keep their gay child a secret and I wondered if I was contributing to a shaming culture by not talking about it at every opportunity.

Things continued here for a while. I assumed that this was where we were landing. A child that wasn’t straight, a child that had some gender identity issues.

Then one day I was reading through their Tumblr and I came across a post where they came out a second time, now as transgender.

Not genderfluid, not questioning. A post that indicated they were born into the wrong body, that their insides did not match their outside at all, ever.

My world was rocked.

I don’t think I reacted badly, but it wasn’t what I pictured happening. If we’re affirming and we know that our kids know that we’re affirming, we can have a glamorous view of how the coming out will happen. A quiet confession from a child who is a little bit afraid to see your reaction followed by a tearful embrace and an immediate visit to the Human Rights Campaign website to order a new equality sticker for the car and mug for your desk. You wave a rainbow flag and you all march in the next pride parade together. Ours was just a Tumblr post making the announcement and then another really awkward one talking about how to order a STP device. We talked in a car ride to a music lesson. No big dramatic moments, just little discussions here and there.

That’s my story of my kid coming out to me. It doesn’t really fit with a lot of the more beautiful posts about kids theoretically coming out. And that’s what I want to write about today. Here are a few things to keep in mind if your child comes out to you as LGBTQ (or any other initial!).

1. This isn’t about you. One viral post said, “If I have a gay child, you’ll all know it.” I understand why he would say that. We want our children to know that we’re proud of them, no matter who they are dating. But the truth is, sometimes our kids aren’t quite ready for that information to be public. Maybe there are people they aren’t ready to be out to. Maybe they need time to process among the safety of their supporters before venturing into the world where some may not be so understanding. The truth is, we as parents don’t get to out our kids to the world, they get to do that. Holding their secret for them can be a way of supporting them. Coming out is a process and every person is going to approach it differently. Honor what your child wants, not what you think they should want.

2. This is about you. A lot of posts detailing what parents will do if their child comes out completely ignore that there can be a sense of loss that occurs when your child reveals that they do not conform to gender norms. This does not mean that you don’t love your child. This does not mean that you do not support your child. But every change means the death to something, and it is good and appropriate to mourn those losses. For me, the loss of a name that I dearly loved was particularly difficult. I love the name that my child chose for their new identity both as a name and as a nod to their former name, but I no longer have a child with the name that I gave them. That can be difficult to accept, even while fully accepting my child. Feeling guilt over a negative-seeming response is far more likely to result in more negativity. Acknowledge and name your grief. It makes moving past it easier. Not easy, but easier.

3. Coming out doesn’t have one expression and isn’t necessarily a one time thing. Kids come out to their parents in many different ways. For some it’s a meltdown during back to school shopping. Some will text their parents to tell them. Some will come out on social media and parents will discover that way (holla!). Some kids wake their parents up in the middle of the night from a dead sleep to tell them. Some will just mention it casually in conversation and others will prepare a full presentation to let their parents know. As a parent, your initial response will differ depending on how you find out. It’s not really something you can prepare for, so maybe don’t sweat it too much.

4. Having a not great response doesn’t make you a bad, unloving parent. Like every single other aspect of parenting, you are not going to get this 100% right. There will probably be times when you don’t want things to be the way they are, days when you wish your kid was just like all the other kids. There will be times when you forget the new name they’ve chosen and call them by the wrong name (holla again!). You may say something that’s interpreted as dismissive. You’ll feel sad or angry about something that makes your child feel happy and alive. You can still be a good parent, even when you’ve screwed up. Apologize when you need to. Cry when you need to. Celebrate successes when you have them. Find others to share your successes and failures with. Acknowledge mistakes, do better.

A child coming out is a big thing for them, and it’s a big thing for you. Loving one another can be bigger than all of that.

As Long As They’re Healthy

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“Do you want
a boy
or a girl?”

Expectant parents have been asked this question
since we realized it could be one or the other.
And most reply the same way.

“I don’t care, as long as they’re healthy.”

We say this,
and we try to mean it.

The day comes and we have our
healthy pink or blue.

But sometimes the blue covers up the pink,
and it turns out
that healthy isn’t what was wanted
after all.

Telling A Relatable Story

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The worship practice had wrapped up and the couples who had invited us to grab some food after extended their invitation once again. Even though it was late and I was tired, I nodded at my husband, signaling yes, we should go. Building relationships with people in my church is something I want to improve on this year, and that can only happen when we spend time with them.

