This project is a long time coming (out).
I love working in the animation industry, and I hope I continue to for many more years. But lately these words from Mary Oliver keep ringing in my ears:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do /
With your one wild and precious life?”
What messages do I want to leave behind? What messages would I want my kids to be proud of me for? I believe we all have talents, and I think it’s important to think about how we can use those talents for something bigger than paying the mortgage.
I want to tell people’s stories with my art. I want to tell of their triumphs, their struggles, and the priceless lessons they learned. And I think this time in history – maybe now more than ever – we need to listen to each other.
But if I am going to tell other people’s stories, I think I need to tell my own story first.
I have shared my story before of growing up in the church, and finding peace about being gay, and a Christian. For years now, I have wondered if I would have the courage to put some of my own triumphs, struggles and lessons into an illustrated book. For years I have been thinking about it. But lately, I have felt a need to do it. Maybe it’s just that now I feel ready to do it.
I really struggle with this, as I can’t stand the spotlight. Like all of us I wonder – does my story matter? I’m sure it will rock the boat in some of my circles. Putting my deepest and darkest struggle out there for everyone to read (in illustrated-form yet!) is… terrifying. But years ago, after God gave me peace about who I am, I felt Him asking me to be authentic about how I got there. I struggled so much for so many years, and if my story can help someone else, then I will tell it every chance I get.
We have come a long way with LGBT inclusion. But there’s still a lot of work to do, especially in our churches. There’s still (LGBT) voices to hear. I want to do this for that teen sitting in their non-affirming church, not sure if they can continue. I want to do this for that person struggling with rejection from family or friends because they just want to be honest about who they are. You are not alone.
So here it is.
This is my work-in-progress cover for the book I am writing & illustrating, entitled “Dear Younger (gay) Me”. The story will follow a present-day version of myself, going back to visit a younger version of myself, following the journey where I was struggling the most, and trying to leave encouraging messages in place of the hurtful or difficult ones I received at the time.
I will be posting updates, I need to figure out how to get it published, I am in the midst of storyboarding…. it’s all a messy work-in-progress – sort of like all of us. 🙂 I’m not sure how this is going to go, but I keep hearing a small voice inside saying, “Just draw it, and see what happens.”
So, one illustration at a time, I’m doing this.
Thanks to everyone who supports me near and far – most of all Tams, for giving me the (daily) courage to do this. Life is too short not to do hard things.
If you know someone who might benefit from this when it comes out, please share. I just really want all of us to feel less alone.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for updates. 🙂
It took me into November – BUT I DID THEM ALL YOU GUYS! With two kids and lotsa work, this was a flippin’ feat.
All sketches done on a Moleskine sketchbook, using a mix of pentel brush pen, pigma liners, colerase pencils, pencil crayons and markers. Click to enlarge any of them to see larger.
Thanks for following along! 🙂
I managed to watch and design 8 out of the 9 Best Picture Nominees for the Oscars this year – one of my fav times of the year! These were all fun to watch and design.
Congrats to all the films nominated, and especially “Shape of Water” for winning Best Picture!
I love Netflix’s “Stranger Things”. Who doesn’t? And I love Golden Books. So I thought, why not combine them for a fun exercise??
I tried to work my way through Season 1 [with full-time work and a toddler], so I only made 10 pages so far. With the new baby coming, I will pause this for now, but hopefully will come back to finish it later. It’s been fun to do!
See what I have so far: [all pages done digitally in Photoshop]
Stay tuned for more! 🙂
Instructions for a life:
I grew up in a large Pentecostal church, baptized days after being born. God and Jesus were always a huge part of my life.
My youth was full of Christian conventions, church summer camps and Friday night youth groups. I always believed the church was my family, and they would love me no matter what, because that’s what I was taught. I loved every aspect of growing up in the church…
Until I realized in my late teens that I may be gay.
From the age of 17 to 29, I encountered hurt, neglect, shame, loneliness and guilt from my church family. Sadly not an uncommon story, what had been my refuge since birth, became a dark place that made me question everything.
