Feeds:
Posts
Comments

My “tradition” since I moved West has been to take two weeks and explore closer to home, then to fly to Ontario and visit family/friends. This year, the first two weeks of vacation I spent visiting doctors and specialists. I visited some friends who live close by and spent time cleaning my flat and resting. It was not ideal, yet it was what I needed.

In August I flew back to Ontario. This year was different. I decided not to schedule every moment of every day. I decided to visit only those people I truly wanted to, especially folks I haven’t visited in many years…even before I left Ontario. I didn’t rent a car, instead I used the train to move from one place to another and it was wonderful.

When I lived in Ontario I used the train quite regularly. Where I live now there isn’t a passenger train service and I find myself longing for it.

I spent time with my brother and sister-in-law and two nephews. They are old enough now I can tell them embarrassing stories about their dad (being 8 years older has it’s advantages).

I went to Church the first Sunday I was away with a very good friend of mine. Back in 2014 when I was dealing with a mental and physical health issue that meant I was off work for a month, I drove to his community every Sunday for worship. It was life-giving to be with a group of people providing support, and having absolutely no idea that they were doing it.

My friend picked me up at the hotel where I was staying at an ungodly hour and we went to three services together. I heard him preach the same homily three times, twice at one church, once at another. And it was a marvellous homily. He invited me to con-celebrate with him, which was very powerful. And at my request he blessed and anointed me in the midst of his congregation as I await test results. It was a very powerful moment in which I physically felt the power and love of the Holy Spirit moving through him and the congregation.

The second Sunday I was staying with dear friends, one of whom first recognized a call to service. It was because of his gentle nudges that I tested the call to be a priest. He had not shared communion in four years because of many reasons and it was a tremendous honour to celebrate with he and his lovely wife. Needless to say, we were all in tears by the end off the service. We met outside, used a piece of bread and some red wine left over from the previous night’s dinner. we lit a candle, settled into lawn chairs and worshipped God in God’s creation. It too was a very powerful moment where the Holy Spirit blew through our gathering, gently and lovingly.

I spent time listening, walking, laughing and loving.

I taught my grandson and grand-daughter how to build and successfully light a campfire.

I enjoyed shenanigating with friends.

I spent time in the arms of one I have loved for a long time.

I said goodbye to the old and hello to the new. I disposed of things which no longer bring me joy in order that I can be prepared to receive the good that is yet to come.

I left home feeling anxious and exhausted. I returned home feeling grateful, refreshed and mostly well-rested.

I’m toying with the idea of driving to Ontario next summer, taking a full month of vacation and taking my time…stopping at the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg etc., on the way. I may even see if I can convince a certain someone to drive back with me and explore my corner of creation with me.

I ate well, slept well, laughed until it hurt, cried until it stopped hurting, spent time outside, watched a movie, did some laundry, got a tattoo (tree of life between my shoulder blades) and generally, had the best time.

This is the presentation I made a week ago at the First Women Talk Fernie Conference.

Some of the jokes may not translate to the written word, I’ll apologise in advance for that.

All You Need Is Love

Good Afternoon;

My name is Andrea. I’d like you to turn to the person to your left and say “It’s wonderful to see you here today.” Now I’d like you to turn to the person to your right and say “It’s wonderful to see you here today.” For folks who are standing alone, just speak to yourself. We know you already do. 🙂

I’m here today to talk to you about love.
Before I get to that, I want to talk about “norms”.
For the record, “Normal” is not a societal standard, it’s a setting on the dryer…just sayin’.

What society says is “normal” and “acceptable” as a woman is to be between 18 and 25 years of age, naturally blonde, 125 lbs with a thigh gap. Now, as you can see I am naturally blonde :-), I’m twice 25 plus one. My left thigh is 100 lbs, my right is 100 lbs and when I stand straight, my legs touch to the knee. No thigh gap, but I reckon that makes me half way to a Mermaid…and who doesn’t want to be a Mermaid? 🙂

For society today, “normal” is measured through three lenses: straight, white and male.
I’m one of those…can you guess which one? 🙂

In my life I’ve come out five times about five different things…

I came out as a Vegetarian in my mid-20’s. My mother had the strongest reaction when I went home for Thanksgiving.

What are you going to eat?