We sat together, chatting over french fries and hamburgers. We shared book recommendations, griped about jobs, rolled our eyes at people taking articles from The Onion seriously. We discussed our church, and someone mentioned that there was a yearly sermon series that was simply people from the congregation sharing bits of their stories to help encourage one another. As one of the groups was talking about it, one of the women there was shaking her head. She said that she didn’t feel like she could share in something like that because she was worried that whatever story she would share might not be relatable to the congregation at large. Maybe to a small group of friends, but not something for everyone.

I can understand where she’s coming from. I struggle with talking about my story. For one thing, there is little glory in writing about an affair, a divorce, and a remarriage. It’s humiliating to put that dirty laundry out there for people to pick over and quietly shake their heads at you.

Today is my last day over at A Deeper Story. It is closing its virtual doors and going silent at the end of this month. I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to be a storyteller in that space – it is one of my proudest achievements as a writer so far. It has pushed me to be a better writer and has put me in contact with some of the best writers that I’ve met. I’m sad to see this chapter end, but excited to see what new adventures lie ahead.

Head over to A Deeper Story to read today’s post.

Trust Between Friends and Strangers

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Dinner was over and we were gathered in a make-shift circle in the living room. We had attended this group before, but that time had been right before the holidays and most had been out of town or at work parties, leaving just a few couples available to attend. That time we had attended largely with people we knew through the worship team, people we considered friends. Tonight, however, the room was filled with people, some who I had never met.

The host indicated that it was time to go around the room and share about our week. I snatched my hand away from Rich, pulled out my phone, and typed one word on the screen. A single name that summed up everything that had been on my mind for the week. I showed it to him and gave a look that asked “Yes? No? Can I trust them with this piece of my heart?”

I felt relatively certain that it would be okay. This group had welcomed us even knowing the details of our own story. They had been gracious to us despite our flaws, and I believed that I would see that same grace extended once again.

But behind that voice was another one telling me to keep it to my self. There was a limit to what people could embrace. This time there would be blame. This time there would be shame. This time there would be rejection.

When the woman to my left finished and eyes turned to me, I blurted out what was going on. The words spilled out in an ungainly mess, but they were out.

I held Rich’s hand, half expecting acceptance, half expecting accusation. What I received was the former. Heads nodding, friendly countenances.

They sat with me in that place between rejoicing and mourning – that awkward place that often feels like it needs to be filled with words and encouragement, but usually just needs to be left in silence. They were present in that silence. Present for me, present for Rich, present for the name on my phone.

I often think of trust as a one-sided venture, but they showed me that it is not so. The trust that I had shown them, they showed me as well. Trust that we can share hard things and then wait with the person in the midst of that. Trust that we can give and receive kindness without ulterior motives or hidden fears. Trust that we can engage with one another with honesty and with compassion.

Trust that we can love one another, when we’re friends, and even when we’re strangers.

One Year at Knitting Soul

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I just got a notice that I’ve been blogging here for one full year. In that I haven’t amassed even 100 posts here, I’m not sure how FULL the year has been, but even so, I’m so thankful to all of you who have stopped by and read my words. I don’t know if it’s so much in vogue these days to do an anniversary post, but I’m pretty happy about being able to write again, so I’m doing it anyway.

Here are some of my favorite posts from the past year.  They may not be some of my most popular, but they are the ones that I’m the most proud of. Thank you again for taking the time to read and share my words. I look forward to doing more of that in the coming year.

  • Scarlet is the New White – “But my story, just like the story of the characters in OITNB, just like your story, is not strictly one of villainy and bad choices. It’s about redemption. It’s about forgiveness and love and joy. It’s about owning our bad decisions, but also about owning our right decisions as well.”
  • The Black Dress – “And despite all of my hesitations because of the differences between this wedding and my first, I knew that I didn’t want to wait any longer to be his wife. I was in love with this man, and I didn’t want to wait another day to be married to him.”
  • 7 Ways To Honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day – “Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Certainly not all parents who experience a miscarriage share that information. And some people aren’t particularly chatty about the death of a child. But if a parent brings it up, please don’t ignore that. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out conversation, but at least acknowledge that they mentioned their child. Saying something simple like, “I’m so sorry,” shows that you heard what they said and that you care about them and the humanity of the baby that they lost.”
  • Empty – This was a poem I wrote shortly after Elliott’s passing.
  • The Desperate Woman – “She was married to the man who had kissed her. The baby she had considered aborting became a cherished dream that was lost to pre-eclampsia. Relationships with her family were healing. Relationships with her children were improving. Relationships with her friends were starting to mend. But her relationship with God still felt distant.”
  • Always After An Affair – “Always loses a lot of its shine when it’s consistently not something that you really want to do. Always becomes tedious when it’s separated from happiness. Always is tenuous when you have to grind it out.”

