Where Oh Where Did My Little Blog Go?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Auld Lang Syne...

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

It's a song that kicks off the New Year in many countries around the world. Many people immediately identify the melody, but precious few understand the lyrics. It's a song that poses a question... A question that invites reflection... Reflection that can lead to new beginnings. What is "Auld lang syne"? Taken from an old ballad, printed in the year 1711... it literally means "old long since", which is interpreted as "days (or times) gone by"...

At the beginning of each New Year, I reflect on the past - sifting experiences through a social, emotional, and spiritual "colander". It's all a matter of reflection, and the questions loom... What to carry into the new year, and what to leave behind?

I have come to realize that each and every experience is invaluable. It's not a matter of what should be preserved and what should be forgotten, but rather a choice... the choice of whether to let go of, or grow from, the "days and times gone by".

I don't believe in regret. Each and every mortal experience takes a beautiful place in the quilt of life. Some experiences are good, while some are bad, but all of them (once pieced together) become the beautiful patchwork textures, patterns, and colors that define who we are spiritually, individually... They are the tattered pieces that contribute to our unique spiritual being. As I unfurl the patchwork craft that represents my life, invariably there are flaws. There are pieces that are much too big, illustrating lessons that took far too long to learn. There are pieces that are way too small which represent extremely impulsive choices that resulted in equally unpredictable outcomes. Some of the patchwork pieces are composed of thick, heavy, dark fabrics and represent periods of frustration, loneliness, despondency, and depression. The bright colored, lightweight squares boast of childbirth, joyous events, achievements, and successes.

Perhaps most notable, are the oddly shaped patches. They don't easily fit with the others... their misshapen composition make them difficult to "quilt" and compromise the contour of the entire work. These patches represent the bitterness of rejection. I have noticed that one of these oddities is quite large, dark, heavy, tattered and worn... it's a profoundly important piece and represents an extremely important aspect of my past. At the very center of that piece is an emptiness... a hole that desperately needs mending, but seems to get larger with time. It's interesting... as I look at my quilt - that patchwork piece has an overwhelming presence... and reflects the fundamental, familiar relationships of my childhood; the ghosts of "days gone by"...

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days or times gone by?

Recently, I have spent a great deal of time studying that patchwork piece and the relationships that it represents. The dark, heavy threads illustrate the disappointment of rejection with the realization that the huge "misfit patch" at the core of my existence symbolizes the people that should have been the most significant in my life... the childhood relationships that traditionally serve a mortally sacred purpose. Despite the disappointment, I am learning to appreciate the unique beauty of every patch, and it's significance in a much greater "whole".

Sometimes, I wish I could eliminate the hurt... forget the "old acquaintances", and the "days or times" they represent, then I am reminded of the importance of each tattered patch in a collective masterpiece... a divinely beautiful patchwork "self". I am who I am because of the "days and times gone by". With every painful fiber of each awkward patch, the greatest attributes of my existence have evolved. I have been blessed with empathy and compassion for all of God's children.

While watching the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" over the Christmas Holiday, I noticed a quote on a wall in a touching scene that read... "The only thing you can take with you is what you give away." Experiencing rejection teaches the value of acceptance... likewise, surviving criticism paves the way to understanding. Some of the greatest gifts of my life resonate from a greater capacity for love.

I have been greatly blessed by those "misfit" patchwork pieces. In a home full of children with special needs, the disappointment of the past has become a profound blessing in my life through an ability to "see" and truly understanding the unique challenges in the lives of my children. I have learned to appreciate each patch in the divine composition of a beautifully flawed masterpiece.

I love my quilt. I am thankful for every piece, and what the "patchwork" of life has taught... what it has yet to teach... and, especially, Auld Lang Syne...

Happy New Year

Monday, November 30, 2009

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Others...

Wow... it's been a while since I've blogged. I decided to take some time "away" from the blog. I needed some respite... a "breather" of sorts and decided to deal with some of our family challenges a little more privately. Things have settled down a bit and we've regained a sense of normalcy and settled into a routine at home. It's the holiday season and I felt compelled to take a moment for reflection and introspection. As the holidays approach, and in light of such a turbulent year, I wanted to express gratitude for the many beautiful blessings in my life. I give thanks to the Lord for the tender way that he teaches eternal truths... for his enduring patience... and unconditional love. This year I've grown in ways that are profoundly difficult to convey to those who have not shared this experience. All I can say is that each step of this journey has made me a better human being. Each step has provided a unique testimony... understanding, gained through experience. Incidentally... the more I learn, the more I realize what I have - yet - to learn. I am thankful for my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I am thankful for his companionship and guidance through a very difficult time in my life... A time when I felt absolutely incapable of meeting the challenges that towered before me. "Thank you, Father, for the blessing of your eternal love."

As we approach the new year, I feel a renewed sense of hope and a sacred trust in something far greater than myself. If ever I had an awareness of my insignificance... it is now. I have come to truly understand that we are all tools in the hands of a divine "craftsman". Some of us may be "hammers", while others are "nails"... but each of us serve an eternal purpose in a divinely sacred masterpiece. I have come to realize that the most important thing I can do, is recognize my time to serve... those moments when I am in his hands. The strength is His, the purpose is His, but the responsibility is mine... to surrender all that I am (my temporal understanding), and all that I have to His divine will.

May we each enjoy the reverent spirit of the holiday season and experience the blessings of "peace on earth, good will toward others".

Through Christ’s Eyes...

Years ago, I had an experience that changed my life. It was one of those rare moments that, even in brevity, teach a profound principle that never escapes the heart and has a profound impact on the soul.

I was fourteen years old at the time; a typical teenager with an amazing ability to focus almost exclusively on my own interests, capabilities, ideas, successes, disappointments, and needs. I had it all figured out, knew all the answers, and understood my purpose in life. That is, until December of 1989 when everything changed. I was blessed with an experience that clarified my existence and taught me the sacred selfless principle that embodies the expression, “Christ-like love”.

It was November in Montana and that year, in particular, the winter was atypically harsh. Subzero temperatures and frequent blizzards plagued the season and a thick blanket of snow enveloped the valley and coated the majestic mountains that surrounded the community where I lived. The bus stop at the end of the road seemed a good distance in the cold, so I’d wait by the door and watch the snow-packed highway that rounded a mountain in the distance until the bus appeared, then I’d “make a run for It” in a feeble attempt to avoid schnoz gauze (an expression used to describe the frozen crust of snot that develops from prolonged exposure to frigid weather). I’d get to the end of the road, turtle-head into my scarf, cram my hands into the bottom of my coat pockets, and jump up and down until the bus arrived. This method was tried and tested and seemed to be the most effective technique for “warding off” the cold.

The next stop was a good six miles down the road, so I had a little time to “thaw out” before the door would open to invite another frosty gust. Typically, I’d rest my head against the corner of the seat and catnap until reaching the final destination at the school yard. I don’t know why, but on that particular day I was acutely aware of my environment and happened to notice three little silhouettes, shivering on the side of the road. The bus squealed to a stop, the door opened, and I observed as each child stepped onto the bus. One at a time, they made their way from the front of the bus, down the aisle in search of a vacant seat. There were two little girls and one young boy, scantily clad in lightweight tattered jackets without hats or mittens. I recognized one of the little girls from the Kindergarten class where I volunteered my sixth period class as a teacher’s aid. Her name was Jenny.