What are you cooking?

Turkey.

And that’s all?

Well no, there’s two kinds of potatoes, three vegetables, bread, salad, etc.

Then I’ll eat everything but the turkey. And as you can see, I’ve never gone hungry.

I came out as a Follower of Jesus in my early 30’s when I’d gone back to Church after a decade or so lapse. Friends and co-workers would inquire to my weekend plans which always included Church. And for the most part they were supportive.

I came out as a Seminarian in my late 30’s after spending nearly two years in discernment. When I told my friends and co-workers they were not surprised. I can totally see you doing that! Great! Where were you two years ago when I started discerning?!? 🙂

I’ve known from a very young age that I was not straight. I wasn’t truly a lesbian, so I
wondered if it was possible to be attracted to both genders. What was it called? Was I the only one? Then I discovered MCC or Metropolitan Community Church. Also known as “The Gay Church” where everyone is truly welcome.

Throughout Seminary I attended service most Sunday evenings where I felt I was with good friends who became family. I brought my Mother to Church one Sunday night and afterwards I asked what she thought.

It was different.

In what way?

Well, everyone was dressed for Church.

My Mother made friends with several of my friends in the LGBTQ community, many of whom she is still in touch with today. One homosexual couple she refers to as “My Boys”. She can’t remember their names, so that’s how they’re known to her. And when they sign a birthday or Christmas Card for her they write “With Love from Joe and Tim, Mam’s Boys”.

When I told my Mam I was Queer she was her usual, clueless self.

There’s something I need to tell you.

Oh?

Yes, I wanted you to know that I’m Queer.

Oh Andrea, you’ve always been queer.

Um, not like that Mam. It means I like Women as well as Men.

Oh. Um. Oh. Okay. You’re not getting married are you?

Who me? Definitely not.

Good, because you’re not very good at it.

Thanks Mam.

Have you told your brother?

No, I sent him an email and haven’t yet heard back.

Well, I won’t say anything until I hear from him.

Thanks Mam.

Five minutes later she calls back.

Does this mean you like rainbows and unicorns now?

I’m sorry, what?

Well, as A Gay, doesn’t that mean you have to like rainbows and unicorns?

Um, well, I love rainbow, it’s my favourite colour, but I don’t like unicorns.

And you can still be a A Gay?

Mam, it’s not “A Gay”, it’s simply Gay. But I identify as Queer.

Oh, okay.

Five minutes later she calls back.

You’re not going to lose your job are you?

What?

You know, for being A Gay…no, I mean A Queer.

It’s Queer, and no Mam, that’s against the law. I told my Bishop and he’s supportive.

Oh, well that’s good. Because you don’t want to lose your job. It’s the only thing you’re any good at.

Thanks Mam.

To be honest, I’ve never really done a “coming out” as Queer. My closest friends knew and I really didn’t think it was a big deal. When I meet new people I tease out where or if to mention it in conversation. And that’s been great. Until September.

I got a phone call from the local newspaper asking if they could write an article about me and my ministry. I thought it strange that anyone would want to know about me, and was intrigued, so I said yes. We met at the Blessing of the Animals in early October then went over to the Church and chatted. Phil did a wonderful job, wrote a very thorough article.

A couple of weeks later I was coming back for Sorrento where I’d been attending Clergy Conference and my cell phone was pinging like crazy…Congratulations on the article. You’re so brave. I’m so proud to know you. I had no idea, but I think it’s awesome.
When I got to a place with WiFi I looked online and found the article (unfold newspaper) GAY CLERGY CHALLENGES NORMS Oh, um Hi Everybody!

So on that Sunday morning I started worship with Welcomes and then asked “Did anyone read the paper this week?” There was some laughter and I continued “The headline is a bit sensational, but it is true. I’m actually not Gay, but Queer. And if you want to talk about that or the article itself, we can chat at coffee hour.

Our service begins on page 185 of the Green Book of Alternative Services –

Feedback was, and continues to be overwhelmingly positive.
I am who God created. For better or for worse, this is who I am.

1. Vegetarian 2. Follower of Jesus 3. Clergy 4. Queer

And now the last “coming out”. I struggle with Mental Illness. I have Depression and Anxiety, I have obtrusive thoughts and compulsive actions.
I am as far outside the lenses of “normal” as one can be.

