To the Missing Island Youths

Where have you gone?

police tape, news cameras

thousands of Facebook posts

not a word, not a trace

five lives, teens, youth

are there more of you?

more—that vanished like morning fog

look, search, question, follow-up

find nothing

what does it take to erase a person—five people

surely more than a week, a month

Where have you gone?

pouring over each clue, seek similarities

island born, under twenty-five, slight build

odd ones out, queer, creative—different

too different to connect, to alike to ignore

are you together, wherever together is

lost, but not found

you leave a space greater than you occupied

hundreds search, thousands weep

Where have you gone?

taken, stolen

escaped, free

questions without end

will you be seen again

five people,

do you rest without

those who best love you

Where have you gone?

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2017: Will It Be a Good Year?

I suppose any year where I make it to the next year unscathed can be counted a success.

I don’t know about you, but there are a few things I see happening this year that only a year like 2016 could’ve initiated.

On January 21st, people around the world are taking to the streets marching in solidarity and protest of Trump’s inauguration. His presidency is likely to set back freedoms and human rights of marginalized people of colour, LGBTQ+ individuals, women and immigrants to worse than 25 years ago.

What can I do about it as a Canadian? I can create space for one. If you need a platform to be heard from, take mine.

I can listen, empathize and fight for the freedoms I’ve long taken for granted. Reach out to our neighbours south of us. I’d be naive to think that this new leadership will not effect my life. Already, racial and gender based hate crimes in Canada have increased.

Reactively, minority groups have begun to band together in support of one another. People have become more generous where others have pulled back. It seems that collectively we are bracing for something volatile but what?

Reading Twitter battles between Trump and, well, anyone–I am fearful for what will occur at the hands of someone so hot-headed. At the same time, I am hopeful for those watching from behind relatively safe borders to open their hearts and homes to the wave of disillusioned voters and political refugees that we are certain to see.

For anyone who is doubting this, take a minute right now and review the immigration numbers of Americans to Canada after Bush was elected, and then remind yourself of all the internet memes depicted Trump as worse. There’s a reason the Canada Immigration Site crashed for over 24 hours after the election closed.

Now is not the time for the world to be silent, but we have to be careful that our voices don’t turn into another bully chant. Let’s be preservers of human dignity. Let’s feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and love the broken-hearted. Only then will it be a good year.

When Thursday is a Monday

We’ve all been there before. Doing something that makes us sigh at our humanity. It keeps us humble and reminds us that sometimes we just don’t have it all together.

The holidays are a hard time for me. It’s dark out almost the whole say, thanks Canada. I am far away from my family that I haven’t seen in going on three years, even more than that for my brother–whom I’d like to say was my childhood best friend and I do not take that for granted. I don’t have the ability to be as generous as I would like to. My brain is exhausted from school and all the work I put in to be my best.

Needless to say when I pour the unground beans into the coffee filter making coffee this morning, I let out a sigh and almost cried. My exasperation was heard by my roommate on the other side of our modest apartment–and I poured the beans from the filter to the grinder and mumbled “I obviously need coffee more than I thought”.

I’ve lost the ambition to clean my house, because I don’t have the finances to host anyone. Showering and putting on pants today was my victory.

During this time of year, it’s easy to forget in all the fun and events those among us who have aching hearts. I miss my son whom was taken from me before his life got to start. I miss the mountains of my childhood, the children that call me auntie, and the familiarness of a place called home.

To cheer myself up, I started to think of all the things I am thankful for. I urge you to give it a try. Here’s my list:

  1. A Warm House– This might seem trivial. Lately, it’s been colder than normal on Canada’s West Coast. I have a warm house, with a warm bed, and a cupboard full of tea. There are many in Nanaimo who are trying to get by this winter on the street. They are literally freezing. I am thankful for enough support to remain housed and I’m thankful.
  2. My Roommate– Our friendship is deeper than that of most roommates. Part of it is that we are both followers of Jesus, but there’s more. We take care of one another. We allow space for brokenness as we both struggle through life with mental illness and trying to function in a world that isn’t kind to those who cannot work full-time and go to school. She blesses me more than anyone I’ve ever lived with, and in less than a year we’ve become family and I’m thankful.
  3. The LGBTQ+ Community– They accept my contradictory nature. I love Jesus; many of my rainbow friends have been deeply hurt in the name of Christ and I am no exception. Yet, they do not fault me for my faith. There is a deep respect in this family of misfits and I do not take it for granted. The group here in Nanaimo holds some of my greatest champions. They help me to get out of bed some days and give me an outlet for my creative side and I’m thankful.
  4. Young Adult’s Group– I attend a very open, accepting and loving Young Adult’s Group that is groundbreaking in their inclusion of myself as a LGBTQ+ person of faith. I’ve never been judged or limited in my ministry by them. The leaders of the group have endeavoured to create a safe place for me, including a no-tolerance of abuse mandate. I will never take for granted the bravery to stand with me when many church leaders do not and I’m thankful.
  5. Outreach– There are pastors and friends in the community whom build me up emotionally, spiritually and even financially. They’ve helped me through a very dark period of my faith journey. It would’ve been easy for me to give up on the church after some of the abusive actions toward me. These folks have reminded me that we are all human, we all fail at loving one another, but grace allows for a better way and I’m thankful.
  6. My Family– Though we are a total mess, though there are not many of us that are even speaking to one another, my mom and brother have helped me in this past year. It speaks to the healing that comes with maturing over time. We are there for one another as best as we can be and I’m thankful.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it sure takes the blow out of the silly humbling things I do each day. It reminds me to look forward and not dwell on the little tedious circumstances that threaten to steal my joy. What about you? What are you thankful for?

