Friday, February 27, 2009

What's At the End of the Rainbow

I'm a gay Mormon guy. One of many, actually. In fact, my bishop told me that in the greater Seattle area, we have over 600 LDS men and women that deal with same-sex attractions. That's more than any other area in the US besides perhaps the Salt Lake Valley. 600! So often, people like me feel like we have no one that can relate to us. If only we realized how non-unique our situation truly is!

Most people know someone who is both gay and Mormon, whether you're a member of the LDS faith or not. Of course, many people don't know they know a gay Mormon, but I'll venture to say everyone does. Many of my friends had other gay Mormon friends before they made my acquaintance. The thing that strikes me is the response I get from a lot of these friends. I get a lot of comments like, "You're not like so-and-so, and he's a gay Mormon," or "Wow, I thought that gay Mormons were more like blank, and you're not really like that," or "You're so different from my other Mormon friend, and he's gay, too." I used to be wary of that comment, but recently I've come to realize that I shouldn't be. Why not?

Well, I guess it's because of where I choose to put the emphasis on my opening statement: I am a gay Mormon guy. I've found that a lot of my friends who are in the same boat choose to put the emphasis on the first part: I am a gay Mormon guy. They talk about their gay life all the time, and place so much importance on that part of themselves. I guess I understand why: we go so long without addressing that portion of our beings, hiding it, even trying to destroy it for so many years. We fear rejection if we were ever to share that intimate part of ourselves with people. And when we finally are comfortable and capable of opening up and expressing that side of our soul, we find such liberation in the act that we allow ourselves to share it almost too generously with others. I remember this stage of my life; it was only just 5 years ago that I was like this.

But there came a point where I needed to figure out how the rest of that statement played in my life. I needed to know if the next part held any weight that I was willing to carry. For quite some time, I didn't know if I had room in my pack for "gay" and "Mormon;" I thought I'd have to leave one of the burdens behind. But as I studied the gospel, prayed to my Heavenly Father, and matured in spirit, I gained a testimony of things so strong and so undeniable, that the emphasis started shifting; my original statement turned into "I am a gay Mormon guy."

Reaching this point in my spiritual development mirrored coming out of the closet in so many interesting ways. I've had moments where telling people my religious affilitations shocked them more than coming out to them. A few people have asked if I was truly happy being a member of the church, and others have encouraged me to try other faiths. And some of those people didn't even know yet that I was gay! Then there are those who admire me for my convictions, and for being myself, and following my heart. They defend me when others are close-minded to my spiritual beliefs. It's been quite an interesting phenomenon to watch.

Nowadays, my statement looks more like this: "I am a gay Mormon guy." Although I know I am quite different from other people, I am just a guy, trying to get by in this world; doing his part to make a difference; doing his best to matter; trying hard to do all that he's set out to accomplish. I have made peace emotionally and spiritually with the decisions that have led me to accept the homosexual feelings I bear, and the testimony of God's church that I cannot forsake. Now, I'm just doing my best to live the way I know I should, not because someone else says so, but because it's truly what I want. Being gay is a part of who I am, but it's not the biggest slice of this pie. My relationship with God is more important. I want to live with Him again; I know it may be a tough road to tread, but I'm willing to go for a hike if it means there's a "happily ever after" to look forward to.

This is going to sound totally gay, but it came to me while I pondered the upcoming celebration of St. Patrick's Day:

Life is like a rainbow. It is made up of many different colors, some that you may love, and others you won't care for. The rainbow seems to extend forever, and you can't see where it ends, and you don't know where it originated. At the end, a little man has a pot of gold, and he'll share it with us if we find them. This is life. There are parts we love, and parts we don't love. We don't know how long this life will last, but we know it has an end. At the end, there is a man there. From where we stand, he looks small because he seems so far away. In actuality, he's not a leprachaun at all - he's a great divine being. Luckily for us, he's our Father. And He has a treasure worth more than anything on this Earth. Many may not believe in this man, or the pot of gold, but I know they're there, because I've asked, and even from way far away, He's let me know that they both exist. I am willing to wait til I get to the end of the rainbow to meet Him, and share in the treasure He has to offer.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Beautiful Weekend

This weekend has been so full for me. So much has gone on, I can barely begin to describe it.

This weekend was all about Meaghan for me. I learned - and FELT! - so much over the last few days. Friday was a normal crazy work day. On top of that, though, I was preparing a huge poster and her dance book for Meaghan's Memorial. It was quite a project that included finding the right pictures, sizing them appropriately, cutting them into the right shapes, matching the right colors, stenciling letters, pasting pieces together, and a few other creative skills. The project took me time at work, plus hours afterwards. That night, I didn't go to bed until 6:30 the next morning.

I got up an hour and a half later to get to Meaghan's memorial. It was one of the most beautiful memorial services I've ever attended. The chapel was set on a small island, overlooking the sound. It was a beautiful day, few clouds, warm sun, and a light breeze. Everyone wore beautiful colors to the service, in honor of Meaghan's wish for it to be a celebratory event; and everywhere you looked, you saw butterflies - a symbol of new life that Meaghan loved and admired. Still, we all shed tears as family and friends shared cherished memories of Meaghan's inspiring life, and her motivating and wise words. Even I shed a few tears. It was so nice to be able to feel like that again, as strange as it may sound. I can't remember the last time I cried; it's been years.