Honestly? I like that.

Because I have learned through my life that God creates only from Love. And if we choose to begin with love we will always find a way through.

I have been told I am NOT a Christian because…

I am female – Women should NOT speak in Church, St. Paul says so

I am Queer – It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, let’s pray the Gay away

I am pierced – But technically, so was Jesus I am tattooed – If you want to throw down over the Book of Leviticus, let’s go!

I am Mentally Ill – If you think positive thoughts and pray to Jesus you will be healed.

True Story – A woman told me she was worried for my salvation because I am not a “true believer” and I do not know “the truth”. She said she prayed for me because I needed to give my repugnant lifestyle and give my life to Jesus. Or I would be condemned to hell. I asked her what, in her opinion, Hell looks like. It’s filled with people like you…those who don’t know the truth. And what’s Heaven look like? It’s filled with people like me…we know the truth and we are true Christian. [Pause] I really think you need to work on your threats. Because if what you say is true, Hell sounds like a helluva fun place. 🙂
So, what does this have to do with Love?

Love is the only way to survive in this mad world. In the Bible we were given 10 commandments, but they were complicated and too numerous to keep. So Jesus rolled them into two main commandments.

Love God Love your Neighbour as Yourself.
Simple, eh? No, not even a little bit.

When we are called to love someone, it means we have to accept them just as they are, not try to change them. It means we love them without fixing them. It means we enter into relationship with them. And relationships are difficult.

Anybody here married? You know EXACTLY what I mean…it’s hard.

When we stand as those on the outside, it’s easy to be isolated and feel “less than”. And that’s why love is so important.

I’m not talking about ooey, gooey romantic love. I’m talking about the down and dirty, imperfect, difficult love of relationships.

We are commanded to love, not to like. Which is a good thing because there are times when I will love you, but not stand the sight of you. And that’s okay.

For those who struggle with mental illness, love is absolutely necessary because for many of us, myself included, we feel unworthy of love.

They tell us at Seminary that we often preach the homilies we need to hear. I preach generally about one thing. Wanna guess what that is?
LOVE.

It’s not easy. It’s not light. It’s not breezy. It’s difficult, messy, ugly, uncoordinated, dangerous and exhausting.

So why do I do it? Because it’s worth it.

You may wonder why I’ve chosen now and why I’ve chosen this place to come out as Mentally Ill.

If one person here today can hear this story and it sound familiar, then this is worth it.
Am I taking a risk in sharing this with you? Most definitely.

And it’s most definitely worth it.

In mid-November I started feeling “not myself”. I was bursting into tears for no apparent reason, and those who know me, know, as a rule, I rarely cry. Usually only when I’m really angry.

I would burst into uncontrolled tears for hours at a time. And have no idea why. I went to see my family doctor and she listened to me…really listened to me. We decided to change out my antidepressant which I had been on for 9 years. The change over was a nightmare, and it began in mid-December. It took a good 6 weeks before I started feeling better and in that time I was also referred to Elk Valley Mental Health Services.

I saw an intake worker who did an assessment, and I was then referred to a counsellor at the Health Unit. She, too, is a rock star. On Thursday I finished a program in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that has been a life-changer for me. It’s equipped me with tools to counter negative thoughts and behaviour.

Does this mean I’m cured?

Oh HELL no. It means I have tools to help me not get into that dark place again. There will be good days and bad days. There will be highs and lows, and if I start to lurch towards great darkness, I know I can get help.

If you know someone who is Mentally ill, let me give you some advice. You might want a notebook and pen.
I’ll wait.
Ready?

Don’t try to fix them. Write that down. Don’t try to fix them. There’s no pithy aphorism that can snap a person out of depression or anxiety. They have to do the work themselves. And sometimes, before we can get to that work, we have to sit in the dark.
And that’s okay. Showing love to a person who is struggling mentally often means not saying one damn word. Sitting with, in the dark, holding space with them.

Think of it as a mental blanket fort. In some circumstances, it may be an actual blanket fort, and that’s good. Bring blankets, pillows, comfy pjs and snacks.
Loving your neighbour means loving all of them, as you are loved. In your perfect imperfection as the one God created.

