Let’s Get Better Together // a post on LGBTQ-ness and Faith

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I know that I write about my sexuality a lot. Some people even would think that it is the main part of my identity– which, it is, I am a lesbian and I know that to be a truth about me. But I also have another part of my identity, my Christian faith, which is just as– if not more– important.

 

I have a rough relationship with the church. It was my first place of refuge and peace when I left my abusive household. I found my inner strength and a newfound joy there. A girl who felt displaced and lost found herself again in Job and Daniel  and Paul’s writings and in the arms of Jesus. I want to say that the feelings I have now have been newer and developing as of late. But truth be told, I’ve had them for awhile.  The church has hurt me in a way that I don’t really know how to grapple with and understand. Being a gay Christian causes me to be ostracized and marginalized as soon as that word– gay– is spoken. People rarely sit down to say “okay, so tell me about you then? How did you find out? How is your faith because of this? What can I do as a brother or sister in Christ to welcome to you?” Instead, I find myself on the outside looking in, allowed to participate but never lead, and assumed that I am living in sin because of that one word.

 

Depending on your view, I could be living in sin. I have spent years read commentaries, books, the bible, and having conversations. I end up in the same place– that it’s okay to have a Christ-centered same-se relationship. So why is it that I continually feel guilted and shamed about the fact that I have dated women? Is it because I got it wrong? Am I truly sinful in this way? I don’t think so. I think that the peace I have with God on this is truthful and real. I think the problem and the feelings stem from the people themselves. The ones who stand by and don’t really do anything, the opinionated silent types, and the ones who actively create the walls between the oppressed and the oppressors (although I am sure they wouldn’t see themselves that way).

 

When I feel these feelings, I find myself falling deeper into the grey bleh that I feel too often. I have depression, that is a truth about me that I try to talk about and be vulnerable about. What you might not know is that my depression only worsened and got to a diagnosable state once I came out and began to deal with the all the shit  that can come with the freedom of speaking you truth. I have days where I sit on the couch all day, barely eating, barely doing anything because I am overcome with a feeling that all the color in my life is gone. I pull away from people and I turn into myself, ignoring any semblance of caring word from anyone.  All this to say, walking between these two worlds– gay and christian– is exhausting and I am so fucking tired.

 

People ask me a lot: what can I be doing better? How can I be loving the LGBTQ community better?

 

I am not dismissing this question. I am glad that you are asking it and that people are trying to come to some sort of middle ground. But it hurts, this question, and it is tiring to answer it. In James 4:11-12 it states: “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” So, how can my brothers and sisters in Christ continually condemn and shut me, and other LGBTQ community members, out?

 

I feel as if I am constantly fighting to validate my existence within  the church and church community. Before I came out, I was a spiritual leader on campus, one that many people came to for prayer and counsel. I don’t see how my sexuality could change that? Because it didn’t, I was still the same God-fearing and Word-loving Christian that I was the day before I posted my coming out post.  The real problem isn’t with me or with how I identify, I think the real issue here is a kind of fear– of the unknown, of things different. I have the same fears about different things so I understand a bit, though different circumstances (I don’t ever want to assume that I know or understand exactly what another human being is feeling because that isn’t possible).

 

Instead of responding in the fight or flight way that Christians do to this topic, we should turn to Romans and Paul’s writing to the Corinthians for further instruction: 1 Corinthians 13: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” and Romans 13:8-10 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,”and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

 

So what can you be doing better?

 

I think that is the wrong question to ask. Asking an LGBTQ person how you can do better, how you can love them better, comes from a good place, it does. And I don’t want to discount these questions and the intentionality behind them. But answering these questions, hundreds of times, over and over, and seeing no progress is tiring and hurtful and leads to greys and monochrome. I am tired of not living a technicolor life. I am tired of defending myself every day for a part of me I cannot change. I am tired of not finding solace in the church. I am tired of being tired. Instead of what can you do better to love us, how about “what can I do better to stand up against the injustices presented against you?” or “How, as an ally, can I fight this battle alongside you, support you, or both?”

