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in this case V is not for Valentine but for vagina.

Twenty years ago Eve Ensler wrote a series of monologues after interviewing women from all over the world.  She talked to young women, elderly women, shy women, bold women.  She talked to survivors of genital mutilation, rape camps, First Nations Women who had experienced Domestic Violence, and other horrific experiences.  In 2014 she interviewed a group of Trans* Women and wrote a new monologue sharing a new kind of discrimination and experience.

This weekend is V-Day in Fernie.  The Vagina Monologues are showing at the Arts Station on Friday at 7:00 pm, Saturday at 1:00 and 7:00 pm.  I have the honour of sharing a monologue about a Trans* Woman.  Her story is poignant, heart-breaking and just a little bit sassy.  Every woman who is part of the Monologues is sharing a bit of herself through the sharing of her monologue.

Unfortunately, my Church is also having their Annual Valentines Supper on Saturday evening, so I won’t be able to attend as I’ll be back-stage preparing for the evening performance.  As we’ve prepared for the show, in hearing the diverse number of stories it’s made me think of my own story.  It’s made me curious of the stories of the women who are in the show.  We are a diverse crowd of women from various backgrounds.  We are gay, straight, bisexual.  We are mothers, daughters, single, divorced, married.  We are stay at home moms, students, entrepreneurs, artists, retired, self-employed and under-employed.

What we share in common is the desire to make a stand about the rights of women.  We stand shoulder to shoulder and share a piece at the end called “My Revolution”.  It’s a very powerful piece that unites the sisterhood of women from all over the globe.  Some of the monologues will make you laugh.  Others will make you cry.  Others will make you gasp in horror. Others will make you reflect.

Valentines Day has always been a day of over-commercialized, over-wrought, insidious measurement of how well-regarded one is…but maybe that’s just me.

Eve Ensler has shown me a new way to celebrate V-Day.  It’s not about excluding or hating men.  It’s about embracing what it is to be female, in all it’s glory and strangeness. And as a special quirk, this year Ash Wednesday falls on the 14th of February.  How completely awesome is that?

I give thanks to God for the women I have met in preparation of this production of The Vagina Monologues.  We have laughed together and cried together.  We have supported each other and with our community’s support, we will be supporting the Fernie Women’s Resource Centre.

Oh and there may, or may not be Doritos.

Happy V-Day!

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Today is the 31st of January, Bell Let’s Talk Day.  As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I am absolutely aware of the dangers of isolation.  I am aware of the shame that accompanies the struggles in getting out of bed, forcing yourself to get dressed, plaster on a smile and pretend that everything is okay.  Then, at the first available opportunity dashing home, closing the curtains, turning off the lights and rocking in the silence.

I’m grateful that I’ve not had many of these days lately, but there have been some.  And they frighten me because I’m never sure when they will pass.  If I’m completely honest, when I’m going through them I’m not sure THAT they will pass.  But as the sun rises tomorrow, the new day dawns, with time these feelings pass.

It’s been a very hectic few weeks with multiple deaths in the congregation and the community.  Since the beginning of January there have been 5 deaths.  Last week I presided funerals on Monday and Friday.  This Saturday I will preside two funerals in one day, which is highly unusual, but in this case, absolutely necessary.

Next weekend I’m on stage as part of the Vagina Monologues.  I’m excited and terrified at standing on stage in a local venue and baring my soul for strangers.  I play the role of a transgender woman who discovers she’s different at a young age.  The monologue contains humour, rage, and at times poignant moments.  It will be a challenge, but at the same time I’m excited to have this opportunity.  It will take me places I have never been before and while I do have deep-seated anxiety about forgetting my lines or somehow letting down the other cast members, I know I can do this.  I know I will make this happen.  There will be friends in the audience who will be there to support me.  And it will be amazing.

Behind my left ear I have a tattoo.  It is of an infinity symbol with a semi-colon over the cross in the infinity symbol.  I see it every time I look in a mirror and it has generated some wonderful conversations.  Recently, at a funeral reception someone noticed it and asked what it was about.  I told them: the infinity symbol reminds me that I will struggle with mental health issues for the rest of my life; and the semi-colon tells me that my story is not yet over.  She looked up at said “I’d never have guessed you have anxiety and depression.  You look so pulled together and confident.”  I smiled and thanked her for the compliment.

