My favorite number

I have a few different numbers I am partial to, but my absolute favorite is the number seven. It has a beautiful shape (especially when drawn with a slash through it like they do in European countries), and I like its significance in biblical texts.

I also like to add numbers in my head, and it gives me a dab of mental pleasure when they add up to seven. For example, if I’m driving on our local highway, I like to set the cruise so that my digital speedometer reads 61. It’s a little OCD, but who cares, right?

Anyway, you can imagine why I am excited about 2014. ;)

2014

It’s complicated

Several years ago, my mother’s brother married a black lady. His parents (my grandparents) were racist, so whenever the family would get together for Christmas or birthdays, she was never welcomed. My uncle attended these family functions for awhile, but eventually got fed up with the way his wife was being treated and stopped coming altogether.

I was just a young’un when this was happening, but I was already old enough to recognize that it was wrong to treat another person that way – especially when that person was so nice and loving themselves. Although my mother worshiped the ground my grandfather walked on, my memories of him are somewhat muddied by recollections of his bigotry and intolerance for anything different than himself.

As the years passed, my grandparents eventually seemed to figure out that if they wanted to spend quality time with their son, they would have to also invite their daughter-in-law, but years of painful rejection had already hardened her heart to the point that she had no interest in a relationship. It was only after the health of both of my grandparents had failed that she was able to truly become part of our family.

Although my grandfather passed away and the years have marched on, things can still get very uncomfortable in my family. While my uncle may have been the proverbial “black sheep” a few decades ago, the position has apparently fallen on my shoulders. Now, I’m the one who can’t bring his significant other to most family functions.

Since becoming an adult and having romantic relationships, Christmas has always been difficult, complicated, and painful. My immediate family runs the gamut from an accepting father to a non-accepting sister. Mom seems firmly lodged somewhere in between.

Every year, my dad has to wrestle with how to handle Christmas get-togethers. He knows if he invites me and my partner that my sister and her family won’t attend, yet he also realizes that asking me to come alone isn’t the right thing to do. This year, he decided to have two gatherings; one for us and one for them. This would mean that my sister and I would have to get with Dad and his wife an additional time to give him the presents that are coming from both of us. After talking it over with my partner, he told me that I should just go alone and be with my family.

For the past several years, I’ve also went alone to my sister’s on Christmas Eve, spent the night, and gotten up the next morning to watch the kids open their presents. While no one has ever specifically stated that my partner isn’t welcome, it’s more than obvious. Once again, my partner insists that I spend this time with my family, explaining that he wouldn’t feel comfortable there even if invited.

I am terribly torn in both of these situations; torn between wanting to spend the holiday with my lover, remaining true to my beliefs, and spending time with family members. I know without a doubt that discriminating against others is wrong, regardless of the reason, and I feel like I’m letting my partner and myself down when I cave to peer pressure from relatives. I also realize that spending time with family is important, and that depriving them of my company in an attempt to pressure them into doing the right thing would be futile. There just doesn’t seem to be an easy solution.

It’s tempting for me to blame Christianity, or at least my family’s interpretation of Christianity, as the root of their intolerance. I could have titled this post something like “Christianity: Destroying Families for 2,000 Years” and ranted about all the hypocrisy in the pro-family rhetoric that fills Christian radio, but I know it isn’t so simple. Christians might be tempted to blame my sexuality for tearing my family apart, but, again, too simple.

The truth is, this type of thing is happening to families all across the world. Being religious isn’t synonymous with bigotry, and fear of what is different can arise anywhere and at any time. What separates the bigots from the rest of the crowd is how they react to that fear. Do they recognize it, study themselves for a sign of what caused it, and try to get beyond it, or do they let fear paralyze themselves to the point that they shut out the very people that they should be having meaningful relationships with?

I hope against hope that my family will eventually see the light and open their arms and homes to the man with whom I’m privileged to share my life. Only then will I have a truly merry Christmas.

Garden of the Gods

We had a lovely Labor Day as we traveled with friends to Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois. It is part of Shawnee National Forest, which was supposedly formed around 320,000,000 years ago. It was so nice to commune with nature, God, and friends in such a beautiful setting… and it was a good workout, since we were drenched in sweat by the time we got back to our vehicle.

Pumpkin party

We had some church friends over last night for a little Halloween fun. We ate homemade chili, carved pumpkins, and then had hot dogs and s’mores around a campfire. It was great fun!

Here are the results of our labors. I did the cat on the limb and Honey did the amazing witch!

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pmkns2

I want to give a special shout out to my wonderful friend, Alyson, who’s having a birthday today – Happy Birthday, Alyson!! Happy Halloween to the rest of you!

My invisible partner

I love receiving holiday greeting cards. It’s such a thrill to go to the mailbox expecting to see a stack of bills, but instead finding envelopes stuffed with photos of smiling faces, little handwritten notes, and festive decorations. They almost never fail to bring a smile to my face. Almost.

Coming from an extremely religious family, I often receive holiday cards that are addressed to only me. Everyone that knows me is aware that I live with my partner, that we are a couple, and that we have been together for over two years. I can’t imagine sending a Christmas card to a household with two people and only addressing the card to one of them. It seems incredibly rude.

I know that this is their feeble attempt at ignoring something that they strongly disagree with, but I’d almost rather not even receive their card. It shames me, though not in the way they might have wished. It embarrasses me that my family is so backwards and intolerant that they can’t put their religious beliefs aside long enough to wish someone a Merry Christmas.

After a few weeks of procrastinating, I finally got around to mailing out our greeting cards earlier this week. Every card that I mailed was signed in the exact same manner: Love, Brian and Honey. I must admit that it gives me a little rush to know the recipient can no longer pretend that my partner doesn’t exist.

Wynonna Judd’s ‘Classic Christmas’ Tour

wynonna_christmasWynonna Judd’s Christmas tour made its stop in Paducah last night, where she belted out traditional holiday classics and a couple of her biggest hits to the adoring crowd, which included her mother, Naomi.

Wynonna wove her way through practically every song on her holiday disc, stopping to joke and interact with the audience on several occasions. Her sense of humor was delightful and campy, but the show also had its tender moments, like when she recalled giving her life to Christ at the age of seventeen.

Her voice was flawless, honed by over twenty years of record-making and touring. She shook the rafters on “O Holy Night” and “Ave Maria”, bringing everyone to their feet multiple times.

There were two songs that blew me completely away. One was “I Want To Know What Love Is”, a remake of Foreigner’s hit. She so completely embodies the song that she could have easily written it herself, and it was so beautiful that it actually made my insides ache.

The other was “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”, a song I hadn’t heard since I was a young child attending a Pentecostal church. I immediately got my cellphone, called my sister, and let her listen as Wynonna harmonized with her supporting singers.

After returning for an encore of two songs, Wynonna asked the audience to sing to her. As the band softly played “Silent Night”, everyone stood and joined voices. It was peaceful and moving – an appropriate conclusion to a lovely evening.