The most loving thing you can do for someone who is struggling is to love them through the tough time. And loving them through it means taking the horrible with the not so horrible. It means risking being vulnerable to let them know you care.

People tell me they don’t believe I’m depressed. When I’m out and about I look bubbly, give hugs and seem to be in perfect health.

The thing is, us Depressives are great actors and when we are not well, we will stay home unless we absolutely have to go out and then we will lie to your face to hide how dark we are feeling. It’s true.

We all wear masks and when you struggle with Depression and/or Anxiety, the masks get thicker and may be more than one. While we’re out saying hello and looking completely “normal” it took us two hours to get out of bed and another two hours to work up having a shower. When we get home we get back into pjs and back into bed.

I’m delighted to tell you that today is a good day. And this week has been pretty good as well.

So, if you call or text me and I don’t answer you straight away, it probably means I’m away from my phone, or I’m in the middle of something else and I will get back to you. If it’s a few days and I’ve not responded it may mean I’m in the darkness and I’m trying to fight my way back.

Be patient with me. I’ll get there.

I’d like you to stand up and take the hands of people on either side of you. In just a moment, we’re going to sing….

In the immortal words of the Prophet Paul McCartney
There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known

Nothing you can see that isn’t shown

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be It’s easy
[everybody]
All you need is love [Da da da da daaaaa]

All you need is love [Da da da da daaaaa]

All you need is love, love Love is all you need.
[AGAIN]
All you need is love [Da da da da daaaa]

All you need is love [Da da da da daaaa]

All you need is love, love Love is all you need.

Thank you.

The past few months have been difficult.  Not all the time, but a lot of it.

I’ve been hiding away a lot, going out to do what I have to do and the rest of the time staying home, in my safe, sanctuary of a flat.  I love my bed.  It is comfortable, soft and makes me feel safe.

Tomorrow afternoon I am speaking to a group of women at Women Talk Fernie.  The title of my presentation is “All You Need Is Love” and in it I will talk about how society views “normal”, how many times I’ve had to “come out” in various ways in my life and why the struggle is real.  I’m excited to hear more than a dozen other speakers talking about many different subjects.  I expect to come away from the day transformed.

After the dust settles tomorrow, I’m going to share the written presentation here.  And I want your feedback.  Most of what I’m going to share will not be news to you, dear reader, but for some, it may be.

I’m going to talk about what it is to be vegetarian, a follower a Jesus, a Seminarian and then Priest, a Queer woman, and a person who struggles with Mental Illness.  The talk will be roughly 20 minutes long and will end with song.  Why?  Because I can.

Thanks for sticking with me when I didn’t have much to say…or didn’t post for months.

Thanks for your comments and encouragement.  Your prayers and your love.

I can honestly say I’m feeling better…and that feels grand.

It seems, these days, that you cannot listen to the radio, or look at a news app without hearing about the plastic crisis in our oceans, lakes and streams.  A viral video of a turtle with a plastic straw up its nose caused an outcry about the dangers of plastic waste, and especially single-use plastics.

It is near impossible to shop for groceries without plastic.  I know I can’t change the world single-handedly, but I can do my part to be a responsible steward of creation in my small corner of creation.

I have reusable mesh bags I use when I buy produce and I try to buy produce that is not already packaged.  I bought reusable glass straws that are super sturdy and a dream to clean.  I don’t use straws often but for when I need one, I have a great one to use.  I’m going to purchase a bamboo cutlery set for traveling so I don’t need to use plastic cutlery in restaurants…usually fast-food restaurants.

I have started using cotton handkerchiefs rather than tissues.  The transition will take a little time, but I’ll get there.

My most recent purchase is washable, reusable panty liners.  They are bright and colourful, snap over my underwear and are very comfortable.  No more bunched liners, no more adhesive struggles, and they wash beautifully.

I’ve switched to bamboo toothbrushes.  The handle is compostable once the nylon bristles are removed and they are easily removed with a pair of pliers.  They are shipped to my home every two months in recyclable paper packaging.  This company “Bam Brushes” is very conscientious of their product and the environment.  AND they are a Canadian company.   You can find them here…https://www.bambrushes.com/

I recently purchased a product that was overpackaged.  I emailed the company to express my concern.  I received a lovely email back that didn’t really say much other than “thank you for writing”.  It did close that this company is looking to make an improvement to the environment.  I’m thinking they should start with their plastic packaging.