Yes, I could have corrected her about the fear I feel.  But I decided to accept her compliment with grace.

On this day I wanted to jot down a few meanderings on what Mental Health Awareness means to me.  It means standing up and telling your story; without shame or fear.  It means asking people to share their stories.  It means being a person with whom others can share without judgment or criticism.  You will never hear me say “Snap out of it”.  Because I’ve had that said to me, and it’s not helpful.

I am an advocate for many things…and the biggest thing I advocate with Mental Health Awareness is that we are not alone.  We are not ashamed.  We are warriors.

So, let’s talk…

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This year, 2017, has only a few hours to go where I live in British Columbia.  Elsewhere it’s already 2018.  I was looking back at the note I wrote this time last year and while much has changed, a lot has also stayed the same.

I had two worship services this year and plans for a fabulous night at a gala event out of town.  Worship went really well, even though it’s been bitterly cold.  When I woke this morning the tap wasn’t working.  I came downstairs and flipped on the kettle to boil water for tea.  I turned on the kitchen tap and there was nothing.  No water.

Frozen pipes?  Yes, but I had more important things to worry about…like my morning tea and getting ready for worship.  Both services were wonderful and we celebrated Epiphany.  I enjoyed a bit of fellowship and collected hints and tips for how to deal with frozen pipes.  I came home, made another cup of tea and pulled out my hair dryer and extension cord.  Plugged them in, aimed them at the pipes under the sink in the kitchen and after about two minutes the hairdryer stopped.  So did the kettle.  I flipped a fuse switch.

My Warden is a Godsend.  When she heard I had frozen pipes she offered me water, a place to shower, even a bed for the night.  On New Year’s Eve!  As things unfolded we kept in touch with each other…and thankfully this means I’ll have water for the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018.  Yay!

After consulting a friend for advice I called the plumber.  He told me what to look for if it was a frozen pipe.  Then he suggested I call the City which I did and was able to talk to someone on call.  I then cleared off my car and drove to Canadian Tire.  Bought a space heater and came home.  Plugged the space heater in downstairs and after about 10 minutes heard water running…in a good way.  I called the plumber back and he told me I had been successful in thawing the pipes and what I needed to do to keep them that way.  He’s coming back on Tuesday to check everything out.  I celebrated with a hot bath.

My plans to go out of town were scuppered by Mother Nature.  And instead of being angry and upset about that I realised that I likely needed a quiet night at home more than anything else.

A few months ago I adopted an 11 year old black Domestic short-haired cat.  His name is Buddy.  He’s beginning to like me…I think.  He doesn’t hiss as much at me and purrs when he’s around me…especially when I’m in the bath.  I don’t know why.  I never imagined myself to be a cat person…but here I am.  He’s messier than I’d like him to be but chances are I’m dumber than he’d like me to be.  He “talks” to me quite often and I have no idea what he wants.  Although I am pretty sure he’s told me off a time or two.

About a month ago I turned 50.  It’s been awesome!  I’m enjoying this age more than any other so far.  I’m hoping that continues.  I’ve auditioned for and been accepted into the Vagina Monologues which will be happening in February.  It’s been more than 20 years since I was on a stage.  So this will really be something.  I’m scared to death, but also quite excited.  It’s a tremendous group of women who are coming together to make something amazing happen in this small corner of the world we call home.

This year has been about learning…about myself, my heart, my mind and my soul.  I meditate most every day.  I walk outside most every day.  I set goals for myself and while my weight is not as low as I’d like it to be, over the past year I’ve lost 15 pounds.  So that’s something.  I’m eating better, drinking more water, and moving more.

I’d have to say I’m more content then I’ve ever been.  I love who I am, and who I am going to be.  I’ve said goodbye to a couple of toxic relationships and feel a tremendous sense of freedom from that.  I’m sleeping better and don’t fret if I choose an afternoon nap.

My goals for 2018 are to laugh more, love more, read more and learn a new skill.  I’m thinking of learning the ukulele.  I want to lose more weight but more importantly I want to be comfortable in the skin I’m in.  I want to be as healthy as I can be and I have a women’s fitness membership that I intend to use more regularly in 2018.

