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

Advertisements

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

 

 

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.

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

Radical 2.0

This is a post I wrote when I felt like I was at the bottom of a dark pit and the only way out was honesty. With LGBT issues taking centre stage in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, now more than ever, it’s important to share our coming out stories. It’s important to offer hope, to offer solidarity and to hold one another up with love and respect. If you’d like to share your story, visit the Contact link in the main menu.

517bf-img_0884Just over a year ago, I came out as Bisexual to those who know and love me and then on social media. For the sake of Christian connection, I put myself back in the closet so to speak in order to avoid hard conversations, criticism, isolation and potential loss of relationship. In doing so, I became judgemental, defensive, angry and isolated. I ended up perpetrating all of the things I was afraid of happening to me to others.

Friends and family tried to reach out and be close with me. They called, texted and emailed regularly. I shut them out. I kept telling myself “they won’t understand” which really meant “they won’t accept me”. What I was forgetting is that many of these people already love and accept me…what’s more, is many of them suspected I was struggling with something that was bigger than my anxiety.

I’ve been a part of The Gay Christian Network for almost three years now, to learn more about them click here. At GCN, I’ve found people on all sides of “The Great Debate” as they call it. There’s a spectrum from allies and parents of LGBTQ+ believers to married and committed same gender couples. There’s opposite gender couples in mixed orientation marriages trying to make it work. There’s celibate Christians who take a literal approach to scripture. And there’s dating LGBTQ+ Christians who take a more liberal approach to scripture.

Here’s what isn’t there….judgement. There’s no inquisition. No need to defend one’s existence or choices.

There’s room to ask questions, find answers from all sides and chew on the heady stuff with Jesus. There’s many resources for scriptural analysis for both Side A (Same Gender Marriage) and Side B (Celibacy). There’s resources on how to have the conversations that are hard. Theres a community full of love and support.

What does that leave me with? Hope. Hope for reconciliation between the marginalized and the church at large. Hope for me, that I have a place to fit without feeling like a leper or having to have it all figured out. Hope for the kids that are holding back from relationship with Jesus because “Christians hate gays”.

I would love to have a discussion about how to support people who are marginalized rather than how to support that my existence (as someone who is Bisexual and a Christian) is okay with God.

I’ve chosen to remain silent for the last year because I’ve not wanted to argue. I don’t want to defend myself when people say “it’s not who you are”, “God didn’t create you this way” and so many things that are meant to be encouraging but really aren’t.

If you’d like to know more, I can hook you up with some resources:

The Great Debate-Side A and Side B
Kevin Garcia, LBGTQ Speaker and Writer, Lover of Jesus
My Personal Hero, Vicky Beeching +Vicky Beeching
Believe Out Loud, and movement removing the stigma for LGBTQ+ Believers +Believe Out Loud
Matthew Vines and I are not on the same page, but here it is anyway. I take more of a Side B approach. +Matthew Vines

Feel free to share and comment. If comments are hateful, they will be deleted. Let’s move forward in love and respect.

Since the original publishing of this article, many hurtful and vehement comments have been made regarding LGBT hate crimes. Hate crimes are never okay. They are never God’s judgement on people. Reading the Bible, we see that Jesus took the full wrath of God against sin on himself when he was nailed to the cross. To say that God is doling out punishment on people for simply existing as an LGBT person (even though I personally don’t believe it’s a sin), is to limit the power of Christ’s atonement. There’s nothing we can add to make that payment more complete.

“Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, my sin was but a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.”

~Cheryl