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After Orlando

June 14, 2016

I hesitate to speak, in moments like these, when political ideologies, religious convictions, and personal wounds lead many to pile hate on top of such horrifying events. I hesitate because the extreme and frequently hurtful remarks remind me of the power of our speech. I hesitate because I know that my own perspective and understanding are so limited.

But conversations like these are important for exactly those reasons. We all have unique perspectives that cause us to see the issues that surround this tragedy from different angles. We need one another, to learn from one another, if we want to grow and understand more fully. And the words we say do have power, not only to wound and destroy, but to heal and provoke necessary change.

Conflicting pictures of the Orlando shooter are being reported by those who knew him. I don’t think it’s possible to determine his motives, with certainty, from the little bit of information that is coming out in all of the stories about Mateen or his atrocious act. Were his reported regular visits to Pulse a man casing his future target and stirring himself up to carry out his evil plan? Was he perhaps trying to change his own mind? Or did the shooting arise from the self-loathing and anger of a man who was wrestling with his own sexuality and struggling for air as the suffocating message that he was unacceptable continued to close in around him?

Whatever happened, those of us who are not part of the LGBT community need to do better. Especially the church.

Yes, we should pray for those who lost loved ones. We should pray for the survivors who narrowly escaped with their lives and for the people who love them. We should pray for the LGBT community as they deal with this trauma, because they were also victims of this hate crime. But we should also be praying for wisdom and understanding. That God would show us how to truly love and support this community. That we would recognize the subtle, unloving things we do on a regular basis. That we would begin to understand why so much emotion and volatility characterize the continuing dispute between the conservative Christian community and the LGBT community.

I’ve never had any uncertainty about my own sexuality or gender identity. I’ve never been sexually attracted to a woman. I can’t relate to the LGBT community in that way. But I understand that my position is a position of privilege. I am fortunate because I’ve never had to wrestle with something leaders in my community were calling sinful, unacceptable, or even disgusting. I am fortunate because I’ve never had someone use the Bible as an excuse to condemn, mistreat, or rejected me for such an immense and personal issue.

There’s a reason the LGBT community feels hated by the church. And it isn’t that these are a bunch of touchy people who take everything personally. It’s about the way we handle homosexuality and gender identity. It’s about the words we say. The organizations we support. The way we talk about the “gay agenda” or “threats against the sanctity of marriage”. The way we rush to defend and rally behind a person or business when the LGBT community speaks up and says they feel attacked by them.

Unless someone is a brother/sister in Christ who has invited us into that part of their life and asked for our opinion on homosexuality, we should probably be a bit slower to tell everyone what we think or what we believe the Bible is saying about it. And when that invitation is given, our response should involve a lot of prayer. Sexuality is not as simple as we like to pretend.

And in the times when we are shouting at people who are not Christians, shaming them and telling them how they should live, we accomplish more evil than good. Sinlessness, apart from God, is meaningless. We were meant to be known by our love. A light to the world. People who share the good news of a loving God. We were not set apart to be a people who alienate, judge, and condemn the lost as they languish, far away from any knowledge of the love of God.

You can disagree with someone and still love them. And I understand that correction is often the most loving thing we can do. But only when it is correct and happens in an appropriate context. I think this is one of those areas where most of the Church is missing the mark and falling short of love.

My heart breaks for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Those who died. Those who survived. Those who lost loved ones. Those whose loved ones survived. Those who were nowhere near those bullets, but are victims of the same hatred, wounded again by an unthinkable crime against their community.

I do not doubt that I have said many ignorant and insensitive things, throughout my life. Especially during the years that I was involved with a “relational wholeness” ministry that essentially practices conversion therapy. To any friends that I may have wounded with offhand remarks or unsolicited opinions, I appologize and hope that you will forgive me. And to my LGBT friends, I ask that you would help me recognize and understand ways in which I continue to err or fall short of loving you well.

My ex-boyfriend married a man this week. Had I been able to make the trip, I would have been at his wedding. I love him and I am thrilled to see him so happy and… healthy. And I am saddened by the knowledge that many in our former community would now reject him.

Most of my friends who are gay and have tried to change themselves to be more “acceptable” have not found much life in those endeavors. And it isn’t for lack of commitment, desire, or effort. I have watched people I care about isolating themselves and drowning in self-loathing because they have been unable to “fix” themselves and God has not answered their fervent prayers. Shouldn’t we be loving the ones wrestling with these questions, rather than reinforcing the hateful messages that drive them into such conflict with themselves?