 

So, Love us better by accepting us for who we are, letting us have representation in places that we normally wouldn’t, normalize homosexuality– because it is more normal than you would think, and get to know us for the other things that are in our life– talk to us about things other than our sexuality, let us be fellow humans and brothers and sisters in Christ with you. That is all I want. To feel loved, wanted, accepted, and colorful.
A prayer to share: Abba, father, I come to you in my vulnerability, my openness, my unknowingness. I pray that you can wipe out any bitterness, anger, confusion, or spite I have towards those different from me. Wipe away the feelings I have to need to be right, to push my agenda instead of yours. Father, make me your servant– a small paper lantern lighting the way to you. Instill in me your hope that bonds us gladly to each other, until finally, our world changes and faces the cross and your love.

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Out with the Old & In with the New

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(I can’t believe this photo is almost ten years old omg)

 

2017 was one of the hardest years that I, and I know many others have faced. Between a presidency that has divided our nation, the opening up and coming forward about sexual misconduct and harassment, and individual struggles that we’ve undergone (mental illness, physical illness, familial issues, heartbreak, etc).  And yet, it is in times of trial that we are forced to sink deeper into our values, beliefs, and community. It is in trials that we learn how to stand inside of ourselves and partner with the one we see in the mirror. 2017 may have broken me badly, but I also learned how overcome so much. So here are five lessons that I learned this year that I think are worth sharing.

 

Love is a choice.

This year I experienced my first real break up. I wrote about it once before and I am glad to say that the feelings of bitterness and resentment I felt then are gone. I was harboring those feelings because I couldn’t accept that love is something that can be switched on or off, but the reality is that love is a choice. You wake up every morning and you have a choice: to continue to choose the person you are partnering with or not. They chose not when I was still choosing yes. That’s where the pain comes from, that’s where the dissonance comes in.

 

People are not things and you can’t continue to choose and keep them when they’re time is up and they have left. Saving a ghost of a person, of a love, is not healthy. I hope that as you move into 2018, you can put the ghosts to rest and you can find someone who keeps choosing you. Because you, my dear, are worthy of being loved and chosen every single fucking day.  

Messing up doesn’t mean that you failed.

When I was little I always thought that making a mistake meant that I had failed and messed up. Now, I know that making mistakes is how lessons are learned. I thought that I could move on from some things in life if I chose to make certain decisions: I slept around, I smoked weed and drank a lot, I fell back into unhealthy eating habits to keep control on certain things in my life. I chose anything that could numb me from the pain of situations in my life and I suffered because of it. My depression got worse, I relapsed with my eating disorder, knowing I was gay made me feel… guilty and shameful… because I was sleeping with guys when I knew I felt nothing during it.

 

These choices don’t define me, just as the things you’ve chosen that are “aligned with your values” don’t define you. They only start to hold power over you if you ignore them and the reasons why you do them. You can fall to rock bottom and make mistakes and mess up as long as you shake it off and start to climb back out of the pit.

Focus on yourself– be your own best friend and cheerleader. The only way you can partner with someone else in life and be able to support them is if you know who you are and what you want in life and how to take care of yourself. Eat right and exercise. It is proven that a healthy diet and daily exercise can reduce depression symptoms and help you feel better as a person.

2018 is coming and, although I am not one for resolutions because I think that you should always be working on yourself, I will be making this year one with more mindful consumption: of food, media, friends, etc. 

 

Fear is a sneaky lil guy

Sometimes in life we kind of stop and talk down to ourselves. We tell ourselves that our dreams aren’t attainable, that the people in our lives don’t like us, that there is no point in the work out because the results are there. All of these things come from lies in your head and they all stem from our neighbor Fear.

 

Fear, he’s that guy on the street who’s house is whispered about being haunted. The teens will try to ring his doorbell  before being met with a “Get Off My Lawn.” Fear wants you to think that he is a recluse and harmless; he wants to be taken out of the equation entirely.

This past year I started to compile my poetry into an anthology/book to publish. It’s taken me a while because I thought that I was just battling insecurity but in fact, the root problem I was facing was fear. I needed to find out what I was afraid of.

I thought originally that it was just failure. I was afraid that nobody would buy the book and I would fail as a writer. But it went deeper than that. I wasn’t just afraid of failure, I was afraid that my words and, in essence my story, didn’t matter. Once I was able to begin to tackle that fear and work through it, my book compiling and writing and editing ent by so much faster.

So tackles your fears, uproot them from the garden of your mind. You can do anything and be anything, if you put in the work and effort.

To grow in something, you have to put up in an effort.

