“Feel all the things. Feel the hard things. The inexplicable things, the things that make you disavow humanity’s capacity for redemption. Feel all the maddening paradoxes. Feel overwhelmed, crazy. Feel uncertain. Feel angry. Feel afraid. Feel powerless. Feel frozen. And then FOCUS.

Pick up your pen. Pick up your paintbrush. Pick up your damn chin. Put your two calloused hands on the turntables, in the clay, on the strings. Get behind the camera. Look for that pinprick of light. Look for the truth (yes, it is a thing—it still exists.)

Focus on that light. Enlarge it. Reveal the fierce urgency of now. Reveal how shattered we are, how capable of being repaired. But don’t lament the break. Nothing new would be built if things were never broken. A wise man once said: there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Get after that light.

This is your assignment.”

– Courtney E. Martin

This challenging quote popped up on my Facebook feed today…. and along with several people over the past few weeks telling me that I need to cast off fear and be bold in the things I say online, I’ve decided to start blogging my heart on here again. To own what God’s been doing in my heart currently and to be honest and raw about the hurt and rejection I’ve faced in the past.

I started blogging when we were told at 28 weeks that the child growing inside of me had several birth defects that would end up taking his very life.  Over the next 10 weeks of his life and the following year or so of intense grieving I found this place to be a sacred place where I could talk about my pain, my passions, my Savior and this hard life He’s asked me to follow Him into. It was a place of sitting and feeling the pain and a place of healing for me.

I was talking to a friend a while back who had had a bariatric procedure done and she said the best and hardest part about her new reality is that now she can only run to food so much before she can’t eat anymore and is forced to sit and face the pain. She said it’s been healing for her not only physically but emotionally because she has to feel all the feels. Something in me realized that I used to do that… I used to embrace the pain.

I started this blog from a place of brokenness. I used to write whatever I was feeling and experiencing in the pain of losing a child and during the emotional toll of each adoption journey, and even a few years ago the rawness of my marriage struggles and God’s goodness within that.  Which is probably why those experiences are probably some of the hardest yet more healthy journeys I have been through.

But when it comes to some parts of my current reality and the discomfort of growing and stretching outside my “safe” zones, the frustration I have with some of the theology/religion/worldviews I was brought up with and embraced…and judged from for most of my life, and the rejection I and others have faced because  I’ve dared to live openly about the things God has been changing in me, and the muzzling I feel about speaking openly about the wrongs done and harmful thinking just because of who have done the harming and indoctrinating are people with authority and power….  when it’s come to all THOSE things… I have stayed relatively silent. In the name of “honoring”… In the name of  hoping… In the name of holding people together.  But, if I’m honest it’s taking so much of my mental and physical energy from day to day.

So a part of me wonders…. is this my space where I can’t escape feeling all the feels? Is this where I can process and deal and give validity to and confront the things my heart is in turmoil over?  Can this be a place to be free to be broken again?

Is this where I dare to expose my thoughts and let those who can’t handle it back away if they must and those who may relate nod their heads and find solidarity, and those who think nobody understands draw in closer and know they aren’t alone and that there is a Savior who is closer than a brother to us.

well… let’s see shall we?

 

 

 

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evie ezra zoe in black and white

After learning the kids names in my daughters classrooms the other day I didn’t think much of it except that I was going to have to work hard to remember them much less know how to spell them….except for her one white classmate named Dennis.

Then after I shared the post about jimmy kimmel poking fun at a more ethnic name I started to wonder. Why DID the black kids have such unique (to me) names?

Soooo…I got to reading!! I discovered how many of the names we just lump into the hard to remember/pronounce/spell black ethnic category are usually derived from a combination of French, African, Muslim and Biblical names! And also can be words of hope from the desires of their hearts for their children’s lives. 

I read about how in the time of slavery blacks weren’t allowed to have/pick their own names. And that before the 1960’s a lot of black people actually had more Anglo-American names but around the time of the civil rights movement they started celebrating their history and origins in the way they named their children. Taking back what was once stolen from their people!

For example: The name LaKeisha is typically considered American in origin, but has elements drawn from both French and African roots. Other names—for example LaTanisha, DeShawn, JaMarcus, DeAndre, and Shaniqua—were created in the same way.

