While growing up, I never talked much about getting married or having kids. Occasionally, I would talk about what it would be like having kids but I NEVER pictured my life with a spouse or children. I never had a plan or idea of what my wedding would be like because I never thought I would get married. Ever. I pretended so I could fit in but in my mind's eye, nothing seemed to add up the way it added up for all of my friends.Read More
I wanted so badly to “teach him a lesson”. To let him know what he’d done…that he walk away from this place knowing how rude and awful he was. And then I looked back at my daughter. This was her time. She had a brief glimpse of what it’s like to help someone in need. She didn’t need to know the ugly side of it.Read More
We all want to be strong. Right? Am I right for thinking this way? It seems that we all have a desire to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually strong. Most of us anyway. For me, it has always been important to "have a good head on my shoulders". I have modeled my life around being as diplomatic to situations as I can possibly be...sharing multiple points of views and relating to many sides of the story. I grew up this way. I was the first born child in my household and had a very strongly opinionated and hard working mother. It became necessary to understand that there were more sides than just 2 to any given story at any given time. I had to take on the task of being "momma" while Momma was at work and also act as liaison and advocate for my siblings once Momma came home because ultimately she was the final authority in all things.
Momma taught us that we were leaders. Momma taught us that we were strong.
What happens when it all backfires?
I've shared before that we were exceptionally poor. Growing up in a house that had only one room...just a box that we played in, slept in, and ate in. No electricity or running water. I know that all we wanted was to escape. For a couple of my siblings, their escape was writing. For me, my escape was physical and the moment that I met someone who told me I could do it...I did it. I left.
I was ushered into a life of travel and I LOVED it. I also loved the idea of helping people. I had already "roughed it" most of my life so to travel to 3rd world countries to help build sewer systems or water towers to help others seemed like a dream. I was introduced to an organization that honed in on my eagerness to lead and my desire for traveling. At this point, I knew what it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. What I didn't know was the power that had tapped into me.
It was January of 1993. I had been groomed to attend what was called a Discipleship Training School. To most Christians, the title of the school seems harmless enough and looking back on most of my training, it was really an amazing school. We learned about diplomacy, public speaking, travel, working and living communally. We learned about humility and patience...it was a very hippy-esque school but I liked it and this lifestyle liked me too.
Here's the rub. See, in all of this, we were getting ingrained to learn a school of thought about chain of command. I had already gotten a good grasp of this while living at home but here at the school, I was one of the younger and newest recruits. I had MANY people to answer to and many voices to obey.
It's so weird to type this out. My memories of this time in my life carry a desperation and it's hard to know that I was so easily paralyzed.
We lived a very strict life. We couldn't do much without the consent of our leaders. We couldn't go home to visit family, we couldn't choose the jobs we wanted, we couldn't date, we really couldn't do much of anything...unless we had the approval of our leadership. To this day, it's still hard for me to see that this WASN'T ok.
I was considered one of the "rebellious" ones. Not so much because I rebelled but because I followed questionable orders with a grimace on my face. Trust me, I get protocol. I get the need for a chain of command. However, I didn't understand why I needed to be told what to wear, how to wear my hair, who I could date, what I could do with my leisure time, who I could and couldn't be friends with, when or if I could leave the base to visit my family...and on and on and on.
We weren't a military base. We were a Christian organization of missionaries and our leadership had overstepped it's boundaries from leading to controlling and I had been brainwashed.
I had been brainwashed. I had been brainwashed. I had been brainwashed.
Here's the deal. Before I left for missionary school, I had been treated for homosexuality. That's right, I was gay and had been put through a gay to straight program. I was told that in order to fulfill my "life calling" I could never act on my homosexual tendencies and in order to learn to be straight, I had to listen to and do everything I was told or I WOULD FAIL. I would fail at life, fail my family, fail my God, fail at being a leader, fail at being strong. So... I did what I was told. I obeyed.
After living in this cult type atmosphere I started to test the waters. I had climbed the ranks in the organization, so to speak, and decided to act on an attraction I had towards another girl in the organization. After a few weeks, our relationship was exposed to the leadership and after 2 years of blindly following their every dictation, including a humiliating "outing" to the entire organization, we were sent home packing.
Have you ever witnessed someone experiencing drug withdrawals or someone grieving? Writhing in pain, unable to think, unable to breathe, unable to sleep, unable to bear being alive. This is what it was like for me. Everything that I had built my life around and for was taken away. And it was easy for them to do so. I thought at this moment that I had forever ended the life I was meant to live. I was back to square one.
The very thing that I had strived to leave behind...the very thing I had desired to escape became me, once again. I was an outcast.
And still I longed for the escape. I longed to travel and to help people and I longed for the only way that I had learned to do so.
After being relieved of my position, I agreed to complete another gay to straight program in fear that I would never fulfill the purpose God had for my life. And really, when you're in that situation, your only thought is do what you're told or give up living all together.
So...I did it again. I obeyed.
