A Return.

Dear Blog,

You’ve seen me through so many changes in the past six and a half years. I was barely a college graduate when I started writing here. I was working two part-time jobs, as a hostess at a brunch restaurant and as a copywriter at my alma mater. I was completely in the dark about How To Be A Real Writer. I had no idea what a career might look like. I was terrified, because I had graduated in the middle of a national recession and didn’t even have internship experience. I don’t know how, but I survived that first year as a post-grad newly wed, living with my in-laws, working multiple part time jobs but still completely broke. I think, maybe, writing here was that flashlight that kept me walking through the darkness. It was a thing I could hold onto, something to light my way for the next few steps, and then the next few steps, and then the next few, just to keep me moving forward as a writer.

And then the next few years, it became a point of connection, a small but growing community of encouragement. I kept writing because it helped me find my people – the word nerds and faith seekers and fledgling feminists and creative dreamers like me. I had found full time work as a staff writer in a communications office, but this blog was my outlet, my safe space, to spread my creative wings. I was learning to write about my life, and that turned out to be a good thing, because when the storms came this blog was a life-raft. I was drowning in the grief of my mother’s death, but my blog people beckoned me back with comfort and encouragement.

I kept blogging, and it paved the way for new opportunities to share my words with other online communities. And in the years that followed, as I learned to cope with my new normal and articulate new hope for my future, the blog remained my constant source of motivation. It had brought me so far.

And then, slowly, I stopped writing here. At first it was about giving myself a chance to plant roots and build a new life in a new city. And then it was about hustling as hard as I could to make ends’ meet; the blog took a backseat to paying bills and buying groceries. And then it was about the fact that my site crashed, and it took several months (and a lot of help from my dear Sarah Joslyn) to recover my 6+ years of content. But even after we brought this blog back to life, there was something else holding me back. My silence was about being lost in a deep spiritual wilderness, where formulating words for a blog post felt impossible.

After years of writing about my life and my faith online, I reached a point where blogging a couple times a week through a faith crisis felt dishonest. I’ve always been that person that kept going when life was hard. I blogged through much of my mother’s illness; I was back online writing about her death merely two weeks after the fact. I was articulating my grief right in the raw midst of it. But three years later, I decided to stop trying so hard. To let myself be wordless in it. To let myself feel the unknown – the ineffable, unpredictable, unarticulated mystery of faith after trauma.

Did I even believe in God? Yes. No. Maybe. Yes. But I’m not sure how, or why, or what, or who.

I have felt that. And I have just as quickly felt that yes, I am a Christian, albeit an imperfect, indefinitely unchurched, perpetually exhausted one. A sweary, mad, cynical one.

Honestly, in my time away from blogging I have been a version of myself that I didn’t want to share online. Angry. Sad. Desperate. Defiant. Broke broke broke. Fresh out of fucks to give. Lonely. Depressed. Anxious. All the things I thought I was safe from becoming, when I was writing about grief three weeks after my mother’s death. Ashamed. I was ashamed. And then, eventually, I was relieved. Maybe even proud, for finally letting go. And I decided I didn’t owe anyone anything, so I could slip quietly offline, without having to explain.

I’m glad I did that. It felt like I finally gave up the illusion of being The Strong One, the Philosophical One, the Always Has Words to Say One.

My Aunt Beverly, the family therapist, always says, “You can be angry, just don’t build your house there.”

And she’s right. Of course, she’s right. I want to let myself feel all the real things, all the unbloggable things. But that’s not my home. I don’t need to dwell there forever. This blog, this is my home. My safe space. My flashlight, my way forward.

So I’m picking it up again. And while a lot of things have changed, it’s also true what they say: wherever you go, there you are. Six-almost-seven years later, I’m working two part time jobs. I’m still not sure How To Be A Real Writer. I’m still pretty broke. I make no promises to write consistently, or to write without the swears and scars and biting cynicism that are pretty characteristic of who I am.

But I’m home.

Hi, I’ve missed you.

Lenten Reflection: Of Stardust & Sacred Questions.

Rob Gendler-nebula-dying star flower ring

There is this word that I’ve always been afraid of, but which now feels like a gift to my faith:


It’s taking its place in a landscape of new language I’m developing for this season of my faith: Wholehearted. Sacred. Wilderness. Scarcity. Abundance. Justice. Grief. Change.