And yes, we know that all ethnicities have some who go for the rare and unique and even bizarre…  #helloReincePriebus! but we know that those generally aren’t the norm. And those names no matter how strange to us, should never be used to classify a certain group because we have little knowledge about what is their norm and why.

I found when I looked at them through eyes of understanding I see so much beauty in the names of my kids classmates and the families they represent! I know I chose my kids names due to their special meanings in my heart. So why didn’t I assume that black parents had the same desires in their hearts? I can now recognize it was my ignorance that led to wrong thinking as well as missing out on the depth and beauty right there around me!

( I read a few articles but I found this one to be very interesting regarding the matter )

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casey and isla 15 months

 

In the past few years some have wondered if I’m pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-democrat, anti-baptist, pro-liberalism…..

Let me see if I can help clear up a few things. Although for some, this might just muddy the water even more so.

I am pro-life. But I tend to have more in common with someone who may disagree with me on the role of the government in this matter but is actively working on fighting the injustices found at many of the root causes of why women seek abortion than with someone who claims the title pro-life but in word only. (And I hold to the idea that being pro-life should mean so much more than just being anti-abortion.)

My stance on what God desires marriage to be is between a believing man and believing woman. BUT I find that I can also share much in common with someone who disagrees with me on the biblical boundaries of marriage but who understands the complex and nuances surrounding the subject of sexual attraction and gender identity (such as they are different issues altogether, and for most it’s not a choice, and that the church has long treated LGBTQ individuals wrongly, etc…) And because I believe my stance on marriage is a believing heart issue and best lived out in the local church, you probably won’t be find me protesting against things like government rights of the LGBT community to marry and raise kids.

I’m really not affiliated with any political party (though I grew up Republican in name only, if I cared at all.) And I think you’d find many believers (and non-believers for that matter) in the same camp. I think to hold to and belong to one group of people too strongly without being aware of shifts, changes, fringes, and refocuses in them AND in yourself, can be unwise and can lead to unbiblical thinking and acting. I do care about politics now… because politics represent people. But even in that, I hope to always be beating the drum that represents a coming kingdom and what it looks like to find it and bring it here on earth.

I grew up Baptist, was educated in Baptist schools and have pretty much always attended Baptist associated churches. But, I’m finding that while I still have so much in common with Baptist core convictions, I also have so much not in common with them (and I do understand there is so much freedom even within the denomination). I think I’m now at a point where I’m okay to be a part of a church that isn’t Baptist but still holds to an Orthodox Christian beliefs,while having a more Eastern approach to “doing church” (think home Churches in Europe and the underground Church in Asia) and is intentional in reaching the marginalized in their city. (I’ll link to our current church’s manfesto in the comments).

I think the word Liberal/Conservative can be tricky and inflammatory. I think Jesus was far more liberal than many religious leaders wanted him to be and far more conservative than many would ever imagine.
I am an Evangelical who no longer feels like she fits in due to what we’ve made that word out to be. And perhaps, the same could probably be said for Progressives as well.

I hope that helps a little.  It’s hard to put those things into a paragraph of explanation each when I could easily write endlessly on them all! But I thought this would be a good clarifier for some readers. Trust me when I say that I would LOVE to be able to claim a certain label wholeheartedly, labels are my safe spot and I thrive within them, but I find that the longer I embrace this upside down Kingdom of God the more I don’t fit into a lot of mainstream descriptions of various sides of issues.

But that’s okay. I’m discovering a whole new side of God that I never knew…. the wild, unsafe, unexpected and counter cultural side.  And it’s ruining me in the best of ways.

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  • TaylorFebruary 22, 2017 - 9:55 pm

    I am totally with you on every point! I wish you were someone I could spend time with because you seem so amazing and I feel like we are aligned on a lot of thing. my fiancé and I want to adopt children with special needs and I would love to do life with your family.ReplyCancel

This year I’m starting to do a end of the month post that features a photo a day for that month. I’m finding that I don’t have a lot of mental energy to do a lot of journaling with words these days. And I wanted to have something that challenged me to shoot everyday. So… I though I’d do a monthly {one day at a time} post because that’s how I’m striving to live this first year in our new city.