I’m not going to make any declarations in support of or against homosexuality. I will say this…

I am absolutely, without question, for the LGBT community. Human beings, worthy of love, respect, and compassion. The greatest difference between us is that questions of gender and sexuality have never complicated or brought so much pain into my own life. I have not suffered as my LGBT friends have often been made to suffer.

It is my hope and my prayer that we would not drift so readily into polarizing debates. That we would humble ourselves and engage in honest conversation, with an earnest desire to hear and understand. After such an expression of hatred, let us draw together and love one another as we mourn. And let us unify to work toward a safer, more accepting world for those among us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered.

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Delayed Medical Update

August 6, 2015

Some of you have waited for more than a week and I’ve decided I’m ready to let you all know what my doctor said.

My spine MRI’s did not reveal any lesions that would confirm suspicions of MS. There’s still a decent chance that I have MS, but it would now be much more difficult to diagnose. Before you get all excited and try to encourage me with “Hey! You might not have MS!” I will just remind you that I am still living with the same quality of life and same symptoms as I would have WITH the diagnosis. So… it’s actually not encouraging… at all.

Giving honest answers to my questions and preparing me for the possible future, my doctor told me that there is a really good chance that we will never figure out what is wrong with me. That I likely belong to the small percentage of people that have rare disorders/diseases that could be unimaginably expensive to finally nail down through a long sequence of diagnostic tests.

Some of you may have been expecting to hear that I was diagnosed with a terrifying and horrible disease. This update, relative to those expectations, might seem like good news. I assure you, it is NOT.

For years, my and Ben’s worst nightmare has been that we would never figure out what is wrong with me. Last Wednesday, my doctor confirmed our worst fears and told us that may be my future. This also negates the most exciting thing about finding abnormal spots in my brain–the idea that being on the right track meant we were going to find answers.

No diagnosis means no real treatment plan. It means no cure. No tangible hope for recovery (outside of a miracle). It means being scared out of my mind every time a startling new symptom pops up or worsens and never being able to understand what is happening with my body. It means my body will continue to be unpredictable, making it difficult to make commitments or be a productive member of society. It means hundreds more recommendations from people who “know someone who…” and countless more diagnoses from people with absolutely no medical training or knowledge.

I beg you not to try to comfort me with empty “It could be worse,” and “At least…” encouragements. I’m a little too devestated to just brush those off right now. Please also refrain, at this time, from sharing any miracle cures, diets, or explanations of why I am sick.

Are you afraid to say anything now?

You can tell me you love me, that you’re praying for me, that you are praying for healing, that this REALLY sucks, or maybe even try to convince me that I am not completely failing at life. Those things actually are encouraging.

One of the worst parts of chronic illness are all of the things people say with good intentions that just deepen the wounds or create new scars. That’s the biggest reason I have been hesitant to share… because I’ve been hurting a bit too much to take all of that. (I will elaborate, in a future post, about the hazards of unsolicited advice and why we all need to work harder to stop giving it.)

Thank you so much to all of the people who have shown love and support and have prayed for me in these last few years. Some of you are pretty awesome at the empathy thing. In contrast to the natural human “Ima fix you” response, empathy is beautiful and astonishing.

I still appreciate, in a way, all of the things said with good intentions that have been more damaging than helpful, over the years.

There is still some hope. If anyone is going to have insight into what is wrong with me, it’s surely the neurologist. Please pray that I get an amazing neurologist with whom I will have an amazing relationship. The idea of walking though the rest of this with a different doctor from the gem we found in Dr. Vu is frightening.

Thank you again for your prayers. Your patience. Your understanding.

I’m a bit of a mess. With God’s help, though, I’m going to keep on going. Day by day…

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Skipping Stone

July 9, 2015

Brokenhearted. Frustrated, disappointed, and confused.

Overwhelmingly grateful. Relieved.

I wish I knew how to navigate this tangled web of contradictory emotions with grace and maturity.

On the surface, very little has changed in the last few days. My circumstances are mostly the same. We still don’t really know what’s wrong with me. A diagnosis will take time. My health and symptoms are more-or-less the same.

