What do you call a writer that doesn’t write?

For the last few months I’ve barely been able to catch up on life duties. We’ve all been there. Work, volunteer commitments, friendships and relationships new, old and budding. All of those events eat away our time. As finite beings, bound by the 24 hour clock, we can easily lose days, weeks, months, and sometimes years before we take the time to do the things that fill us up.

I’ve been challenged, with noble intent, by fellow writers in my community at my lack of wordsmithery. “Write a little each day, even if it’s not for sharing.” “Take time to write Cheryl.” “Have you been writing?”

Though I’ve not been writing, words, stories and concepts have been floating around in my brain. It’s almost as if I have TOO much in my heart and on my mind to make sense of it all. Though I am in the middle of an intense busy season, the events filling up my calendar are also filling up my heart. It begs the question, what do you call a writer that doesn’t write?

  1. Dreamer—Half finished poems and post-it notes clutter the piles of papers in my living room and bedroom. The poems are unfinished because the experiences informing them are still in progress. I imagine, when the Fall University Semester commences in just seven short weeks, I will have endless inspiration to draw from for my portfolio.
  2. Introspective—As a verbal processor, I see my emotions as a heap of jumbled words within my heart and mind. It’s essential to spend time untangling and sorting these words into the proper places in my internal storage space. (God I sound like a nerd.) With the new experiences and directions, I am taking the time to create space within myself, and my life, to place the moments and memories I am collecting. I suppose a photographer collects photos and sorts them, the geologist rocks and precious stones, the artist images and media—as a writer, I collect words, phrases and metaphors; all contained inward.
  3. Avoidant—The downside of enjoying oneself this much, I don’t want to stop, sit and write. Some folks can take a notebook or device with them and write wherever they are. I am not so lucky. I crave, NEED, down time to let down my guard, open the gate, and write from a place of vulnerability. I get flustered, almost a flight or fight response, when something interrupts this process. As a result, I avoid sitting and opening that avenue. Out of fear of being caught in a tender and raw place, I collect more moments, memories, and words than I can hope to handle like a hummingbird greedily syphoning a sugar feeder.

There you have it. I am an avoidant introspective dreamer who, on my best days, is a writer, and on my worst, a hot mess. Being absent from writing is a direct result from being present in long dormant portions of my life. Once I figure out this heap of heart words, you’ll hear much more from me. Until then, keep in touch and tell your stories.

 

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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

A Story about a Cat?

Hey there friends!

I am currently enjoying a rainy weekend away from home and the troubles that lay in that area. I needed to come up with a clever and original story this weekend for next week’s short fiction class.

My friend suggested I write a story about his cat, so I did, and I’d like to share it with you. Hope you have a laugh and a smile.

Francis

 

Today will be the best day. I know what you’re thinking—Francis, you say that every morning when you wake up. Seriously though, I mean it this time. Not only is it my favourite time of year, where the autumn leaves are various shades of fiery goodness, but they cascade in such a way that one cannot help but pounce on them. In my neighbourhood, the weather is a comfortable ten degrees Celsius with a gentle mist. This is magnified by the rejuvenating sleep I was blessed with last night. To accentuate my joy, it’s Saturday, which is the best day of the week.
            After a hearty breakfast of gourmet salmon and herbs prepared by Jack, I will spend today balanced between lounging at the viewing window and enjoying the general splendor of creation. This sounds like I’m lazy, excessively leisure, let me assure you—this is not the case. You see, this weekend I have a house guest. She’s been here once before, and though we did not get off to the best start, I quite enjoy her now. On her first visit, it was clear that her habits would disrupt my daily routine. She caused Jack to stay up later than usual, which delayed my bedtime.
            To understand the significance of this offence, I must explain mine and Jack’s relationship. He is my faithful and loyal companion. Each morning, he prepares my meal and makes sure that I’m doing well emotionally and physically. He’s almost like a personal assistant but we have a deeper connection. You see, in a way, he rescued me from a hard life. If one does not have the right people, it’s very easy to get lost down a dark alley or be attacked in the street—homelessness is a very real problem where I come from. I’m at an advantage over my peers to be so well off and taken care of. Over the years, Jack and I have become family. It makes sense that this unwanted house guest had me on edge when first she arrived.
I’ve been used to the peaceful quiet companionship that Jack and I have; she wanted to chat with me incessantly. She even put her suitcase in one of my favourite places to sit. The nerve! How is one to be hospitable when a guest so clearly disregards boundaries and civil propriety. By the third day, I realized that she was anxious to make a good impression and we stayed up late playing games in the living room. Regardless of her and Jack’s early morning the following day, we laughed and enjoyed one another’s company into the early morning hours.
            This week’s visit was much more acceptable. I greeted her as an old friend, though I’ve only known her a short while. She shared with me her newest purchases and I tried to model them for her—but our sizes are not at all the same. I fancy that I looked adorable in her turquoise snowboarding jacket. Ever the generous guest, she opened up her suitcase and allowed me to revel in its contents. Books, clothes, trinkets and gadgets, all neatly packed into a carry-on bag. I wondered to myself how long she’d be staying with a load like that, and she assured Jack and myself it was just until Sunday afternoon. She would spend today writing stories and scripts whilst I went about my business, but that’s not why she came.
She’d been invited to perform some of her art at a local place of worship. I, myself, do not attend. I don’t much like traveling beyond my neighbourhood. It’s far too much work and the anxiety of myself (and Jack trying to manage my anxiety), is really not worth it. I will get to listen to her practice today. Her musical ability brings me joy as I observe the coming and going of residents through the viewing window. Cars drive alternating in each direction, there’s a man with a wool jacket and a blue umbrella, behind him walks a grandmother with a toddler in a shiny red raincoat. The soundtrack of her soprano voice, accompanied by the brass strings of Jack’s borrowed guitar, lull me somewhere between waking and sleeping. I am content. I stretch and sigh and fall asleep for a short while.
“This is what Saturdays are for.” she says. “Lounging around and being creative.”
Silently, I agree with a sleepy nod and go back to sleep. As long as she continues to play, I rest. In a few hours, Jack will return and regale us of his adventures in town. Until then, this is my peaceful companion. She reminds me that people are not always what they seem. I remind her that neither are cats.

~Cheryl

p.s. Yes, I am the “she” in this story. And this is Francis.img_1515

 

 

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

5 Things I Learned from Discussing Sexuality with a Pastor

Recently, I did something that I was afraid to do. I talked with a local pastor about LGBTQ people and their relationship with the church. I was scared before I went, even though I know this person and knew the content of the conversation, that it was going to be about trying to convince one another of opposing views. Here’s what I learned:

1) Bridging is bumpy.

One of the most helpful things we did for one another at the start of the discussion is define our terms and our lack of exhaustive knowledge on the material we were about to discuss. We laughed a bunch and admitted that it felt weird to talk this openly about being “not straight” (as I put it) and loving Jesus.

2) Something’s got to change.

The reason for today’s conversation was the recognition that when people come out as LGBTQ they feel, for one reason or another, they need to leave the church. LGBTQ Christians feel like they have to choose between fellowship with people who love Jesus and worshipping/serving together and their sexual orientation. We both recognize that conversations need to be had at an open table. This table needs to have listening ears on both sides–not to convince each other about theological ideologies but to listen to one another with empathy and understanding. There will be an “us” and “them” as long as we talk past one another.

3) People are hungry.

Pastors and lay workers within the church (read many churches, not one specific church) are meeting outside of Sunday services with LGBTQ community members to learn how to engage with people and begin ministering out of a place of love. What’s being discovered is the amount of people who were raised in church, attended youth group, and even went to Bible College who identify as other than straight and left the church. They desire greatly to worship alongside other believers without being seen solely for whom they love. They want to be seen as God’s children walking out faith.

4) We don’t agree on every sin.

In the course of our conversation, we discussed whether or not conservative and mainstream Christian churches would be able to understand that LGBTQ Christians do not believe that their orientation is sin. We talked about how wide the spectrum is within the LGBTQ community–where some hold to traditional male/female marriage teachings opting for celibacy as the way to honour God with a same gender orientation and others hold to same-gender long term committed marriage. Similarly, Christians don’t all agree on alcohol consumption, secular movies and entertainment, swearing and modesty.

5) One important question remained.

How can we remove the stigma, isolation and fear for those who come out in faith communities?

There’s a few ways to do this. All of them take a long time.

First, sexuality regardless of straight or LGBTQ needs to be discussed in the context of church teaching. How can we expect a conversation round sexual orientation and inclusion if we can’t even discuss sex in the context of marriage? It is astounding the amount of young adult Christians who didn’t know how their body worked…or why it worked that way when I was at Bible College–because it was dirty and taboo.

Second, we need to create a culture where someone disclosing sexual orientation, sexual confusion or gender related questions is met with compassion and not solutions. Thank them for sharing with you. Admit that it must have been scary and difficult to talk about. Let them know that your love for them has not and will not change. Maybe consider waiting until later to discuss they why and how they know or are questioning. First just hold them and tell them it will be okay.

Third, how can the church make space for LGBTQ people and families to participate in church? We discussed the various reformations in church culture: women in ministry, divorced leaders, children outside of marriage–and how the church has embraced and including those once marginalized groups (some better than others). In light of those revelations of grace, how can the same attitudes be applied to the LGBTQ people in our communities.

What about you? Did you feel at one time or another like you had to choose between living authentically and being accepted? How can we walk with you?