It has been an eventful month for our family. Some of the obvious events have been shared on social media, though I’ve been slow to create blog posts, so I apologize for those not on Facebook or Instagram. Finally feeling able to share some of the ‘behind the scenes’ life changes, though that will also mean a long post – but first, the big events for those who don’t know yet… At the end of August our daughter Anna Danielle (Danny) got engaged to her boyfriend Shiloh, within a few days she needed to make some choices in regards to staying at Concordia University. In short (long will come later) she chose to end her time at Concordia, moved into a rented room and got a job as a barista with probable plans for enrolling at a community college come next semester. This was all pretty big, and happened quickly and all while we were back across the ocean in Hungary – we spent August and September back at home in Budapest, which was also eventful in its own way. We had multiple confirmations and nudges that it’s time we settled back in Hungary, several areas where some doors opened wide for us to do ministry – much is not known yet, so sorry to be vague, but we’re excited at what we see God setting up for us to do in the future. And then at the end of September we hosted another Pastor’s Wives retreat for mostly Serbian women, once more a huge blessing for all involved. Also in September we moved Norbi’s mom from her apartment in Szeged into our home in Budapest, she will rent her home for a year, with the income going towards home improvements plus she’ll stay in our home for us and be near Norbi’s sister’s family who also lives in Budapest. It was a full month, made even fuller by the joy of answered prayers for a struggle that goes back six years, and one most of you know nothing about.
When we returned to Hungary in 2011 our family began to face challenges we’d not expected. Moving with teenagers we’d certainly expected many challenges, but we were not prepared for the depth and width of some struggles. I’m a fairly open person, and we’ve shared much about what our family went through – the kids all had schooling issues, and weren’t learning Hungarian or making friends, we eventually made the excruciating choice to allow our oldest son to return to the US just two years after we’d left to complete High School. None of that was kept quiet. Several years ago our daughter had intense and scary health problems, and we shared much of that too – she was always open with her battle with depression and gave me carte blanche to share anything. We’d not expected kids with depression, though we ended up with two struggling with it. And we’d also not expected a kid to struggle with and question her sexual orientation or her gender identity, but early on after our move, Anna began her wrestle with those questions. It was a long and painful path Anna walked on, from age 13 until just recently at age 19 when she jumped off that path. She changed her name to Danny at 14, and then spent almost a year as Daniel, her freshman year at college – Anna plunged in deep and was loud and proud in the LGBTQ world last year. To spend so many years in confusion, and she often voiced being confused about who she was, takes a toll on your body – her depression and anxiety walked hand in hand with her LGBTQ claims, neither one causing the other, but both certainly related to each other.
It was also a time of heartache and much confusion for us as parents, how to guide and parent a child through that confusion while still loving them; how to live as a Christian without pushing them away or creating walls or added tension. We’d certainly not seen many examples, the LGBTQ world is sadly full of estranged children from Christian homes, as well as having scary high suicide rates. Some of the ‘answers’ we heard from the church at large never set well with us. We stumbled and made mistakes, but we also always strove to love Anna, to keep our home a safe harbor for her, for all our family. There was a recent study published by a professor at Brown University about what she calls “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria”, highlighting a growing phenomenon of young people who present as the opposite gender late into childhood, often not until puberty instead of the more commonly studied and slightly ‘understood’ cases of starting in early childhood. That study described Anna almost to a T. The relief at having what we’d experienced collaborated by a professional was palpable and immense.
I share all this now because while Anna was loud, proud and trans-gender all year, she was also growing in confidence and self esteem and questioning who she was just as much as she’d ever done, and God was steadily working in her heart that was becoming more and more tender. Through and behind all her identity questions ran questions about God, highlighted by the hypocrisy she saw in the church surrounding the issue of LGBTQ, the lack of love and really, the hate toward that world only added to her confusion and fueled her anger toward God. I find it beautiful that Anna first rebuilt her relationship with Jesus, coming to Him as Daniel and finding Him with arms wide open. She attended Pride Fest and found Jesus there too. So while she was known as Daniel at Concordia, she was also attending weekly worship services and in a safe community that loved her unconditionally. Over the summer those questions and feelings about herself and her new understanding of how God loved her kept percolating, and as the new school year began God orchestrated some events that enabled Anna to step out of being Daniel and reclaim her God-given identity. In school she was known as Daniel, and was actually in special trans housing. A clean separation was the easiest way out of that identity, but it was a scary step and one God didn’t make her take on her own, but instead let events transpire around her, with a barky puppy and a grumpy new neighbor who complained about that barking. Her dog BB-8, her amazing gift from God just at Christmas who was allowed on campus as her therapy dog, had to go. It was an open door Anna needed, and she jumped through it – leaving her identity as Daniel behind. The world right now makes it much easier and socially acceptable to come out, but to ‘go back’ is not even acknowledged as being a possibility. But Anna didn’t just reclaim her name of Anna, and her femininity, she added the excitement and chaos of an engagement and starting a new life with Shiloh into the mix – so much at once, and yet our child with anxiety was chill and at Peace and knew God was leading her. It has been nothing short of breathtaking to watch God do exactly that. With a place to live falling into place, and then a great job she can walk to (she still needs to get her driver’s license), along with offers of giving her rides to church, a free bed and so many other little gifts all covered by Peace and Assurance. Sure, it’s scary to change your life direction so drastically, but when God is in and behind it, it’s always better than any other directions or plans.
All of these events are deeply personal for Anna, obviously, and her life right now is hectic and full, wonderful and busy – she’s not felt lead to really answer the myriad of questions that will happen, she quietly changed her Facebook name without any announcement, has created new accounts and deleted old ones where applicable. But she’s also fine with my sharing, especially as I’ve begun to get some questions from friends. Personally, I’ve been wanting to shout our joy and tell the story from day one – but it has been a lot to process, and I’ve especially wanted to wait until I’ve been able to spend time with Anna in person. We only had two days with her, Sunday and Monday, and they ended up crammed full of wedding details – but also sweetly full of lots and lots of talking, and some tears. I’ve shared with some friends in Hungary, as this was all unfolding, that I’m almost ashamed at my own lack of Faith – I’d not been praying for Anna back, I’d been praying for Danny to be kept safe and to know who she was in Jesus. We chose Anna as her name so many years ago, it means Grace, and I always saw it as a classic and beautiful name, as well as being a traditional Hungarian name (finally, one out of three kids got a true Hungarian name!). Anna has shared that it felt too pretty for her, at the time of her lowest self esteem, when she didn’t feel she could compete with the ‘prefect’ girls she saw around her, it was easier to be a boy, easier to be Danny. It has been a long six years. We have much to celebrate now, including getting a new son, Shiloh! God has been so Faithful, so Gracious to us, He has not only kept Danny safe and shown her who she is in Him, He’s gone beyond and given us back our Anna.