Nonetheless, the changes of this last week have dramatically altered my daily battles.

More than anything, abnormal spots revealed by my recent MRI give me something to stand on in the moments when I start to think I’m crazy or making a big deal out of nothing. In fact, the very question, “What if this is all in my head?” now reminds me that something is wrongin my head. And, in that reminder, the crushing accusations that usually follow that question are instantly cut off.

I can breathe.

At the same time, evidence makes this more real than it was a week ago. My significant limitations are more than a weird mental block I need to overcome. The neurological symptoms I’ve had for years but have only acknowedleged for months are… harder to dismiss.

I don’t know how to describe most of the changes or emotions. I just know that things are different and more extreme.

Right now, my emotional state is dominated by gratitude and relief. I have moments where the negative emotions touch me. Moments. I know that I am scared, but I’ve barely touched that fear. I know my heart is broken, but I’ve only given it the slightest acknowledgment.

I’m like a skipping stone. I am predominantly soaring through the air–my gratitude and relief. I barely touch the surface of the water–those heavier, darker emotions–before I am thrust back into the air above me. But every stone, regardless of how skillfully it is thrown, eventually plunges beneath the surface. It sinks deeper and deeper until it finds the bottom… the weight of the water pressing down upon it.

How long will I dance across the surface of this water before I begin to drown?

I don’t want to run from the negative emotions. I know I need to let the Lord meet me in the frustration and heartbreak. But I don’t know if I have the strength maintain a thankful heart posture when those emotions begin to overtake me.

And I have so much to be thankful for…

– I have an amazing doctor. I am confident in his knowledge and ability. He is thorough and patient. He has a gentle demeanor. His kindness and compassion are… tangible.

– We’re making progress. Abnormal test results mean we are looking at the right things. Now that we are on the right path, every step we take should get us closer to real answers.

– Ben’s employer has provided us with insurance and a health savings account that should cover most of our expenses until we reach the deductible. (This is huge.)

– My husband is incredible. Ben’s life has also been altered by my illness. He has suffered loss and then chosen, for my sake, to make sacrifices on top of that. Despite the fact that he could not fully understand or even fully see my suffering, he has served me and taken care of me. He has committed and recommitted to stand by me, no matter what may come. He has encouraged me. He has put up with me. He has done everything he can think of to make my life better and easier to face.

– We live in Colorado Springs. I love this place. The climate. The mountains. The Colorado-Springs-y-ness.

– My cat is also pretty remarkable. Her adorable face and affection have chased away some of the boredom and loneliness. She has given me an escape from my self-absorption and provided a life to nurture and invest in… without exceeding my capacity (honestly, Ben does most of the work to take care of her, and cats are relatively low-maintenance). I am grateful to have her. We wouldn’t if our former landlords hadn’t made an exception to let us adopt her four years ago.

And there’s a lot more than all of that.

Maybe I can hold on. Maybe I can feel the pain, the fear, and the disappointment without relinquishing my gratitude. Even if I lose perspective, He will surely bring me back around again. I only struggle to trust my own strength (and ability to make wise choices) through the uncertainty of the future. Is my trust in Him enough to overcome those doubts? Do I trust Him as much as I need to trust Him?

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The Passing Storms

June 6, 2015

Today’s tumultuous weather made it a difficult day to spend outside. But I snatched up any time I could between the stormy bursts.

As I leaned back in my chair and stared at the sky, I realized that the day’s shifting weather resembled my internal state.

The clouds were rushing by, continually changing the scene above me. It was fascinating and dizzying to watch.

One moment, the atmosphere was dark, heavy with a dense blanket of pewter and charcoal clouds. The next minute, I was viewing the cobalt expanse through wispy patterns of white that decorated the sky like delicate lace. In another instant, the sky was clear and bright, like the storm was nowhere near me.

Cotton… charcoal… cotton… lace… clear…

Likewise, my emotions have been rushing through me… never lingering… continually driven on by powerful forces.

For a few blissful moments, everything is cloudless and bright. Clarity. Truth. Joy. Only seconds later, I feel weighed down and lost in the dark. And then the cobalt breaks through again. I grasp at truth through a manageable haze. I can discern the accusations and lies from what is real, but the accusations don’t clear away. And then the downpour. And then the hail… The violent assault of hail…

The continual evolution is enough to make me feel crazy. Unstable, at the very least. It is both fascinating and dizzying to watch.

