Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday! Today’s gratitude stems from the week I just experienced in the Charleston, South Carolina vicinity, with my sister and her family during the Christmas holidays.

The last time I spent the Christmas holiday with them dates back to 2014 when she was still living outside Nashville, Tennessee. Without going into too much detail, that was a very memorable holiday but not in such a good way, given the amount of arguing and tension that was present more than not. Because of it, four years went by before I attempted another Christmas with them and I’m thankful to report that I have a lot to be grateful for this time around from beginning to end.

My first bit of gratitude began on my flight out when the woman who checked me in at the Delta desk saw how much pain and stress I was in and offered me some unconditionally loving words of support and blessings for my trip. Shortly thereafter, once I arrived at the gate, the agent there also acknowledged the physical pain I was in and moved me for free to a row with more leg room and told me she wouldn’t put anyone next to me on my flight. Later, after a very comfortable journey to South Carolina, I had to pick up my rental car, but given how late it was, I wondered if I’d get a decent vehicle to drive. Yet, Enterprise Rent-A-Car upgraded me for free to an entry level SUV that was still available, of which I was extremely grateful, mostly because it had heated seats, something that always seems to take some of the edge off of my muscle tightness any time I’m driving. When I finally arrived at the hotel, a Residence Inn, well after midnight, the clerk at the desk was really friendly and told me they had kept my room aside, a one-bedroom suite on the top floor away from everyone, just as I had requested. Room 429 then became my home away from home for the next week, providing me some much-needed rest and relaxation when I wasn’t with my sister’s family.

Nevertheless, over the course of the next six days I was able to experience a very different Christmas holiday from the one I had four years ago with my sister and her family. There wasn’t any major arguing or high stress-based tension this time around. Rather, there was far more laughter, love, and connection, three things I was desperately in need of with them. But instead of going into lengthy details of every single thing I experienced and was grateful for with them, here’s a quick list.

Delicious cupcakes and ice cream from my sister’s new store, Smallcakes. Building Legos, coloring, and playing with blocks with my youngest nephew. Taking walks with their family’s toy poodle around their neighborhood. Family board games at night. Teaching the card game Euchere to my twin nephews and watching as they almost beat my partner and I! Dining on sushi with one of my twin nephews and loaded burgers with another. Heart-felt conversations with my twin nephews about life and the changes they are going through. Watching Aquaman in 3D in an RPX-based theater at a Regal with them late one night. A special dinner out to a restaurant named Oscar’s with just my sister. A holiday party and making new connections at Smallcakes. A homemade lasagna dinner for Christmas Eve specially prepared by my sister. Getting to enjoy my favorite holiday dessert, Grasshopper Pie. Watching Serendipity for the umpteenth time on Christmas Eve with my partner. A short hike with my youngest nephew and one of the twins before Christmas dinner. A delicious Christmas dinner with every bit of trimmings and fixings. A crackling fire in the backyard of my sister’s house while goofing around with all my nephews. And a final breakfast at my hotel on the morning of my departure.

In the end, I have plenty to be grateful for this Christmas from this trip. I’m so thankful I was able to return home this time, actually looking forward to my next trip to see them, rather than thinking about taking an extended hiatus from doing it at all. For that, I’m most definitely grateful, to God, for them and my partner, for making Christmas 2018 a truly special one…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson­

Thought For The Day

Quote #1

“For Christians, the problem is not how to reconcile homosexuality with scriptural passages that condemn it, but how to reconcile the rejection and punishment of homosexuals with the love of Christ.” (William Sloane Coffin Jr.)

Quote #2

“I can’t for the life of me imagine God will say, ‘I will punish you because you are black, you should have been white; I will punish you because you are a woman, you should have been a man; I will punish you because you are homosexual, you ought to have been heterosexual.’ I can’t for the life of me believe that is how God sees things.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

Quote #3

“My pain is not because I am gay. My pain was caused by how I was treated because I am gay.” (Eric James Borges)

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Difficult Challenges I Faced In Going To A Christmas Eve Service…

I’m not a church goer anymore, yet I promised myself I’d attend a Christmas Eve service at my sister’s church to support her and my nephews during my visit to them over the holidays. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how difficult that decision would end up being for me.

Let me begin by saying that there was a time when I really did love going to church every Sunday. That started well over two decades ago now when I found a very lively church in Washington D.C. to attend called The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). There, my Spirit moved every Sunday and I always looked forward to attending the services there. Yes, I was one of those who would raise my hands and praise the Lord, and no, it wasn’t a fake thing, as I truly felt that much joy in my life in serving God. Frankly, it was such a major shift from the previous church I had belonged to, that being one of those revival churches with a live band and a projector on a big screen, as they had rejected me when I came out of the closet and told me I was a sinner. Nevertheless, I spent the better part of a decade affiliated with MCC and even became a deacon during my years of membership there. After a period of a few years where I moved to the middle of nowhere and wasn’t able to find a church to be a part of, I came to the Boston area to be closer to my sister and attempted for the next several years to find a new church home. Sadly, I’d experience three separate rejections in the process, each because of my sexuality, and each being one of those revival types of churches. While there were a few churches I attended that did accept me for who I was, I didn’t feel my spirit leap at any of them. Regardless, I became fed up with all of it and began to forge my own path of hope, faith, and spirituality with God, one that didn’t involve being a member of any physical church.

So, in light of all that, when my sister asked if I wanted to attend a Christmas Eve service at her church during my visit there, I said yes, only because it had been so long since I’d been to any service and also in that I wanted to support my youngest nephew who really wanted to spend as much time with me as he could. As I sat there in the service with him and the rest of my sister’s family, as well as my partner, I watched a number of people raise their hands and praise the Lord just like I used to do. I wish I could have felt what they were feeling and boy, did I try to feel some of that. All I could feel though was sadness. Sadness for all the people who have been rejected by so many churches that have looked and felt just like this one. Sadness for all the health issues I continue to face and the silence I continue to feel from God about it. And sadness for feeling so darn alone inside, even in the midst of all that joy.

I wasn’t present during this service at all really, and found myself jotting down my thoughts on their bulletin while there, which led to me writing these very words here. About the only time I was present was when they asked if anyone wanted to come up during the service and be prayed over. I waited and waited and waited while that part of the service was going on, yet kept feeling a desire within me to go up. I honestly had a battle in myself during that time and eventually found the courage to walk up. I don’t remember what was said during the prayer that this 20-something guy said as he embraced me, but what I do remember was the tears flowing from my eyes, tears that yearn for a closer presence from God, tears for all the people who have felt rejected from God because of conservative religious people, and tears for all the pain I still have to live within this body.

When the service ended shortly thereafter, I have to say I was very much relieved and was glad to head back to my sister’s home. While I would love to be a part of a church again, especially one where my spirit moved with upbeat music and plenty of fellowship, I truly struggled to feel much of that there. Whether that was because of my past or present circumstances I don’t know. What I do know though is that I hope to one day be a part of some church again that practices the unconditional love of Christ, one that doesn’t look at things like homosexuality as a sin, and one where all are welcomed no matter what. But, for now, I know God knows I tried my best to be present at my sister’s church, and hopefully one day I will find a congregation again I can call home…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson