Esteem

Lately, I’ve been thinking about esteem. Not self-esteem, though that’s part of it, but esteem as in value. I’ve placed a great value on writing by pursuing an education in the field. Yet, when faced with the opportunity to apply for a writing position, I am quick to discredit myself.

I took a good hard look at other areas of my life this past two weeks. My skills, likes, hobbies, and things that bring me joy all point to things I value—things I hold in esteem. I started to pay attention to others’ observations (not to be confused with opinions) and realized that as my own worst critic I often fail to realize and own my accomplishments.

Cataloguing things that I’ve worked hard for and things that others noticed in me gave me courage to apply for a position, and I received a second interview. To stand out on paper, without having met an employer, isn’t easy. During our discussion, the interviewer let me know what set my application apart. It was my ability to describe myself, they said. They could tell my wit, humour, and love of writing from the “tell me about yourself” portion of the job application.

Don’t be afraid to hold a high esteem for the things you love, your skills, or yourself. One day it might land you your dream job.

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What I didn’t know was missing

Sitting, rather, laying on top of my patchwork quilt yesterday, I said, “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.”

I’ve always been an independent person. I was the strong-willed child that knew what she wanted, the edgy teen who didn’t take flack from anyone, and the travelling idealist looking for a place to put roots down—in her own time.

Over the past few years, I’ve begun to do just that. I’ve met more amazing people since moving to Vancouver Island than I was prepared for. I’ve had the privilege of working with non-profits and social justice warriors to invest in the community and better the lives of lose less fortunate. I went back to school to pursue my passion, became established in the local writing community, started working full-time for the first time ever, and have a strong support network.

I was happily single. Free for adventures, late night talks, random road trips, and content with it.

Then, I was happily single and crushing hard on someone.

For all my bravery, moving to other countries with my clothes on my back, coming out as bisexual in a Christian church (subsequently losing what felt like everything), and coming back from nothing countless times—it was the single most terrifying experience to put myself out there.

I’ve had a history of barking up the wrong tree. People are beautiful. In my life, I’ve known some rare gems. They don’t see their potential, their impact on others, or their sheer brilliance. As an observer with my heart on my sleeve, I notice those individuals with the capacity for great love right away. I sat on it for a long while. I thought, this will pass and then I can carry on with my plans of graduating and work towards publishing.

Then, my good frenemy tequila intervened and I sent that notorious drunk text. Now, thank GOD drunk Cheryl isn’t an idiot. I didn’t say anything regrettable. It was literal liquid courage. I told her that I liked her.

What happened between now and then can only be explained as a miracle. Like, finally all the good karma I’ve sown is coming back to me. I didn’t know I needed to feel safe like I am with her. I didn’t know that I needed to feel beautiful even when my hair is standing straight up and I’ve got last night’s glitter and camping dust stuck to my face. I didn’t know that I needed someone to hold my hand while my heart broke for the pain of a loved one.

It’s funny how you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.

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

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?

Rediscovering Joy: Getting to Know Me Again

You may have been wondering where I’ve been for the past week. After steady blog posts, more than a week of quiet makes readers wonder if you’ve lost your drive. I’m here to say it’s quite the opposite.

I took a step back and had some time to reflect on recent events. I’ve had sit downs with friends, family and strangers on all points of the spectrum as it relates to faith and sexuality. For the most part I am greatly encouraged.

For a long time, I haven’t been doing the things that bring me joy. All of my actions over the past while have been what’s expected of me in public and I hid the real me behind closed doors. I’m not just talking about gender identity and sexuality.

We cannot choose which parts of our true selves we shut off. It’s like a light switch, it’s either on or it’s off. I was deeply depressed because I lost joy in the things that made me who I am. I had quit music, I had quit reading for pleasure, I had quit writing (outside of schoolwork) and I had quit being outside. I was hiding. I was scared.

This week I did a few things that I haven’t done in a long time. I read a 600 page novel in under two days, I went on a couple outdoor outings by myself, I restyled my hair in a crazy way and I spent an entire day in my pyjamas. I am actively rediscovering who I was before I started hiding.

Most importantly, I am doing it with Jesus every step of the way. God is reintroducing me to the intricate, fun and beautiful ways that he’s made me–and it’s giving me appreciation for those around me.

I used to feel contempt and annoyance for people who were freely themselves when really I was just jealous that they didn’t seem to be afraid. I thought them naive when really I was just scared. Not everyone is will support and endorse everything we become, but you have to be your own biggest fan–can you live with the person you’re becoming–or like me do you need to pause and re-introduce yourself.