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Cookies and so much more

I baked cookies tonight.

I like baking and cookies are quick and easy.

These cookies are going to the Out of the Rain program so that there are homemade cookies when the youth arrive.

Normally that would lead to an extra happy baking feeling, but not tonight.

Before I started baking, I got a message that an old work friend died unexpectedly the other day. She’s older than me, but not by much. We’re close enough in age that it definitely gives me pause.

So there’s that, but while we worked together for three years, I haven’t seen her since 2008 and we’ve only kept in very occasional touch via facebook. I figured baking would feel therapeutic and life-giving, it didn’t. Not like it usually does.

When I started to tidy up, I found myself staring at the recipe card.

It’s in my mom’s very distinctive handwriting.

She wrote out the recipe for me many years ago. I was living away from home at university, and she decided to start a recipe box for me with all of the family favourites from her recipe box. She wrote out recipes of all sorts, but there are definitely a lot of cookie recipes.

I couldn’t possibly try to count the number of hours I’ve spent baking cookies with my mom. If you tried to count the number of cookies we’ve made together it would easily be in the thousands.

That might seem unlikely if your mom was the sort who only made a couple of dozen cookies at any one time. But that’s not how my mom baked.

She didn’t believe it was worth dirtying the mixer if she wasn’t at least making 6 dozen cookies of one type. Doubling or tripling a batch was standard. The chances that she was only making one type of cookies? Almost non-existent.

I can remember covering most of a large kitchen table with paper towel (my mom’s preferred method for where the cooling cookies went) and soon the table would be filled with cookies.

She had the biggest cookie sheets. Three dozen cookies on each sheet. With three of those sheets, we would just keep rotating them through. Sheet after sheet of cookies.

If it was Christmas or she was baking for something at the church, there would be hundreds of cookies. All magically appearing from the oven over the course of a morning or afternoon.

My brother would arrive as the trays started coming out of the oven. He could demolish a lot of cookies very quickly.

I was there, doing whatever task I could do depending on my age. Measuring. Mixing things. Putting cookie dough on the trays. Setting the timer. Putting the warm cookies out onto the table to cool. Filling cookies tins. So many cookie tins, filled with so many cookies.

My mom (and my grandma too) taught me to love baking and to love what that baking symbolized. Sharing what we had. Investing time to make something delicious. Love expressed in very tangible ways.

Unlike my grandma who died twenty years ago, my mom isn’t physically gone, but advanced dementia means she’s gone in other ways …

We can’t bake cookies together anymore.

We can’t talk and share what’s going on in our worlds.

I could tell her about my friend who died, but she wouldn’t understand, she couldn’t share her wisdom, and she can’t hug me like she used to.

That might be the thing the I miss most.

But at least I can make her cookies and carry on her traditions.

Triple batch of cookies complete.

once upon a time I knew

Child of God

Created in His image

Christian

Believer

 

or at least

I acted like I knew

 

I did believe

I wanted to believe

I was scared if I didn’t believe

 

The GLBG

“Good Little Baptist Girl”

was what I knew

all I knew how to be

all I thought

I should be

 

but The GLBG

was always afraid

what if someone finds out?

 

what if someone realizes

The GLBG doesn’t

read her Bible

or pray

everyday

or even

every week

 

what if someone discovers

The GLBG would rather do

anything other than

pray out loud

in a group

 

what if someone discerns

The GLBG doesn’t believe quite

as hard as they do

or that the GLBG can’t

just take it on faith

because the bible

or the church

or the pastor

says it is so

 

The GLBG always knew

if she were known

she would be cast out

adrift

cut off

unwanted

unloved

because she was never

enough

 

Not good enough

Not spiritual enough

Not … something she didn’t even have words for …

enough

 

The GLBG knew if anyone

God included

looked deep enough

she would be found out

 

The GLBG hung on to faith

for as long as she could

she hid her GLBG heritage

and tried to live into

the faith she claimed

with freedom

and compassion

and grace

 

but eventually

she failed

 

even freedom

compassion

and grace are not enough

when you don’t actually believe

they could ever apply

to you

 

so I left

I wandered

I explored

I listened

 

eventually

I found words

for what was deep inside

 

I cried

I raged

I hated

I loved

I listened some more

 

The GLBG

slipped away

I learned

not to be afraid

not to hide

 

Goodbye GLBG

I don’t need you anymore

I am enough

 

unexpectedly

my path wandered back

I didn’t plan it

I tried to avoid it

but I found myself

at home in a church

where I am not afraid

where I hear words from the pulpit

that assure me of

unconditional love

grace

acceptance

as I am

 

a queer person

of faith

who doesn’t really know

what she believes

but does know

that if god

by whatever name you call

is to be found

they

 

(singular or plural

you choose

but definitely

non-gender specific)

 

they will be found

in the depths

in the darkness

in the margins

in the hopeless

in the lost

in the wanderers

 


This post is my entry in this year’s Queer Theology Synchroblog on the theme of “Identity”.