Jenny was very sweet and had an endearing spirit. She always smiled and regardless of the way she was treated by her peers, never had anything nasty to say in retort. I think, in part, because she was mildly mentally handicapped and may not have recognized the ugliness that laced the frequent verbal attacks. It was amazing to me how children so young could identify and target the “weakest link” in a peer group. Jenny was often the victim of harsh ridicule. She only had a few pairs of pants and a couple of shirts that she alternated through the week. Her jacket was well worn and oversized, looking as though it might actually have been her mother’s. Her hair was extremely thin and stringy with a cropped cut that lined her forehead which was malformed and unusually broad. She had some noticeable, although mild, deformities of her hands and fingers. Jenny’s physical abnormalities and mental handicap had been caused by a toxic chemical called Agent Orange, an herbicide used to kill the heavy brush that camouflaged the enemy during Vietnam. Later it was discovered that exposure to the toxin caused severe genetic defects that manifest in the generation of children that followed. Jenny, as well as her brother and sister suffered from these consequential malformations.

Thanksgiving had just passed and the following Sunday our youth group leaders at church challenged us to discover the “Christ centered” significance of Christmas by adopting a family for the Holiday. Immediately, my mind turned to Jenny. I offered the suggestion, we did a little research, and discovered that her father had been struggling to find work and that the family had fallen on hard times. We embraced the opportunity for service.

My first assignment was to assume the role of “secret agent” in an effort to discover the needs of the family and the interests of the children. Jenny was so beautifully naïve and innocently answered, without suspicion, any and all questions asked. As expected, she expressed considerable concern regarding Santa’s navigational abilities indicating awareness that, once again, he might not be able to find their house. When I asked what she wanted for Christmas, her answer was modest, “A My Little Pony… and some cereal with colors. I like cereal with colors.”

When I had finished gathering the data, we went to work raising the money. We hosted bake sales, sacrificed our allowances, & even sold some of our personal belongings. We worked tirelessly for weeks to raise money, gathering toys and clothes, grocery shopping, & wrapping the presents we had bought. As the holiday approached, we experienced a transformation of perspective as we began to truly understand Christmas. Our focus became more about giving than receiving, more about service than self gratification. Our excitement grew with each selfless sacrifice and our interest in the well-being of others became intimately important to each and every one of us. Finally, after several weeks of relentless commitment to the project, the work was done. We had coats, hats, mittens, & other clothes, gifts of all sorts that included My Little Ponies and baby dolls, trucks & tractors, and several boxes of groceries including “cereal with colors”.

We sacrificed Christmas Eve with our families, but somehow it didn’t feel like a sacrifice. There wasn’t anywhere that any of us would have rather been. We met at the church to finish wrapping some last minute items, and then loaded the gifts. We had recruited the Young Men to assist with the delivery. A group of about 14 people, including youth group leaders, piled into three different vehicles and headed out in the frigid cold toward the humble little house in the country.

As we approached the home, we turned the headlights off, pulled to the shoulder of the road, and killed the engine. We were prepared, knew our assignments well, and had a strategy for each stage of the delivery. The boxes were unloaded and one by one, we silently stacked them on and around the doorstep. Methodically working as a team, we successfully delivered Christmas without interrupting the family. At last the moment had come… everyone piled back into the vehicles and anxiously observed as the two boys left behind awaited the signal.

I rubbed a spot in the center of the glass and watched from a frozen car window as our youth group leader gave the “go ahead”. The two that remained knocked on the door, and then scrambled on the ice as they rushed to escape the scene. The cars were started and the two young boys piled in as we attempted to make our getaway. At that moment, however, something unexpected happened… our car wouldn’t budge. We alternated between Drive and Reverse in a desperate attempt to dislodge the vehicle, but to no avail. Frantically, we jumped out and situated ourselves behind the car while we synchronized our efforts in an attempt to rock the vehicle free from the ensnarement of the drift. The wheels were spinning in the snow, and the snow was melting into ice which made it nearly impossible to pull free. Suddenly, our efforts were interrupted by a rapture of squeals and giggles that seemed to permeate the night air. Everyone paused for a moment and shifted focus to the source of the sound.

That’s when it happened... It was a moment frozen in time that etched a place in each of our hearts as we stood motionless in the cold and experienced the blessing of Christ-like love, service, and sacrifice. We watched from a distance as three little children jumped up and down in the cold, barely able to control their excitement. They sifted through the presents, while mother and father stood behind them, locked in a tender embrace. Our struggle to “getaway” was evident in the silence of the night, but no effort was made to discover our identity. A grateful father merely lifted his hand in a gentle wave of thanks. I couldn’t seem to control my emotions as tears welled up in my eyes, brimmed over, and turned to slush on my cheeks.

Words cannot express the joy that we experienced that night. The moral of the story was evident as we stood there shaking in the cold. We had given of ourselves, but received the greatest gift of all… a reminder of our divine purpose. Suddenly, and for a brief moment, the world seemed perfect. We turned our efforts back to the car and it immediately pulled free. I have often wondered “why” and “how” the perfect strategy left us lodged in a snow bank that night. I have come to the conclusion that, although we had planned every step of our delivery, the Lord had planned a very special delivery of his own. At that moment, we didn't see poverty... deformity... or misfortune. We were blessed to see, as if blind before, humanity… through Christ’s eyes. In that sacred moment, we experienced the purity of His love.

Happy Holidays~

Friday, October 2, 2009

In My Daughter's Eyes...

I had a very important personal meeting the other night to discuss some of the delicate issues that have challenged our family. The spirit was very strong during the meeting and I felt inspired by an acute awareness of my Heavenly Father's love and guidance. Following the meeting, I stepped into my vehicle and turned the key. The car started and immediately a song began to play over the radio. The beautiful peace of the spirit flooded my emotions. Years of worry and concern seemed to dissipate, overcome by an assurance of my Eternal Father's influence. The duration of my drive home was spent weeping... basking in the glow of the moment as the tender lyrics whispered sacred truths to my soul. It was an emotional reflection of everything in my heart. I thank God for the precious moments of inspiration in my life, and the daily reminders of His love... His presence... and His peace.

(James Slater)

In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It's hangin' on when your heart
has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Peanutbutter and Jelly Blessings...

My five year old son is a constant challenge... bull headed... stubborn... and sometimes a "little" defiant (laced in sarcasm). He consistently and frequently frustrates me. Everything seems like a debate... a constant entourage of discussion and persuasion. His little world MUST make perfect sense at ALL times. He's perpetually focused on issues of inequality and injustice. If I ask him to do something and it doesn't adequately "add up" in his five-year-old world, an exhausting challenge ensues.

Yesterday, while making sandwiches for lunch... Colton requested peanut-butter and jelly while the rest of the children were completely content with turkey. Not a problem... over the years I have learned to appreciate, and grown accustomed to, his frequent assertions of individuality and independence. I was busy making multiple sandwiches and trying to feed the "masses" (by "masses" I'm referring to my four children and the parade of playmates who frequently pass through our home during meal time). I began to cut the sandwich at an angle. I was startled by the aggravated shriek of my child, "NO!!! NOT THAT WAY!"

I stopped mid-cut. He continued in defiance..."I WANT IT CUT THE OTHER WAY!"

He wanted it cut in four equal squares... I had begun to cut it diagonally, in two equal triangles. This was the beginning of a tedious confrontation. In an effort to "choose my battles", I changed my approach to the cut... separating the sandwich into the four equal squares, as requested. Of course, one of the small squares was nearly severed into two miniature triangles because of my initial attempt at cutting the sandwich. I quickly placed it on a paper plate, then garnished it with chips and grapes... pretending not to notice the "defective" piece. I hoped that by overlooking the "flawed" square, he would accept the sandwich "as is", we could enjoy our lunch, and avoid the impending act of defiance that - over the years - I have come to expect.

