Voice in the Snowdrifts

Storms are intense.

This week, in my area of the world, we’ve been stuck in a perpetual winter storm for five days. In an Island community, where there’s rarely ever snow, we now have over a foot and it’s steadily coming down. What’s more, the sun pops out now and then to melt just enough snow into ice–only to have more snow fall on it.

This means holing up in our houses. If we do venture out, walking can be dangerous business. Just today, I had a good friend fall and injure themselves pretty bad–I mean, it’s nothing life threatening, but it will certainly be a literal pain for months to come.

The crap storm that is Trump is no different. Normally, I am very active in keeping informed in world politics. As a Canadian, I especially pay attention to my neighbours to the south. Since the election, I have no idea what sources to trust. On a daily, sometimes hourly, basis–my newsfeeds and inboxes are filling up with rumours, lies and direct quotes that make my heart hurt deeply.

Like my winter storm, I’ve retreated. I’ve hidden my voice in the white noise. I’ve shared articles, talked to friends and colleagues, but avoided adding my own opinions to the mix. I feel like we’re overwhelmed. At least, I am overwhelmed. I’m not done fighting though; I just need a break.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve no energy for fun, friends or any more feelings. I keep being invited to things, but it’s all I can do to go to class and get my homework done. Part of that is second semester blues, but a large part of that is the frivolity of it all. I get annoyed at small talk  and silliness. I don’t judge people who are able to do that, to cut loose and have fun–I am not one of them.

First, I’ve never really been able to goof off or play around. I crave deep intimate intellectual connection. Which is ironic, because I love Ron Burgundy and Zoolander.

So here I sit, trying to change the world from my laptop.

~Cheryl Folland

Advertisements

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

Writer Wednesdays: Your Voice

Think of the stories that you tell your friends and family. What triggers you to share? I can think of three main reasons I share my experiences with others. Moving forward, I would like to formally invite you to consider a moment or some moments in your life that need to be share with others.

These moments could be tragic. These moments could be hopeful. They could bring laughter or they could bring tears. Most importantly, these moments are truthful.

What are the three reasons I share stories from my life?

  • I share stories to give encouragement

There are times in my life that have been straight out of a Law and Order: SVU episode. I grew up in rough circumstances. My choices as a teen were destructive. My young adult life has been plagued by trials, grief, illness and shame.

Yet, God has brought me through. I am an overcomer by nature and my blood type is resilience. If I can share who I once was in light of who I am now–my voice matters–it gives people hope.

  • I share stories to bring abundant laughter.

I’m hilarious. It’s true. Sometimes, I forget how funny I am. People get used to me. Then, I’ll be out at an event or in public and I’ll say or do something that’s classically Cheryl–and people will choke from laughter.

When life tries to suck the joy out of you, when all the news is bad news, when people seem to be negative for no reason–humour aptly placed can bring life. Just think of how much time we spend (waste) laughing at memes or watching Youtube videos. Laughter is the best medicine for many things.

  • I share stories to create understanding.

“What’s the big deal?” & “Lighten up.” are two phrases you wouldn’t expect are spoken to someone as laid back and hilarious as myself. Fact is, I hear them more often than is comfortable. You see, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had a lot of hurts and I’ve helped a lot of broken people.

We might not know why something is important until someone tells us how it impacted them. Casually mentioned atrocities can cause deeps wounds in those around us and retraumatize them without our knowledge.

This is where you come in. Your voice, your story, your humour, your experiences can make the differences in the lives around you.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “you have no idea”, here’s your chance to give the world an idea–a new perspective. Who knows, you just might change a life.

~Cheryl