It's been over 20 years since that journey began. And since then, I have battled the resentment, the failures, the damage, the brokeness. Sadly, it wasn't until today that I realized how much of my life has been affected by what happened during that time in my life. I still struggle with confidence and standing up for myself. How do I recover when the desire to be strong backfires? How do you trust yourself to have the ability to make good decisions? How do you trust yourself to trust the right people?
I have recently stepped back into my career of public speaking. It has been nearly 10 years since I stood in front of a crowd and shared my heart. I was all but banished from the arena of public speaking in the way that I have always known it. But today, I refuse to count myself out. I refuse to give up my dreams. I refuse to be told that I am broken. I refuse to believe that I have nothing to offer. My story may not line up with yours. You may not give two cents about anyone who is gay or their journey. You may have never been so low in your life that you allowed someone from the outside to paralyze you. I don't know. But what I do know is that there is someone out there who needs to hear that someone else knows what they are going through.
I will be your someone else.
I have decided that I will be vulnerable by my own volition. I will share my heart again and I will help people again.
I speak on these very topics of Shame, Guilt, Vulnerability, Poverty, and Overcoming Gay Reparative Therapy. If you have an event that would benefit from these talks or an event that would welcome these discussions, please contact me at Angel Adams Media Services. And please share this with others...My heart is that no one be paralyzed by someone else's doing. We are supposed to be free. We are supposed to be different. We are supposed to be strong.
Be strong, my friends.
Here it is...the announcement of the day. Hold on to your butts...it's a doozey.
I'm not perfect.
There it is...in all its glory. Announcement #2? I don't know how to spell "doozey" but...well...hopefully, you get what I'm trying to say.
I have been reminded everyday how blessed I am despite my awkward existence. Last week I was reading posts about one of my unwitting music mentors, Amy Grant, releasing a new album next month ("How Mercy Looks From Here" will be available May 14). This of course, reminded me about the time my sweet friend, Eric worked diligently with my friend Lionel to arrange a meeting with Amy. A meeting that was so surreal and meaningful to me that even today, I can not be reminded of it without having to wipe a "happy" tear from my eye. I am so grateful for the thought and work it took to make that moment happen. I thought about Amy and her music. Her strength...that pulled me out of dark and sad times during my childhood. I know that I've said this before but to see a woman so young writing and commanding a stage...it changed my life. It changed my direction.
I will be ever in debt to my friend Angela Calhoun for introducing me to "Angels Watching Over Me" and the Straight Ahead album. :)
This led me on a two week course of gratefulness and reflection. Something that I have spent hours a day on as of late. The more I got to thinking about how blessed I am, the more faces I could see. People who have impacted me in such great ways. People who pushed me to be better and raised the bar of compassion, intellect, thoughtfulness, and encouragement, the list is infinite.
From arranging lifetime meetings, buying cribs, car seats and stollers, replacing stolen Christmas money so I could buy my daughter's first Christmas gifts, hugs and laughs, unexpected letters of encouragement, kicks in the ass that I really need, a surprise coffee, smiles galore at just the right time, a look in the eye that says, "you can do it", a job, Facebook messages that say, "you're better than that.", teachers who make leaving my daughter every day just a little bit easier, French lessons just because, to cleaning my backyard because it looks like a ghetto zoo exhibit <<<yes, that's true, and did I mention laughs? Your random and not so random acts of kindness and genuine love for me and my family have built a better human being. Not quite a bionic Jaime Sommers but SUPER close.
And do you know what I love about these people? If any of them were to read this, they would ask themselves how they got on this list. These are the humans that act out of goodness. They show selflessness and without a thought of what anyone else may think, they just do because they can.
Vicki Peters, Steve and Lori Nance, Michelle Davis, Eric Himan and Ryan Nichols, Erika Hardin and Natalee Pendergraft, Julie Nikel, Lionel Vargas, Stephanie and Joe Christiansen, Cheryl Lawson, Michael and Catherine Ray, Barb Hauxwell, Joel and Kelly Russell, Stacy Acord, CC Lawhon, Kristi Perryman, Virginie Gill Dejour, Staci Walkup, Michael Shoopman, Travis Jackson, Howard Stump, Jessica Butchko, Billy Sauerland, Steven Nix, Kimi Hann and Chris Lieberman, Miranda and Phil Kaiser, Missy Wilson, Chrystal Kelly, Betsy Chase, Courtney and Casey Nichols, Michael and Amanda Mitchell, Janice Sawatsky Sahr, John and Jane Ray, Rebecca Smith, Deke Coop, Stephanie Schrepel, Caleb Taylor, and Jennifer Jako.
To my Hall of Fame: You have been rocks to lean on and hands to pull me up. You have been a crutch, a counselor, a clock, a mirror, a party, an icepack, a rope, a map, a compass, a hope, and my teacher. I have been changed forever (for the good) for knowing you.
Thank you all for your compassion, kindness, and grace. You give me courage and I will never be able to adequately thank you...but it's a start.
n. A relative by marriage.
I was sharing a funny story today about the video below with a friend of mine and some of the details were about a drive from my house to my in-laws house...which is a pretty good distance.
Now, I know that when I say "in-law", we all get different pictures in our heads and we've all had quite a bit different experiences as well. There are jokes galore.