2015 In Review

I suppose it’s not that original to create a blog entry to recap a year.  However, I do think it is a great exercise to focus on the blessings that have occurred, especially when so much online and in the news seems to focus on what is wrong in society.  Perhaps I’ve buried my head in the sand, but there WERE many great blessings for me 2015.

  • After Deana received her new awesome job at the end of 2014, we put our house on the market in Texas.  Selling during the winter/holiday season can be stressful, and I often worried that we’d be waiting for months for any real offers.  However, a little over a month on the market and we got a WONDERFUL offer that was honestly perfect.  Even with me being in Australia, we were able to push it through.
  • Concurrently, we also had found a wonderful home in Georgia, thanks to Tiffany who gave us a heads up about it!  The selling of our Texas home was the missing piece, and since that went through we were able to move forward with our relocation.  Moving with two families that are changing states can be a logistical nightmare, but in our case it was VERY smooth!  The dates worked out perfectly!  I thank your buyers as well as the sellers as they were very accommodating across the board.
  • Moving is never fun, and there were quite a few hiccups throughout the process, but looking back from the advantage point of “today” made me realize – in the scheme of things – everything went really okay.  We are settled in our beautiful home, we have more than what we need, and we have friends and family to love.  What more do we need?  AND, I so love living in “the country”!
  • January 2015 another work milestone was accomplished – our Australia locations went live on our ERP system.  This was a pretty big endeavor, and with the distance it made it quite interesting.  SO MANY were on the team for sure, and we had our hands full for a few months after they started, but as I look back I am very proud not only of the Aussie Staff, but for the IT Project Team that made it happen.  Blake, Cary, Tiffany, and Scott THANK YOU.
  • June 2015 kicked of the UK portion on the ERP system rollout.  Many faces continued on this leg and I have to admit this is probably the biggest and best rollout to date!  Internal staff absorbed many of the tasks and it has totally rocked.  We go live there in a few days and I am very hopeful.
  • On that note, I was very glad to add Matt to the mix, which is totally awesome.  He came from our vendor and rocks, except for his love for the Green Bay Packers.
  • Speaking of football, 2015 has proven to be a great year for the Vikings!  We made the playoffs and are tied with the Packers going into the post season.  While I am still being encouraged to consider switching alliances by becoming a Cheese Head, for now I am waiting for next Sunday to see who wins the GB-MN match up.  Purple, after all, is still my favorite color!  (Marisa and Sarah……green is not bad, I just apparently need more time to consider this and maybe walk more win prep for running from Deana!).
  • This year also proved to continue with the kids growing and maturing, despite my demands that they stop.  I cannot believe the old pics of the kids in comparison to their pictures today!  I am ALWAYS blessed when I look at them and am grateful that the Lord has placed them in my life.  ❤
  • Of course, there’s my hot wife.  We have continued to work our marriage (and, HA!, marriage can sometimes be WORK!), and I am forever thankful that the Lord has blessed our marriage and has reminded both of us to look through love, especially when “life” can be the biggest distraction.
  • I was able to have ALL my kids in my house during the holidays, which blesses me beyond words!!!!!

Our prayer for you today, the last day of 2015, is that you feel peace and love!  And we also pray that you feel and receive tons of blessings in 2016.  Happy New Year!



Being Holy vs Loving

It seems like, for many decades, we Christians often focus our efforts on one big topic – Holiness.  This manifests itself in so many ways, and in many religious groups or denominations.  When my parents met, they could not be married in the Catholic church because my mother was divorced.  The divorce made her “not holy enough” to have her marriage consecrated by the church.  Or, to state it differently, allowing her to have ANOTHER marriage would cause her not to be holy, which of course the Church could not do.  That is how it was explained to her at the time.  Further, many of her neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances shunned her because she was a divorcee during a time when most people (religious or not) believed it “was bad”.  Ah, how times have changed!

