there is a balm in gilead


“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”

“Well, let that lonely feeling wash away. Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay ’cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand, you can reach, reach out your hand. And oh, someone will come running. And I know they’ll take you home.” – You Will Be Found, from the musical Dear Evan Hansen

The following is my attempt to process the Why Christian Conference my partner and I attended this past weekend at Duke Divinity School:

The music has faded now, all the break-out sessions are finished, the speakers have left us with their stories still echoing in our hearts. I imagine that many of us who attended the conference returned home to our jobs, our families, our pets, etc. And now we’re trying to figure out what to do with all these testimonies we heard–all these stories centered around the question “Why Christian?” I also got to meet many theologians and writers and friends I only knew on twitter in real life.

(Pictured left to right: Laura Jean Truman an amazing human being whose blog you should check out [], myself, and Austen Hartke, author of Transforming: The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians. Also, me talking to Rachel Held Evans who wrote Searching for Sunday, a book that helped me come back to the Christian faith and not give up on Christianity completely)

I’m still trying to process with a full heart what it means to still be Christian while also acknowledging that Christians, the Church, and how they’ve used the Bible against me have caused so much harm. Harm that I’m still healing and recovering from. Harm that is still being caused by Christians, the Church, and how they’re using the Bible.

I heard for the fist time in my life from pastors who are like me–queer Christians who affirmed my calling into ministry but also acknowledged the pain that comes along with that calling in predominantly straight, white, cisgender and usually male spaces. This weekend showed me and reminded me there is a place for me in this beautiful family of God where I can be my full self–that my queerness is not something to hide but to be embraced. All of the pain, fear, rejection, and hiding is not the whole of my story and my story is not over yet. There is a place for us. There is a place for all of us–women (not just white straight women), people of color, queer people, disabled people–in this family.

Many of us hearing the words fo the speakers this weekend have had to fight to prove ourselves in religious spaces. We didn’t have to fight for that in this space. I did something this weekend I’ve never been able to do in a church service. I brought my full self in to worship. I sang hymns with tears in my eyes at a few points because I could sing freely as a queer Christian that “the Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” And I could do that while wearing a rainbow fedora and while standing next to my fiancee. And no one stared. Or told us to leave. We held hands and walked around during the conference without fear. Our pain was voiced and seen by speakers who not only supported LGBTQ+ people but many of whom were queer themselves.

I had to wonder–is this what heaven is like? Where we can all be our full selves and accept one another as we are? Maybe heaven truly is a place on earth. But just as heaven can be a place on earth so is hell.

I came back home and my partner and I have both voiced our frustrations to each other about the church we attend which is currently in conversation about whether to be affirming of queer people. Mind you, there are many queer people in our church but several in the church who want to debate about whether we can serve in the church, need to repent of “sin,” or whether being non-affirming can also mean being loving. There is a place for us but we’re still having to fight for it. I know we’re not the only ones.

Jeff Chu was asked during his break-out session on Saturday “Why Christian?” and for him his answer was “Because I’m still alive.” Honestly, that’s my answer too. I’m still alive and I know Jesus is for me whether other Christians or society is or not. Lord, how long until we do not have to do this fighting for survival anymore? 

The Church has often said I do not belong. And this is where that practice of self-empathy Jeff spoke of in his break-out session and telling our own stories comes in. Emmy Kegler, one of our main speakers reminded us that we are beloved children of God. The Church may not always tell us that. But my practice of self-empathy is this: When I need to be affirmed that I am loved, safe, and not alone. That I am good, that I belong, and that I am enough…I have others around me and myself to remind me that I am all of those things. I have Jesus to remind me that I am all of those things. And you are all of those things.

“We will take our shit and we will make beautiful things.” ~ Jeff Chu, Why Christian Conference 2018

“I want a vigilante Savior–but I need a Savior with swift and terrible mercy. I need a Savior who is merciful because it is I who need mercy.” ~ Nadia Bolz-Weber, Why Christian Conference 2018




“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it.” ~ Isaiah 58:1-3 (NLT)

“I know that you don’t understand ’cause you don’t believe what you don’t see. When you watch me throwing punches at the devil, it just looks like I’m fighting with me…

But there’s comfort in failure. 

