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Mondays with Moms

Here’s another beautiful story of the humility of a parent, willing to listen and learn from God, and from her daughter. 

I grew up in the church. My father was an elder. My husband is an elder. I know the scriptures. I don’t think I was foolish enough to think that would provide me protection from difficult times, but I was not prepared for some of the curveballs that life handed us.

I was doing laundry on a Tuesday night. I did a lot of laundry when the kids were all still at home. It was my usual practice to check the pockets of pants after the red ink pen incident the year before. When I pulled out the piece of paper from the pair of jeans, I had no idea that it would be so life changing for us.

I saw the note, my heart stopped, and I felt the panic set in. How could my daughter be writing those things to another girl? I wish I could tell you that we rose to the occasion and handled this delicate and sensitive situation with grace and love. I wish I could tell you that, but I can’t.

The next few months and years were a blur. There was hurt, anger, fear, over reaction, threats, hateful words. It is a period of my life that I am not proud of, and I can only imagine how hard it was for my daughter.

Those years were the loneliest times of my life. Who could I talk to about this? Who could I get advice from? What would happen if we told a friend? Would they still be our friend? My church family had always been my rock, but I somehow knew that I could not share this journey with them. We were so scared and were trying to make decisions for our daughter, who was in high school.

How do you make wise decisions when you are alone and scared to death?

We found a Christian counselor and started family counseling, hoping he would tell us what to do. Tell us how to fix our daughter. But that’s not what happened. Instead, he started us down the path to allow God to “fix” us. At that time, we were thinking of making some drastic decisions because we were so scared. I still remember the day that he told us

“Any decision made out of fear is not from God.”

What? Was he saying we had to be rational? I didn’t feel rational. I was terrified. But that day changed the way we began relating to and making decisions for our daughter. We still didn’t do things perfectly and we made sure we told her on a regular basis that she needed to change because this was going to affect her eternal salvation. The judgment we passed on her cost us our relationship with her.

After her high school graduation, my father passed away. She was at the funeral and then I didn’t see her or hear from her for a year. It was the hardest, darkest, saddest year of my life. I prayed every day for God to watch over her and work on her heart. And he did. But what he also did was work on our hearts.

I learned so much that year. First, I am not God. It is his job to pass judgment, not mine, because I’m not the one who gave up my son to take away the sins of the world.   Everyone in the world. He did that.

I learned that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God. The second commandment is not to monitor everyone’s behaviors, sins, motives…. The second is to love your neighbor (spouse, child, parent, friend, enemy) as yourself. I had never stopped loving my daughter, but I am pretty sure she couldn’t feel that love because of my words and actions. I hate to think how many other people God has put in my life that may feel the same way.

I learned that God is everlasting and unchanging. My daughter was a child of God and she is still a child of God. I don’t make God’s decisions for him.

I learned that I loved my daughter. I didn’t understand what was happening with her. I was grieving the loss of dreams I had for her. But I loved her deeply and missed her terribly.

One year after she left, my daughter contacted us and we began to talk. God then worked a miracle in our lives. Rather than tell her all the things she was doing wrong, I actually listened to her. I heard her heart. I heard the pain that this had caused in her life. I also came to the understanding that this was not a choice she made. This was who she was, and I loved her for who she was.

There have been lots of conversations since then. Our relationship has become closer than ever. I love everything about her. She is vivacious, smart, funny, full of joy, and she is gay. She has one of the kindest hearts you will ever find and she is immensely loyal. She is the most amazing daughter anyone could ever ask for.

My heart is happy these days. She loves God and he has blessed all of us more than we deserve. My daughter actually works for me now, so we get to spend every day together. We play Christian music on the radio in our office and I get to listen to her sing praises to God in her beautiful voice. She is a child of God.

Brenda & Jennifer Parrish 2017 (use first only)

The thing that still breaks my heart is that church does not feel like a safe place for her. While she ministers to so many people, she doesn’t feel safe to be part of the church family. Because she doesn’t feel safe there, her friends and her brothers don’t come there either. That makes me sad and I hope that can change in the future. I look at the people that Jesus ministered to all throughout scripture, and I let it remind me daily that I am called to love the people that he puts in my life. I see so many decisions and hear so many conversations in churches about this issue that are based on fear.

I remind myself daily that any decision made out of fear is not from God.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I am called to be Jesus in the lives of those around me, no matter what. No excuses. I have come to know others in the gay community, and I will be Jesus to them. I will love my daughter unconditionally. I have faith that God will do great things in and through her. I thank God daily for allowing me to be the Mom of such an incredible daughter.

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