This year, I grew immensely in my faith. Maybe it’s because in the beginning of the year, I felt like my university was invalidating my faith because I am also queer, but ultimately I thankful for it all– the persecution, the heartache, the trials. They pushed me further into the Word, further into Christ’s grace and embracing arms, further into Perfect Love.

I read through Job three times this year, I found myself weeping in public bathrooms to the Psalms, I screamed curses to the sky in a state park at night because Romans broke me completely, and I wouldn’t trade a tear, laugh, or moment of confusion for anything.

To be able to grow in anything– faith, sports, education, relationship– you have to put in effort and time. Nothing will come to fruition and mature if it isn’t given time, love, effort, care, and focus. Just like a tree. You have to be a tree in your faith; bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. Because you will grow. He will provide. The friend will show up. The results will be evident.

 

Community is more important than you realize.

I wouldn’t have survived 2017 if it wasn’t for friends, family, and found family. I was so afraid to vulnerable with my summer staff, I thought I was too different– it was my first time working at a secular camp and I was unsure of how I would balance my spiritual life and my normal life there. But opening up to these peoples and letting them into the darkness and lightness of my life was worth it– no matter how bad I wanted to just stay at the surface with them. Now I have some of the greatest friends and I look forward to seeing them again some day.

I also devoted my time and effort into a singular church and started to attend there regularly. The family I have at Sojourner’s is amazing. I know I can turn to any single person there, whenever, and they will listen to me, pray for me, and support me.

—–

It’s amazing that community and being vulnerable and battling fear can be so important in becoming confident in yourself, but it’s true. Without these people and self-love, I would be lost and still broken. Instead, I am working in a job I love, about to publish my first book, dating a girl I adore, and very involved in my church and church-goers lives.

I am thankful for 2017, for all it’s lessons and hardships. Here’s to continuing to grow and learn and love in 2018!

 

Join me!! Let me know what you hope to accomplish in 2018/what your “resolution” is and what you learned in 2017  in the comments, so I can cheer you along!

A Letter to Louis C.K.

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Dear Louis C.K.

Before I comment on anything I want you to know who I am. I know who you are and before I ever bare my thoughts to someone, I think it important to have a bit of introductory information out of the way.

I am 21. I am an artist and a lover of art, a writer and a lover of words, a sister, and a survivor of sexual harassment and assault.

When I saw that you had issued a statement saying that the rumours were true. You had done what those 5 brave women said that you did. I sighed a breath of relief. I thought “wow, here is a man. Here is someone who understands and can stand against the heinous crimes–even if they were his own.”

So, Louis, you can probably understand my dismay and utter disgust when I read your statement.

The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.” No. You did not have that kind of power over them. These women were not your fans but your peers– other comedians. The fact that you are trying to excuse your behaviour by attaching a character trait to these women makes my stomach churn. It is classic victimizer language to believe that you are are only wrong because you “wielded that power irresponsibly” is not up to par with what I expected from an apology.

“I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in their community, which disabled them from sharing their story.” I will say you have it half right here Louis, you did disable them from sharing their story until now… but it wasn’t just you. Society is telling a story about sexual abuse that doesn’t allow for women to share their stories and not suffer the consequences. These women could have,  and probably would have, lost their jobs if they had opened up during the time of the abuse and harassment. You, on the other hand, are still profiting and even being commended for your statement. This isn’t because you were widely admired though. This is because you were in a seat of higher power and you manipulated that power to abide to your will.

“The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else.” As a survivor of sexual assault and harassment, and for all of those who are in seats like mine, you live with the regret of hurting us too– along with the 5 women you took advantage of in those situations.

This is all unfortunate to me, because I used to sing praises about the comedy that you delivered. It saddens my heart that someone who I enjoyed and was entertained by has let me down. I will no longer be a consumer of your art, Louis. I hope you can understand.

 

Sincerely,

Courtney A. Walters

 

 

 

The fact that Louis C.K. is getting commended by people for the mere fact that he offered up a statement and a lame-attempt at an apology is exactly why we aren’t moving forwards when it comes to the topic of sexual assault. In his statement, Louis doesn’t even come right out and say, “I’m sorry” instead, he warps the language and message to make it seem like he is as much the victim as the 5 women.

 

Louis is not a victim. He may have asked those 5 women if he could show them his penis but never does it say that they gave consent. Consent is not a whispered yes in fear of losing a job. Consent is not a lack of answer.

