The Reformation Project is here!!!

Morning, friends! I leave today for Kansas City, where I will finally meet my fellow reformers and leaders for The Reformation Project. We have been prepping for over 3 months, reading and digging into Scripture, translations, history, and more in order to work towards full acceptance and equality of the LGBTQ+ community within the Christian church. It’s been an amazing journey so far and I know that this weekend will continue on that path. I appreciate any prayers, energy, thoughts, and intentions you feel inclined to offer for safe travels for all involved, for us to connect and share in fellowship, and for us to be open to the work that awaits us. Thank you all for your support! If you’re a tweeter, you can follow the conference via the hashtag #TRP13.

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Three Years an Optimist

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Wicket and I went to the playground by the fire station this morning. Boba was still grouchy and not feeling well, so he stayed home. It’s been awhile since just Wicket and I had time together, by ourselves. When Tim and I “divide and conquer,” our typical weekend plan of action where he takes one child and I take the other and we go our separate ways to try and get them to chill the eff out, Tim usually takes Wicket and I take Boba. So it was nice, just the two of us.

The playground was funded by the Jonesboro Optimist Club, so it’s called Optimist Park. I like that. I like to think of myself as an optimist. It was abandoned this morning; we had it to ourselves. “Why do we have it to ourselves?” he asked. “Because no one else is here, babe.” “Why is no one here?” “I don’t know. But we have the whole place to ourselves.”

There’s a paved path that goes around the outside of the playground, around the fire station, and back to the parking lot. A nice, big circle. When we go, the boys bring their scooters and love to scoot around and around the big circle. I follow on foot, hoofing it a bit to get some exercise and to try my best to keep up. There are some places where the path crosses the parking lot, and my impulsive boys don’t always stop when they’re supposed to.

Today, Wicket was FAST. Scooting his little booty off. We did three laps together, and each time he got further and further ahead of me until finally I was on one side of the fire station and he was on the other, where I couldn’t see him. He was on the side where the path crosses the parking lots and goes awfully close to the street. I had a moment of near-panic, but reined it back in and trusted that the countless lessons of “Stop and look for cars when you see the yellow lines” would pay off. I sat down on a picnic bench near the playground and just…waited. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t poised to hear brakes screeching, a child’s voice yelling, etc. But in a minute (that seemed like longer), he came scooting around the corner of the building.

He came over to where I was sitting and wanted to know why I stopped. “It’s so hot, little man. I’m going to drink some water and do some work.” “Do I have to stop?” “No, hon. You go ahead.” He decided he wanted to run this time, so he proceeded to run around the big circle twice, his little arms pumping like crazy, a determined look on his face. I didn’t follow him, just did some reading (Reformation Project!), and…waited. And he was fine. Two times around running, and he came running back to me, sweaty and grinning.

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And then it hit me…today is August 25. Three years ago, on August 25, we received Wicket’s autism diagnosis.

I remember the day in vivid detail–the various steps and tests along the way, resisting the urge to reach out and help him when they asked him to do something he couldn’t do, carrying 4 month-old Boba in the Ergo carrier all day, the prickly feeling in my skin when they finally said the word out loud, the silence in the car ride on the way home as Wicket finally napped out of exhaustion and Tim and I tried to allow things to sink in.

GOOD LORD, we have come a long way in three years. All of us. Wicket, in his skills and adaptations, his personality, strength, courage, curiosity, affection; us in our ability to handle the challenges. And while we still have many, while we still doubt and question and shake our fists at the sky occasionally, we are growing and adapting along with him.

Wicket’s little voice calling across the playground snapped me back into my connection with him, and he asked if I could come play with him for awhile. “Of course, sweetness. Let me just finish up here.” But I didn’t ever get back to my reading, because I got caught up in watching him play, watching him PRETEND to put out a fire on the playground (suck it, “no pretend play skills”). In the pic below, he’s holding the “hose” in his hand.