In contemporary ways, this attitude still exists.  LGBT are not welcomed in many churches – Protestant, Catholic, and others – as many view it as unholy.  Few churches restrict attendance based on divorce today, but stigmas still exist in many forms.  In addition, congregations are encouraged to present themselves in ways that show their holiness; by wearing certain clothes (suits for men, dresses for women), by avoiding secular movies or music, by abstaining from activities or winning souls door to door each week.  At the same time, if people who DO partake in said activities or dress differently were to enter the church, more often than not the congregants would not welcome them warmly.  I’ve seen that and I’ve done that.  It exists today.  This is not a religion or denomination issue – this is a human issue.

All these views or rules are in place to point us to one thing – being holy.  Now, don’t put words in my mouth – I am not saying not to be holy!  I am not even saying we should not take the direction or encouragement we receive in church seriously.  There are many scriptures that call and direct us to holiness.  But I am saying, as a society and as a Christian Body, we often look at the wrong things when we seek holiness.  Heck, even the rhetoric by many politicians and the platforms they support focus on moral directives that supposedly make this country and its citizens “more holy”.  But, my thought is that we are going about it the wrong way.

For example, a few years ago I started a new job and went out to lunch with some new co-workers.   For some reason, the story of the Good Samaritan came up, and one co-worker decided he’d share with me and my other new co-worker what the story REALLY meant.  His version went something like this:

One day a man was seriously injured and fell to the side of the road.  At the same time, a priest who was heading to his duties in the temple was walking down the street.  The priest, wanting to avoid the man, went to the other side of the street and passed him.  In the mean time, the Samaritan – who was the dirtiest of the dirty by the virtue of being a Samaritan – helped the man immediately.  He even paid the inn keeper to care for him and promised to come back and pay any amount due, as long as the man was cared for.

And the moral of the story?  The priest cared so much for God, that he knew he could not touch the man because the injured man would make the priest unclean, and then he would not be able to serve God or God’s children for several weeks.  During those weeks – God forbid – he would be worthless as he purged the uncleanness from his life.  We, as Christians, should be more concerned about serving God like the Priests of the Bible and yearn to remain clean for God.

I promise, that is what he said.  And he believed it with his whole heart.  And, on the surface, it DOES sound nice to yearn to be holy, to remain pure enough to be used by God and to serve others so they can get closer to Him as well.  But how does this story read in the Bible?  Let’s check it out.

Luke 10:25-37 ESV (as told by our Lord Jesus, but emphasis is mine)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Jesus clearly shows here the Samaritan, despite his “poor standing” as an unclean person, showed love and mercy and was the person we should emulate.  NOT the Priest, who we assume was very holy in appearance at least, as we also assume the Levite was holy based on the additional rules and laws that applied to both.  Rules and laws direct us to Christ, but Christ directs us to Love.  And love always directs us to His Righteousness, which makes us holy.  Well, that and His sacrifice, but that is a different blog post!

So, as I have been reminded I hope to remind you – show mercy.  Be kind to the impatient traveler next to you.  Assist the mom who is struggling with two young kids as she’s grocery shopping and mentally trying to figure out how she is going to afford Christmas.  Don’t react to the tailgater who is scowling into your rearview mirror, inches behind your bumper flying at 80 mph.  Overwhelm with kindness the person who sent you a message telling you LGBT people can’t be Christian.  Feed a hungry person.  Smile at a stranger.  Ignore the loud politician who posted a harsh meme on Facebook, or your friend who shared it.  THESE things lead to holiness as we emulate the teachings of Jesus Christ, more than any 3 piece suit or hymn.  And, before WE know it, He is our focus instead of our own actions.  Let us go and react as the Samaritan reacted.  What a blessing.

Processing the Hurt

Deana and I laugh sometimes – we have, I don’t know, four thousand anniversaries.  No joke.  The day we “got together” (aka, professed our love), the day I asked her to marry me, the day we became domestic partners, the day we reunited after a small break, the day she asked me to marry her, the day we held a Commitment Ceremony, and the day we legally married.  Well, I wrote that but I am sure I am missing at least 10 more…..but you get the drift.  Some of these dates we absolutely celebrate, others we mention and maybe stop to hug one another, and some we sometimes miss entirely and laugh when we realize it.

Ah, but I digress…….

