Category Archives: friends

Why Is Jim an Ally?

I was asked recently why I’m an LGBTQ ally. Here’s what I said…

I LOVE MY DAUGHTER more than I loved my dogma

I am an ally because I love my daughter more than I loved my dogma.

The youngest of our four daughters, Kat, came out to my wife and me around 2001 when she was 15 years old. At the time, we were very committed, conservative Christians, and to say this was uncomfortable would be a huge understatement. We were devastated!

Our first thought was that we needed to correct this problem. I got lots of literature from a group that was committed to fighting the “gay agenda” and we sent her to counselors who we hoped could “fix” her. I am not proud of that first response, but it was motivated by love and was the best response we could manage at that time.

After much anguish I realized that if she were ever going to change, it would not be in a pressured environment. I decided that the best thing I could do would be to accept that this is who she is and not try to change her. In this way, I hoped that she would be able to stop fighting us. Then she could see the error of her ways and begin to change back.

I was partly right. When we stopped trying to change her, she did stop fighting us. However, it is we, not Kat, who changed. Her confidence in who she was remained constant. Everything about her said unequivocally, “This is who I am and it has nothing to do with you.” We had convinced ourselves that if she were gay, it reflected badly on our parenting. Much of our journey was coming to understand that it was not ‘our fault’.

The first part of our journey was accepting Kat. The last leg of our journey was embracing her exactly as she was and that there was no ‘fault’ with which to be concerned. The reward was realizing that she was still the same wonderful woman we always knew.

Sadly in 2011 she was struck by a very rare cancer which she fought against bravely for a year and a half. We lost her on September 23, 2012. It is still hard to write those words. Three years ago (at the suggestion of our wonderful grief counselor), my wife and I joined PFLAG to help us focus our grief in a way that helps us and helps others. Each time I am there, I am inspired by the love and raw courage of the folks who show up looking for support.

Many of our former community think we have been deceived and gone off the deep end. We have jumped into the deep end of the pool for sure. However, what I have found in the ‘deep end’ are many people who are deeply full of love and pain; people who are too busy loving their LGBTQ family to pretend they have their life together; and real people who just want a friend. This is the community I have longed for my whole life!”

The Room Built With Love

In order to setup this story, I offer this extremely abbreviated version of a very long and arduous journey: Our youngest daughter, Kat, has been fighting cancer for the last year and a half. If you want to know more about that journey, click here.

Last week, in the hospital, Kat’s legs and feet began retaining fluid and swelling. When she saw this and remembered last year when the swelling prevented her from walking well, when she had to be carried up and down the stairs. She cried softly and said with resignation, “I can’t believe this is happening. I do not want to be carried up the stairs again!”

Each of us has emotional triggers; words or situations that cause us to predict what is coming based on our past experiences. Then we feel based on what we believe. Kat believed this was coming and was upset because there was nothing she could do to stop it. I have my own emotional triggers, but this was not one of them. I could see the passion in her desire and I resolved to never carry her up those stairs again!  But how? All of our bedrooms are upstairs.

The key was to prepare a room for her downstairs. The room I had in mind has been transformed several times already. First it was a computer room, then a formal living room, then a playroom. The room was wide open to the foyer, so it offered no privacy at all. I imagined that if we could temporarily wall off the large opening with a closeable door, it might just work. I imagined how that might be done and thought of how to make it happen. I planned to start working on it as soon as I got home, but on Saturday, Kat decided it was time to stop the chemo and come home with us. Suddenly I was out of time. It could not wait until I got home; this remodeling project needed to be completed right away!

Sunday morning, I sent a text to my best friends explaining the situation and asking if they knew anyone who could help. They immediately went into action. I was excited to learn that one friend’s father-in-law was visiting (his reputation for craftsmanship precedes him). I described the ultimate goal as being privacy for Kat without having to go upstairs and trusted them to make it happen. After some quick brainstorming and a few questions back and forth, the plan was complete, the materials were purchased and the work began. They thoughtfully sent photos so we could enjoy the progression of the work. I told the story and showed the pictures to Kat’s nurse. Word spread and the staff was just amazed. The phrase I kept hearing was, “No way!”  In a few hours, the work was done!