That evening, I had dreams - swirls of detached, nonsensical memories that I will never recall. The only feelings I can remember are those of a calm, nostalgic, and underlyingly happy tone. After 4 hours on Saturday night, I woke up and quickly dressed for the 14 hour work day I had ahead of me. When I got into the car, the first thing I noticed was the program from Meaghan's memorial service on the passenger seat. Immediately I was hit with the realization that she was not going to be joining us this time for our Showcase, and the reality of her passing finally started to dawn on my slow brain. My eyes began to mist, and I prepared myself mentally and spiritually as I drove, asking God to help me make it through the long day ahead. The one thing that came to me was the words of Meaghan's mother the day she came and delivered us the news about Meaghan's passing: "Meaghan may not be there physically, but she will be at Showcase spiritually. Look for her, she will show herself there. She's already shown us she's still here."

At the Showcase, there was so much to do, so many people to take care of, so much to see! It wasn't until around noon that I finally saw it - the butterfly gown! As soon as I saw it, I knew! Meaghan WAS there, and I immediately felt uplifted! I almost heard a voice in my head say, "See? I told you so!" I touched the beautiful insects that garnished the elegant dress, and admired it with more fervor than a boy should. I was not ashamed, though; this was what I was looking forward to see - the sign that Meaghan was still alive somewhere.

I keep thinking back to the service, and pondering some very wise words that Meaghan shared with her best friend, and her best friend shared with us: whenever her friend would cry due to Meaghan's health, Meaghan would say,"Please don't cry. I don't want you to be sad. I don't want to be sad; I want to be happy. I want to smile!" And she would! Meaghan ALWAYS smiled! She was always so positive and upbeat. She never let you know that she was in physical pain when she was. She never felt sorry for herself, or let others feel sorry for her. She was a fighter! When the doctors told her she had less than a year to live, Meaghan didn't sit and sulk; she pushed passed their words, and proved them wrong by almost 15 years! She always had time to make someone else's day better, and she always did her best to make sure everyone else was happy. She taught us the importance of every single day, and every present moment. She didn't dwell on the past, and she never tried to rush into the future. She was grateful for today!

Meaghan is the type of person that I want to be! She proved that it didn't matter what type of trials you're asked to endure; that the thing that counted was the way you lived your life! She didn't make excuses, she didn't solicit special treatment, she didn't let herself get defeated. I admire her so much, and a part of me wishes she were still here so I could continue to have her positive influence on my life here with me today. However, I am grateful for the knowledge of a divine plan that keeps us eternally entwined, and look forward to the day I'll be able to be in her company again.

If you're reading this Meaghan, I want you to know that I love you so much, and am eternally grateful for the blessing that it is to have had you in my life these last couple of years!

Friday, February 13, 2009

One More Way

Hey everyone! I want to let you know more about what's happening this Saturday. No, I'm not talking about Valentine's. I'm talking about the American Heart Association Dance-A-Thon, hosted by the Tacoma Arthur Murray School of Dance.

I will be joining roughly 20 - 30 people of all ages on a dance floor for 3 hours, busting a move to tunes from the likes of Frank Sinatra to Britney Spears. Each song will play for 2 minutes, after which we'll switch dance partners and dance to a new style. We'll be doing everything from the Foxtrot, to Salsa, to Swing, to the Waltz, to the Tango, to the 2-Step. It'll be so much fun, and we'll dance a total of 90 times by the end of the 3 hours.

If you haven't taken the opportunity to sponsor, you can easily do so by pledging per dance if you'd rather do it that way. A flat donation would be great too! Or you can pledge a dime per dance, or whatever! Thanks again to all of you that have helped this cause, and thanks in advance to all of you who will help the cause!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

All I Need

I'm far from perfect
And I know You know it
I've messed up so much
I can't count how many times I've blown it

I'm sorry, so sorry
For all the times that I've been weak
And I promise to
Turn over a new leaf

Life is so tough
When you try to live it all alone
I found out how much
I've needed help along this road

You told me to find You
If I needed anything, just ask
I've been everywhere,
And now Father here I am

Now I'm falling, I'm fading
I'm praying for someone who understands

I think You're all I need
To make things right
You're all I need
To save my life
That's why I'm on my knees
I would give everything
Just to have Thee
'Cause You're all I need

I'm tired, torn down
I've been shaken up
But I'm still here, waiting
For the good in me to waken up

I'm trying so hard
To play the hand that I was dealt
But I'm overworked, and overwhelmed
And I'm desperate for divine help

'Cause I'm falling, I'm fading
I'm reaching for Your ever outstretched hand

'Cause You're all I need
To make things right
You're all I need
To save my life
That's why I'm on my knees
I would give everything
Just to have Thee
'Cause You're all I need

Father I can't do this by myself
Life alone would be a living hell
I never want to be without You again
You're my saving grace, and my best friend

Oh please
Stay with me

You're all I need
To make things right
You're all I need
To save my life
I'm on my knees
I'd give up everything
Just to have Thee
'Cause You're all I need

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dance Angel

I have the amazing opportunity of working with people of all different walks of life in my profession, and change their lives through dancing. As a teacher, you love all of your students. All of them are special, and all of them have a meaningful place in your heart. I want to share the story of one student who has been an inspiration to us all, and who prompted my charitable passions for the American Heart Association.