I began to hate myself and my futile prayers. Without ever having to say it, they made me believe I had to choose: embrace God, or be damned, and embrace this capital Sin.
I clearly remember sitting in my room at 18 years old, writing in my prayer journal and sobbing. After dodging this struggle as long as I could, I finally turned my head to look it square in the face.
Everyone was right. I was the worst of sinners. And no amount of prayer was changing that.
How could I be attracted to women? I grew up around all the right people, in the perfect Christian environment, with a loving mother and father to guide me. I was so involved at church and I loved it. I loved Jesus genuinely, and my family fiercely – and now I felt as though they couldn’t love me if I embraced being gay.
Hope began to dwindle.
Hope continued to dwindle for 13 years, where I had some of the most severe lows, and intoxicating highs, as I trudged along the messy path of my faith and sexuality. My faith was truly tested in every possible way. I was forced to ask myself – and God – questions that I never would have, if I was straight.
What a gift, actually, that turned out to be.
My relationships with family and friends went through some extreme ups and downs, and I made some bad choices motivated by hurt and loneliness.
Yet through it all, I felt God softly standing beside me, gently pursuing me, and not allowing despair to take a full hold. Deep down I always knew He created me for more than this chaos I was feeling.
A few weeks before my 30th birthday, I was coming very close to the end of my rope, and I knew I had to make a choice.
I had been dating this amazing woman named Tammy for seven years, yet so much of my life was in the closet, and up in the air. I lived with constant chaos rolling around in my soul, and I didn’t see how I could ever be okay with being both gay and a Christian — never mind be gay-married. It wasn’t fair to her any longer, and I had to make a decision to either end things or move forward.
A friend asked me to housesit, and I knew this was my chance to spend a week alone with God.
As I peeled back the layers of hurt, chaos and confusion of the last 13 years, I wept, and I asked God the impossible one last time.
Can You truly still love me if I love the gay part of myself?
Will you turn Your back, or will You be in the middle of our relationship, if I take the hand of the one I love, and walk forward in this life with her?
Will I ever possibly feel peace?
The answers were not was I was expecting — and they were not what everyone was telling me they would be. It was in that moment that I realized something vital. I had been listening to God’s people for 13 years – but what did God Himself have to say to me?
I waited, and I listened… and I sat there in the stillness.
I felt inside my soul, bubbling to the surface, a deep, resounding YES.
YES, I LOVE ALL THAT I MADE YOU TO BE.
YES, a thousand times over, YES.
And more than that – none of your struggle will be wasted.
A peace that began to wash over me like waves, consuming the shores of chaos and washing them away, layer by layer.
I didn’t get written answers, or theological clarity — but I got peace. A peace that has not wavered since that day.
One year later, Tams and I got married. Our wedding day was not at all as I imagined it as a young girl. For one, I wasn’t marrying a shaggy-haired youth pastor, I was marrying a woman.
Secondly – my parents chose not to be there. I never thought I could look back on my wedding day with the profound void of my parents absence, and be truly happy.
But let me tell you my friends, God was there. And He filled that void so completely. I remember turning the corner to walk down the aisle, and I saw Tams waiting there for me – my heart burst, because I truly felt God saying to me – this is who I have made for you. I never believed that could have been possible. I am astonished. When I think back on that day, I just feel love.
I stand before you now, seven years later, at 37 years old, married to my beautiful Tams since 2011. We have a 19 month old daughter named Robson, who is our consistent beam of light, and we are pregnant with our second – a boy, due in just a few short days.
Profound gratefulness fuels my life.
I can say today that I am wholly myself, in true contentment, and embracing this life God has given me.
It hasn’t been easy since that peace flooded my soul – but it is a continual well in which I draw from, to make it through the tough times.
There are still people close to me, including my parents, who do not agree, and that is hard… but it is okay. We can disagree. I know some people see my gift of peace as the moment when I gave into my sin. But this moment when people believe I walked away from God, is in fact the moment that I ran towards Him.
This is God’s story, and I am just trying to live it out. I believe that He will redeem it all one day; and I just need to leave that up to Him.