January 2017: This month we settled into a routine for the first time since moving to Florida. School started for the kids at their new school. That’s been good but also challenging because it’s very different from the school we left in Tx. Jack especially is struggling so pray for us as we try to figure out best how to parent him and to help him thrive! He’s an amazing kid. The oldest four kids actually took this move a lot harder than I expected them to, but we know that when God led Dan and I to move here… He is thinking about our children too and will work for their good as well. Dan is studying a ton with his last semester of classes for his PhD so that has meant a lot of time with me at home with my two little ones… thus the ton of photos of them (which for being #5 and #6 I guess is a good thing to have a ton of photos of their childhood!).  We celebrated my birthday (last year in my thirties!!) and my mother in love’s birthday, we went to Jensen Beach on the other side of Florida to visit Dan’s aunt and uncle and cousins, we started attending a church gathering called The Underground (which is based in Tampa but has a St. Pete group as well), it’s a missional community of micro churches who really align with so many of what Dan and I are most passionate about. I learned how to knit. I started walking daily and exploring our neighborhood.  Met up with some friends, Isla got to meet her buddy Miles who was born in Las Vegas about a week before she was… he’s a fellow heart warrior too, his mom and I and another friend of ours who has a daughter who was born the same week-ish have been great support for each other during our kids surgeries and milestones! Explored a few beaches, watched a few sunsets over the ocean and all in all LOVING Florida weather in January!  January is usually the month I dive into reflection of the past year and goal setting for this year… but if I’m honest friends, I just didn’t have the heart motivation to do so. I feel like so much has changed with us moving that it’s almost not worth comparing what happened last year with what I want to see happen in this year. It all feels new and fresh and healing.

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I think many of us are finding ourselves asking… “Okay…I’m waking up to the injustices around me and I’m mad!!! Now what? What do I DO? What is the solution to this madness?” We are wanting to have an outlet for this frustration and anger and angst growing inside of us. It’s so uncomfortable and it’s effecting our day to day life and draining us of our energy!

First, I think it’s so important to recognize that this is how many of the marginalized have felt for decades upon decades with few hearing their cries and fewer believing they even had reason for crying. Second, I think sometimes it’s good for us to learn how to be angry for righteousness sake and know that even if nothing changes anytime soon we must find a way to love deeply and trust Jesus while still carrying continually that oh so weighty burden of hatred towards injustices in our midst. You might not think you are strong enough to keep on going this way but friend…through Christ you ARE!

This isn’t saying something shouldn’t be done about all this….I believe a movement is coming, I believe a rising up is coming, I believe the church is about to separate herself from what we THINK is the church here in America.

But I also know the great tendency we/I have to want to get rid of this heaviness and to move on with our lives when the problem feels bigger than we can wrap our minds around. To not want our families to be the fearful and prejudiced ones, to not want our church to be the one missing the point of the gospel, to not let this pain and sorrow drag us down to where nothing looks the same anymore.

But oh Christian….don’t fight against the pain,sorrow and anger. Embrace it. Sit in it. Let it start to convict you in ways you never thought you were blind before. Take it on for the long haul.

It’s out of that….that conviction and bravery is solidified. It’s out of that…..that fear of man and quest for greatness is let go of.
It’s out of that…..that He starts to mold you into a disciple who will give her life that the whole world will know His love, experience His power to save, and taste His upside down Kingdom!

Ezra holding Pound dog
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What if I started talking about things like….
-Paid maternity leave
-extension of medicaid for poor
-healthcare and birth control coverage for the poor
-Workforce initiatives that allow women to work and care for children
-equal housing protections
-equal pay for women doing equal work (currently 75 cents on the dollar)
– education funding
– having federally mandated IDEA in schools
– systemic racism in housing, education, government, law enforcement, courts, business, etc…,
– drug laws and penalties
– prostitution and sex trafficking,
– sexual harassment and abuse
– rape
– civil rights for marginalized people groups. 

You might think I’m talking about the Women’s March last week because that what they seem to have in common. You might think liberal agenda. You might think stuff women are whining about that don’t matter near as much as other pressing issues.

But I believe what they have in common is that they ALL impact abortion rates in this country!!!