This is my 50th year on Earth.  I’ve been through a lot.  Seen a lot.  Hugged a lot.  Cried a lot.  Learned a lot.  I drove through parts of Northern Ontario that I’d not seen in 20+ years last summer and it was amazing what had changed; and what had stayed the same.  I visited my father’s grave for the first time since he was interred in 2012.

My goal is not to be famous, wealthy or revered.  I long for a simple life filled with amazing people.  I want to live within my means, make a difference in my community and in some small way contribute to the love in the world.  I truly believe that through love we can change the world.  One heart at a time, one relationship at a time, one encounter at a time.

I am fifty, fat and fabulous.  I will learn, love and listen.  In my own small, quirky way I intend to change the world.  Care to join me?

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Christ is Risen!  The Clergy are Dead!! So goes the tongue in cheek phrase to which most clergy can relate.  Holy Week is a glorious week, a long week…and a hard week.  There’s services to plan, bulletins to check, props to gather, homilies to write, prayers to say, visits to make, so many things that must be done in order for worship to come together…and yet, every year it does.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday.  A completely stranger walked in off the street for our first service and worshipped with us.  He exchanged handshakes with everyone when service was over, nodded to me and replied “Happy Easter” when I wished him “Happy Easter” and went back out into his day.

Our second service was joyous and vibrant and while many of our regular parishioners were not in attendance, it was a glorious celebration!  I have a beautiful rainbow tie dye dress that I bought last summer and I decided to wear that on Easter Day.  After worship and coffee hour I went to the grocery store and had some lunch.  Then I walked to the Nursing Home for another service.  It’s a lovely walk there and I carried a basket with palm crosses, white stones, my cell phone and house keys.  Along the way I waved to every car I saw and said “Happy Easter” to everyone I met.

Most waved back or exchanged the greeting.  One little boy asked if I was the Easter Bunny.  I told him I wasn’t but I was delighted he thought I could be.  I asked his parents if I could ask him for a hug.  His Mum asked if he wanted to hug me and he did.  It was precious.

Along the way there I met three sets of dogs and with permission, I got to pet all of them!  It was a highlight.  Especially a huge black lab/shepherd who was a strong leaner and gave me kisses.

I got to the Nursing Home and chatted with a couple of guys who don’t come to worship but like to sit outside the room and hear the preaching and singing.  One of them told me I look like an Easter egg…which made me smile.  We had a huge turn out of residents and we sang out hearts out.  I brought palm crosses to remind them of the journey of Holy Week and white stones to remind them that even in our brokenness we are children of God, created in love and created to live in love.

On the way home I saw more dogs and chatted with a man who had been cleaning his lawn up from the winter gravel.  We talked about the joys of working “only one day a week” and laughed at how quickly the community changes when ski season is over.  I pet his dog on the way to the Nursing Home and again on the way home.

When I got home I called a friend and went to visit her.  We watched the video of her dad’s funeral service and then went to the cemetery to pray together with him.  The gates for the cemetery were locked, much to our annoyance.  We walked in to where the grave is and sat at a rock for awhile.  There was laughter and some tears and then I dropped her off at home.

I came home, got changed and made a simple supper.  Then I relaxed, chatted with a friend online and thought about how incredibly blessed I am to live in this corner of God’s creation.  Everywhere I walked yesterday I could see mountains.  Yes, I was a walking billboard, but I have noticed quite often that when I walk and smile at folks they either smile back or are already smiling.

God is very much alive in this place.  And even though our Easter Day service wasn’t bursting at the seams, we gathered and shared Alleluias, thoughts about the Easter Bunny, why church bells have to ring so long…and how very blessed we are with the gift of Jesus.  We gathered and shared in Communion.  We exchanged the peace together in ways we have for quite some time…and yet there was something different in the air…something innately hopeful and hope filled.

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

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Today is Good Friday, the middle part of the Triduum (Three Sacred Days).  Last night was Maundy Thursday and we gathered to hear readings, sing a hymn or two and many of those assembled allowed me to wash their feet.  It has become my practice that when I do so I tell them how much they mean to the congregation, to the community, to God and to me.  And then I kiss their feet.