Now Kat is home. She is comfortably settled into what is now the largest bedroom in the house. The representative from the medical supply came to install her hospital bed and other sundry equipment. He said he has seen a lot of modifications made for family members to be comfortable at home. However, he had never seen anything of this magnitude.

Sometimes when somebody loves you
Miracles somehow appear
And there in the warp and the woof is the proof of it
– from Charlotte’s Web (the movie)

Building a wall is not a miracle. The miracle is in the loving friendship of our community.  This is just one miracle story among many. So many folks are weaving their threads into our lives to support us with gifts of grace, prayers, well wishes, lawn mowing, meals, moving help… Much thanks.

A New Year, A New Collage

The new year has snuck up on me and it is time for the annual news of the Anderson family. You may not know, but this is the very reason I started this web site. It began in 2000 as a way to use the web to begin to communicate Christmas greetings to our family and friends. It has since morphed into a tradition. A couple of years ago, I mentioned that I wasn’t going to do it anymore.  I was informed in no uncertain terms that I had to do it.

As much as I chafe over doing something because I “have to”, I must admit that I do like it… especially creating the collage.  The process of going through photos and remembering all that we have done over the last 12 months is cathartic.  It is easy for someone like me to forget and begin to think that my life does not matter.  Remembering and reflecting becomes more important to me all the time… or maybe it is just my awareness of its importance.

I hope you will take a few moments to read the 2009 Anderson Family News and take a look at the 2009 Collage.  You can always view collages and news pages from previous years by clicking the Family News menu on the jimazing.com web site

Danny’s Ride

Most of my friends know I am a musician.  A lot of people have influenced me (musically) through the years.  None more than a band director from my high-school years, Danny Leonard.  Danny had (and still has) a music school in Charleston, SC where I grew up.  My junior year of high-school, I joined the school.  As a member of the school, I took private music lessons and was part of the concert band and the jazz dance band.  Every year we had a week long intensive music summer camp, took a tour and made a record.  What a wonderful experience!

Danny was an exacting and demanding music director.  One of my favorite memories (although it was terrifying at the time) was how he would occasionally stop the rehearsal abruptly and point to someone and ask them to sing the part of another section in the band… usually when you were playing too loudly.  So I and the rest of the trombone section would be playing our parts proudly and loudly only to have him stop the band, point and ask one of us to sing the flute part.  The flute part!  Are you kidding?  You mean those quiet little woodwinds way over on the other side of the room!?  He wanted each of us to be able to hear the whole piece; to be aware that our part wasn’t everything.  There was actually other music happening right in the same room.  What a great life-lesson!  Each part is important, but the music of the band is all the parts together.  I could tell you a hundred more stories just like this one.

Last November, Danny and I met at the new music school and caught up on more years apart than I care to admit.  I learned that in recent years Danny had not one, but two battles with cancer and beat it.  If you have ever met Danny, you know that he has a passion that just draws others in.  As he told me about his plans to make a second bike ride across America to raise awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I was hooked and ready to join him.  I offered to help by creating a web site for the trip.  I’m happy to say that they web site is live and the trip begins next week!

Please check it out and subscribe to join me in following their progress as they journey from San Diego, CA to Charleston, SC.  If you are in Charleston this Friday night (April 17th), check out the Blues Brew & BBQ send off bash.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

A good friend said to me yesterday, “I hope at the end of 2009, you will say that this was one of the best years of your life.'” What a terrific thought! It reminds me that, although I cannot control everything that happens to me, I potentially have more input into how my life plays out than anyone else.

My prayer for 2009 is that I grow into the person that I was meant to be and that I be an influence for positive change as grow in loving God and loving others as myself. For you, I hope that each of you look back in a year and say to yourself, “What an awesome year 2009 was… I think it was the best one yet!”

2008 Collage (click to enlarge)

Collage and News

In 2000, I started a tradition of creating a collage of photos from the year and a newsletter then posting them on the internet. It was my special way of getting out of sending Christmas Cards. Now it has become a “must do”. Click these links to view the 2008 collage and 2008 news. To see past years, click the Family News menu above.