A Story in Three Parts

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Rainbow lights for Victoria Pride

My coming out is a story in three parts.

The first was coming out to myself.

That might seem hard to believe.  The common coming out story about always knowing and living in denial is not my story.

For approximately 40 years of my life, I had no idea I was queer. The closet I lived in was big enough and dark enough that I didn’t have any conscious idea I was not straight. Until I was in my forties and on a retreat where I learned to stop and listen to what my body was telling me, I had never questioned my sexuality.

I had grown to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community.  The day I realized I needed to leave the church where I was working as a youth pastor was the day I realized that I could not minister in a church or a denomination that was willing to draw lines in the theological sand about equal marriage because of fear and prejudice. I remember my heart breaking at our denominational meetings when the vote was announced and the denomination decided that they would remove the credentials of any pastor who chose to perform a same gender wedding. I was upset about the lack of justice and the hatred I heard spewed during the discussions. I had no idea that part of my pain was because I was a member of the community that had been clearly labelled as second class citizens, as other. That was in 2004.

In 2012, I attended the Creative Joy Retreat and learned to listen beyond the “shoulds” and the expectations. I never imagined what I would discover. Questions surfaced, but I couldn’t wrap my head around what they meant.

On August 9, 2013, I wrote my way out of the closet. The words spilled out onto the page in front of me. Suddenly so many things in my world made sense. I wasn’t straight. I was queer.

The second was coming out to a friend I knew would support me no matter what.

I knew I wanted to tell this friend from the moment I figured it out. I had helped officiate his wedding to his husband weeks before I went on the retreat that changed everything. But I didn’t know what words to use. How do you explain that you weren’t lying to the people in your life about who you were? You were lying to yourself and you didn’t even realize you were doing that.

If you’re me and you can’t figure out how to say something important, you write it down and it becomes a letter that you give your friend to read. In case you wondered, there are few things that feel more awkward than waiting while your friend reads such a letter.  But when your friend responds with a big hug and the hugest grin of acceptance and pride that you’ve embraced who you really are, all of that awkwardness disappears in an instant. I wish I remembered what date that was, but I don’t. I just remember us sitting downtown under a tree on Government Street.

I told that friend that I didn’t necessarily want to talk about what I’d shared and that I wasn’t sure I was ever telling anyone else. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to answer anyone’s questions about how I’d been so unaware of who I was for so long. I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to explain to friends and family. I was worried about what it would say to the youth I had pastored and led. I wanted to maintain my privacy, because I believed it was no one’s business but by own.

I could not have asked for a better friend to tell. He supported me. He let me figure it out on my own. He was a sounding board and all the way along he encouraged me to be proud of who I was.

The third was deciding to be public; to be out and proud, not just as an ally, but as me.

I didn’t plan to come out.  Part of me feels forced out. I certainly wasn’t ready and I still feel that a person’s sexuality is really their own business and no one else’s. But sometimes things happen that mean you can’t remain silent.

On April 7, 2014, I hit publish on a poem The Price of Hate because I realized that choosing to be silent about my sexuality meant I couldn’t speak with authenticity about things that mattered to me. I shared the post on Facebook and emailed it to my dad and brother.

I was fortunate. My coming out has been met with love and support and understanding. And a remarkably small number of questions about how one gets to be in one’s forties before having any clue about not being straight.

The third part of the story is never done.

Almost everyday there are choices about whether to tell my story. To claim my space. To break people’s assumptions that I am straight. Some days I make the effort. Some days I don’t. I still think it’s no one else’s business.

On the days when I make the choice to allow someone’s unspoken assumption that I am straight to stand, a piece of me feels shame. A piece of me wonders whether I am contributing to the problem.

But some days, I need my privacy and I’m never quite sure how someone will respond. I see the posts on Facebook and I hear the news. I know that not everyone believes I should have the same rights or be treated with the same respect and dignity.

On those days, I remember the poem that I published this year and I decide whether I need to speak out and claim our space despite my inherent need for privacy.

Yesterday was Church Quest visit number two and the destination was James Bay United Church.

welcome-james-bay-united-church

I’ve been inside the building for a number of concerts.  A friend is the music director and he hosts a music series there called a Place to Listen. There is always a sense of quiet welcome when I walk into the building that has made me wonder what it would be like on a Sunday morning.

