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

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THE NIGHT WE PAINTED THE LAND RED


Benjamin Granger. An American.

I sat and stared at the television screen. I was sitting there, on the old familiar couch in my living room, but my mind was somewhere else. All I felt was a strange, disillusionment… and all I saw was red…

Red was the color that ushered in the much-to-soon inevitable end to my freedom. Red was the color that came to tell me I could no longer safely publically be me. Red was the color that told me I could no longer post anything on my Facebook about my sexuality, or anything remotely indicative of my being gay or supporting my own rights without being documented. Red was the color that stole the joy from my heart and replaced it with… I don’t know what. It’s a strange feeling to go from feeling privileged and progressive in one moment, to a slave, a second class citizen, a target of hate, and completely unwanted by a nation, all in one hour.

Thoughts starting racing. My career was over. Why finish school. How could I have a job anymore? Who would hire me? An openly gay male? I’d already come out on Facebook. It was surely already no secret to the government what my sexual predispositions were. In one evening, my plans at being a psychologist, a counselor, and a therapist vanished. My years of study in college were meaningless. My degree was meaningless. In one swift heart-wrenching moment, my thoughts for my future went from writing, research, producing literature, and continuing pursuing my passion and dream of musical compositions, art, and teaching, to one sickening thought; “I have to survive, and I have to escape.”

So this is what it’s like to be a refugee. This is what it feels like to live in hiding. This is what it feels like to be a minority. A true minority. Without recognition. Without privilege. Without rights. Without honor. Without dignity. Without worth to my name. Walking outside to smoke a cigarette was different that day. That man in the truck driving by looking at me… did he know? Was that hatred in his eyes? Was that fear in mine? Was that a gun in his front seat? How could I live like this? In … AMERICA…

America… the land nothing bad ever happens. No one ever gets hurt. No violence. Only freedom. Only liberties. Only privilege. Only wealth and opportunity, education and progressivism. I ceased to exist. Worse, in that stunning moment when the red tide overcame the blue like an unrelenting insatiable sea of anger, I ceased to matter. Never mind that I had a degree. Never mind that I was a musician that could command tears to dance on your face from your eyelids. Never mind that I was a healthy, strong, handsome young man in his prime, able to work and worth his wages in labor. Never mind my potential, my progress, my pedigree, my knowledge, my intelligence, my productivity, my anything. I might as well have had any of it. Never had done any of it. Never been any of it. Never had been anything.

The poorest straight white man with no education, no passion or pursuits, no talents or drive to do anything was worth more than me in this new land that I called, ‘home’, even with all that I am and can be. Because I’m gay. And trump hates gays. My shock turned to anger as my family cheered him on. As people said hurtful things on the internet, and told me I was overreacting and to get over it and stop seeking attention. ‘That’s why people don’t like us to begin with’ they said. ‘Overdramatic attention-seeking homos’. My church spurred it on. Praising Jesus in my midst for the man who told me I was worth nothing. That my marriage was worth nothing. Let my kids figure out where to go when their daddy dies, because dad doesn’t have their same last name. So many things in my head.

“The elections over, just get over it and move on!” “Why do you have to beat a dead horse? Let it be and stop criminalizing and attacking us” they said. I was supposed to just roll over and let them take what was sacred to me, that they took for granted, and then “get over it”… and this is what America thought of me. Where was I going to live? Where was I going to hide until then? What if no country will let me in? What if I’m stuck here… What if…

Are they really going to put us into concentration camps? Surely not! That would never happen in America! Donald trump would never win the election! Donald trump could never get that many votes! Donald trump wasn’t really running for presidential candidate… I’m starting to wonder if my worst fears are yet to be realized. Should I prepare? Or hope?
Shared by permission in the hopes to reach as many as possible–that we might understand, support and rally together. 


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Things Not to Say

Conversations over topics where friends disagree can be very awkward at times. I’ve been having good chats with friends of varying emotional investments. We all have our core group of friends, the ones that are more family than our family. After that, there seems to be spheres of relational clout that blend out.

There’s no clear lines in these relationships. It’s difficult to say how to tell a casual friend apart from an acquaintance, but I would be remiss to say there isn’t a difference. My face lights up over some casual friendships (classmates, work friends, people I see regularly on the bus) and other relationships are grace growers in my life. These are people who are friends with people I care about, so I make an effort to get to know them. For a myriad of reasons, I don’t particularly get along well with these folks. Of course, I treat them with respect and dignity as I would anyone made in the image of God (note, this is every human on the planet ever.) However, being kind, interested and invested in these folks takes work because they seem to be the folks that say those things your mother taught you never to say.

I believe it’s a casualty of the #YOLO generation. The “I do what I want” philosophy and “Screw you if you’re offended” trend is creating huge walls and isolation in the young adult community. We say things that are hurtful,  bigoted, mean-spirited and down right cruel with one of two caveats. Either the offender was “only joking” and the onus is on the offended party to “lighten up” and “learn how to take a joke” or it was just their opinion. In this second option, the speaker usually tries to belittle other points of view. They point out how backward those who think that way are, how deceived the opposite side must be, all while stating “it’s my opinion”. This leaves the listener feeling insulted but also that it would be rude to call out said opinion as wrong…after all, people are entitled to their own opinions right?

Being entitled to our own opinions is different that giving air to them in a way that knowingly hurts the person listening. Live and let live is more about letting people live by their philosophies while you do the same–as long as no one is being damaged, than it is about sharing with anyone who has ears how absurd the things we don’t agree with are.