I placed the sandwich in front of him. He looked at the sandwich and his eyes studied the piece that seemed to announce my irreparable "error in judgement". I continued to ignore his aggravation. He looked up at me with a bitter scowl, then pushed the plate to the center of the table as if he'd just found a hair in his food, then proclaimed... "I want another one."

Here we go...

"Colton, there's nothing wrong with that sandwich. It will taste the same, regardless of how it's cut... just eat it." I slid the plate back to him, hoping that he would surrender to my frustration and eat his lunch.

The other children were happily engaged in eating their meal. I busily went about the tasks at hand, making and serving juice. I put Cole's cup of juice down in front of him... I looked at the plate... sure enough, the "defective" piece had mysteriously vanished while the bitter scowl on his face stubbornly remained. I looked in the garbage... there it was... "the misfit".

Colton, noticing my displeasure, asserted himself with explanatory conviction... "I want a different sandwich."

Too tired for an out-and-out battle, I attempted to compromise with the stubborn little turd... "You don't have to eat the piece that's cut wrong. Eat the rest of the sandwich... When you're finished, if you're still hungry... I'll make you another one."

One by one, the other children finished their lunch and asked to be excused. Colton stubbornly remained... arms crossed... furrowed brow. I began to clean up. As I turned around, there he stood... beside the trash with the remaining pieces of the sandwich crumbled in his hands and a defiant look on his face. There we were, my will versus his... standing toe to toe... eyes locked... in what can only be described as a stand-off...


I took the twisted sandwich from his hands, reinforced my prior position, and sent him to his room without lunch. The mangled remains of a perfectly good sandwich went into the trash. The next hour and a half was engulfed by defiant howls of bitter injustice and verbal assertions of inequality. Ahhh, yes.... the joys of parenthood.

Last night, after the children went to bed, I thought about this experience and my relationship with my child. My thoughts drifted to the relationship that I have with my own father... my Eternal Father, and I could identify some striking parallels...

Matthew 7:7-11

7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

8. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10. Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Colton asked for bread... he was given bread, but the bread provided didn't meet his expectations. Because of those expectations... the bread became a "stone"... a blessing, discarded and not received.

I couldn't help but reflect on my own life and the relationship that I have with my Heavenly Father. I couldn't help but wonder how many times I have refused to accept the "bread" that I have been given? I wonder how many times I have failed to acknowledge the limitations on my mortal understanding, thereby demonstrating a stubborn lack of faith in the will of my Father? The Savior repeatedly taught the value of faith...

Matthew 17:20

20. Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

I have come to realize that formulating expectations leads to lost opportunities and a failure to embrace many of the Lord's "good gifts". While perfect faith has the potential to move mountains, the lack thereof can turn "bread into stones", and "fish into serpents"... blessings disposed.

Through adversity, I am learning to resist less, expect less, and give more. I am learning to love completely, live authentically, and BELIEVE faithfully. I am learning to rejoice in adversity... and give thanks for the experiences in my life that have clarified my understanding of God, my relationship to others, and my purpose in this world. I am awake... I am blessed... I am forever His.

James 1:2-4

2. My brethren, count it all joy when ye encounter trials;

3. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

4. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

I am learning to trust God's will and graciously accept the "good gifts" in my life. I am learning to "want nothing", to let go of my expectations... expectations that frequently result in discarded...

"peanutbutter and jelly blessings"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance

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Adventures in Radical Acceptance

Adventures in Radical Acceptance (Round 2)

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"Some people just like the way I am..."

"Some people are the same...

Some people are different...

Some people are short...

Some people are tall...

Look, I'm not even quite the same as all the others... but...



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thoughts on compassion...

I recently received an e-mail from someone who had visited us here. I would like to extend my gratitude to this woman for taking the time to contact me directly, for her prayers, and for her concern. There may be others who share this perspective, so I felt compelled to take a moment to respond...

"I don't know what made me decide to read your blog the other day, but it literally made me sick. I have been thinking for days what I wanted to say to you, and realized there was so much I need to say, knowing you probably don't care. So I have been writing my thoughts, and praying for days.

First off, the pastor that wrote the mass email was not trying to rally his congregation in opposition of Cameron's gender. We, the congregation are already opposed, because of what the bible teaches us. Anyone who has read or studied the bible knows this. Even people that don't, know this is wrong.

I want you to know as well, most people are not against your child. We are upset with you. What you are doing to your child is wrong. To me it is child abuse. It might not be considered as child abuse by DHR, but I hope and pray that one day it will. Laws can always be made or changed. Cameron is not at an age he can make this decision on his own. He would have had to have been taught this by you, over a long period of time. I want you to know that we pray for Cameron everyday. I pray God Will heal him. My God is a healer! If you really read and study your bible, there is no doubt in my mind this would not be going on with Cameron. He would be a happy boy! God doesn't make mistakes. God made Cameron a boy, the devil tryed to make him a girl. You let the devil win. I feel so bad for Cameron.

It makes me sick how you use the bible in your blog. You know the devil will trick you. He knows the bible too. You twist Gods word to make it fit your own beliefs and your story's. Why do you write a public blog? Why do you use God in it? You do know that you will be held accountable one day for all the life's you confuse and turn away from God. It so hurts my spirit, all of this.

I will continue to pray for Cameron. I will continue to pray that God will open your eyes and ears, and you will see what he is really trying to tell you. I have told my child, who is in Cameron's grade, that Cameron is a boy. and to pray for him daily. I have told him to be nice, and not say anything bad, but I have told him that it is wrong in Gods eyes and that is why we need to pray for him daily.

The whole world wants Christians to be tolerant to what is convenient to them and what they believe, and when we stand up for what we believe, we are judgmental and full of hate. This world is so messed up and confused all because of the devil. He wants to destroy all of us. I will do everything in my power to protect my child from the devil. That is why I don't understand what you are doing. My Lord will return one day! If you ever need great guidance our church is always open for you!

I will continue to pray for you and Cameron!"

Sometimes it's difficult for me to convey what is in my head and heart. It's unfortunate that our personal journey has caused so much distress. It would be easy to react in anger to some of the assertions that have been made, but I have grown through this experience in ways that I never thought possible. This growth has become a tremendous blessing in my life... I am thankful for the opportunities for continued growth that are presented with each new day. The most precious spiritual "scar" that I have been given is a greater aptitude for understanding, compassion, and humility for all of God's children.

There was a time in my life when I - too - stood where this woman stands today... There was a time in my life when I thought I had all of the answers. There was a time when I felt convinced that I knew God... knew his plan... knew his views and opinions. At that time in my life, if I were standing outside of where I stand today, I might have pointed the same finger of scorn at another for making the choices that we have felt impressed to make. At that time in my life, these decisions would not have fit into my understanding, or met my expectations, for what I understood to be right... and the testimony that I had of "truth".

The one thing that I have gained a testimony of through this experience is simple, but profound... I have been humbled by the realization that there are many things that I don't, truly, understand. I can no longer take the experiences in my life, or the lives of others, for granted. I have come to understand that I don't have all of the answers. I have learned to pray daily - with diligence and faith - for the strength to accept these challenges in my life, and the patience to move forward with grace and dignity. This has been an uphill battle... one that I know some people will not relate to, or understand - one that most will be fortunate to never experience. It has, and may continue to invite opposition. There is no "alternate route"... the only way to survive adversity when life throws "a curve ball" is through absolute faith. I have become acquainted with my Father through adversity. I thank Him each day for His love in my life.

I cannot judge those who express concern over our direction, some of whom exist within the confines of my own family. Through this experience I have learned the importance of acceptance, compassion, and understanding in the lives of all people without regard to "difference". It would be hypocrisy to pray to receive these blessings if I am unwilling to exercise these principles in my own life.