This word came to me a few nights ago while I was watching Cosmos on Netflix. I can’t fully explain the episode* because I’m terrible at science, but it was about stardust and ghosts and the space-time continuum and the edges of the universe.

From dust you came and to dust you shall return,” never felt more true or made more sense, and the fact that this marked the beginning of the Lenten season for me made it all the more sacred.

In Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss, he writes,

“Faith is not some hard, unchanging thing you cling to through the vicissitudes of life … Just as any sense of divinity that we have comes from the natural order of things – is in some sense *within* the natural order of things – so too faith is folded into change, is the mutable and messy process of our lives rather than any fixed mental product.”

This is the mutable, messy process of my evolving faith: searching for God in that fold between natural order and unexpected change, tucked away in a space I’ve never looked before. It might be found in the pages of a faith memoir, or in a Netflix binge-watch, or in the pages of my own journal, or a walk in the woods.

The truth is that I think more than I feel my faith at this point in my life.

The deep affection I have felt for God and the Church, once demonstrated through singing hymns and reading scripture and sitting in pews, is demonstrated through solitude and sacred questions right now.

Maybe you have experienced this too: that our love and our questions aren’t separate, but deeply connected. There are seasons when our questions are the fruit of our deep affection for God and the Church. Because we love, our questions matter. Asking these questions is an act of tending the soil – the sacred ground – of our faith. Some things that once marked our growth have ripened and fallen to the soil, fertilizing it for other seeds to take root and grow in the seasons to come.

” … it seemed as if the tiniest seed of belief had finally flowered in me, or, more accurately, as if I had happened upon some rare flower deep in the desert and had known, though I was just then discovering it, that it had been blooming impossibly year after parched year in me, surviving all the seasons of my unbelief.” – Wiman, My Bright Abyss

Maybe we are made of stardust. Maybe we look at the sky and see the ghosts of centuries past, lighting the darkness for us. Maybe we see the stars and unknowingly see the spirit of our mothers, gathering the universe unto themselves like they have since our birth. Maybe Mother Earth is that ineffable God-love I feel when I tend another sacred question.

Whatever, I still believe:

She makes everything beautiful in its time.

*Cosmos Episode 4: “A Sky Full of Ghosts,” for my curious readers.

[Post image source.]

Leelah Alcorn and What It Means to be Pro-Life

So a weird thing happened on Tuesday. I posted a tweet that went viral.


On Twitter I’m usually more of a listener, follower and retweeter than a thought leader, so I was a little caught off guard to see my tweet explode this way. (I mean, really. WHAT IS MY LIFE that I, of all people, posted a tweet about transphobia that went viral????? I’ve barely tweeted in months, and then KAHBLAM, I get 6,000+ retweets and 150,000+ notes on Tumblr. Somebody please come clean me up off the floor because I just cannot comprehend.) Please pardon my incredulity.

But more seriously, I want to acknowledge the fact that I am not even remotely the first person to say what I said, even on Twitter. LGBTQ people have been talking about this for pretty much forever but very few are listening to them. I’m blown away by the response and grateful for those that shared it, but I would be sorely remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my privilege as a straight white girl whose tweet about this topic went viral.

So, given the overwhelming attention my tweet received, I thought I’d take a minute to expand on my thought behind the tweet and then offer some resources to those that have questions about it, especially Christians. My post here is not nearly as comprehensive and important as the people I’m linking to, so please don’t skip the part where you actually educate yourself with direct resources.

About Leelah Alcorn.

Leelah was a transgender teenage girl from Kings Mill, Ohio, who committed suicide on December 28. Before taking her life, she posted a suicide note to her Tumblr account, explaining her story. (Update: Her suicide note has since been taken down, so here is a google cache version of her post.) Most notably, Leelah expresses grief that her Christian parents refused to accept her transgender identity and isolated her from her community for attempting to come out. Leelah draws a clear, unquestionable connection between her parents’ bigotry and their conservative Christian beliefs. This part is especially heartbreaking:

“…they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.”

And this:

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

The Connection between “Pro-life” and Transphobia.

So why did I tweet about “pro-life” Christians being transphobic, and what does it have to do with Leelah Alcorn’s suicide? Full disclosure: I cannot speak for the Alcorns and their stance on abortion, but I can speak to the kind of conservative, right-wing Christianity that claims to be adamantly pro-life when it comes to opposing abortion, and yet does not hold the same regard for the lives of LGTBQ people (or black people, or undocumented immigrants, or a whole host of other marginalized people in this world, for that matter.) “Every life is precious” in utero, but what if that life grows up to be gender nonconforming like Leelah’s? Too often I’ve seen this “unconditional” love go out the window for the LGBTQ children of conservative Christians. “Tough love” takes over, leaving LGBTQ children completely alienated from their families and communities.