When she first walked into our studio in November of 2007, we had no idea that Meaghan Hicks dealt with a serious heart condition like Pulmonary Hypertension. She was much too energetic, much too happy, and much too full of life to be sick! Just like many of our students, Meaghan watched “Dancing With the Stars” religiously, and dreamed about becoming an amazing dancer herself. Though she had an early background in gymnastics, it had been a while since Meaghan had been able to participate in extraneous physical activity, especially one like dancing. But earlier that year, Meaghan received a blessing she’d waited years for: a double lung and heart transplant. Now the girl that was told 14 years earlier that she might never live to see her 14th birthday was given the chance to experience life as many doubted she would. Guess what was the first thing she wanted to do? That’s right, she wanted to dance!

Nine months after the day of her transplant (what she deemed her “2nd Birthday”), Meaghans body was ready to keep up with her vital spirit, and she started dancing. No one smiled bigger than Meaghan when she was on the dance floor! Every moment was magical, and she made the most of them. We had to start out slower than she liked, and it frustrated her every time she had to take a quick break. I remember the first day, after her 4th or 5th lesson, when Meaghan was able to go the entire 40 minute block without a pit stop. We whooped and hollered in celebration!

We celebrated often and loudly during every step of Meaghan’s dance progression, and it was those times we reminisced on when Meaghan would get sick, and have to take a break from her dancing. Sometimes, it was only a couple days or so. Then there were the months that wiped out her strength. These were the times that upset Meaghan the most. I still remember her first holiday season with Arthur Murray's: Meaghan was too ill to come in for dance lessons, but it would not deter her from stopping by the studio to spread cheer. Meaghan was too weak to leave the car, so she watched from the parking lot as her mother came in and dropped off gifts Meaghan prepared for her Arthur Murray family. We practically broke the doors down on our way out to greet her in her vehicle. She was so happy to see us, and so sad she couldn’t dance, that she cried a mixed batch of tears as her teachers cheered on the good health we knew would return, and conversed about the next time we’d get to dance together.

Meaghan is a huge supporter of the school. In celebration of her transplant anniversary, Meaghan joined us for her first Winter Showcase. She was majestic in her beautiful black gown. Her mother cheered along with our Tacoma Arthur Murray family as Meaghan performed her first Tango solo. No one beamed bigger than Meaghan did that day. Even as she departed before dinner that evening (due to fatigue), Meaghan smiled and wished the teachers the best of luck for our Professional Show. Later in the year, Meaghan joined us at our American Heart Association Pre-Gala as our special guest ambassador. She gave a very inspirational speech to an audience of strangers, and performed her improved Tango solo after being back in the studio for just 2 days. And as soon as our school was established on Myspace, Meaghan was one of our very first friends, and placed us on her Top 8 Friends list (which, by the way, is an incredible honor to many!). In her hobbies, Meaghan wrote, “Dancing at the Tacoma Arthur Murray’s: SO MUCH FUN!!!"

Meaghan passed away at her ripe age of 27 on Friday, January 30th, 2009. This month, Meaghan would have celebrated her 2nd 2nd Birthday, and her glorious return to dancing at Arthur Murray’s. For someone who suffered from a heart disease, Meaghan Hicks had the biggest, strongest, and most beautiful heart of anyone we’ve ever met. That is why we’ve chosen, with her family’s blessing, to honor her this week by dedicating our American Heart Association Dance-A-Thon to someone who’s heart will forever be missed, and will never be forgotten. Long live Meaghan Hicks, our Dancing Angel.

*UPDATE*: Last night, my friends and I held a benefit in Meaghan's honor at our home, to raise awareness and funds for the American Heart Association, and to allow people the opportunity to get involved, and serve in a great cause. Our goal was to raise $5,000 to donate entirely to the AHA. That money will go to serve people like Meaghan who deal with cardiovascular diseases and strokes. So far, we've only managed to raise $110. This simply will not do! So I'm asking for help once again:

For this entire week, all through Valentine's Day, I am asking for pledges that will get us to our goal of $5,000. Pledges can vary anywhere from $1 to $1,000,000 (I know there are super generous people out there!). Making a pledge is so simple, too: simply respond to this blog with a comment, or email me directly at, and I will respond with details as to how the your pledge will be collected and used. I will be so grateful for anything you can sacrifice to this cause, so others like Meaghan can lead longer, better lives, with the opportunity to fulfill dreams! And I'm sure they will appreciate it in turn.

Again, thank you everyone for your time, and your sacrifice. To find out more about Meaghan, the American Heart Association, or how else you can get involved, go to or .