I’ve been heavily processing, over the last few days. Considering, weighing, grappling. But it hasn’t been a merely mental exercise. My whole being is engaged in the struggle. It has been bursting out from me in intermittent floods of tears.

At this point, I couldn’t tell you if the breakthrough or the confusion has been more dominant. But I don’t think it matters. Either way, those moments of clarity and truth are rising out of the chaos. The storm will pass. He will pull me out of the mire. And I will walk away stronger, knowing Him more.

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When Hope Feels Dangerous

May 21, 2015

My heart is broken as I realize I am terrified by hope.

I’m getting excited about a new doctor and dreaming again about finding answers. But every time hope surges, a flood of terror rolls in behind it. I don’t know what another round of disappointment will do to my floundering faith.

Will I still call Him good when the accuser piles “evidence” against Him? Will I let the Holy Spirit lead me into patience and peace?

Somewhere in my mess of doubt and faith, I know that He is good. Somewhere in that confused darkness, I know that His leadership is perfect.

The testimony of my own life has proven His sufficient grace. I have seen His steadfast love and faithfulness. I have trusted a power that was not annulled by my own weakness.

I hate how much I struggle to remember. I hate how pitiful I feel and how poorly I am coping.

Oh, to trust Him more!

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Always Arguing

March 26, 2015

My ability to engage in an enthusiastic debate has never depended upon the presence of another person. My internal debates can last for hours. Forget that. My internal debates can last for years.

I argue every angle I can conceive of and still strive to conjure up a new perspective to bring to the table. The table of one? I sound like I have schizophrenic ambitions. Ummm… Maybe we can just assume Holy Spirit is usually at the table, as well, and hope that I am actively listening and letting Him lead me into the truth.

I would guess that no less than 95% of my thought comes in the form of debate. I rarely have an idea that I don’t immediately challenge or contradict*.

I will always cherish the people with whom I can argue. If you love a good debate and we’ve ever had a real discussion, chances are… I adore you. And the privilege of talking to you is like food for my soul.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Bad News is Harder to Share

March 9, 2015

Since I shared the news when things were beginning to go exceptionally well, it kind of seems like I owe you an update.

In January, I began a focused effort to do everything I could to help my body heal. Of course, the previous four and a half years had been nothing more than a continual sequence of such “focused efforts,” and I had nothing to show for it. With that track record, I was ecstatic when January’s efforts began to produce positive results. I had energy for the first time in years. ENERGY! Most of my symptoms began fading into memory. I was beginning to feel like myself again.

This wasn’t the first time I had started to feel better. In fact, the last few years brought many periods of moderate improvement that I mistook for the beginning of the road to good health. Each time, though, the symptoms would return in full force. But this one felt different.

Chronic fatigue is a difficult thing to understand if you have not borne its chains, so I cannot adequately convey the exhilaration of waking up with energy. But that was January. Exhileration. Hope. Life.

A few weeks later, that all started to disappear. I felt… bleh. Because my sinuses were being especially ornery, I attributed the daily aches and sluggishness to some bug my body was probably fighting to overcome. Ben had just recovered from such a bug, so it was a reasonable and convenient explanation.

As the days progressed, though, I began to open my eyes to the truth… that all of my symptoms were returning. It wasn’t just a bug. My nightmare was resuming.

To put it simply… I am crushed. I don’t know how to describe the devastation of tasting life again, only to have it ripped away with such violence. I tried denial (the bug I was supposedly fighting), but I value the truth too much to keep that going. Now I seem to be in the “weep until your body withers from dehydration” stage.

I am grateful for the days that I had. I will continue to cherish that little respite. But I don’t know how to keep going. I am terrified.

Please pray for me. I needed that last break to be different. And the Comforter feels so far away. I know I cannot do this without Him. I want to confidently declare that God is good, that He is faithful, and that His leadership is perfect. But I am 99% sure that those aren’t the things I truly believe in this moment. Oh, God, help me believe!

The sickness always comes with a crippling wave of accusation.

I have history with the Lord. Somewhere within me are the memories of His steadfast love and faithfulness. I will labor to remember. I will do all that I can to hold fast to hope. And I will fight every day to drag myself out of bed.