Singing too loud in church

Screaming my fears into speakers

Till I collapse or burst

Whichever comes first…”

Julien Baker, Shadowboxers

Let’s talk about prayer and fasting. Or better yet, let’s talk about fasting, thoughts and prayers in a nation that is all about thoughts and prayers. And fasting but only when it makes us look good.

First, there’s the fasting.

Fasting. I tried that once. Or a thousand times. All I got were headaches, a grumbling stomach, and told that I was either too skinny or too chubby.

Chubby. Fat. Overweight. Heavy. Words that have never been a compliment when I was in times of my life that wouldn’t be described as times I was physically skinny. I remember turning not eating into a ritual. Or controlling my eating so that I’d weight exactly how much I wanted to weigh. This started in middle school when someone told me I was chubby. Ok. My father told me I was chubby. And honestly, fuck that noise. But anyway. Sometimes I would weigh myself multiple times a day. It was mostly because my weight was a thing I could control while others in my life controlled most everything else. I would eat less. Read my Bible more. Try praying more. And somehow that was never enough. It was never enough for me to be enough for my parents, or my church, or myself.

I am finally learning to love myself and my body. Only because others have reminded me that I am enough. And because my partner affirmed me first. I didn’t believe I was beautiful until she told me so. She knew something about me to be true not because I was skinny, or because I was trying to lose weight. But because she really saw me.

Then there are thoughts and prayers.

Thoughts. Thoughts like: I have already tried giving up things and parts of myself just to hope I’ll be loved by other people and God. And that maybe once I’ve given up everything and 

Prayed enough. For there to be peace on earth, and for us to love each other and not murder our children. Prayers…the prayers, and the thoughts, and the fasting have all changed to prayers like: Lord, have mercy on a country, a president, and a Congress who are ok with children being massacred for the sake of “freedom.”

Thoughts are now more like: Maybe I just have to be. And to be means to be kind, to seek justice, to be merciful, and to love. And this season of Lent where I’m focusing more on death and suffering has just ripped my heart out and put it on display for you.

I am tired of people dying and suffering. Honestly, I’m tired of any one putting themselves in pain for the sake of others being in control, and having power and freedom.

I am so very tired of fighting with myself to be something for others when I just have to be myself.

Another pre-Lenten practice that I’ve carried over other than learning to love myself and love others better is writing letters to Mary Magdalene and today’s probably reflects more of how I felt growing up in a fundamentalist church and how I feel now in encountering Jesus:

Dear Mary Magdalene,

Did they tell you that you were crazy? that you were unhinged, or that you didn’t believe enough to be healed? Did they tell you that you weren’t worth loving because you were crazy? With all the demons in your head…were people afraid of you?

I have to wonder if that first encounter with Jesus–just meeting him–was what started the healing process for you. Because you were seen and you were loved. And he didn’t tell you you were crazy. He just freed you to be yourself. Maybe I’m projecting…but I hope this is true. I hope this for myself because I know that’s the Jesus I’ve come to know so well.





God dust

“For until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.” ~ John 20:9-10

Hello! I know it’s been a while. Sometimes I get these grand ideas of what I want to be writing and it doesn’t pan out because I need a break to sort things through. So, it may be ironic that I’m writing today on Ash Wednesday of all days when many people quit social media for 40 days, or quit sugar, or whatever.

Last year prior to Ash Wednesday, I had just preached my first sermon from John 20:19-31. I greatly identified with (and still do in many ways) Thomas. Otherwise known as “doubting” Thomas. I learned so much simply from asking questions and realizing asking those questions about faith and life wouldn’t destroy me like so many pastors growing up told me it would. And in studying about doubt and peace in the resurrection, that gave me hope that in asking all the questions even without answers, I was going to be ok.

Also, last year on Ash Wednesday, for the first time, I met my now partner and we’re getting married in April. What can I say? It’s been one wild ride since Lent last year.