In November 2009, after years of being “in the closet” as a couple, we stood in front of family and friends and committed our lives to each other.  Our children were in the ceremony, Deana’s Mother and most of her siblings attended, as well as tons more family and friends.  It was an amazing day and an amazing night, it was foundational to so many aspects of our relationship just as a wedding would have been, and it warms my heart just thinking about it.  As a side note, we legally married in a courthouse in New York in December 2011 as well.  Boom!

But here is the thing – in the past, when I’d think of our Commitment Ceremony, there was always a residue because of those who were not there.  Not people who couldn’t make it due to distance, health, or other issues, no……the residue was related to those who chose not to be there.  Those who said they loved us, but didn’t believe in our lifestyle choice.  Those who said – in love and in whatever other adjective you can insert – that they believed we were walking in sin or at least outside of the will of God.  And, in all transparency, THIS residue covered everything for me.  I could look at videos or pictures, reminisce about some great times……but always this piece would touch every inch of happiness like an oil slick on the ocean.  It hurt me, and even with the super jolt of joy I would feel and when I’d consider how grand my life has been because of my wife……I would be this hurt person that always – always – ended up hurt.

Some people like being a victim, actually get energized by processing negative emotions.  I suppose I can be a drama queen, I am Italian after all, but I can’t say I am energized by it.  In fact, I prefer to find resolution, to implement peace and solutions and change and love and……..hurt messes that up.  Yet, I was the one who seemed to live there in key areas of my life, especially my very important relationship with Deana.

So, today I was reading an open letter a gay man posted online to his parents.  His parents had refused to attend his wedding three years ago.  I only read the beginning, because it was so filled with hurt and feelings of rejection that I reacted strongly to it.  I know you must imagine I resonated with it, and if you do I don’t blame you.  Actually, I stopped reading and immediately prayed that this man’s hurt be covered, washed away, so that he can feel the peace that Deana and I felt.  As I was doing that, I seriously stopped dead in my tracks (picture a cartoon character shaking their head violently as if to say “what the heck?!?!!?!”), and said out loud “What are you talking about?  PEACE???”

But it’s true, I have felt peace towards those close friends and family who overtly or nicely rejected our relationship.  And I hadn’t even realized it until today.  That’s not to say there is reconciliation; oh no, there are still some who refuse to see Deana or who will not add us to FB or send veiled “we are praying for you” notes that we are sure imply they are praying we each somehow find a good man to love and marry.  But I do mean that, more often than not, when I think of these people my heart melts with love for them.  I find reasons to extend empathy to them…..maybe they are too old to understand the whole LGBT thing, or maybe they don’t mean to reject us per se but they sincerely believe we are doing wrong, or whatever.  And, truly the shock of all shocks, I enjoy seeing them when I can and love interacting with them EVEN THOUGH they are missing out being around some pretty amazing people in my life.  As a byproduct, those who HAVE decided to be part of our life and all the many related memories of our interactions BLESS ME and no longer have the residual hurt that once was everywhere.  The old memories and new memories are free and clear and bring amazing joy to our hearts.  Today, realizing all of this, I was just amazed and needed to share with you, my 2.78 readers.

You see, Deana and I are not activists, though we realize some assume we are just because we are lesbians.  But we truly don’t live to convince anyone to believe what we believe.  Everyone wants to be accepted I suppose, or at least not rejected by the ones they love, but Deana and I don’t really have axes to grind.  However, today’s revelation made me see with my heart that all things DO work together for good for those who love God (my bad paraphrase of Romans 8:28).  And, I’m reminded that – had I or Deana gotten in the faces of those who we saw as rejecting us – I am pretty sure we would not have any relationship with them at all.  And these are people that we love and want a relationship with, not random people who leave anonymous packages of condemnation in our mailboxes.  But, most importantly, I thank the Good Lord that he has removed the hurt that I held so long towards those I love and pray that others can find this peace in their own lives.

For those in the LGBT Community who have been rejected by family and friends, please don’t lose heart.  I GET IT.  I KNOW how it feels!  “It gets better” is not just a catch phrase.  Feel free to reach out to me if you need to vent, have questions, or need to know more about how God truly loves you.  There IS a way to process the hurt, I promise.

Oh and Deana, Happy Anniversary Babe!  🙂