~Cheryl

My First Queer Church

Do you know what it’s like to be in a church where there’s only one heterosexual couple? If you’re like most of us, you don’t.

What you probably can relate to is being excluded by the church. Like me, you’ve been refused communion, been refused the opportunity to use your gifts, and just generally not invited to church functions that are not outreach oriented.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend The Lighthouse of Hope Christian Fellowship. I was insecure, skeptical as to what everyone being welcome meant, and was so hurt and broken by the Body of Christ that it seemed easier to avoid new things than take a chance. My friend Tori, a trans woman not that it matters….but let’s face it, it does, invited me for the weekend.img_1434

I was housed by her friend Jack, a trans man who has hand written scripture verses as artwork hanging all over the house. I was able to decompress from the past decade of suppressing my sexuality, be validated and be cared for.

On Sunday, we went for brunch like a bunch of cliche LGBTQ friends….but no, I did not have mimosas.  Then we went to help set up for church. Church happens in an old banquet hall at 4pm every Sunday. It’s a place where the motto is “Everyone is Welcome, and we mean it!”. This phrase is displayed on the overhead projector for all to see, and they really do mean it! There’s people from all walks of life, pets and an online church following. No one singles you out but everyone makes you feel welcome. There’s hugging, worship, prayer and communion.img_1439

Two things from my time at this church brought me to tears and healed my wounded heart for the first time in a very long time.

First, I was invited to play the piano after soundcheck was completed. See, my friend Tori that I mentioned before knew that I used to be a worship leader. She knew that I had been missing that part of my life within the church, and we got there early specifically so that I’d have that opportunity. At first, I felt awkward, and then something beautiful happened. I let my guard down. I played like I hadn’t had a two year break from the piano. I sang from the depth of my soul–from my pain, from my joy of belonging, from my burden of being one of the marginalized at the edge of the church. In those moments, I felt close to God again, I felt his love, I felt that my calling had not changed, and I felt at home.

Second, after listening to Sarah (a trans woman) bring a glorious truth filled word about God’s generosity and obedience in giving–we had communion. As the helpers passed out the wafer and the juice, I watched in awe as there was zero trace of pretence and awkwardness–as we sometimes notice in Contemporary Church. Each member of the congregation was keenly aware of the preciousness of those around them. I began to tear up. Each one of these folks believes that I am perfect as made and perfect in Christ. At no time were we asked to examine our hearts before taking communion. At no time were pet sins mentioned requiring repentance before God as a preemptive deed leading up to the Eucharist.

We were covered by grace, created in the image of God and therefore invited to remember how that good news happened. It was the first time I was invited to participate in communion since April. I didn’t realize how important those rituals, of remembering Jesus together with other believers, were. I didn’t realize how much I was in survival mode. Mostly, I just didn’t realize.

I’m going to go back.

More importantly, I am going to help the same thing to happen here.img_1430

Why I Have Trust Issues

**Note, events in this post are as I remember them, through a child’s lens, and may not reflect actual events!**

 

In class, we had a writing exercise where we were to think of a memory. This memory was to occur before the age of twelve and have a great impact on us. Below is my free written (writing without stopping or editing) response to that prompt.

When I was eleven, I learned that I was on my own in life.

The wind was blowing; it was a normal summer day for Cultus Lake. Hot humid air on my skin that was still damp from the water. It was one of those days where you didn’t need to change out of your swimsuit to dry off. My family and I were at the water park for the day. We had stopped at a gas station/café for lunch and I had to pee. I went inside to use the restroom and when I came out, I could see the car driving away without me in it. I ran as fast as I could after that car. My running shoes hitting the gravel driveway and then the pavement. I ran faster that I had ever run before, yelling and screaming, arms waving over my head. The car slowed. I got in trying not to cry. My mom said to my older brother, without turning around, “Why didn’t you tell us she wasn’t in the car?” and we drove home. I stared out the window and spoke to no one for the rest of the trip.

IMG_5450.JPGNext we were asked to rewrite the experience looking back from our present self. It was through this second phase of the exercise I came face to face with the root of major misbeliefs in my life.

I remember feeling completely unloved and alone, and also in panic for my safety. I was far enough away from home that there was no way for me to get back. I was eleven. I had no money in my pockets and we were hours away from the city we lived in, never-mind local transit. I was so hurt. How could they forget me? Was it on purpose? Was I so insignificant that they didn’t want me or notice my absence? I think this is the turning point in my life where I decided to be noticed, to be obnoxious. Running after the car that day, after being left at a truck stop, I resolved in my heart to look out for me first. My older brother never once spoke up saying I wasn’t in the car. My mom had two kids, how did she not notice. All I can think now, is that the guy she was with didn’t want to wait for me, and they were too afraid to face him. It makes sense looking at other encounters with this man.

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This week, my trust was further triggered when private events were disclosed without my permission. Over the course of my life, I have learned to travel between the extremes of obnoxious attention seeking and hiding my true self. I want people to love me but I am afraid to show them my heart. I’m afraid to get close because experience is a cruel master. 

I go through most days feeling like that younger self. I feel alone, unloved and in a panic. Due to the shattered trust of my younger years, the considerable repeat stories, and the fresh traumas of my recent past–I am suspicious of everyone and trust no one. What’s more, I don’t trust myself.

I know that I blame my family for a lot of hurt I received as a child, and probably they blame theirs. The responsibility for a healthy life is on ME now. No amount of he said she said will erase the past. It’s up to me to correct the damage. People are broken. All of us. Learn to love and trust yourself, then you’ll be able to do the same with others