This year I’ve circled back to John 20 but this time to the first part of the chapter. I’m fascinated by Mary Magdalene’s story woven throughout the gospels and her encounter with the Risen Christ. I know…I know. Lent is about suffering and focusing on repentance. We’re not at the Resurrection part of the story yet.

But Lent this year feels different. There’s a hope in the midst of the darkness and doubt I didn’t have last year. As I go through the gospels for Lent and realize Mary Magdalene was there at the crucifixion and burial of Jesus and didn’t lose hope when many of the other disciples did, this has caused me to hope more too. She’s an unlikely heroine in the story where men are highlighted and focused on more. And I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m thankful for unlikely heroines who suffer much but follow Jesus anyway and still have hope.

So, when the ashes are imposed on my forehead again this year, I will be reminded of something my pastor said in small group this week that we’re all God dust–or we’re all a part of God. We’re all a part of God and the story of redemption and restoration–even in the midst of suffering. And I’m sure I’ll tear up a little with a cross of ashes on my head for only the second time in my life. Because while we’re focusing on suffering and repentance, there’s more to life than those things. Death is with us but doesn’t have the final word.



The unknown has always stressed me out. It has taken me two weeks and three separate attempts to write this blog post. But today I want to address both the voices of my self-doubt and other things that may cause any of us out there to experience low self-esteem and lack of confidence. The voices of self-doubt are loud but settle in…there are a lot of things to unpack here.

These are some of voices in my head:

I can’t do this.

I’m not good enough.

I do not have what it takes to succeed.

I am scared that I will fail so why even try?

Those are all voices that come from my self-doubt. Doubt–specifically self-doubt is pernicious. It’s not like doubting things about my faith–where I’m questioning and wanting to understand more.

It comes from within and without and feeds like a parasite on all my energy to accomplish my goals or even just wake up in the morning to start the day. And let me tell you, lately those voices of self-doubt have been shouting at me.

I desperately want to being seminary again (this time at an affirming one doing mostly online work). I know this is what I want to do and am meant to be doing with my life. But also, I know I feel unworthy. I feel a sense of shame because others in my life have told me I’d never get this far, or that I shouldn’t do this or that, or that I will fail.

I’d like address some more specific voices in my head. First, my ex-boyfriend/rapist. Because we dated for practically three years while I was 19-21 years old, and because they were such formative years of my life, his voice is still in my head, tearing me down on occasion. So, on his  25th birthday last week, I wrote him a letter:

You will be 25 years old this week. Yes, I still remember your birthday. Some years, January 10th passes by and I barely notice. And some years, it’s a mark of how your memory stays etched in my subconscious.

Recently, my parents dared utter your name in an email and hearing your name makes me sick. 

Part of me wants to say, “Happy Birthday, you son of a bitch. I hope you rot in hell.” but another part of me just wants to know that maybe one day you’ll be held accountable for your actions. And that your wife isn’t subject to the same horrors I was.

I am writing this because I had a nightmare a few nights ago that you showed up back in my life. I had to google you to make sure you weren’t living anywhere close to me. Only then did I discover that you are no longer in England studying at Oxford but working on your PhD at Notre Dame. Indiana isn’t close…but still seems too close for comfort. 

I’m just now getting to live my life while you were able to go on living yours like nothing happened. You were able to get married and pursue your academic goals.

I know I shouldn’t even let you take up any more space in my head. But when I write, I get my power back and suffocate the power you had over me. You took my hopes and dreams and crushed them. You told me pursuing my own goals for school would take longer, because you wanted me to marry you first and let you live YOUR dream. You told me I was a slower learner, that I wasn’t a good writer. You told me the plural of pair was pair not pairs so rudely one time. And, god damn it, I wish you’d grow a pair and respect women instead of talking over them.

Here I am standing back up after you knocked me down for years. Here I am standing back up–hoping and dreaming again. Loving again. Or perhaps loving for the first time because I finally understand what love is.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy and is not proud. It is not self-seeking. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

You were none of these things and you took everything from me. I have somehow believed that you have taken my worth away. But I would like to inform you that you have no power here any longer.