Consent is an eager and enthusiastic agreement to move forward into intimacy. It is required for each encounter. It is not an EZ-Pass on the highway, you don’t get to purchase consent and then have it forever.

 

Between Weinstein, Spacey, C.K. and countless others, we aren’t addressing the safety and protection of the victims, of the ones who are living and surviving and moving through life with the repercussions of those events. When we focus on the victimizer, we continue to silence and discredit the stories of the women and men who come forward with stories of abuse and assault.

 

Let’s do better, America. Let’s not accept attempts at apologies and statements just because they were given in a time when they are few and far between.

 

Let’s stand up for those who don’t have a voice. Let’s work towards turning the narrative and making society safe for those who feel cautious in most situations.

 

Let’s do better, America.

 

For Such A Time As This

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My church is currently reading through the book of Esther together before we begin the 7-week advent season. If I’m being honest, when I heard we were going to read Esther, I was a little bummed out. The only thing I knew of Esther was from the Veggie Tale movie and the verse “for such a time as this.” I wasn’t sure how the congregation was going to get anything from this study.

 

Frankly, this attitude was more of a reflection of how I felt about my personal journey with God lately. My social media shows a lot of “christian content” but if I’m being honest, opening my bible hasn’t been the thing I do first in the morning, turning to God has been pushed to the back burner of my mind.

 

It’s been hard to be post-grad and not have a job. People have told me not to compare myself to others because there is no set timeline of what life should look like post-grad. People have told me not to compare because comparison is the thief of joy. People have told me not to compare because it is not “godly behavior.”

 

But I compared. And it was damaging. The more I swiped through Instagram and read updates on Facebook, the more my interior crumbled. The more I got messages asking how interviews were going and had conversations that inquired how long I would be in the area, my insides became stone.

 

I slowly began to put walls up. I pushed people out. I cancelled plans, feigned illness to stay in bed because I was tired all day but couldn’t sleep at night because that’s when my mind would become it’s worst.

 

The people I eventually opened up to all gave me the same advice: pray about it, turn to God, read scripture. But I felt like he was so far from me, so distant. It had been awhile since I had prayed for myself and for things in my life. Truthfully, I was afraid that I had forgotten what God sounded like and that my walls were too thick to let him in.   

 

The name of God is hidden from the book of Esther, it’s not mentioned even once, but his works are evident and his presence is clearly seen.

 

My depression has been so thick and cruel lately that the name of God has been hidden from me.  

 

When I think of the safety net of things to do when I feel submerged in darkness, the amount that I need people jumps out to me. But the darkness is tricky, it has this way of entering into every crevice and casting out all light and hope. When I am submerged, reaching out is the last thing on my mind. So I withdraw, I lock myself away, I retreat.

 

Henri Nouwen states in his book The Inner Voice of Love that “there are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.”

 

As someone who has been in both extremes in the last 4 months, I can say with full faith that you need balance there. Scientifically speaking, pain is a sensory and emotional experience associated with damage. Pain is a wound and wounds take time, love, healing, and care. So recognize it, stay aware of it, but just enough that you can heal the wound. And don’t distract yourself from the pain. Don’t turn to media to create a numbness in you, stay away from turning to stone, stay away from becoming numb.

 

Stone crumbles. Media shuts down. That pain, that darkness– if not dealt with will still be there, festering and growing more intense.

 

Let the wound heal because you were made for such a time as this. There is no generalized timeline that you need to follow. Be present where you are, how you are, and who you are.

 

There will be days when the darkness wins but that doesn’t mean you stop fighting. When the darkness wins, rest. Heal. Breathe. Tomorrow comes, joy arrives with the morning, you will make a way in this world and suddenly, you won’t need to push people out of your life, but can instead welcome them in even when it’s hard… especially when it’s hard.

 

So open the doors, pull back the curtains, allow people and light to shine when all you want is to sink down. God wasn’t named in Esther but he was still there.

 

God is still here.

 

 

 

 

 

A Nouwen quote to leave you with:

“A friend is more than a therapist or confessor, even though a friend can sometimes heal us and offer us God’s forgiveness. A friend is that other person with whom we can share our solitude, our silence, and our prayer. A friend is that other person with whom we can look at a tree and say, “Isn’t that beautiful,” or sit on the beach and silently watch the sun disappear under the horizon. With a friend we don’t have to say or do something special. With a friend we can be still and know that God is there with both of us.”