I’d love it if you’d share one of the best things that you’ve written or read this year in the comments!

Slideshows

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“What should I do with the slides?”

I knew exactly what Dad meant when he asked that. He’s in the process of cleaning out his home, the home of my youth, as he prepares to move. It’s a bittersweet process – celebrating new opportunities while saying goodbye to the things that hold so many precious memories.

The slides are among those things. Boxes of tiny transparent pictures memorializing vacations, family reunions, past pets. Pictures of Kack as a thin man with a full head of hair in Italy. Pictures of Gram with her prematurely grey hair 9that I totally inherited) standing among tropical plants in Hawaii. Pictures of my mom as a little girl romping with dogs that I never knew around a house where the giant trees that we climbed as children were still just saplings.

Watching the slides was always a big deal and one that my sisters and I always looked forward to. But it wasn’t really the slides. One or two reels in and we would grow restless. It was everything about what those slideshows represented.

Slideshows would happen at night and almost always on snowy winter days. We would go to my grandparents’ house, right across the street from our own, plastic bags on our shoes to keep them from getting wet as we crossed the lawns to get there.

Most of the time, the night would start by making popcorn balls. Some would be manning the air popper, collecting the popped kernels in one bowl and tossing out the “old maids,” while others would sit with Gram at the stove, watching the candy thermometer and constantly stirring the sugar concoction that would soon be poured over the popcorn, adding drops of food coloring so it was easier to see that everything was evenly coated. We would grab more plastic bags and begin to form little planets of popcorn. We would be told that we had to wait for them to cool, but honestly, I’ve never liked popcorn balls unless they are barely holding together and still warm. The balls that would go home with us in a grocery bag for the next days would last much longer than those made on slideshow days.

Once the snacks had been prepared, we would gather in my grandparents’ living room. We’d set up the screen and the projector – the original that took square cartridges and later one that had a round carousel. Dad would load in slides that had fallen out since last winter, usually a few backwards, since it was hard to remember or even see which went what way.

As we got older, some of the slides deteriorated to such a degree that we were unable to make out just who it was. Some of the memories had faded too, and even some pictures that were perfectly clear were blurry in the minds of those who had known them. Slideshow nights became less of an annual event, and eventually we stopped. We had heard those same stories enough. We didn’t really care about people we didn’t know and places we hadn’t visited.

The boxes of slides stayed in the closet that my sisters had accidentally locked themselves in when they were younger. They moved to Gram and Kack’s new house, but I don’t remember ever watching them there. After Kack died and Gram moved to an assisted living facility, they moved to my parents’ house.

Now that house is being sold, and my dad is trying to figure out what to do with the slides.

The truth is, I don’t want them.

I have memories of the nights that we watched the slides and they are good memories, almost idyllic memories. I remember sitting with my family – sisters, parents, grandparents. I remember eating sticky sweet treats while dogs, not the ones pictured in the slides, but newer ones, caught the crumbs that fell. I remember cut-off profanities when the slide projector wouldn’t advance. I remember marveling at the wonder of seeing my grandparents who had been the age of my parents and my parents who had been my age.

So I guess the real truth isn’t that I don’t want the slides, but that I don’t need them. Not any more.

By W.CC (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Home Church

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The reasons we chose the church weren’t particularly flattering. It was close, under five minutes from our house if traffic was favorable. They had a pretty thin looking praise team, so if they’d have us, we would both be able to play. The pastor seemed nice and the sermons didn’t strain my liberal sensitivities too hard. And it was relatively anonymous, so we didn’t feel the scarlet A’s branding us every time we entered the sanctuary.

We were married now, but that hadn’t always been the case. We had attended church together for five years, but in the before days, we had been married to other people, and lots of people in the church community of our town knew it.

In my previous life, when I had changed churches, I always knew immediately when I had found my new church home. There had always been a simple feeling of belonging in those instances. Even if it hadn’t made sense to me why I felt that way, I could tell when a new congregation was home.

But I didn’t have that feeling here.

I’m writing today over at You Are Here. I’d love it if you’d stop by and read the rest of this story about finding my place in our new church.

Why I Didn’t Sing Phil Wickham’s Cannons in Church

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When I play in church, I almost always sing along. I love hearing my voice blend in with the others in the congregation. It helps me bridge the gap between performing and praising so that I don’t lose my focus.

But every now and again, I just can’t do it. For whatever reason a lyric doesn’t resonate with me, and I just skip singing.

That happened to me recently.