 

The words on their website have captivated my attention for several years. They talk about church the way it seems like church is meant to be.  When my friend and I started to decide where we would go on this visit, she came across these words and we decided it was the next place for us to go:

It’s a “come as you are” event … no need to dress up unless that’s your delight. Together we’re creating a space in which none of us needs to leave any part of our story behind, nor any hurt or hope at the door. It’s about bringing it all to be met by the love and mercy of God.

The sanctuary is simple with little decoration. My eyes were quickly drawn to something new. There were words clearly displayed on either side of the cross that were repeated on the front of the bulletin.

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We are a Christian community from all walks of life growing in trust that God is up to something beautiful here and now, in and through our lives.

So it is that we seek to be known in the neighbourhood as a place where people are tapped into hope, known and love, inspired to risk new ways, and live with purpose and joy.

Whoever you are, and wherever your journey has taken you, rest assured you will find a welcome here.

I am torn between excitement and cynicism about whether I believe a church can really be that kind of place.

Within moments of sitting down an elderly gentleman comes over to welcome us. He tells us he is not the “official” greeter, but he always likes to make sure he says good morning to everyone. He gets lots of hugs that way which, as he tells us, you need when you get to be his age. It’s obvious a hug would be offered if we were so inclined, but there is no pressure, just welcome.

I’m intrigued by the pastor’s words as she begins the morning announcements. She invites the congregation to continue to be aware of their surroundings. They haven’t been meeting in the sanctuary over the summer.  It sounds like they’ve been on a quest of their own. I am inclined that if this place might become home that I will want to know more of their summertime journey.

There is a familiarity to the service, but it is still different enough to mean that I have to pay attention to the details and can’t just fall into old habits about what worship looks like. It’s been a long time since I’ve been at a worship service led by a female pastor. Her warm welcome at the door as we leave definitely make me think that I may choose to return to this place. When she discovers that my friend and I are both looking for a church home, she doesn’t attempt to “sell” us on her church. She offers a blessing that we will find a place that feels like home and encourages us to keep our eyes and hearts open. She is sure that we will find a place.

There is a warmth and quirkiness to this place that I find engaging. There is a lot of grey and hair and few people who are younger than me and yet it doesn’t feel like a church on its last legs. There is a quiet vibrancy. It feels like a church that is being faithful to its community.

I am drawn to this place. It is not what I thought I was looking for and yet … it does feel like there is potential that I could build a home here. There is one problem though, and not with the church, but with me. As much as I want to find a church that could be home, and a church home means being known and involved, I’m not sure I’m ready for that. As much as part of me misses having a church home, there is part of me that wants a place to worship and figure out faith in anonymity.

 

 

 

So I won a Super Pass for this year’s Victoria Fringe Festival. Apparently donating last year during the text to donate campaign was an extra well spent $10, because not only did I support a festival I love, I also get to to see as many shows as I want to see this year for free. Thankfully I also got smart and booked my vacation for the same time so I didn’t have to worry about being up in time for work after seeing a late night show.

I went to the preview on Wednesday morning to finish compiling my list (well at least the list I’m starting with because you never know what else might catch your attention while talking in a Fringe line up). Yesterday I made a plan.  There was a spreadsheet involved. Stop laughing! (Well, okay, keep laughing, ’cause even I think it’s funny to plan my vacation this much, but my mom would be proud of my scheduling skills). If you’re trying to fit in as many shows as possible, a little planning is necessary.

Opening night’s plan was three shows all at Venue 6 – Fairfield Hall.

First up, The Child Behind the Eyesa monodrama by Nava Semel performed by Nava Sarracino.

The Child Behind the Eyes

I’m still trying to figure out how to put words to my thoughts about this piece. At one level it is a simple story of a mother’s love for her child, but it is also a story that kept reminding me how often we only see the outside, make judgments, and miss the beauty of each human being. In this play, the judgments were about a baby boy with Down’s syndrome, but whatever it is that makes us different on the outside doesn’t actually mean that we’re broken.  There is still perfect beauty, if we’re willing to look behind the eyes.

One other thing that struck me in the play was the use of language.  The play was written in the 1980’s and clearly our use of language has changed. There were moments that made me cringe, because we have learned not to use some of those words anymore.  I think we understand more about the power of the words and labels that we use to describe and categorize people.  But at the same time, I couldn’t help but wondering, whether we’ve actually changed the underlying prejudice that some of those words used to reflect.  I hope we have, but … I guess we each have to be our own judges on that question.

Oh!  If you go see the show, make sure you pick up one of the flyers.  There is a link to let you access the music that was created by Christel Veraart for the show.  I haven’t done that yet, but I will be. The music underscoring the show was beautiful.