Secondly, another voice, but a positive one that I’d like to respond to. That of my fiance:

My dear,

You have brought breath into my lungs that were gasping for air. No, literally…you remind me to breathe when I forget. 

I did not know what my heart was missing until I met you. 

I know you are not super human–that you possess no super powers or godlike qualities. 

But you hold my hand when I’m scared and hug me when life hurts. You are always kind and you allow me to be myself. You demand nothing more of me than to exist and be completely happy.

You make me feel how a sunrise makes me feel as the sky is just waking up. Or how a sunset over the trees ends a perfect day spent with you. You light up my life like the sun lights up the moon.

You remind me why I’m still here. Because life is worth living when you have love in your life. Love that is patient and kind. Love that does not envy and is not proud. A love that is not self-seeking. Love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Lastly, the voice I would like to address is my own with a meditation I wrote to calm myself down:


I am bad at it–because it’s a thing you don’t try to control. The goal is to just be and let the thoughts come. The only problem is that I have so many thoughts.

I’m ok letting them come but not so great at letting them go. And then there’s the breathing.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhale. Exhale.

Chest rising and falling.

Everything will be ok. Everything is not ok. But it will be and it’s better.

You are safe. You are loved. You are not alone.

Lastly, you are enough. It’s a mantra. A prayer that I repeat from God. It is woven into the fabric of creation when God said that everything God made was good. It was good. It is good. It is enough. You are enough. What was taken can be restored.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhale. Exhale.

Chest rising and falling. In rhythm with the wind in the trees and my heart beating…

You are enough.IMG_0525.jpg



inhale (exhale)


In this year of 2018, what things will change? What things will stay the same? I’m kind of over New Year’s resolutions, but I am all for having hopes and dreams for the year ahead and setting goals and ways to accomplish them.

So, here’s to living life to the fullest and starting out by writing more. This is usually the part where I say on the blog what direction the blog posts will go this year. And honestly, I don’t have the answer to that yet. I know I’d love to be a bit more academic with some of the posts, a bit more pastoral (because seminary), a bit less focused on trauma, a bit more focused on healing.

I’d definitely love to be more involved in activism this year and not just from the Twitter sidelines. I think activism is especially important coming from those of us who are leaving the church and/or leaving fundamentalism. I’d love to write more poems, short stories, etc. The brainstorming for the blog for 2018 hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll keep everyone posted.

For now, I present to you some poetic ramblings in processing PTSD over the holidays:


breathing, blocking you out


screaming, trying to shout


crying, choking on tears


running, chasing my fears


panicking, dreaming of you


waking, hiding from truth

will this year be the year I don’t breathe in memories?

from my father, my church, my ex-boyfriend, my mother

sometimes I see things that aren’t there

sometimes I just see the past in the present

is this what it means to be aware?

or is this just what happens every time I breathe

coming up for air

inhale (exhale) inhale (exhale)

maybe this is just breathing

maybe just breathe



all is calm, all is bright

“Remember hate is always foolish and love is always wise…Laugh hard, run fast, be kind.” ~ The Doctor, Christmas special 2017IMG_0228

Most years in Christmases past once I got into middle school, I looked forward to but also dreaded the holiday. The couple of weeks out of school were filled with freedom to to be sure…and were some of the most anxiety filled.

Thoughts like, “Will I have gotten or made gifts that won’t leave everyone disappointed in me?” were often running through my head. Often, I would end up feeling the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s was a time of penance and repentance for supposed wrongs toward my family (the word here meaning my parents).

I didn’t acknowledge quite how bad it was until I realized last year that was probably why I chose to come out around that time. There was some intense shame that came from it even though I knew I was simply being honest about who I was.

Let me tell you, this year was the most peaceful Christmas since before middle school.  Because I didn’t see my parents and I spent Christmas Eve and the days leading up to it with my chosen family–my church and my fiance. This year I chose my family and I chose to experience joy, hope, peace, and love.