Find Unity, Seek Healing, Search for Community.

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“One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.” – Henri Nouwen

 

I’ve been reading a lot of Nouwen lately. I’m not sure what’s been drawing me to him, but his writing is great. When I can’t find the energy to open my bible… I open his books. I delve into his journey and his discoveries.

 

This quote is one I keep coming back to. I’ve underlined, highlighted, circled, you know it– I’ve done it. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel that unity. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel the healing.

 

Our church has been so divided and torn up by the social justice issues that seem to continually plague our society. It breaks my heart to see people who are just called to love and offer peace to their neighbor, up in arms about people and borders and possessions.

 

What if, instead of focusing on the things that make us different, we focus on the things that unite us What if, instead of letting fear be a blocker of joy, we let joy eradicate fear?

 

I know this is easier said than done. I know that changes to systematic approaches and problems take time. But it starts with individuals. It starts with you. And it starts with me.

 

– – – – –

 

This may seem off topic, but let me just tell you that October’s have always been my favorite month.

 

The soft feel of summertime grass beneath my feet while brisk autumn wind plays with my hair. It’s a magical month, a time of beginning and cleansing and vulnerability. A time of “in between” and “not quite”. I love to live within those grey areas.


This year, though, I’m not finding myself excited for October. Instead, I’m wishing it would flood by quickly and move out of my life. It carries pain this year, carries memories I don’t care to relive– in fact, I’m working on rewriting them.

 

I’m hoping that October can become a month of wonder again for me. I’m tired of feeling lost and unfixable. I’m tired of putting on a brave face as the day gets closer and closer and passes me by.

 

I am reminded of the lyrics from one of my favorite gospel songs, one that I tie to this time of year especially.

 

“Lord I will lift my eyes to the hills knowing my help is coming from you. Your peace you give me in times of the storm.

 

I’ll admit that this seems impossible some days. Lifting my arms in praise is hard when life feels heavy and dark.

Peace escapes me and if I’m honest, I don’t seek it when I should. I don’t seek it when life is overwhelming. I don’t lift my eyes to the hills… Instead, I turn away. I close my Bible. I isolate myself.

This is the opposite of what God wants for us. This is the opposite of what our heart needs in times of the storm.

 

I fought off the demons by myself for far too long. The best thing I ever did was open up to another person about the struggles I had, about the difficulty I had with getting out of bed, the anxiety I felt every time I had to step out into public places, the isolation that came with being a gay Christian. The best thing I ever did was go to counseling and be truthful about the things I deal with, to accept the need for medication to become myself again, to learn ways to cope when emotions take over too much.

 

As much as I joke about and make fun of community, it so necessary and needed. Right now, I’m in a middle ground where I don’t really fit into any community around me. It’s hard and if I’m being truthful, I could try a bit harder. Invest a bit more. Search a little wider.

 

This month and season of my life feels long and endless. But like the Israelites in the desert, God is handing me the Manna and strength I need for the day and teaching me to trust He will deliver again tomorrow. Because He always does. Tomorrow is a gift and promise of His faithfulness.

 

You don’t have to hurt alone. You don’t need to feel divided. Find your people. Pour into them. Be there, in person, for them in times of joy and sorrow. Find unity. Seek out healing.

 

And remember:

People really are the greatest gift of all.

Stay Alive // NSPD

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The first time I tried to commit suicide, I was 15 years old. Sad and lonely, I was unsure about everything– including staying alive. I remember throwing the sheet over the shower pole and my fingers trembled. I was saved when my camp counselor walked into the bathroom to announce that it was chapel time.

 

The second time I tried to commit suicide, I was 18 years old. Walking into college, I thought I would do nothing but thrive. Instead, I was floored by depression but named it “being too tired and isolated.” I remember holding the knife against my skin, thinking about how I wouldn’t be missed and no one wanted me around, as a text lit up my phone. It was a friend asking if I was free and that she wouldn’t take no as an answer. I went.

 

The third time I tried to commit suicide, I was 20 years old. My university was up in arms about LGBT rights on campus and I, a gay christian, was floundering. I was feeling alone, like I was an invalid person, and that everyone hated me because I was on the opposite side of the debate. I had pills sitting in my bag to take after I checked my CPO box. Inside, there was a letter from an anonymous student telling me that they looked up to me and my courage for speaking out and being myself. I cried and dumped the pills down the toilet.