This poem by Mary Oliver resonates deeply as I reflect on my life journey so far.
Pay attention. Because of the turmoil that God has brought me through, I am forced to pay attention to the gifts in my life that I will no longer take for granted. My daughter’s embrace is that much sweeter. Holding my wife’s hand in public is that much more profound.
Be astonished. When I have tough encounters with the ones I love, and they do not cheer my relationship or family on – I am grieved. But God gives me such a quiet and beautiful peace to be still, and trust Him. My heart remains soft. And that makes me truly astonished.
Tell someone. When God gave me this peace, I promised Him I would share His story. That is why I embrace it proudly. I believe I have been called to share my truth, to live authentically – and to leave the rest to Him.
What a true gift it is to be heard.
Thank you for listening.
This year I participated in Inktober again, but I wanted to try my best to do a drawing every day if I possibly could! I decided to make my theme about Robson, because I have a lot of fun ideas to draw when it comes to her! 🙂 ❤
Here are all 31 drawings in order! Maybe one day I will make a book about this little puppet 🙂
(All drawings done in a Moleskine sketchbook, with col-erase pencils for the rough, and a Pentel brush pen for the inked lines.)
Day 1: Robson in her knitted shawl!
Day 3: Dancing in the living room with her stuffed elephant!
Day 4: Robson and our cat Mowgli sometimes bird watch together!
Day 5: Robson loves the swings – and loves to wear her sunglasses upside down!
Day 6: She loves to wave at herself in our bathroom mirror!
Day 7: Robson loves to share meals with her friends like Shannon-Joy!
Day 8: While visiting friends, Robson decided to chew their Thanksgiving decorations!
Day 9: Robson had fun climbing around at the pumpkin patch!
Day 10: I love it when Robson finds my oversized hats and wears them around the house.
Day 11: It is Muddy Buddy season on the West Coast!
Day 12: She finally said Mowgli’s name! (mogey)
Day 13: Robson is a big climber at 18 months, and she loves to climb to the piano and play the keys!
Day 14: She has made a bed in a laundry basket for herself and her friends!
Day 15: It’s rare now, but I love it when Robson falls asleep on my chest. ❤
Day 16: Robson loves to (try to) play my Ovation guitar!
Day 17: If you visit our house, Robson will most likely try on your shoes!
Day 18: Lately Robson has been taking a photo of us off the wall, bringing it to us and pointing to it saying “mum-mums”. ❤❤
Day 19: Robson loves to meet other kids, but she had NO personal space!
Day 20: When I use my hair dryer, Robson comes running and wants me to blow it on her hair and face and then she scream-laughs!
Day 21: Every night, Mowgli follows Robson to her room to say good night and she always waves at him and smiles!
Day 22: Some of the best moments are right after her nap, she comes out all rumpled and warm, hugging her Sleep Sheep and lets us cuddle her for a few minutes until she wakes up. ❤
Day 23: Someone pointed out that Robson’s current toddler run is just like Phoebe’s from “Friends”!
Day 24: We are having a lot of appts to check on Bean Boy, and Robson gets very concerned and curious about what exactly the ultrasound is all about!
Day 25: Robson loves soup – and oh boy does it make a lot of messes for us! Worth it. ❤
Day 26: Little Red Riding Robson! I love all her hipster clothing.
Day 27: When we have friends over, Robson uses her pickpocket skills to go through our friends bags and purses. You have been warned!
Day 28: Robson is becoming fast friends with a little puppy named Dobby 😊🐾
Day 29: Some of my fav moments – Robson is obsessed with Coldplay, and she asks me to pick her up and enthusiastically dance around the room with her on my hip. Her squeals of joy fill my heart to overflowing. ❤❤
Day 30: Robson loves animals, and two in particular – sheep and pigs! She makes BAAHHH and SNORT noises constantly.
Day 31: Robson dressed up as a big derpy spider for Halloween! For my last drawing of Inktober, I decided to try a time lapse video of my drawing & inking. It was a fun experiment I will try again soon! See below for the final drawing.