These shouldn’t be matters of one political party or another. These should be issues believers, ESPECIALLY those who are Pro-life, should be educated about and involved in. To be all about eradicating abortion and dismiss the rest of these concerns can come across as very hollow, hypocritical and unloving to the world and will often land on deaf ears.

It takes time and energy and a lot of wading through the muck and mire surrounding the pain and injustices these issues represent. But the result is being someone who champions LIFE in a way that is holistic and brings about the most change that is so desperately needed!!  #standforlife #walkforlife#marchforlife #fightforlife #butdosomething

coral flower

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isla on chair

This sweetheart, signs of healing of my body, heart & mind, new neon workout socks , Palm tree lined streets  (come visit me), end of era documentaries, a vehicle that keeps defying its age (300K baby!) and running , the weekend, date night , babies napping at the same time , having an ice maker in my fridge door, friends who leave me long voxes (vox me!), sunsets at the beach , knitting (yes I’m 80), roasted fingerling potatoes, peaceful transitions of power, freedom of speech, the persistent love of Jesus! These are a few of my favorite things today.

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“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”
– G.K. Chesterton

Here’s to letting God mold our souls in areas we thought we were doing pretty good in but really it was just pride.

….to smelling not only the roses of our own backyards but the smell of things less familiar and even undesirable because we are stepping down roads less traveled and meeting neighbors less served and loving people less loved.

….to not just singing about God taking our feet deeper than we’d ever wander but to welcome and anticipate suffering and not fear things like cancer, disability, poverty, and giving our lives away for the sake of the weak, poor and voiceless. Knowing it’s our weaknesses that perfects His strength.

….to stand up and say the hard things about justice even when it doesn’t impact us, to speak up for the voiceless or oppressed when it may cost us friendships or our job.

….to listen more than we speak. To listen to our enemies…to those who have broken our hearts…to those who we want to hate….to those who live in countries being bombed…to those who need an interpreter… to sit in the tensions and uncomfortability of it because in doing so we truly hear.

….to open our eyes to the sovereignty and goodness of God in All things. To see people in the way He sees them. To see the Kingdom as one where our voice, our wealth, our possessions, our connections, our time are to be poured out to those who may never give us anything in return but who might see in our love a God who took on flesh!!!

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The days between Christmas and New years can be delightfully restful but they can also be a week that feels like you don’t know what day it is, who you are or what you’re supposed to be doing!! This year was like that for me…. it was such a strange feeling week. BUT if you’re like Abel and me and tend to wander aimlessly about with your shirt up when you’re missing routine…  😉

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Here are SIX things you can do in this in between time after Christmas and before The New Year!!

  1.  Start a photo folder/account at Walmart/Costco/Shutterfly/wherever… Go ahead a print a few from Christmas (I pack them in my holiday bins to be displayed next year) and upload all your photos this coming year to it…even if you don’t print them they will still be safe on their server and ready to print!! #printyourphotospeople
  2. Get a notebook and either follow along with @laracasey goals for cultivating with matters or if you want something you can do in an afternoon take a notebook and just write out 1. What DID work for you and your family/business in 2016 and 2. What did NOT work in 2016. Those two things alone have been SO helpful in going into the next year better prepared!!
  3. Dump out your makeup bag. Wash that thing!! Take a makeup remover cloth/wipe and go over all your makeup. Sharpen the pencils. Wash your brushes. If it’s almost gone or you rarely ever wear it Toss it out and feel NO guilt buying a new one or getting more room in your bag. *you can do the same thing with your bathroom cabinet too. If you don’t love it…toss it.
  4. If you have a calendar you’re using this coming year go ahead and write things in December 2017 that you think of this month that you wish you had done or that you know you need a head start reminder for. Or to remind yourself of a tradition you started this year or one you want to start next year. Set yourself up for a better advent season next year!
  5. Pull up those recipes you found online and tried and loved this holiday season. Get some real recipe cards and write them out. This preserves them for next year and every recipe is better when it’s in a loved ones handwriting!!
  6. Ask God to give you a word or phrase for this coming year. There is nothing magical or fateful about choosing one but I’ve found it helps me be more intentional as well as heighten my awareness where God is at work in my life in that area especially.
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A lot of us will be seeing relatives and church friends and neighbors and their relatives and undoubtedly come in contact with people of all abilities and backgrounds…. So I wanted to share about something that I have learned and have come to really find very helpful in loving people well.