 

~~~~

 

I still face depression everyday. He used to show up in the morning with a steaming cup of coffee, ready to begin our day together. But now, I take a small white pill everyday to keep him in another room. Sometimes, Depression calls to me and whispers lies when I allow him to get close.

 

Instead of facing him alone though, I let my friends know I am having a hard day. They send encouragement from afar and hug  me when I am close.

 

To Write Love On Her Arms chose the motto “Stay alive” for the National Suicide Prevention Day slogan. I think that is fitting. It’s so much of a choice, being here and present. It’s so much of a choice to make people feel like they can choose to stay.

 

I am here to tell you to stay. Please, stay. Stay when the days are hard, when swinging your legs out of bed feels impossible. Stay when your heart is breaking and you feel like there is no one to turn to. Stay on nights when screaming up to the stars is the only release that works, stay when your skin is crawling to be removed from your body, stay when your mind won’t shut up.

From one survivor to another, stay.

 

Whatever the situation, please please stay. 

 

You are here. You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.

You are not alone. You are never alone, friends.

 

There are people around you to talk to, my inbox is always open. Reach out, Stay alive, Be present.

 

Below I have attached numbers that are important because you are important:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741

The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386

The Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 1-800-999-9999

A Summer for the Books

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This summer was one for the books. It began so normal. I graduated college, I was in a loving relationship with an amazing girl, I had a potential job out west. Life was… going forward.

 

Spiritually, I was praying for God place a revival in my life. I felt stale and out of touch with my faith. Maybe it was the thought of all the changes coming or taking my life into my own hands, but I wasn’t relying on God… not enough. And honestly, I was questioning my faith and was close to walking away from it.

 

So, I prayed a prayer that I paraphrased from a friend. I asked God to break me down, to strip me of all earthly desires so that I could rely on Him, to take away any idols I had in my life that were distracting me from Him. Basically, I wanted His love to destroy me completely so that He had to build me up from bone.

 

If I’m being completely open here, I didn’t think that anything would change in my life. I didn’t think that the prayer had power. But, then I didn’t take the job. And then my girlfriend ended things, and I felt stuck and destroyed and wanted something to distract me. So, I took the first summer camp job that came my way and I worked at a 4-H camp this summer.

 

To say that this camp was a formative part of my year, or even my life, would be an understatement. To me, it wasn’t even the work… the people made my life so much better. I found friends, I could open up to them—which is big because I don’t open up to people that easily. They were sweet and caring and helped me to care less about things outside of my control. They taught me how to live in the moment a bit more and to be more spontaneous.

 

Being single this summer turned out to be exactly what I needed to heal my head, heart, hands, and health. I wouldn’t have wished it upon me, but I am thankful for the lessons it and God are teaching me.

 

You see, 4-H teaches that there are 4 important H’s to live by: head, heart, hands, and health. I went into this summer with so much going on that all four were sick to me.

But I was able to clear my head; I learned meditation and yoga and, to be honest, they helped me learn to like myself a bit more and to appreciate the uniqueness that I bring to the table.

I was able to love better; yeah, my heart was so broken this summer, but I was able to love kids and they loved me. I can’t put into words how much they saved me this summer—I am eternally grateful for every bond I forge this summer.

My hands were able to serve; I was able to put the Lord’s work first, to serve His kingdom, and to pray more than I ever did before.

My health also improved; so, yeah, I have Lyme Disease, but I am also more aware of how my body is speaking to me and am empathetic to others around me.
These lessons weren’t easy, they’re things I have to constantly remind myself of. But it is so worth it. You can rise from the ashes. Beauty comes from all kinds of pain, hurt, and despair.

So, hold onto who you are. Hold onto hope. Things get better. People won’t always let you down. People will show up when you need them.

 

Sometimes, change throws you through a loop. So instead, jump through, pray the prayers that scare the living shit out of you, and let the roller coasters take you for a ride. You’ll be stand on firm ground before you know it.

Thoughts on Discipline

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After  a walk in the woods, I phoned up a friend to talk to her about some things that have happened in my life recently. And somehow she saw right through it all and told me to tell her what was really on my mind. So, I asked her why I didn’t feel God as much these days as I used too. Since graduation, I could feel my faith slipping slowly from grasp. It was like sand—the harder I tried to grab a hold of it, the quicker it slipped. So, I asked this older woman in Christ why that was. She asked what’s been different since graduation, that we should see if there is a root cause for this issue.

 