Saturday before Christmas Eve was spent running trails–being in the middle of the woods with good people and good conversations. And also giving gifts to my sister for family members who think I’m an abomination. Not seeing them was more sad that they’re choosing “truth” over loving their child. I feel like I chose kindness but also self-care.

Christmas Eve was spent at church that morning to hear my pastor echo many things I’ve felt this Advent season–an intense longing for things to be made right and for peace. The candlelight evening service was one of my favorites. There’s something wonderful and breathtakingly beautiful about singing Silent Night acapella surrounded by people who genuinely love you.

Christmas Day I woke up next to the person I’m going to marry and we spent the day cooking and sharing meals together, resting on the couch watching Netflix, and eventually left the house to watch a movie. Overall, it was just calm and the only expectation was to be together.

2017 seems to be coming to a close with more joy than I could have ever dreamed possible, more hope than I had imagined, more peace than I’ve ever experienced, and more love than I ever thought I could contain. The world is a much better place with love and kindness in it. Here’s to fighting for that love in 2018 and beyond.

Last Christmas

“I heard the bells on Christmas day. Their old, familiar carols play. And wild and sweet their words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men…And in despair I bowed my head; There is no peace on earth, I said: For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I really don’t want to write this post because writing this post means acknowledging lots of hard feelings I have this holiday season. In a lot of ways it feels like recovering from a broken heart but instead of getting over an ex, I’m “breaking up with” my parents and the toxic, abusive relationships of the past. I know…Advent’s all about hope, love, joy. And I’m just not feeling it.

Last Christmas I had some serious doubts that I’d ever be where I am today. Let’s be really honest, last year I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the end of the year alive. Last year this time, I’d just come out to my parents and I hadn’t processed my feelings about my church effectively ex-communicating and shaming me out of the congregation. I’m still not sure I’ve processed that.

I feel like I’m pushing myself into an uncomfortable space where I have to acknowledge my parens are awful while also acknowledging human beings can be that terrible to other human beings. And I feel like I still need to be gracious even though I wrote several posts about how I’m just going to be in therapy for a while because of fucked up relationships with parents and church.

Why do I even still care how others feel when their actions and words have scarred me for life? I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t know how not to be kind to others. Except I think I’ve forgotten I also need to be kind to myself.

Here’s the reality: I’ve been socialized to let others be cruel to me in the name of Jesus. I’ve been taught that it’s ok for adults to be bullies, pedophiles, and manipulative monsters to their kids in the name of Jesus. In the name of God, I’ve been taught that you’re always obedient and don’t question authority.

In this world, the Kevin Spaceys, Roy Moores, Donald Trumps, Matt Lauers, etc get to do whatever the hell they want in the name of the patriarchy. It’s just that in my world, God gets all the credit for men being monsters. Everyone gets blamed except the men.

So on Sunday, I opened my Bible and I sat in church a week before Christmas, and I still feel anxiety. And I sit there and realize my soul is asking questions my lips haven’t formed yet. Because how am I supposed to find hope here? Hope where there’s always been abuse. Where is that peace on earth and good-will after all that? I’m feeling more despair and grief right now.

And I don’t feel like church or my friends know how to hold all that in tension and let me live in that space when we’re supposed to “have a holly jolly Christmas” and rejoice. I don’t know how to be both sad and happy.

Because I am definitely happier this year than last year.  This year I’m looking forward to getting married next year to a person who lets me be myself and I tear up thinking about that on a daily basis. The happiness is there and so is the sadness. I think maybe this year has been the year I’ve learned to truly live my life and the first time maybe that I’ve allowed myself to truly feel things about myself and other people. I’ve opened up my heart and the truth is, I don’t have to let people into my life who have tried to destroy me. But I also can choose to have people in my life who make me happy.

I don’t know how to reconcile all of that. But this is what is, and it’s my life. I’m thankful for both the happiness and the sadness because life is better than I ever thought it could be. And maybe it’ll keep getting better. Maybe there’s some peace on earth and good-will after all.

“I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” ~ Charlie, Perks of Being a Wallflower