I have often wondered if God gets tired of the contention? I wonder if he ever grows weary of people arguing over His word... who's right, who's wrong, and who has the answers? I wonder what He feels when He looks at the world and sees anger, hate, and judgement... perpetrated in His name? I wonder... then I think about my responsibility in this experience.

There is no question that this is a profound trial for our family. Words cannot express what we have been through. We acknowledge the spiritual responsibility in the decisions that we have made. There is, however, a fundamental truth that many fail to acknowledge. I believe that there is another trial that has been overlooked... it's the trial introduced to those on the outside of this experience.

Christ taught through parables, through love, through understanding and compassion. He exemplified these principles throughout His life. I believe that He expects us to emulate His example, both in word and deed. He taught love and compassion for others. He taught acceptance and understanding. Most importantly... He taught us that it is not our place to judge or condemn one another. I believe that the day will come when each of us are called to stand before our Eternal Father and account for the "substance" of our life. God knows each of us better than we know ourselves... He knows our pain, the intentions of our heart, and He is the one who will determine the "rights" and "wrongs" of our mortal experience. Cammie's gender variance is our trial... how people respond to it, is theirs.

I do have a testimony of my Heavenly Father. I have a testimony of my child. I have turned to the Lord for guidance throughout my life, in adversity and in peace... I continue to turn to Him today. I am thankful for the many blessings in my life. I know that God loves his children... all of them. He has blessed me with His companionship. He is always there... His love is eternal and unconditional.

I am a good enough mother to recognize that I have many faults and shortcomings. I'm sure my imperfection will manifest itself in the future through the relationships that I work to maintain and cultivate with my precious children each day. I love them with every fiber of my being. Although they may not be clearly understood by some, the actions that I take are inspired by that love.

I don't expect others to understand the complexity of these trials in our life. I do, however, pray daily that those on the outside of this challenge will be able to identify the extreme difficulty of this experience. I pray that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we will each identify the opportunities and exercise the strength to step outside of ourselves, follow His example, and respond to one another with compassion...

Luke 10:25-29

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou?

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

And he said unto him, Thou has answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Jesus replied with a story:

“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here."

Luke 10:36 - 37

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Saturday, September 19th at 6 PM... set your Tivo! Well done, informative piece by National Geographic on gender and gender variance. Provides a "snapshot" of life on the inside of this emotionally and socially challenging medical condition - very well done..."
Explorer opens your eyes to riveting, untold adventures with host Lisa Ling.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Power of Prayer...

I spent the whole weekend emotionally in knots over Cammie's apparent bad day. I worried and stressed, trying my best to be optimistic. My emotions were compounded by a series of recent events.

I've never felt more vulnerable. It's impossible to keep something as apparent as a physical transition private, so the most intimate details of our family's life are on display. Our personal experience is being discussed by people who have never met us. I have prayed for compassion and understanding. Friday... I felt bogged down by unanswered prayers.

I have spent the majority of my morning pondering the complexities of prayer and my responsibility in the process. I have come to realize that prayer is, quite literally, a "process". I had an experience with my oldest child a couple of years ago that illustrates this concept...

I had come home from work and was tired from the events of the day. I had some things to finish up so I made my way to the office and diligently went about the process of completing the tasks at hand. An hour or two had passed when Caleb, my oldest child, burst through the door. He was clearly upset. The filth on his angry flushed face was muddied in streaks on his cheeks, a clear indicator that he had been crying. Like most moms do in a situation like this, I utilized my maternal investigation skills to work on the case…

"What Happened?”

He did his best to explain the incident through hysterical broken sentences as he attempted to catch his breath…

Kaden and I aren’t friends any more!”

“Why not?”

“We got in a fight!”

“About what?”

“He took my gun and threw it over the fence!”

“Is that why you’re crying?”

“No... he pushed me down!”

“Why did he do that?”

“I don’t know!”

“You don’t know?”

“I wouldn’t let him play with it!”

“So, let me get this straight… he threw your gun over the fence, then he pushed you down?”


“Did you do anything to him?”

“Well, I hit him… but that was because he threw my gun over the fence! Now we’re not friends anymore!”

Caleb had reached the age of camouflage and ammo that seems to possess the soul of every ten year old boy. His pseudo GI garb was practically sacred. I tried to be the voice of reason, “You know, Caleb, you and Kaden have been good friends for a long time. You’ll work it out.”

Dissatisfied with the lack of alarm in my voice, he turned around and stormed toward the door. On his way out he quipped, “And I prayed I’d have a good day!” There it was… the infamous “It’s God’s fault” line. I decided to embrace the moment to teach a valuable principle, “Hold up! Get back in here for a minute.”

He reluctantly wandered back in the room. I began to explain, “Caleb, prayer is a beautiful thing but if you’re going to tap into its power then you need to understand how it works. It’s a lot like a contractual agreement. The Lord has promised that he will always answer your prayers but there are a couple of conditions. First, we agree to believe in his will for our lives. This means that we agree to accept the answers regardless of whether or not they meet our expectations. The other part, and the part that is the MOST important, is the fact that answers to prayer come in large part because of the decisions WE make. You might have prayed that you would have a good day, but before you blame the Lord for the outcome, you need to ask yourself if you’ve made the choices that will ensure that blessing.”

Caleb stood there, listening intently to every word. It was evident that he was giving the situation considerable thought. I asked, “Did you do your part?” He thought for a moment but didn’t say a word. I continued, “Is there anything that you could have done differently that would have ensured an answer to your prayer?”

He contemplated for a moment then said, “I could have let Kaden play with my gun.” I had primed the thought process and made the determination to let him figure it out. After a minute or two of silence, when I could see he was feeling somewhat disappointed in himself, I said, “You know what?”


“The beautiful thing is that it’s never too late to have a good day… but that all depends on you.” He looked at me for a moment, and then an excited smile lightened his expression. He threw his arms around my neck, “Thanks mom… I’ll be right back!”

He darted out of the room. A little while later he returned with a satisfied grin on his face. He said, “I took care of it mom. I wrote Kaden a note to say I’m sorry and I gave him my gun.”

It was perfect… one of those rare heartwarming moments when you feel like a successful parent. I could almost hear the "Hallmark" music in the background...

“I’m so proud of you Caleb… what did he say?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean? Didn’t he say anything?”

“No, because I put it down in front of his door, then I knocked, and ran.”

I tried to conceal my laughter. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but at least the principle was understood. I asked, “How do you feel?”


“How was your day?”


“Do you see how prayer works?”

Like my son, there have been many times in my life when I have blamed the Lord for a disappointing outcome, never realizing my responsibility in the process. Over the weekend, I e-mailed the mother of Cammie's little friend and addressed my concerns. This morning, I received the following response...

"What??? That is so not what was said and not what is in my heart or (my child's). (The teacher) and I had to talk strategy this past week about getting (my child) to focus in class. She’s a social butterfly and is enjoying talking with Cammie more than paying attention in math, and it’s reflecting in her math grade. We decided it would be best to move her to keep her from talking, but this has nothing to do with Cammie. You have to know that both my husband and I are very open minded and open hearted to people, and passing judgement on you or your family is not in our hearts or minds to do. We welcome you and Cammie with open arms and hope that you will find that we will always do what is in our power to protect Cammie’s integrity as well as yours.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding. I truly apologize for any distress this may have caused Cammie or your family. It truly is the farthest from my heart to do. I hope you will return my call and we can have an opportunity to introduce ourselves."