Since leaving college I have not attended church, I haven’t prayed consistently, and I have opened my bible once. I don’t talk to people about faith related things. It was like leaving the community of believers drove me to leave my belief.

 

So, her answer to my problem was that I lacked discipline. Merriam Webster defines discipline as the “ability to train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.” The word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina which means instruction or knowledge.

 

Since I had left Houghton, I had not been disciplined in my faith. Even just saying the word discipline makes me cringe. It’s probably because that word carries negative connotations in our society. We hear discipline and we think punishment.

 

I think that discipline goes much deeper than that though. To be disciplined means to develop those habits. It means setting the alarms to set time aside. It means digging into the word even when it feels dry and bland. It means seeking out the community and investing in them… even if it’s for a short amount of time.

 

Discipline means getting your hands dirty and putting in the work. It means realizing that the consequences for not being disciplined are far greater than any earthly punishment. It means missing out on a lifetime relationship with the Creator of the universe, with the cosmic father who knows each and every one of us intimately.

 

For me, this means praying more and opening my bible up. It means finding moments of peace in turmoil, to seeing God in every tree and creature and person, to having hope when everything seems lost. It means showing up to support people who have supported me and to finding love on this earth. For me, discipline will be training myself to develop this as habit so that turning to God in the times of trial and times of goodness will be nothing else but a pure joy.

 

So, here’s to learning discipline: to dipping our hands into the waters of life, to getting dirty and putting in the work, to meeting God where we are- no more and no less.

 

A prayer to share: Lord, help me to want to know you more. Give me a taste of your love that leaves me thirsting for me. I don’t want this love if it’s only half there and I am all in if you are. Thank you for a heart that beats to learn discipline and grace, to be completely myself in your sight.

From Beautiful to Abandoned: The Warning They Don’t Tell You That You Needed

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(pic credit: Lily Brunner)

The other night I experienced one of the most gut-wrenching moments of my life: when someone stops choosing you. I really can’t put into words the emotions I was feeling. Through the course of the phone call, I felt mad and scared and sad and everything in between. Honestly, I still feel those things. Nobody warns you about the pain of your first real break up. Nobody warns you about the emptiness and confusion it brings.

 

I dated this person for basically 8 months. Ironically, that day would have been today. I loved this person… the first time I met them at a picnic in the woods with a group of friends, I had this feeling that this was the one. I had never really believed in “the one” until this moment. Until I saw them—the way they were kind to each and every person, the way their smile made me feel like I was staring at a star, the way their laugh put everything right in my life.

 

I saw her and everything bad melted away in my life.

I saw her… and my only thought was “I’m going to marry this girl one day.”

 

Of course, I wanted to be sure. So, I befriended her. I supported her over the summer and swapped crazy camp stories. Then school started up again and I sought her out… not because I wanted to date her. Not because I had a second agenda. I sought her out because she was such a good person, such a good friend.

 

And eventually, I realized that the feeling I had in the spring at the picnic was still there. I liked her… kinda a lot.

 

Everyone tells you about the amazing feeling of your first love. They boost it up in stories, they make it larger than life. But honestly, I think they have it wrong. The feeling of your first love is subtle. It comes on gently and builds you up like a beautiful building—foundation, to walls, to roof. It builds you up and makes you stand tall, it makes you feel like everything will be okay.

 

This first love turned a reckless, live in the moment girl to a thoughtful, awaiting and planning the future woman. This first love… it came sweeping in and softly molded me into the person I always wanted to be.

 

And yet, the other night, it ended. And I feel like a hole has been punched through my chest with a jet plane. It’s the worst feeling imaginable—to see your future ripped from your grasp and tossed aside like it didn’t matter. To be asked for space when all you want is to speak to them about the process they went through, to try to understand the decision so that you can respect them and love them through it (even if from afar).

 

And so, my only advice to those who haven’t been warned about your first break up is this:

 

It will hurt like hell. You’ll wake up every morning and forget the peace you had while asleep. You’ll cry in the kayak aisle of K-mart because they are currently on a kayaking course. You’ll try to breathe like you used to but everything is different and you need to learn to live and be again, by yourself.