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And a few weeks ago, on this same playground, I watched him run and play with a new friend, a total stranger he met…he asked this little boy his name, told him his own, and then proceeded to chase him around like a maniac. They laughed and squealed and I smiled, thinking how one day not too long ago we wondered if it’d be difficult for him to make friends.

So…while this anniversary leaves me with mixed emotions, today I am choosing the positive. Choosing to be an optimist. He’s come so far and grown so much. He is an incredibly bright, adventurous, affectionate boy with so much potential.

Optimist Park indeed.

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The Power of Words

The Incredibly Offensive Letter Sent To A Mother With An Autistic Son. I don’t know if you saw this story going around on facebook and other social media yesterday, but it pretty much destroyed me. It’s so horrible that I hoped somehow it was a sick joke; an a-hole’s version of The Onion. Basically someone in a neighborhood in Ontario sent an anonymous letter to the mother of a 13-yo boy with autism, railing her for letting her son…well…live. It ends with “Do the right thing and move or euthanize him.”

The community rallied around the family, which is lovely to see, but it sickens me that it was even an issue. That they even had something around which to rally.

So many fears made manifest in this one piece of paper. Strange that paper with ink on it should hold so much power, but it does. And it sickens me.

Knowing is Half the Battle…

I am about to see some of my best friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. At least 2 years, for some as long as 5 years or more. I am beyond excited–these are the types of friends who are truly FAMILY, you know? The ones where if I called and simply said, “I need you,” they’d say without hesitating, “I’m on my way.” Those friends where when I first see them I instantly start crying (I’m a crier), and hug them every 5 minutes. Those friends where when you are with them, no matter how much time has past, you pick up right where you left off.

The thing is…I’ve gained weight since I saw them. Enough where I literally sat down the other day and wrote out an email that I nearly sent to them, APOLOGIZING for the weight gain. Apologizing and warning them that…I don’t know…I’m not…MYSELF. Giving them the heads up that the past few years have presented significant challenges, it’s been hard, I’ve been busy, I’m getting older…excuse after excuse, literally apologizing that they’ll have to witness it.

I realize how effed up this is…truly, I do. And some of you understand that even just this realization represents progress in my very long struggle with self-image issues and body image distortion. But it’s still really screwed up.

These people are the most forgiving, the most accepting, the most understanding of anyone in my world besides my family. Hell, they *are* part of my family. They are also parents, they have witnessed our challenges, some of them have also gained weight. But for whatever screwed up reason, I feel the need to apologize for it.

This post does not have the sentimental, enlightening, or empowering “twist” at the end where I mention the messed up world view and then share the plucky way I overcame it, and how you should, too…sorry. All I have at this point is the ability to say, “THIS IS WHERE I AM. I recognize it’s effed up. That’s something.”

And a promise that I’m still working on it. And that’s what this blog is about, after all…I understand logically that it’s screwed up, that I’m not this horrible disgusting beast of a woman, but that head knowledge gets short-circuited on the way to my heart.

I am not looking for compliments, just being honest. That’s all I can muster. Sorry, friends.

Guest Posting on Brown-Eyed Amazon!

The fabulous, talented and amazing AnaYelsi Sanchez blogs at browneyedamazon.com and she’s been doing an excellent series titled “Out of the Closet and Into the Pews.” The series features guest writers who are all members of the inaugural leadership training conference for The Reformation Project, an organization working for LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion in the Christian church.

I am incredibly honored to be today’s featured writer! Please head over to Brown-Eyed Amazon and take a look at my post, titled “The Destiny of Worth.”

An excerpt: “When an institution (like the Christian church) that means the world to so many people advocates a position that degrades an entire group, it establishes a dynamic in which people feel justified in their bullying, hatred, fear, and perpetuation of negative stereotypes, not to mention their violence. This is when we get homelessness because gay teens are getting kicked out of their families. This is when we get people being beaten up, fired from their jobs, ostracized from friends, family, and churches. This is when we get bullying so bad that people are committing suicide. This is when we get Matthew Shepard.”

Please feel free to share, tweet, and spread the word! Namaste, my friends.