I try, wherever possible, to buy locally, or in person.  Living in a small town means this is not always doable.  I resist the urge to order from Amazon for instant gratification…as well as excess packaging.  I’m buying books from the local bookseller or checking them out of the library whenever possible.  Small steps, yet even small steps add up.

I generate 3x as much recycling as I do garbage.  And while I’m pleased with the reduction in garbage, I’d also like to reduce recycling to metal, glass and paper.  There will likely be plastic in my recycling bin for awhile.  And with every purchase I make, I try to make smarter choices.  Taking into consideration environmental impact, cost, carbon footprint and convenience.  Sometimes the solutions are simple to find.  Other times they are more difficult.

I suspect, as with most things, it’s all about balance.

I have a love/hate relationship with technology.   It can keep us in touch with the entire world, and it can also become our entire world.

We live in a world where we can shop for most anything 24 hours a day.  In some instances we need never leave our homes.  We can work from home, shop from home, order food, clothing, books, etc. etc. etc. online.  If you have a credit card or a Paypal account you can live with no human interaction.

I live in a small town.  I bank at our local credit union.  I go into the bank about half the time and use the ATM the other half the time.  I love that I can walk into the Credit Union and the tellers know my name.  You don’t get that from an ATM.

At one of our grocery stores in town (we have two) there are self-checkout terminals.  I’m of two minds with them.  If I need just a few things I’ll usually use the self-checkout as it’s quick and easy.  If I have a lot of groceries I’ll go to the cashier.

I used to order many things online.  I’ve stopped doing that if what I want or need is something I can source locally.  I like supporting local businesses and the local economy.

There are times when I find myself staring at a screen for far too long.  I can easily spent too much time looking at social media instead of getting something productive done, like reading or napping.  🙂

I made the decision in December to stop using the calendar feature on my phone.  I’ve been using a paper calendar and it’s been working out beautifully.  I can keep tabs on each day with a month at a glance and then jot down specifics of each day’s activities in the week at a glance feature.  There I record my mood, pain, headaches (if any), as well as large purchases, budget items, etc.  Makes it easy to look back at the month and plan ahead much more easily.

I’m beginning to break my cell phone obsession.  I use it primarily for texting, phone calls, scanning news apps, playing a few games and, yes, Facebook.  I’ve decided, in the future, when I purchase a new cell phone to go with a more basic model of smart phone and then purchase a basic tablet to use for apps, Facebook, games, reading and whatnot.  Keep technology separate.

The other day I “lost” my cell phone.  I didn’t realise it was missing for a couple of hours and when I remembered where it was (at the Church) I didn’t rush over to get it.  I had to be back at the Church in two more hours so I waited until then.  It felt kind of good to know that it was safe and I didn’t need it in my hand.

So I’m going to continue toning down my technology impulses until my mobile phone is for communication and not entertainment.  And a tablet is for entertainment and communication.  Where I can leave one or both at home and not be stressed or concerned.  Where I can attend a meeting and not have to continually check on messages.  I may even buy myself a watch so I don’t have to fret about the time…

For now I will continue in a digital detox, and spend my free time looking up, instead of staring into a screen.  I will be outside in Creation, rather than inside and fretting.

To some, it may seem a step back, but to me, it is a step in the best direction for me.  I admire folks who can do everything on their smart phone and have no need of paper.  I really like paper, and I like having a visual calendar at the ready.  Looking at an electronic calendar for me, is not the same.

I yearn for a simpler time when I didn’t have to be so connected.  And I’m working, in smaller and in larger ways towards that goal.

So if you call, email or text me, please don’t panic if I don’t answer right away.  Chances are I’m in the middle of something that needs my attention, I’m in a meeting which I don’t want to interrupt, or my phone is somewhere I am not.  I will return your email, text or phone call.  I promise.  Not immediately, but I will.

Changes

This year, 2019 has brought loads of emotions and energies that need addressing.  Each year for the past few years I’ve chosen a word that has been my focus for the year.  Last year it was balance…and that didn’t work out so well.  🙂  This year the word is change.

There are many things that I need to work on in myself.  Many things that need to change and I’m the only one that can change them.  I need to put myself as a much higher priority in my life.