So you’ll feel desolate and broken, abandoned, like a building that’s been tossed aside. You’ll cry and you’ll hurt and you’ll wonder about where things went wrong, but ultimately you will stand. And the lesson will continue to teach itself to you: love is a choice and there is always the chance that they will stop loving you.

 

People aren’t things and you can’t keep them against their will. I miss her more everyday… but I miss the friendship the most. I miss the laughs and the support. I miss my best friend.

 

Of course, I still feel the “I’m going to marry this girl one day” feeling. And maybe that is true. But for now, space and time and friendly love is all that I have to hold onto.

 

And that is more than enough when I think about the countless people who are loving me through this… even if it can’t be her.

Lies Cannot Drive Out Lies, Only Truth Can Do That

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Here’s the thing:

If you scroll through my instagram from the last five months, I can guarantee that you will see happy, uplifting posts. Rarely digging below the surface. Rarely touching on issues of the heart.

Social media has this way of covering up all the darkness in our life. It’s simple; we apply filters to the pictures and in turn, filter our lives of anything that doesn’t match our aesthetic.

Online we are scarcely honest with others, let alone ourselves. It is not something that gets shared. It doesn’t get the likes. Instead we write pretty poetic words and hide behind the screen.

I’m breaking that. I am going to be really truthful in the post. I hope you’ll stick around.

This past semester was the hardest group of months I have ever faced.

I had just returned from a fantastic summer working at a camp with the most amazing kids and fellow staff members. God was integrated into every aspect of my day and I was feeling so close to him.

Then I arrived back to school. My college is a Christian liberal arts school. It is wonderful. I honestly thank my university for the ways that it has grown me the past three years.

But things got tricky. I was in withdrawal from the community that I had over the summer but was also tired of the lying that had taken hold of my heart. I had been working for years on the idea of reconciling myself and my faith and I finally felt like I had achieved that.

So, in October, I came out. I posted on Facebook that I was unveiling the masks in my life. That there was a facet of my identity that had been hidden for far too long.

I am a Christian

and I am gay.

I thought freedom awaited me after revealing that truth.

But instead, I got messages that told me I was an abomination. Telling me I would burn in hell. That my opinion on this matter was not as equally valid as others. That people like me, who held the belief that our identity could be multifaceted, were underdeveloped.

I held a strong front. I interacted with those who openly stated their defiance to my claim and I tried to do that cordially. I met with peers, I excused their naivety and ignorance– the hurtful statements that they made and the ways that they dismissed my hurt.

I met with leaders of my school. The president of student life, of the college, of Student Government. I wanted to know how my peers could be acting in these ways, how they could be so isolating, and how my university could stand by while this all occurred.

My college did an okay job at starting discourse. There were public conversations on the changing of the covenant language to be more minority inclusive (especially in the area of LGBTQA+ youth). Professors gave talks. But still, the student voice felt muffled.

 

and I pushed others away because I couldn’t stand the feeling of not being heard or seen or valid.

 

We were throwing ourselves against an iceberg and it didn’t seem to ever move.

You can only throw yourself into something before the isolation and the pain of your breaking point is met.

I was diagnosed with severe depression before Christmas and started medication early January.

There is a stigma around medication that makes me cringe. There is a stigma that makes me want to pull my hair, scream into the void, and flush my medication down the drain.

But, I have an imbalance in my brain. The medication allows the proper amount of serotonin to be produced. It allows me to swing my legs over the side of my bed. It allows me to go to class, to get back into the conversations, to actually empathize and care about other people.

Medication is not bad. It does not zombify all people. Instead, my medication allows me to fight back against my depression. To fully embrace the person I know I am inside.

 

I’ve been praying this past week for God to break me.

That may seem drastic and insane and crazy but let me tell you why it needed to happen.

I started praying this prayer because I had built up myself into some sort of hard-hearted pirate who didn’t need anything underneath her feet but the pedestal I had built myself. I started praying this prayer because I needed God to break me down and then to build me up from bone, to make breath enter me so that I will come to life and know that He is God (Ezekiel 37:5).

 

And I am not sure yet how much I will break. I am not sure in what ways this play out. But I know that He is the source of my strength and I want to be able to stand only because it is on the rock of His salvation.

This past semester was hard and testing and trying. But without it, I doubt I would have been able to stand up so tall today and talk about love and reconciliation and prayer.

We need to love each other so much right now. With hate and darkness and not-knowing surrounding the United States right now, we need to love each other fiercely.

Because as Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”