We were singing the song Canons by Phil Wickham. For the most part, it’s a great song about the majesty of God. There is some beautiful imagery in it. Then we get to the chorus, which says:

You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars declare who you are
I’m so unworthy but still you love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great you are.

And nestled right there in the middle of an otherwise lovely lyric is the line that I couldn’t sing.

My friend Grace wrote this a week ago, “It doesn’t matter if you have a good father, a great father, a loving father or an almighty God if you don’t believe you are worthy of what He has for you.”

Trying to hold the two thoughts – I am unworthy and I am loved – in my head at the same time is just crazy-making. I can’t do it. Maybe that’s my own shortcoming. Maybe I’m so caught up in earning love that I am missing the ability to receive love when I don’t feel like I deserve it.

But there’s another part to it, and I think my friend Grace hits it on the head. If I believe that I’m unworthy of love, I am going to hold that love at arm’s length. I am going to view it warily. Rather than being grateful for that love, I will look at it with distrust. The greatness of God is diminished if I’m looking on that greatness through lenses dirtied by my own failures.

And moreover, I don’t want to see myself as unworthy. I have spent plenty of time believing that in one form or another. Singing those words doesn’t humble me, it just shames me. When you have really questioned your own value, you don’t need to sing the words – you know it deep in the dark places of your soul. And it makes the second part of the line more difficult to understand, let alone believe.

I don’t have to look very far to find the places where I don’t measure up. I don’t have to strain to see the ways in which I am unworthy. And if I really believe in the goodness and the love of God, I don’t need to belittle myself to grasp that. If I am loved by the Almighty, then I have worth.

When Grief Can’t Be Scheduled

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Mom’s birthday came and went without really much of a blip on my radar. I kept waiting for some kind of Big Emotional Response ™ to the first birthday without her, but other than a brief moment in church when I remembered a Beth Moore conference we had attended years ago, the day passed without incident. I didn’t feel the grief rise up the way I thought that it might.

A few days later at the gym, I got teary on the glute machine. My mom had worked at Curves for a few years after she retired for her job as the Activities Director at a nursing home. She loved the time she spent there, but we both talked about how much we hated that one machine – we both called it the PITA (Pain In The Ass – haha) machine. It seemed like such an odd place to feel sadness about mom’s death, but as I stood there, counting down the reps until I was done, I did indeed feel that sadness in my chest, just a little bit.

At my last therapy session before the holidays, my counselor asked if there was anything in particular that I was worried about with the upcoming holiday season. I told her that I kind of knew how grief worked, and that meant that I was probably not going to feel sad on the days when I expected it, and I didn’t want to feel guilt about that. We discussed ways I could overcome the guilt that might crop up when I didn’t cry on the six month anniversary of my son’s death or my mom’s birthday, and we talked about allowing grief to happen when it was ready. Giving permission both to grieve and not to grieve was equally important.

I’m writing today over at A Deeper Story. Click here to read the rest of today’s story.

Always After an Affair

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In the before days, always rolled off the tongue easily. I had saved myself for this person, not even saying “I love you” to anyone else. I knew that ours was an enduring relationship and that it was going to last and last and last, so I never doubted my declarations of always. When difficulties hit, I just looked back at always to steady me. That always was more important than the individuals in the relationship – certainly more important than me.

Always was a promise. That I would stay married no matter what. That I would be faithful no matter what. That I would keep going no matter what.

I believed it. And when I didn’t really believe it, I leaned on it anyway, because that was easier than admitting things didn’t feel like always. Sometimes always felt more like an obligation than an adventure. Always was about holiness, not happiness. Feelings were deceptive, always was the only truth.

Always loses a lot of its shine when it’s consistently not something that you really want to do. Always becomes tedious when it’s separated from happiness. Always is tenuous when you have to grind it out.

Then an affair. A divorce. Always was broken, no, always was shattered.

Maybe always had been damaged long before. When always became a chore rather than a joy, maybe it wasn’t really always at all. Nevertheless, I had trampled on the words that I had said over and over in years of marriage. I took always and soiled it with my actions. In my mind, I threw always forever into question.

But now there was also a new husband. New vows that this was the one who held my always. A new love who deserved to hear always whispered in the dark when we held each other close.

I want always again, but I want it different from before.

I want always to be something that I feel every single time I say it. I want always to be something that makes me smile, rather than being something that I need to smile through. I want always to be something that I believe, not simply something that I want to believe.

Always rolls off the tongue easily again, but this time without the naivety that I had before when I thought that simply saying the words made it true. Now I know that always takes work, but I also know that it takes happiness and if either part is missing, it’s not really always.

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