There is a huge, gaping hole of disconnection between “pro-life” sentiments and the rejection of LGBTQ people, and it is not only heartbreaking, but life-threatening. According to the CDC,

“LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide. A nationally representative study of adolescents in grades 7–12 found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers.”

The suicide risk is even higher for transgender teens. This information alone should make it clear that LGBTQ youth feel unloved and unsafe in their homes. This is tragic. The fact that death feels like the better option to them should break our hearts enough to affect real change, in our selves and our communities, but so often it doesn’t, and that’s my point. The isolation, disregard, or flat-out rejection of LGBTQ people by Christians is in direct opposition to Jesus’ commandment to love one another, full stop.

Christians, we need to do better. If you claim to be “pro-life,” then be consistent. Care enough to change these statistics. Care about offering LGBTQ people hope through compassion, grace and unconditional love. Stop wielding your faith as a weapon against the LGBTQ community. Stop blaming Jesus for your bigotry. And please, for the love, if you cannot embrace the LGBTQ people in your midst, then stop claiming to be “pro-life” and start calling yourselves what you really are: “anti-abortion.” If compassion and unconditional grace are not a part of your “pro-life” ethic, then you are not pro-life. 

“But Not All Christians…”

Many many people responded to my tweet with “not all Christians are like that” or “why are you singling out Christians.”

The reason I was specific about Christians perpetuating LGBTQ-phobia is because Leelah Alcorn draws an inextricable connection between her depression and her parents’ faith. Her parents used their Christian identity as an excuse to reject Leelah’s transgender identity, and shamed her for not being Christian enough to conform to a straight identity. I am not being assumptive or jumping to conclusions about Leelah’s story when I address the systemic LGBTQ-phobia that is prevalent in conservative Christian culture; Leelah confronts this herself in her post. To not address this, to not critique the conservative evangelical Church for its systemic LGBTQ-phobia, is to erase Leelah’s experience as a transgender girl who was rejected by her parents based on their religion.

When I addressed Christians in my tweet, I was addressing those that identify as staunchly “pro-life” and also oppose the LGBTQ “lifestyle.” This is a very specific group of Christians, mainly conservative, right-wing evangelicals. I know that Not All Christians are homophobic or transphobic, because I found the ones that aren’t and they changed my perspective! This seems like it would be glaringly obvious given my tweet, but I’ve had a surprising number of people bombard my mentions with this nonsense.

So here’s the thing: if you are a Christian and you do not agree with the Alcorn’s choice to reject their child, then do not waste time trying to pretend like hatred of LGBTQ people isn’t a problem in the Christian church, because that in itself is a rejection of them and their lived experiences. Pretending that oppression doesn’t exist is not any more moral than actively waging oppression; it IS oppression. If you really want to love someone, start by believing them when they say they’ve experienced oppression and persecution. Stop centering the conversation around yourself by whining that you and your religious community have been unfairly generalized.

For further reading on this point, I highly recommend this post from Eliel Cruz, “On #NotAllChristians,” especially this bit:

It’s time we started being less defensive and more reflective. If the statement that was made doesn’t apply to you, there shouldn’t be any reason for you to feel defensive. But perhaps you feel defensive because it hits too close to home. If that’s the case, then it is the perfect opportunity for you to be reflective — and we shouldn’t feel ashamed about that.


Resources for Educating Yourself about LGBTQ Experiences.

Here’s a comprehensive explanation of what being transgender means, for those of you trying to understand Leelah’s experience.

Also, let me just acknowledge again that my tweet was not anything that hasn’t already been said before. Consider this section of this post my sources cited for my tweet. I did not always hold an LGBTQ-affirming perspective; in fact my change of heart has been fairly recent. The last 5 years have been a slow 180-turn for me, and you can read more about my journey in a guest post I wrote, A Love Letter for the LGBTQ Community. I’m deeply indebted to some smart, wise, kind individuals that are working hard to educate others on how to love LGBTQ people well. Here are a few to start you off:

– “If Your Kid Comes Out to You” , plus a boatload of LGBTQ resources by Benjamin Moberg