The most difficult thing about these conversations, is I am so busy being polite that I forget to call out the offence until well after it has taken place. It’s almost as though I am so concerned with what not to say that I end up saying nothing at all. It’s not okay to say nothing. It’s not okay to take abuse in the form of homophobic, racial or demeaning comments simply because someone says “I’m just kidding” or “it’s just my opinion”. Opinions can be wrong. Hate speech in Canada is illegal. If you are being hateful, even if it’s by accident, you are breaking a law that has some steep consequences–not only relational but potentially criminal.

I want to take a moment here to apologize to the people who I’ve offended by saying stupid shit. There’s no other words for it. I was behaving like an uncultured hateful bigot and I am deeply and profoundly sorry.

I resolve not to let others saying harmful things in my presence or sphere of influence whether in jest or otherwise. I would appreciate it if you held me to that same standard too. As a follower of Christ, love needs to rule my actions. I hope it will.

I’m Still Here

I’ve been MIA for over a week from my blog. I would like to provide you with some grand explanation as to why. Perhaps I was on an adventure and did not have access to wi-fi–is that even a thing anymore? Perhaps I was so engrossed in PokemonGo that I failed to engage with reality beyond work, eating and sleeping. Perhaps I was writing my next big masterpiece.

Reality is I am sick. I have always been sick, and unless God sees fit to heal me completely, I will always be some measure of sick. Like so many other great people, I suffer from mental illness. This past week my victories have been getting out of bed, having a bath and eating healthy food. Getting out of bed before 1pm is a triumph. Calling in sick to work, because I am physically sick as a result of my mental health issues, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I am sitting at home feeling like my life is a huge struggle.

I know I have it better than others. The sickness in my brain tells me that I’m a failure, it tells me that I am a quitter, that I am letting people down, that I should just be able to be happy–because I can’t there’s something fatally wrong with me. IMG_1098
What set it off this time? You think it would be a tragedy. The world’s events certainly do impact my mood. Day after day there is a headline of needless violence and hatred. People are killing one another, they are supporting hateful politicians and care more about where people pee than the poor and the dying. That’s not what did it.

What did it was good news. You see, I received a letter that I made the Dean’s List this past year at University. I had no one to celebrate with because I either pushed people out literally or they ghosted me when I came out publicly as bisexual. I’ve been feeling and grieving the loss of close  relationships for the past four months, but I’ve been keeping busy. It was easier when I was busy.

I do not really have a point with this post. I want to let people into the struggle. If you feel gloomy and dark and all alone, reach out. There is always someone to listen. Getting the thoughts out there prevents them from consuming us and spiralling out of control.

You are loved. You are needed. You will overcome.

~Cheryl

Anxiety, My Old Friend

Recently, though I thought it was relatively conquered, my anxiety has been rather high. As per usual, I have been giving myself a terrible time about it. Thoughts of self-condemnation and ceaseless internal berating only fuel the embers of fear and depression.

Last night, I was awaken with shock like symptoms: cool clammy skin, dizziness, rapid breathing and intense nausea. I do not and did not have the flu or food poisoning. This physical reaction is a direct effect of my anxiety.

When one lives with generalized anxiety disorder day-to-day activities are clouded with worries and agitation. In light of the local and international violence, my anxiety has been on high alert for the last while and it is taking a toll on my sleeping and emotional well-being.

Orlando–this was a huge trigger for me. I recently came out publicly and had been receiving mixed reactions, some compassionate, some hurtful and some hateful. Orlando hit me hard.

Within a week of that shooting, there was a shooting near my home. Shootings in Canada are substantially less common and more remote in small cities like mine. This compounded my fear, and I started to hide away in my home.

Once I had recovered some from those traumas, a body was found in a culvert near where I used to live. I saw the area, next to a church, taped off while riding the bus home from work. My fear of the unknown, it’s still not been released as to what happened with that incident, caused me to further isolate myself. I began to be afraid to walk down the street in the middle of the day. I closed my blinds so strangers couldn’t see if I was home or not if they knocked on the door. All while painting a smile on my face and working everyday at a local daycare.

The daycare I work for is connected with a local church. The people are lovely, this kids are energetic and rambunctious, and it was only a matter of time before local church staff tried to recruit me for their kids program. Unfortunately, I am not out at work. They don’t know that I am not heterosexual. I am not sure I would lose my job, but I am not sure that I would keep it either. When the Pastor asked me if I would be interested in kids or youth ministry, I had to fumble around for reasons (that are true, but flimsy) for not joining. I am terrified as I make new Christian friends in the community that they will find out I am queer.

I am afraid I will lose my job, I am afraid of gossip, I am afraid of losing my credibility as a theologian, I am afraid.

This constant state of fear has worked its way into my other activities. I am afraid to go places alone in the event that I might run into someone who I know disapproves of my sexuality. I am afraid to tell people I am getting to know someone because they will invalidate and pervert that relationship. I am afraid that I will not be able to do what I love–working with God’s people–because I am queer. I am afraid.

Fear is quickly taking over my life, with each tragedy, each conversation between peers condemning LGBTQ people I avoid commenting on, each church event that will actively preach against people like me, each letter from concerned former friends–each of these magnifies the fear.

What’s a person to do? It’s easy to offer glib responses like “who cares what other people think?”, truth is, we all care. We get lonely when we don’t have like-minded people in our corner. We become afraid to try new things because of how events went in the past.

I will strive to be a safe place for LGBTQ people of faith (and people in general). I never want someone to become physically ill because of the fear they have in being themselves.

You are loved. You are precious. Fear not.