I've had to ask myself, "who was judging whom?" Because of the challenges that we have faced, and the negativity that we have encountered from a few people; we jumped to some Hasty conclusions. I have come to realize that we have to do more than just pray for understanding... we have to give others the opportunity to understand. We have a responsibility to do our part.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God.

It's always easy to give thanks in retrospect... after blessings are realized. I am thankful for what I learned through our experience this weekend. I have been humbled by my own lack of faith. I have come to realize that communicating with the Lord is the easiest and most frequently practiced part of prayer, but the answers we seek come - in large part - from the actions we take. One of these days... I'll get it right. Until then, I'll keep trying...

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Parable of the Roller Skates...

I arrived home from work a few nights ago and went about my evening routine, asking the children about their day. Cammie said that her day had gone well. She was lacking her typical enthusiasm, but I didn't think much of it at first. Before long, I noticed that she had gone to her room. I walked down the hall to check on her. I could see her in bed, covers pulled up to her neck, with the bedroom light off. It was only six in the evening - I knew something was wrong, the scenario was familiar... I knew she had "dropped the box". I made my way into her bedroom, told her to scoot over, climbed under the covers, and snuggled up beside her...

"What's wrong?"

That was all it took. The tears began to stream down her face, followed by sobs. She did her best to escape into the comforter, burrowing deep into the bedding as if she were trying to disappear... disolve into anything... the air, the room, the darkness. She spoke in tearful, muffled tones through the coccoon of blankets that enshrouded her, "I feel like a germ." The words cut straight to my heart. I felt my spirits sink as I "collapsed on the box" beside her... "What happened?"

Doing her best to settle down, through broken sobs she tried to explain, "My best friend told me that she can't sit by me anymore at school. Her mom called the teacher and had her moved to another table because..." Her voice trailed off, once again enveloped by sadness. She didn't need to finish the sentence... I knew.

I can't find the words to express what's in my heart. I can't even begin to convey the pain that I feel when she faces these bitter challenges. Why can't people just see her? Why can't they just see? Why?

The other night I read the following scripture...

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God.



Give thanks in ALL things? He must've been kidding, right? Maybe he simply wasn't talking to me. There are days when I sit and ponder the expectations. There are days when I sit and wonder... "How in the hell am I supposed to give thanks in this?" Why me? Why my child? Why???

years ago, I had an experience that I affectionately refer to as “the parable of the roller skates”. When I was six years old, I got my first pair of roller skates for Christmas. My family was living in Utah at the time and there was about three feet of snow on the ground so I resigned myself to “trying them out” inside. They were fairly rudimentary in comparison to the high tech roller blades that kids dash around on today; nothing more than a royal blue pair of Converse sneakers bolted to a metal base with bright red rubber wheels. I can remember lacing them up, and enthusiastically scrambling around the linoleum floor in the kitchen as I struggled to “get the hang of it”. Weeks passed, the snow melted to welcome spring, and the kitchen floor became increasingly small as my ambition for bigger and better territory advanced with my skill level. It was decided, I had graduated to the street out front with the conviction to explore my capabilities on the open road.

The day had come; I woke that morning to the high pitched shrill of the wind as it whistled through the cracks of the windowsill. Mom and dad were getting ready for work and I could hear my father on his way out the door, giving Shaun and Corey specific instructions not to go outside. From the sound of his voice, I could tell he meant business. He reported wind gusts of up to one hundred miles per hour and said that severe weather warnings had been issued. Disappointed at first, I tossed my skates to the side and resigned myself to another day of kitchen confinement. I peered out the window, and a bush caught my eye as it effortlessly bounded down the street (roots in tact).

Suddenly, a brilliant idea came to mind. What was I thinking? This was the perfect day to skate. All the components were present for an ideal skating experience; wind, open road, and wheels! I could just lace up, kick back, and (much like the bush before me) effortlessly make my way down the street.

Bound and determined by this “once in a lifetime” opportunity, I snatched up my skates and made my way to the living room. I was diligently threading the loops when I noticed another set of feet toe to toe with mine. My eyes reluctantly climbed their way to the look of disapproval on my mother’s face. After questioning my sanity, she informed me in no uncertain terms that I would not be allowed to skate outside and attempted to explain the potential repercussions. Dad had already gone and when mom had finished her “lecture”, she left for work. Shortly thereafter, the phone rang and Shaun answered it. Apparently the neighbor’s shed had blown over and was making its way down the street. A friend had called to share the exciting news and like most obedient boys do, they set out to estimate the damages.

Well, I’m no fool... when the wind of opportunity blows, I’m going skating, which is exactly what I did. I quickly laced up, made my way to the front door, turned the handle, and gave it a little push. The wind caught the door and it flew open, nearly coming off the hinges as it slammed against the frame of the house. I struggled to force it closed (which was no easy task on roller skates) and somehow wound up in a disheveled little pile of pigtails on the ground in front of the house. It was apparent that I would not be able to skate to the middle of the road. Oh no, the wind was much too powerful for that... I was going to have to crawl my way there. I struggled against the wind on my hands and knees, dragging my heavy skate-laden feet behind me. Finally, I had reached the center of the street, and with the runway before me, I fought to my feet.

With arms outstretched and legs spread, I created as much body surface area as possible for the wind to “work with”. In the beginning everything went perfectly according to plan. I felt the force of the wind against my back and began to roll without any effort on my part. A satisfactory little smile attacked my face and I giggled as I picked up speed. “I am brilliant”, I thought. Faster and faster, I rolled, until my smile dissipated with horror and panic when I realized that I was still gaining momentum and moving much too fast to attempt a “crash landing”. I was flying by houses, left and right, and could hardly make out the faces of my neighbors as they clung to their windows in wide-eyed disbelief.

What was I going to do? I knew that if I didn’t “take the fall”, I’d continue to pick up speed and eventually crash anyway. I quickly made the determination that if you’re going to be stupid; you’ve got to be tough so with some assistance from a pesky pebble or two, I dove into the pavement. I skidded a few feet on my knees, then my stomach, and the velocity of the landing seemed to carry my feet up over my head in a terrific Olympic-style somersault. Evil Kinevil had nothing on this kid! The wind continued to blow and with it, I continued to roll down the street. I struggled to turn around and with my face to the wind, once again, fought to my feet and attempted to skate back to the house. The blinding force of the storm made it difficult to see but I managed to force my eyes open long enough to notice something quite peculiar. The houses that lined the street were passing the wrong way in front of me... NOT good... Despite my valiant effort, I was rolling backward and gaining speed. Suddenly, my butt made explosive contact with the pavement in a tumble that would have won the gold in the Olympics for idiots.

What was I going to do now? I kicked off my skates and, clawing at the ground ahead of me, attempted to crawl home. The storm was much too powerful and I felt like a rag-doll in a clothes dryer as I repeatedly tumbled backward in the wind. I had never been so homesick in such a short period of time. I could see the house, it was so close but it felt absolutely unattainable. I was in pain. My heart sank. I sobbed as I struggled to fight my way home. I was alone, hurting, and the storm raging against me was merciless. My knees were shredded. I was about to abandon all hope when an elderly neighbor lady in a house close by invited me in to wait out the storm and called my mother, who rushed home to nurse my wounds.

As I look at my knees today, multiple scars remind me of a time in my life when a valuable lesson was learned. I can’t help but draw an analogy between that physical experience and the spiritual experiences in my life. There are times when all of us encounter overwhelming storms as we struggle to move through mortality. It isn’t long before we collapse and discover that our individual capabilities aren’t enough to take us home. There are times when the desire to find refuge in the love of our Father seems absolutely unattainable as the influence of adversity mercilessly rages against us. It is at these times of great turmoil and distress that we become acquanted with God. These are the moments that demand faith. These are the experiences that humble us before Him. During our weakest moments... he lends his strength. He calms the storm, heals our pain, and "carries us home".