I hope to write some reflections on 2008 in the coming days even though it’s all out of order that way. I can write them later, but Happy New Year has to be done today and it is almost gone!

Fifty is Nifty

It is now 12:08 AM on the 19th, so I can say with confidence that my 50th birthday was a great day. Thanks to all of you who made it so special… I am a blessed man!  Check out this video my friends made for me…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUBZ_02fytg]

Heart Friends

heart-shell.png I just returned from a trip with my friend Dave to the hospital to visit our friend, Bob. Bob had open heart surgery two days ago. He’s recovering well and full of spit and vinegar. His stories are so amazing. He tells how God has helped him over and over throughout his life… including some pretty incredible stories about just getting to have this surgery. He’s a great encouragement to me.

When Bob introduced Dave and me to his nurse, he told her that we were part of his men’s group in Charlotte. He also said that I was the one who invited him to be a part of a men’s group. I had forgotten that. It was a few years ago, we had a men’s “retreat” one weekend with Kenny Luck as the guest speaker. Kenny was talking about having good friends and community. I was bored silly. During a break, I was standing in the church atrium and thinking about how little I needed to hear this stuff. I was already in community with several guys. I had all the things he was talking about. While I was sulking and considering whether or not to just leave, God whispered to me that there were others right there in that room who did not have community. Not men who needed to be convinced; men who desparately wanted community, but didn’t know where to find it. I felt the Lord prompt me to turn around and introduce myself to the first person I saw. I turned around and put my hand out and said, “Hi, my name is Jim.” He replied, “I’m Bob.”

I’m so glad that God entrusted me with that little job… and I’m so glad I didn’t let Him down. Bob, I pray for a speedy and thorough recovery for you. You are a great friend.

High Pastures

cimg0062a.JPGIt was just a week ago. The venue we had planned to use for our retreat had fallen through. We had a little over a week to find something. I was fresh out of ideas. I was depending on the others to figure something out. I wanted to contribute, but I couldn’t. Then I thought of asking you, my readers and all four of you responded! The chalk picture thing might have worked, but at ded’s suggestion, we had already booked High Pastures for the night. Thank you all for thinking about us and giving your ideas. I felt like we had the honor of having you to help us plan. I felt the presence of the Body of Christ in action.

Imagine four guys getting together for a day long retreat for the purpose of going deeper in friendship. What might that look like? We didn’t know either, but we can invent it as we go. The reality is that we don’t make up anything in an of ourselves. I didn’t make my brain, I didn’t create my body. Any good ideas I have are not because of anything I can take credit for. We owe it all to God who lavishes his goodness on us all.

I can imagine your asking about now whether since I am expressing thanks to God that I might be over and done with the doubting and questions. Rest easy (or not) I am as full of questions and doubts as ever, but this one thing I am sure of. There is a God and for some reason He loves me. I still have lots of things I just don’t get. I hope I always do.

My friends and I decided to set aside a day to get away and hear the hearts of our friends. We talked about things that are important to us, we dreamed, we went digging for treasure in our dreams. We call it “heart spelunking“. We learned and practiced tools for better communication. We experienced the benefits of each of our God given gifts. We felt deeply and experienced breakthroughs. It was difficult at times and incredible throughout. We joked and laughed, spoke our fears and dreams and cried. It was truly an auspicious day.

When I have gone to conferences and retreats in years past, my objective was always to have fun or to learn more. These days, I find that my objective is to invest in things that will help me be the person that God made me to be. Don’t get me wrong. I want to have fun. I do want to learn, but not fun for the sake of escaping life nor learning just for the sake of learning. I long to maximize my time here on this planet because I realize more and more how short it is.

highpastures.gifI am so very thankful for the weekend, for great friends, partners in life, your thoughts and prayers and a God who loves me in spite of myself. I am also thankful for the people who invested their precious resources into creating the High Pastures Retreat. If you need a place to get away from everything, I highly recommend it.