Over the past few months I’ve realised that I don’t care for myself as well as I care for others.  I’ve come to the realisation that I’ve not properly cared for myself, I’ve not properly prioritised myself.  And this year, 2019, that will change.

I need to be gentler with myself.  I want to be healthier in myself.  I must guard my free time and time off better than I have been doing.  And these are things that only I can do.

I am eating healthier.  I am keeping a journal.  I am working with my doctor and a small team of support folks to hold me accountable.  To make sure I rest, I eat, I mediate, I exercise, and most importantly, that I laugh.

I will learn to say no and not feel guilt.  I will be more discerning to that which I say yes. I will learn to fall in love with myself…because really, I’m a pretty neat person.

This year will be the year I dig deep, turn myself inside out, and remind myself of who I truly am.  I will be a priority in my life.  I will learn to love myself…to truly love everything about me, including my many flaws.  My goal will be to see me as God sees me.  And that’s going to take a LONG time.  But hey, time I have.

Buddy

A week ago my cat died.  He was 11, diabetic, cranky and generally a cantankerous old guy.  But he was MY cantankerous old guy.  He was the first cat I’d ever been staff to, and as much as I didn’t think I’d fall in love with him, I did.

Two weeks ago I took him for his annual check-up and he was diagnosed with diabetes.  The vet asked if I wanted to treat Buddy’s diabetes.  I was still processing my shock with the diagnosis.  And that damn cat, who usually did not cuddle or even like sitting near me put his paw on my leg and looked up at me.  How could I say no?

So, I asked the questions I thought needed asking…how long do we try this?  What do I need to watch for?  How much will this cost?  Is he in pain?  Armed with insulin and needles I brought Buddy home and explained what was happening.  He looked at me with his usual disdain and proceeded to hide behind his chair and groom himself.

He started his insulin that night and received it every day.  Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, no change in him.  He was still thirsty, still hungry, still cranky.  Monday and Tuesday he started slowing down.  Not as thirsty, not as hungry, still cranky, and moving less.  Wednesday he didn’t get up from his favourite place under the kitchen table.  When I got home Wednesday afternoon he had lost control of his back end and his breathing was shallow and laboured.

I called the Vet to see if I could take him in and be put down but they were unable to take him in as they’d had two emergencies just arrive at the clinic.  So, I wrapped him in a towel, cuddled him and talked to him.  He didn’t want to eat, he didn’t want to drink.  He didn’t want to live.

All through the night I cradled him and stroked his head.  He was doze and wake.  He seemed confused and had seizures.  And about 11:30 pm he died in my arms.

I thought it ironic that he died on All Hallows Eve.  The night the curtain between this life and the next is the thinnest.  As much as I couldn’t imagine having a cat, I had one.  And the experience, while painful and sometimes frustrating, was worth it.

Thursday morning I brought him, bundled in a towel, to the Vet.  I answered a few questions, filled out a form and after spending a few last minutes with him he was taken to be cremated.  All Saint’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong.  Buddy was no saint, but I thought it, again, ironic, that he was being cremated on a Holy Day.

I came home and got to work cleaning.  Scrubbing the bathroom floor, kitchen floor, bedding.  Vacuuming, cleaning all this “stuff” and giving it away.

I have a photograph of him taken just after I brought him home.  I put a feather beside it with which I used to tease him, and lit a candle.  I opened the windows and welcomed in the fresh air.  And I cried.  And I cried.  And I cried.

In my heart I know that there will never be another Buddy.  I intentionally adopted a 10 year old cat because I couldn’t stand the idea of an elderly cat living his last days in a cage.  We lived together mostly in harmony, and I appreciated the company.  But not the mess.

I don’t want another cat.  I don’t want another pet.  Right now I need to let my heart heal and to live with the loss.  Eventually it will heal.  I cannot imagine having another pet.  Not now, and possibly not ever.

I look for him when I come home.  I remember most vividly every morning when I am once again allowed to perform my morning ablutions without supervision.  And I keep stepping in cat litter.  Thanks for the memories Buddy.  Follow the rainbow bridge to everlasting laser pointers and more snacks that you can imagine.  But no belly rubs.  Definitely no belly rubs.