– “And Though I Find Here No Permanent Dwelling” by Sarah Moon

– Dianna Anderson’s entire series on Queer Theology (and basically her whole blog)

– “The False Gospel of Gender Binaries” by Rachel Held Evans

Why the “love the sinner, hate the sin” trope isn’t loving at all, by Micah Murray

– “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be ‘Allies’” by Abi Bechtel

– If you’re on twitter, I would highly recommend following these folks who share their lived experiences as LGBTQ people on the daily: Eliel Cruz, Broderick Greer, AW Hooker, Dianna Anderson, Sarah Moon, Ben Moberg, Saeed Jones. And some trustworthy allies that are also educating me well: Suzannah Paul, Abi Bechtel, Luke Harms, Micah Murray.

Next Steps for Honoring Leelah Alcorn & Supporting the LGBTQ Community.

Donate to the National Center for Transgender Equality in Leelah’s name

– Read about the hashtag #RealLiveTransAdult to understand their lived experience. Reverend Lawrence T. Richardson’s post for The Salt Collective, “Transgender and Christian… and Crying for Leelah Alcorn” is a good place to start.

The Marin Foundation is full of wonderful resources for reconciling the Christian faith and affirming LGBTQ people. Educate yourself.

– Shut up and listen.

#FaithFeminisms : Bearing the Fruit

Screen-shot-2014-07-22-at-10.32.11-PMToday I’m over at #FaithFeminisms, sharing part of my story of coming to feminism after growing up in white evangelicalism.

I am on a journey. It is a journey of faith, it is a journey of feminism, it is a journey into the Kingdom of God. Like every journey, it is both a walk away from something, and a walk toward something. It bears the tension between the now and the not yet. (Read more here.)

I’m so excited and honored to be included in this series. When we started dreaming and scheming this over a week ago, led by the fearless and badass Mihee Kim-KortJes Kast-Keat, and Suzannah Paul, we could not have predicted just how positively people would engage it. I hope you’ll take the time to read and process the stories being shared there this week.

Back on the Blog.

I’ve been afraid to start this, unsure that the words would come, unsure that if the words came that they would adequately touch the depth of this experience. But as with all forms and subjects for writing, the important part is to begin.
My mother died on a snowy Monday morning two weeks ago. We missed her by minutes. I slept fitfully in a recliner in her hospice room all night prior, counting seconds between breaths, trying to remember to keep breathing myself. My father slept on an air mattress next to her bed, doing the same. The nurse came in at seven to check on her and administer more medication and left to get a stethoscope. Our eyes drooped closed, and when the nurse came back, she had gone. The air slowly exhaled in one long quiet breath from her lungs, and she crossed over into the next world. It was as simple and as peaceful as that, just as we had prayed for.
I cursed myself for missing it, for not being awake to hold her hand and say goodbye. But now I understand that I was doing exactly that for the months, weeks, days, and hours beforehand. Things had become so apparent; as much as we wished it were different, we knew what we were facing. Therefore, important words did not go unspoken. Time was not wasted. There was no limit to love in those days; how grateful I am for that. And in the moment she left, it was appropriate that she make that transition independently; she didn’t need anyone to cling to her and beg her to stay as she made her way into a new life that she rightfully deserved.
I can’t say much without saying it all, and a single blog post won’t hold the whole of it. If you’re at all like me and you haven’t experienced death first hand, you probably have all sorts of questions running through your mind :
Is it scary? Can you sense death’s presence mentally, spiritually, emotionally? How do you know when they are getting close to the end (days, hours, minutes)? How do you carry on conversations with each other when things become that serious? Is it better to talk about it, or avoid it? How do you spend time with your loved one in the days before their death if they are conscious? How do you comfort and encourage them as they reach death? Losing a loved one is hard – where and how do you find solace and strength to keep living? When your loved one suffers from a terminal illness, can you really find relief in knowing that they are no longer suffering, or is that just something ignorant people tell you when they don’t know what to say?
There is a lot that people don’t talk about when it comes to death. Why bring it up now, when things are fine? But death is a part of life. Whether it is from a terminal illness, natural causes, or a sudden accident, it happens to each of us; it’s only a matter of time, and we never know for sure how much of it we have left. And there are so many ways that it changes us as we witness it, and as we draw closer to it ourselves. A sense of our own mortality is part of what makes us human.
So in the weeks and months ahead, as I process this loss, I will write about it here. If you have specific questions, or if you have your own story to share, please email me. I’d love to dialogue about it.