Sometimes it's difficult to have faith... to "give thanks in all things". I have often wondered if it will ever get easier? I have come to realize that it probably will not... but by faith, we can be strengthened through God's grace. Each one of us has been blessed with a spiritual scar or two. I pray that Cammie will learn to love her "scars". I pray that each “scar” will refine her relationship with Christ and cultivate her spirit for His eternal purpose. I pray that she will learn to love the storm... and "In everything give thanks".

I pray when the storms of life rage against her and the situation seems hopeless, she will know that the Lord is there to kneel beside her, wipe the tears from her eyes, and bandage her wounds...

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, either sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

“He healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds”
(Psalms 147:3).

I pray that Cammie will be able to face these challenges in her life with gratitude... that she may grow in a way that she can wear her scars with honor.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Realities and expectations...

My father drove an old beat-up truck that he affectionately referred to as Ol’ Red Eye. I never quite understood his attachment to, what appeared to be nothing more than a rickety heap of nuts and bolts; faded red with chipped paint, cracked glass, and an old torn up seat. However, some of the best childhood memories I have are of the tender moments I spent anxiously waiting by the window for that old battered truck to announce dad’s arrival as it bounced its way down the weathered driveway.

I can recall the countless hours dad spent over the years, meticulously washing that old truck. I scarcely saw the point, considering it never looked any better when he had finished than when he began. In fact, the dirt helped cover up some of the “ugly”. Dad, however, with all of his wisdom saw something I did not...

Every year it was that old truck that escorted our family into the Rocky Mountains of Montana to find a Christmas tree and, ironically, it was Christmas when dad finally revealed the mystery behind his adoration for the old truck. He shared the story of the night Ol’ Red Eye went “Truckin’ With Santa”. As I recall, the story went something like this…

Once upon a time, many years ago…

Old Red Eye sat for sale on a used car lot. His paint, once a brilliant red, had been bleached and faded in the sun. His smooth sleek frame had been chipped and dented from years of hard work and his windshield, once crystal clear, was now enveloped by random cracks.

Day in and day out, Red Eye sat on the lot with an advertisement scribbled across his windshield that read, $1,000. The old truck watched through cracked headlights as newer, more modern cars and trucks were bought and sold from the lot. Months past, winter turned into spring and the lot owner, sick of seeing the old truck, erased a zero from the price on the glass… $100.

Summer welcomed quite a crowd of customers but none of them were interested in Red Eye. In fact, few of them even noticed the little truck. The days rolled by, summer turned into fall, and Red Eye remained. Anxious to make a sale, the lot owner erased another zero from the advertised price on the windshield. Surely, someone would buy the old truck for a mere $10… but nobody did.

The leaves fell to the ground, the days grew colder, and the arrival of winter was welcomed by snowfall. Red Eye began to feel very bad. There he sat, unnoticed and unwanted for a scrappy $10 while other, nicer looking cars and trucks found new homes for Christmas. Disgusted, the lot owner wiped the $10 price from the glass and wrote in bold letters…


Embarrassed and humiliated, Red Eye remained on the lot for free while other cars and trucks sold for thousands of dollars. He reminisced about a time in his life when he, too, was valued by others. Heartbroken and disappointed, Red Eye longed for those days. Time passed and before long he was moved to a new spot near the back of the lot next to an old dumpster. Things seemed hopeless to Red Eye until one day in December…

A group of carolers strolled by on the street and the little truck grew excited. He realized it was Christmas Eve! He couldn’t help but remember all the times he had brought home Christmas trees and hauled carolers around town, spreading the Christmas spirit in celebration of the season. Red Eye gazed at the warm glow of the Christmas lights across the street and sweet memories of past holidays filled his cab as he drifted off to sleep.

Suddenly, there was a screech and a clatter! Red Eye, startled awake by the commotion, lit his headlights to the most unbelievable sight! There, heaped in the dumpster, were twelve reindeer and buried in the side was a severely damaged sleigh. Several wrapped presents, balls, dolls, and other toys were scattered about in the snow.

It couldn’t be! Red Eye attempted to focus through the frost on his headlights. It was! Santa had missed the roof of a nearby house and crashed, right into the dumpster at his side! The little truck watched in amazement as four elves and Santa Claus, himself, climbed from the wreckage. Red Eye observed Santa and his crew as they stared in awe, shocked by the demolished remains of the sleigh.

“Well, thank goodness for airbags!” said one of the elves.

“Seatbelts too!” said another.

“At least it’s already in the trash!” said a third in jest… but nobody laughed.

Santa stood nearby, stroking his beard in thought. It was apparent that the sleigh would not be operational. Realizing the severity of the situation, everyone stood somberly, searching for a solution. Suddenly, one of the elves noticed Red Eye and read aloud the words carelessly scribbled across his windshield, “IF YOU WANT THIS TRUCK… TAKE IT!!!”

All the attention shifted to Red Eye and the solution seemed obvious. “We want him! Right Santa?” queried one of the elves.

“Indeed we do!” replied Santa.

Red Eye straightened himself up the best he could and shook the snow from his cab. The elves hurried about, gathering the scattered presents, and the little truck smiled with pride as they were loaded in his bed. The elves hooked up the reindeer and, at last, they were ready for take-off. Finally, Santa and his crew piled into the cab and away they went!

The little truck, once again, experienced the joy of the holidays as he worked through the night, making deliveries to boys and girls around the world. Tears of joy drained from his headlights and turned to icicles in the cold. At last, Red Eye was happy.

So, legend has it… he saved Christmas for thousands of children and Santa saved Red Eye by giving him to dad, a man with a passion for old trucks. And together… they lived happily ever after.

As I reflect on my childhood and the story my father told about that old truck, the “moral” is evident. I thank God for blessing my life with a father who thought to utilize a unique opportunity to teach such a profound Christ-like principle. All parents teach their children how to walk, talk, and tie their shoes. Words cannot express how grateful I am that I was blessed with a father who taught me how to see... Red Eye was a Dodge classic. When dad looked at the old battered truck, he saw the possibilities.

Looking back now, I realize that there have been many times throughout my life when my father viewed me, much as he did Ol’ Red Eye. He valued me, not for what I was at the moment, but for what he knew I had the potential to become. He never focused on my “chips, cracks, or dents”. He willingly overlooked all of the faults, shortcomings, mistakes, and weaknesses that seemed so evident, and encouraged me to cultivate the passion, strength, God-given talents and unique abilities within. He taught me to embrace my divine nature.

I have often wondered how I could fail to "see" Cammie for ten years. Why - when I looked at her - did I only see the cracks in the glass, random dents, faded and chipped paint? Why did I focus on her "flaws" for so long? For ten years, what I saw was based exclusively on what I expected to see... There was something terribly wrong with her. She wasn't like the rest of my boys. She was weird, she didn't behave according to my expectations, she wasn't a "normal" boy... she wasn't a boy at all. How could I have failed to see it? How could I have possibly missed the "moonwalking bear"? How could I have failed to see something that was so obvious from the very beginning?

I am finally starting to understand the answer that I received as I humbled myself in prayer during the "awakening" of our journey. The answer was simple but profound; the impression was clear... "Love this child, even as I have loved you."

The Lord recognizes the potential in each of us. Since we all have imperfections... and each of us will require perfect redemption, he has agreed to assist in our "restoration"... he has promised to make us whole through his unconditional love, grace, and the gift of the atonement. As we come to know and accept Him as our redeemer, our complete restoration will begin to take place.