For the first time a member of the congregation asked if she would wash my feet.  I stammered “Uh, yes, thanks” and she did for me what I had done for her.  Needless to say we were both in tears by the time she was finished.

After the footwashing was finished it was time to exchange the peace and move to the Holy Table for the sharing in communion, the last time we will do so before Easter.  It was moving and powerful as always and yet as I looked into the congregation I saw something I had not seen before.  I saw unity…love…family.

After Communion we sang another hymn, then as I chanted the Lamentations for Maundy Thursday the congregation, without saying a word, stripped the altar and altar space.  And by the time I finished chanting…it was over.  The area was clear.  The brass was taken downstairs where it will be cleaned this afternoon.  The frontal was removed and put away.  The cross was draped.  All without a word spoken.  A vigil was held in the Church overnight to keep watch over the empty wooden cross that is at the chancel steps.

Today is a difficult service…we gather in the plain space to adorn the cross…we will hear the gospel…the agony of the garden…we will hear just what is so good about Good Friday.  And we will meditate and pray on our own infirmities, failings and hopefulness.

We will take a black stone each at the beginning of service and hold it through the time of service.  And when the time is right we will leave that black stone at the foot of the cross and pick up a white stone.  The black stone is to leave all our shame, sorrow, pain, fear and sin at the foot of the cross.  We will then pick up a white stone to carry with us, reminding us that we are God’s own Beloved.  We are brothers and sisters of Christ.  He died that we may know eternal life.  And we will carry this stone with us throughout the year to remind us that we don’t need to carry our burdens, we can lay them at the cross.

After service I’ll be learning how to polish brass.  Then I’m going to do some housework that I’ve been neglecting.  Then I’m taking a long hike in the wilderness.  Then I’ll be home to relax for the rest of the day.

I will not eat today until after the sun sets.  Good Friday is one day when I fast.  I will take water with me on my hike.  But food will not cross my lips until the sun sets.

Know this…wherever you are on your life’s journey, you are a Beloved child of God.  You are created in God’s image which is perfection.  You nothing to deserve this honour, but it is yours and you cannot pay a monetary amount for it, but you can give your life to service.  None of us are perfect.  And yet we receive God’s love and grace.

Tomorrow night we will gather outside to light the new fire and bring light into the darkness.  We will gather in the Parish Hall and hear the stories of our ancestors, pray and sing and then we will come upstairs to renew our baptismal vows.  But the tomb will remain sealed….it’s not yet time…for that we must return on Sunday.

Know that you are loved.  Always have been.  And always will be.  Amen.

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It’s the last day of 2016.  Today was a whirlwind of activity including a funeral for a 91 year old lady.  The cemetery was freezing cold, the wind was bitter and yet it was only -2C.

What I said struck a chord with many who were present and I received many positive comments about the comfort my words brought.  I was asked what my plans were for tonight and I replied I was going to clean my house, fill my car with gas, have a hot bath and go to bed early.

I don’t make a big deal about New Year’s Eve.  It’s never been a big part of my life.  As a child my parents would wish me Happy Near Year at 7:00 pm, which was midnight in England.  Then they would go out and enjoy either a house party or a dance somewhere.  As my brother and I grew up, it was us who would call our parents at 7:00 pm to wish them Happy New Year as we headed out to whatever activity was offered.

I’m not a great fan of house parties.  Mostly because I’m not a great fan of small talk.  I don’t make resolutions.  I don’t expect the drop of a big silvery ball or a special kiss at midnight to change my life.  I’m too much of a skeptic for that.

And yet I find myself drawn into the frenetic activity of Top Ten lists and favourite memories.  I keep reading how 2016 has been a terrible year.  Many famous people died.  And so did many ordinary people…like the 91 year old I buried today.  There were atrocities in the world, and also great hope.  There was a Presidential election that was arguably one of the shadiest ever in history, and yet the Earth keeps spinning.

Tonight I filled my car with gas.  Yesterday I got groceries.  My house is clean.  My homily is almost finished for tomorrow.  My sugar bowl is full as is my milk jug.  There is money in my wallet, soon there will be food in my belly.  I live in a warm house with a freshly made bed.  I had a luxurious hot bath and soaked until my fingers turned to prunes.