When it comes to individuals who have diff-abilities or different situations… It’s VERY loving to use People First Language. People First Language seeks to put the person first and the disability second! People with disabilities are people, first and foremost!

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When we speak differently, we’ll think differently, and then we’ll act differently!
 
Instead of: Normal or healthy kids. Say: Typical developing kids
 
Instead of: The handicapped or disabled. Say: People with disabilities.
 
Instead of: He’s Down’s or Down’s baby Say: He has Down syndrome (or my favorite has the “Love” or “Extra” chromosome)
 
Instead of: Brain damaged, or He’s mentally retarded. Say: He has a cognitive disability or brain injury
 
Instead of: Birth defect Say: Congenital disability
 
Instead of: She’s Autistic or that Autistic girl. Say: She has autism (or a diagnosis of…)
 
Instead of: Is non-verbal Say: Communicates with her eyes/device/etc.
 
Instead of: She’s confined to/is wheelchair bound. Say: She uses a wheelchair/walker
 
Instead of: Handicapped parking, hotel room, etc. Say: Accessible parking, hotel room, etc.
 

Instead of: What’s wrong with him/her? Say: Why or How does his/her____ work differently? A disability simply represents a body part that works differently!

 THIS is a great Article on Changing the way we use the term “Wrong” when describing someone or their actions. (I’m going to be really honest… I cried reading it because I myself have been tempted to say this regarding behaviors of my out-of-the-box acting son.) Read it!! It’s well worth your time. 

You can apply this also to other people. Such as…..

Instead of: Homeless person Say: a family/person experiencing homelessness right now.

Instead of Foster Kid/Child : Say: Boy/Girl/Child/Their name who receive foster care services.” Referring to a child’s status in foster care should be used ONLY when it’s truly relevant. Are they foster kids when at dance class or during sports or at school? No, they’re ballerinas, hockey players, and students.

Instead of Adopted Kids. Say: Children you’ve adopted

Instead of “Where are they from?” Say: What is their heritage? And while you’re at it… find out your own heritage! It may surprise you! And it gives you a fun conversation piece to share with whoever you start that conversation topic with.

Instead of Real Children or your Own Children: Say: Biological Children.

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  • SueMarch 31, 2017 - 12:26 am

    This is a lovely reminder. Keep trying. Don’t be discouraged by what I will say, though. There will always come a point when people will not accept these terms, so you will need to find other terms. Don’t give up. You have the right idea.ReplyCancel

Most of you know my husband blogs regularly on the topic of sexuality, culture and Christ over at Patheos. HERE is the link to his blog. Lots of great resources over there. I wanted to highlight one post he wrote recently though because I think it’s something so many of us who hold to an orthodox view of biblical sexuality wrestle with at times.

I hope it encourages you and your family!

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Christmas has always been an amazing season in my home. Growing up, I remember waiting for Christmas with intense excitement. Sure, much of that had to do with the latest gift I was anticipating, but as I have grown and have a family of my own, I realize that a deep sense of family and togetherness was fostered in our home. Rituals like Christmas eve candlelight service, Handel’s Messiah with my mom, Advent candles, watching the classic Rudolph, and baking together all served as just part of the many reasons I am so nostalgic this time of year.

I am even more thankful because I see now how hard my parents fought for togetherness even when it was hard. When differences of life between them and their children pushed into the family and threatened the peace, they fought hard to keep it. They didn’t always win, but it was not without sincere effort.

The years I embraced my identity as a gay man were some of the hardest for me during the holidays. Some might expect that to be the case because it is this way for so many LGBT individuals. However, for me, it was not because my parents pushed me away, quite the opposite really. For me, I lacked peace with Christ, and that reality pressed into me deeper during times of deep reflection, like Christmas.

Yet, as I look back, my parent’s home was a place I always could call home and, on a smaller level it demonstrated to me the peace I wanted on a much larger and deeper level. My parents might not have characterized it this way but their home and their fight for their family became a tool that would one day serve the goal of the gospel in my life.