Psalm 18: 1 – 3

1. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.
2. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
3. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

I have come to realize, what we see is often limited by what we are looking for. This is exemplified in my personal life by failing to recognize the beauty of Ol' Red Eye, and demonstrated through an inability to notice the moonwalking bear...

Sometimes our expectations can distract us from the truth. Cammie has always been there... the same child that she is today. However, one fundamental thing HAS changed, I am finally aware that she exists. I have finally learned to appreciate her for WHO she is... and this has made all the difference. "Love this child, even as I have loved you". Quite simply...

"Look with your eyes... SEE with your HEART."

A little older, and a little more beautiful... Dad and Red Eye, August 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Be Not Afraid...

I am sitting here tonight with a burdened heart and the delicate quandary of how to face my fears. How do I change a world that doesn't understand an issue as complex as those presented by Cammie's circumstance? How do I guide others to the knowledge that evaded, even me, for ten years? Sometimes the "yoke" feels heavy and I wonder where I will find the strength to take another step.... then I realize that the load is only heavy when I insist on carrying it alone.

Matthew 11:28 "Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest".

Why is it difficult to share the "load"? Why is it... when faced with a crisis, my faith suddenly becomes evasive?

Recently, while engaged in a discussion session with other parents of transgendered youth... a distraught mother shared an experience that deeply troubled my heart. She had received anonymous threats from an individual/individuals in her community who vowed to harm her child. Her devastation was palpable and since reading the post, my anguish has paralleled her grief... Suddenly, fear "barged through the front door" and faith quietly "slipped out the back".

I believe in the good of humanity. My dad always says that it's important to function under the auspice that people are honest, decent, and reasonable - until they prove otherwise... Sometimes, however, considering the "otherwise" is unbearable. I felt horrified as I read her words, her devastation, and her pain. Why would anybody want to hurt an innocent child?

Fear is one of the most powerful forces affecting humanity.... both a survival mechanism and an instrument of evil. It divides and unites, mobilises and paralyses. Fear can manifest as a rational response to danger, or stir hate in the presence of the unknown. In this unfortunate woman's circumstance, she was victimized by a perverse fear of the "unknown".

How do I handle my own fears? Do I mobilize or paralize? Should I press on or give in to adversity? Should I hide in fear, allowing the "unknown" to divide... or provide answers with the intent to unify? Should I tuck Cameron away and shield her from ignorance and hate, or open the "doors" of understanding to those who have sincere questions? These are the issues that every parent of a gender variant child must face.

There are many people who have no knowledge about the issues that challenge my child. Many of them have children and can relate to the unconditional love that a parent feels for their child and the heartache associated with helplessness. Many of these people have legitimate concerns. If I do not provide the answers... who will? Recently, I received the following blog post:

Lyn in AL has left a new comment on your post "In the Eyes of the Beholder...":

I am sympathetic to all that Cameron will have to endure. I am however concerned about the deception of Cameron's classmates. Do they believe he is biologically a girl? What happens when one of the boys decides he wants to have Cameron as his girlfriend. I understand that your child needs to be protected but so do the others in the school. It could scar a child who liked Cammie thinking he was a girl only to find out that Cameron is a boy. That to me is unfair to the other children.

The antithesis of "fear of the unknown" is knowledge... I appreciate Lyn for taking the time to address her concerns. We have not been stealth about this issue. The reason that Lyn is aware of this blog, and others who have visited us here, is because we are not afraid to discuss Cammie's condition. We have not approached this issue with the intent to deceive. I would encourage anyone with similar questions or concerns to read the blog posts here, to visit the face page of this blog, and to e-mail me. I am happy to directly discuss any issues or concerns that families and parents might have. This blog, however, is not a place for heated discussions or attacks on anybodies views or character. I appreciate Lyn for taking the time to come here, to voice her concerns, and give me the opportunity to address them.

Cammie went to the same school last year dressed as a boy. Many children have had questions. These questions have provided a valuable opportunity for education. The school faculty and counsellors are well educated, with a clear understanding of these issues. They are available to provide education to the students as needs arise.

There is no shame in a medical condition and we are not ashamed to discuss Cammie's condition. Growing up, I never saw another child's penis or vagina... neither did I have any interest in doing so. Cammie is ten and fears pertaining to this issue are unnecessary. Cammie uses a gender neutral, private bathroom at school. Beyond that... her genitals are private and she has a right to that privacy.

Issues pertaining to complete disclosure will become more prevalent as Cammie approaches dating age. Cammie and I have discussed this issue in detail. It's an issue that creates a great deal of heartache for both of us. She understands that it will be necessary to be open about her medical circumstance. She understands that dating will introduce some extremely difficult challenges for her. I have explained that many young men may turn their tail and "run for the hills", but I believe that God has a plan for every child. I continually reassure Cammie that he has a plan for her life as well. I am teaching her to have faith in that plan. She may have to go "stag" to her high school prom... she may never get her chance to "dance".

I believe the Lord will "pave" the path that lies ahead. I believe he will continue to guide us in our journey. I have assured Cammie that her Heavenly Father knows her well, He loves her very much, and He is aware of her needs. I believe that one day there will be "one" who will not be afraid... he will be the right young man for her because he will have the character, and strength of spirit, to look beyond her physical challenges to love her for WHO she is. He will give her the chance to "dance".

Just as people who have children with Diabetes, Chron's Disease, asthma, or food allergies must educate those around them... I feel that I have a responsibility to educate others as well. I would rather be given the opportunity to share the truth with those who have questions and concerns, than keep silent and allow people to feel deceived or dwindle in their fears and misconceptions. I am willing to discuss these issues with those who sincerely ask.

Lyn raises some legitimate concerns... they reflect my own concerns. My child's life could be at risk if she is not completely "up front" in prospective dating and/or relationship situations. At that time she will have to be extremely courageous in addressing and divulging her medical condition. We are teaching her to love and accept herself so that she will be able to walk through life with the strength and courage to help others understand "who" she is. It's my prayer that Cammie will discover her divine purpose, then fulfill those "callings" in her life with poise and dignity.

Cammie is a girl and her diagnoses is physiological and biological in nature. She is being treated medically. This is not a choice for her and it is not a sexual issue - it's a developmental issue. Identity is not a sin... and it is not a disorder. However, the reality is that transgender conditions have been - and often continue to be - sexualized by society.

Cammie has a right to privacy... a right to have a normal childhood. She has the right to make friends without being required to say, "Hello, my name is Cammie - I was born with a penis". There is a time and a place for these delicate issues to be addressed... by those with the maturity and knowledge to responsibly do so.

We don't expect our diabetic children to walk around the school with a sign on their back that says... "I AM DIABETIC". However, when birthday cupcakes show up in a classroom and the child can't have one... questions abound... These situations present invaluable opportunities for education, for growth, and for learning. We have had many opportunities to teach those around us, to share our testimony of this experience, and to convey the truth. We have been blessed with the courage, strength, and wisdom to meet these challenges.

Cammie wears girls clothes because they reflect her gender identity, not as a means of manipulation or deceit. Cammie knows who she is and we are allowing her to be herself. My goal is to teach her not to be ashamed of her identity OR her physiological challenges. We are proud of our child... ALL OF HER. When she doesn't feel judged or threatened, she - too - courageously opens up about her experience... she freely discusses her challenges with those who sincerely ask.

Our family focus is on education. We have had multiple conversations with neighbors, friends, family members, co-workers, and school administrators... as well as Cammie's playmates and their parents. We have approached this situation with a desire to dispel the "FEAR" of the unknown, with the hope of making the world a better place for her, and other children like her. I know that there will be many bumps along the way, but we take one day at a time... despite the difficulties introduced by Cammie's circumstance... we have been greatly blessed.