When I moved West I made myself a promise that I would be the best Andrea I can be.  I fell deeply in love with someone I’ve been wanting to know for a long time.  Me.

I am kinder to myself.  I take better care of myself.  I medicate and feed and water and exercise and laugh and cry and love.  I can honestly say that I love myself.  There will never be this moment again in my life.  In 2017 I will turn 50.  And just as Canada is going to be celebrating it’s sesquicentennial for months, I will be celebrating my special year as well.

I will be kinder to myself.  I will laugh more.  I will go exploring.  I will not be afraid.  I will try new things.  I will write and sing and dance.  I will take risks and be successful.  I will take risks and be unsuccessful.  I will continue to fall deeper in love with myself.

I am spending New Year’s Eve alone this year.  I had a few invitations.  I turned them all down.  Yes, there is someone I would like to kiss at midnight, but we cannot be together tonight.  And frankly, I’ll be fast asleep by then. 🙂

2016 was a good year for me.  2017 will also be a good year for me.  I anticipate many adventures and many more shenanigans.  I will be happy with who I am right now.  As opposed to who I’d be 50 lbs lighter, or longer hair, or healthier, or happier.  I’m pretty damn good as I am now.

My promise for 2017 is to love myself more.  And in turn, to love those around me.  Who will, in turn, love those around them.  We can start a revolution of love.  We can choose to love first.  Without condition.  As we are meant to be loved.  With abundance.  Carefree.  Bountifully.  Beautifully.  Eternally.

As the poet and prophet Lin-Manuel Miranda said “Love is love is love”.  Amen.

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My newsfeed has been flooded with devastating news…attrocities happening around the world, children snatched from their parents and injured or killed, senseless violence continues to happen and it feels overwhelming…

I’ve spent less time on Social Media than I usually do because the majority of the news I read is upsetting.  Hate crimes seem to be rampant; one of the most devastating was the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.  A gunman opened fire and killed 49 people, injuring another 50.  Mainstream media are having difficulty naming it for what it is…a hate crime.  A man opened fire in a gay club because he had seen two men kissing and it had enraged him.

He was called mentally unstable.  He was called an Islamic fanatic.  The truth is, he was a man filled with hate.  And the crime he committed was not a crime of passion, but a crime of hatred.

All around the world there have been demonstrations of solidarity; the Tony awards paid tribute to the victims of the senseless crime.  A showing that love always wins.  A barrage of pride flags adoring websites, and being flown from flag poles all over the globe.  One man’s hatred is being overshadowed by many people’s love.

And yet, I have seen three separate instances of “Christians” saying that the 49 killed were not enough.  Of celebrating the gunman as a hero.  In the name of God.  In the name of Jesus.  That is NOT okay.

I am a Christian.  I am a proud Christian.  And the God I worship is one who is about love…not hate.  The Christ to whom I pledged my life gave us two commandments; to love God, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.  There’s no room for hate when we love.

So to my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, I stand beside you.  I walk with you.  I love you as God loves you and please, don’t let ANYONE take that from you.  These narrow minded pastors are not of God.  They don’t speak for God.  They are not Christian.  They are hatred.  And love always wins.

Please, if you disagree or don’t understand “alternative lifestyles” don’t think you have the right to kill someone.  You have the right to your opinion.  You have the right to not understand.  But you do NOT have the right to hurt someone else because of your ignorance.  Sexuality is as biological as eye colour, nose size and handedness.  And for the record, there is more written about left-handedness then homosexuality in scripture.

Stop taking the sacred word of scripture and twisting it out of context to support your bigoted and hateful ways.  Love always wins.

There are people who don’t believe I should be ordained because of my gender.  They hate me because of it.  I can’t do anything about that hatred, but I can love.  And I do.

Take heart my sisters and brothers; we will not forget those of you who stand up to hatred and violence every day.  We will speak up for those who fear to walk alone at night.  We will hold the hands and march alongside those who only want to live their authentic life.

There are those who will live in fear and will lash out.  Our reply must to be respond with love.  It’s not easy to turn the other cheek.  It’s not easy to stand up to bullies, but together we can.  We must.

Because, in the end.  Love always wins.  O Lord, hear our prayers.

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