Many families and many LGBT individuals do not look forward to the holidays. This time of year is a reminder of division. Sadly, too many are alone because they are not welcome in the home of their Christian family. Too many parents and siblings will not get to see their LGBT family because they are choosing a new family, one that reflects their life more. This is not the case for everyone, but it is the case for far too many.

As I reflect on these families and individuals my heart wants to love you and serve you. We started the Identify Network to serve the church and this includes families. So I want to take this space to offer you five ways to pursue the posture and love of the gospel with your LGBT family during the Christmas holidays.

Bless Them/ Invite Them Home: It may sound obvious to invite them home, but quite honestly it isn’t. Too many LGBT individuals either are not welcome or do not feel welcome in the one place they always should be! Change that! Judgment or shame is often expected, but you can change that by offering a blessing. To bless someone is to offer relief and encouragement from their burden, to bear the burden, to encourage them. Nothing will do this more during Christmas than to offer your home and your life to the vulnerable and marginalized and this is often so true for your LGBT family. It is important to remember you are not doing them a favor from a place of moral superiority but rather from a place of sincere humility towards the family you love. This may require a heart change for you and if so, I encourage you to spend time asking God to help you bless and not curse, bless from a place of genuine gospel humility.

Demonstrate Gospel Hospitality: The Biblical idea behind hospitality is to welcome the stranger. Your LGBT family are not necessarily a stranger to you, but those they love or those significant to them may be. I have talked with countless parents and families who feel they have to choose between faithfulness to Biblical ethics and loving their gay son or daughter. Often, this choice includes what to say or do about significant others (friends, partners, spouse). I believe, with all Gospel assurance, this to be a false choice! I am thankful the pattern off hospitality in the scriptures didn’t include invitations to those who were deemed worthy. Jesus, again and again, gave honor and demonstrated hospitality to those society deemed unworthy or unfit. When you love this way, you are not promoting over and against your sincere convictions but you recognize what is and choose to love deeply from a deep motivation of the gospel, with a posture that reflects the love of Christ.

Celebrate with Them: The various areas of tensions in our lives do not need to prevent us from celebrating family and the season together. Too many feel that being faithful means turning every conversation into a referendum on the moral choices of their family and this all too true when we consider issues of sexuality that have moral and political dimensions to them. However, when we choose to focus on Jesus and celebrate the incarnation we communicate a greater message. I never failed to see that when I was home. As my family ate together, prayed together, lit the advent candles, and worshiped Christ for his coming, I reflected time and time again on the gospel message. We can intentionally celebrate all that Christ’s coming makes right without having to lament all that we feel is wrong. After all, this is the message of Christmas. “Behold, I bring to you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10). What could be more celebratory than that! This isn’t a missed opportunity, instead, it is a focus on celebrating all God does to bring his reconciling love into all our lives.

Go Deeper by Listening and Learning: One of the problems that exist between the Christian community and the LGBT community is an unwillingness to listen. Yes, this goes both ways, but all too often, the church has talked at and to the LGBT community and given families a model to do the same in their home. Love your LGBT family, by listening to them and learning from them. Deeper conversations may happen over the holidays and if they do, it is important to take the posture of a listener and a learner if we want to receive the same respect. Genuinely listening is a habit of humility modeled in the scriptures. If we desire to offer true biblical wisdom to our family it cannot be divorced from knowing and understanding. If we listen and learn we not only know how to help our LGBT family we have the opportunity to correct misunderstandings, assumptions, or hurtful/unhelpful language used by other family members.

Send Them off with a Longing to Return: Following Christ is a lifelong journey and the road to reconciliation looks different for everyone. My parents loved me deeply and never once did I question being welcome in their home. they took the opportunity to have harder conversations with me if the opportunity came. But, they were always committed to the long road of life and reconciliation with me. When we model this, we model a truth about God. God is long suffering and committed to pursuing us. How can we do any less? Our homes should be places of peace, where we bless, encourage, listen, learn, love and humbly speak truth. This is the home that your LGBT family will want to be in regardless of deeply held convictions about life and sexuality. You can be faithful to the gospel while communicating that your life and your home are for them. When I left my parents home, I always wanted to return, but I never mistook that for their agreement with my identity choices, I knew it was rooted in a deep and abiding love for me that wanted the best for me. Years later, I would see the same thing in my savior! Let your life and your home foster a longing to return!

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