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Posts Tagged ‘love’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sorry I’ve not been writing much lately.  I’ve been mulling over blog posts for months, I simply haven’t taken time to put thought to paper.  So here I am.  Didja miss me?

Three weeks ago I was called by a local reporter who wanted to write an interest story on me.  What on earth for, I was thinking.  Yet, I was intrigued, so I said yes.

We met at the Blessing of the Animals service and afterwards we went over to the Church to have a conversation.  Watching him walk into the beautiful space that is the Church was wonderful.  His eyes opened wide, like a child at Christmas as he took in the beautiful wooden beams and stained glass windows.

We sat in a pew, he in the Presider Chair, and I beside him.  He turned on his recording device and asked a few questions.  Most we about the Church, my call to ministry, my theology and my background.  How I came to choose this small corner of creation.  He then took some photos of me in the space, commented about how beautiful the natural light is through the windows and was on his way.

A week later I was coming back from Clergy Conference and received a text that the article was in the paper.  It was published online and had a sensational headline.  Now to be clear, I don’t mean sensational as in FANTASTIC, rather sensational as in WTF?

The article is here if you’d like to read it… https://www.thefreepress.ca/life/gay-minister-challenges-preconceptions/

The article itself is great.  A few incorrect details.  One large incorrect label…GAY.

I’m not Gay, I’m Queer and while that may not be a big deal, to me it is.  I wrote a letter to the editor and made the corrections and exhaled.

The feedback about the article has been extremely positive.  The community has been overwhelmingly encouraging.  Yet I know there are detractors who will not be happy with what was written.

Why am I so worked up about a label?  Most of my life I’ve pushed against labels and shrugged against being placed in a box.  I like being on the outside of most everything.  I like tossing assumptions against the wall.  One of my favourite compliments is when I hear “you’re not like any minister/priest I’ve ever met”.

Labels have assumptions and those assumptions should be challenged, whenever possible.

There are many labels I’ve owned in my time, Female, Follower of Jesus, Pescatarian, Celibate, Daughter, Sister, Nana, Wife, Ex-Wife, Partner, Ex-Partner, Friend, Lover, Queer, Comic, Pastor, Priest, Prophet, Keeper of Secrets, Child of God.

Guess which one is my favourite?

Child of God

 

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On Monday night I attended a Veteran’s and First Responders Dinner as Chaplain to the local Legion.  The dinner was a catered event and well attended.  I was surprised to see so many men and women in uniform and also saddened that each year there are fewer and fewer veterans that attend.

It’s quite sad to see our Veteran’s dying.  They are ageing; some of them are ageing well and others, well, life has not been as kind.  I remember my Dad, who was not a Veteran of WWII, he was too young.  But he was a Veteran of the Royal Air Force.  He served in Cyprus and Egypt, and was part of the last group to leave the Suez Canal when it was returned to their government in the late 1950’s.  He didn’t speak much of his time in the forces, other than to comment on how lousy the food rations were.

For me, I like to hear stories of where different servicemen and servicewomen served, whether at home or overseas.  Whether they served through combat or not.  And I’m always curious about medals, faraway places travelled and what memories they are willing to share with me.

It’s important to us to encourage these stories, as they are the foundation of who we are.  One day we will leave this physical place and what will be left is our legacy.

I’d like to investigate through the local museum, a way to record stories of our Veterans and First Responders, not to glorify war, but to remember the soldiers are service people who put their country and their first.

At every Legion gathering there is the act of remembrance, “Lord God of Host, be with us yet, Lest we Forget, Lest we Forget.

Amen.

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