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Maluhia and the Way Things Are

Sometimes things just…happen. For good and for bad. Sometimes strange things fall in our laps.

In mid-April, the head of assessment where I teach asked if I was interested in getting trained to train other faculty members on using a new Critical-Thinking Assessment Test that we are adopting. She told me that I was one of only a couple of people that the Provost hand-picked for attending this training, so I was excited and honored. “Sure!” The training is in early June.

Then she told me where the training is.

HAWAII.

I laughed hysterically.

So tomorrow morning I head to the airport to trek over to Kona, Hawaii (on the big island) for a training with the Center for Assessment and Improvement of Learning at Tennessee Tech University. I am excited to nerd out about assessment and improving our students’ critical thinking skills, but also excited to explore a bit of paradise.

It’s been bittersweet, however. My mother (angel that she is), volunteered to come stay with the boys and helped out with a plane ticket so that Tim could join me! We were ecstatic, as it is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But on Thursday, May 30, the day before she was to come here, she fell and broke her ankle in two places.

SUCKTASTIC all around.

I hate hate hate it for her that she has to deal with the pain, annoyance, and inconvenience of the air boot cast thing, crutches, being laid up, etc. But I also hate it for her because she is so very upset that her accident has affected our plans. Of course we are disappointed, but this was just that–an accident–and there is nothing anyone can do about it. She needs to rest and recover, and there’s no way to do that while trying to wrestle two rabid badgers on a daily basis.

So it’s been sort of strange to prepare for this trip, as it went quickly from thrilling to sobering. I am still really excited that I get to go; don’t get me wrong. I know I will have fun when I get there. But I had gotten in my head the idea that I would be able to celebrate this little bit of paradise with Tim, and it’s hard to think of him not being able to go.

But he’ll rock things out here while I’m gone, and I’ll do my best not to worry. Maluhia = “peace” in Hawaiian. I will breathe in, maluhia, and breathe out.

Namaste, friends.

A pic of the hotel/resort where I’ll be staying, the Hilton Waikoloa Village:

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THE REFORMATION PROJECT!!!

I. Am. So. Stoked.

Found out this afternoon that I am one of only *50* people that were selected to attend The Reformation Project‘s leadership training conference this fall in Kansas City! If you’re not familiar, TRP is an organization founded by Matthew Vines, who gained notoriety not quite two years ago when a video went viral of him talking about why the Bible doesn’t actually condemn homosexuality. He is a remarkable young man and is doing amazing things working towards equality and full inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community within the Christian church.

Over the next 13 weeks, we’ll be participating in discussions together online, as well as reading a pretty hefty load of awesome books. Basically, preparation will be the equivalent of taking a semester-long college or seminary course.

From The Reformation Project’s website:

“The conference itself will consist of three full days of sessions on the following subjects:

  • The history of homosexuality in the biblical world
  • Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah)
  • Leviticus 18 and 20
  • Romans 1
  • 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1
  • The theology of marriage and celibacy
  • Transgender Christians
  • Leadership, organizing, and public speaking skills

Esteemed seminary professor Jim Brownson will lead several of the teaching sessions. Brownson is a professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary and the author of the new book Bible, Gender, Sexuality.

We will also be hosting Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams, who will screen his new film God Loves Uganda for us at an evening event. The film documents the influence of American missionaries on the LGBT community in Uganda, offering a real-world snapshot of the consequences of biblical interpretations on homosexuality.

The goal of the conference will be to make you a more informed, articulate, and effective spokesperson for your theological position in discussions and debates with other Christians about LGBT issues. You will have to work hard, but you will also get to meet and befriend 49 other amazing Christians who are committed to LGBT equality in the church.”

For those who know me, it will be no surprise that I am thrilled about this opportunity. This is a cause about which I am incredibly passionate, and I am honored to be part of this inaugural training session. I will certainly be writing more about this venture as we sally forth!!

Thanks to all for your love, support, prayers, and good energy as I’ve gone through the application process.  xoxo Namaste!