Cammie is a normal girl. She has sleep overs and she sleeps over at other children's houses. Her friends play at our home and she plays at theirs. We have received a great deal of love and support - more than I imagined possible. Those individuals (both children and adults) who play a fundamental role in Cammie's life have been receptive to learning... they have opened their hearts with a willingness to overcome the "fear of the unknown"... fears that - I too - shared at one point in my life. My husband put it best, "Courage is not defined by a lack of fear... rather, it's the ability to act in spite of it." It takes courage for parents, educators, neighbors, family members, and friends to open their hearts to understanding these delicate issues. It has taken courage, built on a foundation of faith, to open up about our experience. We hope that our comfort in discussing these matters will open the door to compassion and understanding for our child, and make the world a better place for others.

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In the Eyes of the Beholder...

The kids are off to school and I should be getting ready for work. This weekend has left me physically and emotionally drained... exhausted. There are days when I feel like I can't keep up... days when it seems I'm chasing a runaway train. On Saturday, the children's biological father picked them up to take them to their grandmother's house for the weekend. He shares a house with several roommates so when he spends any significant time with them, it's typically at his mother's place. She is not sympathetic to Cammie's plight, so when the children go to her house, Cammie stays home. It seems the woman would rather bury her head in the sand and pretend that she only has three grandchildren, than grow in understanding.

My heart breaks for Cammie. I can't imagine what it must feel like to be a child with the challenges that she faces each day. The boys typically come back from their grandmother's house with toys, clothes, and trinkets... gloating about "good times had by all"... so I find myself trying to compete... trying to give Cammie some palatable sweet memories that will wash away the bitterness and pain of isolation and rejection. What's most difficult, is that I desperately need some "me" time... time to myself that's not dominated by work demands, parenthood, transgender issues, or household responsibilities. I used to look forward to those rare occasions when the "X" would take the children so that I could have a moment of respite... time for introspection, rejuvination, and recovery. Embracing Cammie's gender identity has brought peace to her heart and mine... while simultaneously robbing me of some much needed simple pleasures.

This morning... I don't have the strength to do anything but sit alone with my thoughts... soaking up the silence of a deserted house like an aged sponge in the rain. At this very moment, a battle rages on inside my heart. I struggle to work through the helplessness that has become my constant companion. I have fought through frequent restless nights, accompanied by complete mental and physical exhaustion. There are days when I desperately wish the world were BLIND...

A few weeks ago while crossing the street in a crowd of people, I passed a blind man. As soon as we had reached the other side of the road, I heard a couple of ladies begin to discuss the tragedy of blindness. My thoughts were different. While their minds rushed to the devastating challenges presented by the absence of sight, I was thinking of all the amazing things this man could actually "see"... things that we often cannot, and for a moment... I envied him.

A blind man doesn't know if he's standing in the foyer of a mansion or on the floorboard of a rundown shack... all he "sees" is someone who cared enough to open the door...

A blind man doesn't know if he's riding in a Jaguar or a Pinto... all he "sees" is the generosity of the man who offered him a ride...

A blind man doesn't know if the person he's conversing with is transgender. He doesn't know if an individual is slender or obese, homely or attractive, gay or straight... all he "sees" is someone who took the time to speak.

This experience with my child has magnified the unfortunate truth... the realization that the eyes are the deceptors of the soul. Years ago, someone very special taught me this fundamental moral principle...

I had a beautiful experience while working as a home health nurse that refined my perspective of love, humanity, and something that I have internalized as the purpose of life. I was treating patients in North Birmingham. The census was down in my territory so I was cross-covering to meet productivity. Most of the nurses working for the agency refused assignments in the area because it was considered dangerous – heavily populated with inadequate economic resources. Unfortunately, where there’s poverty, there’s crime and where there’s crime, nurses are scarce – so when the census drops… guess where you land?

When I first began to cover the territory, I was paranoid! The best analogy would be the game, “which one of these things is not like the others” that they repeatedly played on Sesame Street when I was a kid. There I was, a naïve little white girl in a predominantly black neighborhood, wearing name brand clothes and driving an SUV. As I continued to work my new territory, I grew to love my assignments. Each patient that I had the opportunity to treat enriched my nursing experience and reminded me of the Savior’s love for all of us. The people in those communities lived humble lives and were desperately in need of medical treatment and education. The continuous expression of gratitude was overwhelming. They didn’t have much to share but were eager to share all they had. They would willingly open their homes and their hearts when they saw me coming and it wasn’t long before I realized the privileged opportunity in each assignment.

My favorite patient, and the one who always stands out in my mind, is Otis… I call him Odie. I don’t know why, but he changed my life. Otis is in his eighties. He’s a black man who was left paralyzed by a stroke. He can’t walk and has difficulty transferring so he sits in the same chair day in and day out watching Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Court TV, etc – you know… the visual garbage. He lives alone in a rundown little house with bare white walls and filthy tile flooring and his television sits on an egg crate by the window. He has an old couch and a “new” recliner that his family bought for him a couple of years ago (he’s so proud of it that he refuses to remove the tags, so they still hang from the side – in better condition than the chair itself). He has a couple of faded tattoos that seem to illustrate his adventurous spirit and a lazy eye that wanders the room during conversation. He keeps a urinal and a bucket by the chair that he uses during the day. He sits there every day, wearing nothing but boxer shorts, and smokes his cigarettes.

He and I had the funniest banter. He had a necrotic wound on his foot that I was treating that resulted from peripheral vascular disease and a consequential amputation so I’d hide his cigarettes and fuss at him about keeping his feet elevated. He’d spat right back about how I needed to learn to mind my own business. I’d insist that, as his nurse, it was my business. He’d holler at me about closing the door and I’d gripe about the crap he watched on TV. He was quick to point out when I was late and fuss if I didn’t stay long enough and I’d remind him that I had other patients. On one visit when I was about to leave, he said, “No wonder why that man of yours left!”

I finished his statement, “because he’s a fool… and I left him, remember?”

He argued, “No, I believe he must’ve left you – because you’re bossy… bossy!” Then he hollered at me to bring him a Pepsi from the fridge and I jumped at the opportunity to spin it around…

“Now who’s being bossy? I’m not your maid!”

Suddenly, he was quiet and in that moment everything seemed to change… the mood in the room took a marvelous shift from playful to sincere and he replied, “No… You’re my friend.” He was right… I gladly fetched the drink.

I have a great deal of love and respect for Otis. He’s genuine and sincere with a pure heart. I learned something profound that afternoon when I went to see a patient in Mountain Brook. From rags to riches, I made my way through the projects of North Birmingham to the neighborhood on the other side of the city that seemed a world away from where I had just been, where the houses that line the streets look like castles in comparison. I couldn’t help but reflect on the experiences of my day. I thought about the judgments of society and wondered how many people would take the time to get to know Otis if they met him on the street. Would I have taken the time? I thought about how much we miss in life when we forfeit the opportunity to seek out the worth of others.

I wonder what the Savior "sees" when he looks on us? How will he judge? What impresses him the most? I can't help but think… what if the world were blind? What if success in society was determined by the content of one’s heart, rather than one’s checking account? The world would be a very different place… Instead of aspiring for bigger and better “things”, people would have an aspiration to be just like Otis. It brings me peace at times like this to put life in perspective. It helps when I'm feeling overwhelmed by the challenges in my life to be able to reflect on my experience with Odie and remember what it’s all about. Otis has told me that I am a blessing in his life and, of course, I had to argue... “It’s the other way around”... Otis taught me how to sincerely "see". We are blessed with opportunities to "see" every day... the tough part is recognizing them.