A few weeks ago, the kind folks at the “Blessed Are the Feminists” podcast invited me to be a guest, and talk about my experiences with Christian feminism, having LGBTQ faith and being a gay Christian mama.
It was such a great conversation, and I think, so important to have right now! The episode aired Sept 1, and can be heard on their website here. Or look them up on iTunes & Spotify to subscribe! Follow them on instagram & twitter @holyfeminists!
Here’s a few tweets they put out about my episode:
My agent Claire and I have been working hard on this for the last few weeks, and hopefully soon I will have more news to share!
This project has just poured out of me, like a pitcher full of water finally being emptied. In my 18 years as an artist, I have never quite had that feeling before. Usually I struggle with getting what’s in my head onto the page/screen. I’m really excited to finish it, and for everyone to get the chance to read it! I have a lot more work [drawing] to do, but I feel so incredibly grateful to work on it every chance I get. Here are the latest illustrations I have done – they will make more sense with the text. 🙂
Stay tuned for the full story and publishing updates!
I was asked to illustrate a little story for this great organization OnePioneer, who gives LGBTQ+ kids the same experience at camps as the other kids. Growing up in a very conservative Christian summer camp [which I loved!], I understand how important this is, especially now.
To read the full story written by Michelle Dowling and Emma Silverthorne, click here! See below the illustrations in order of how they appear in the story. I love doing little projects like this!
Hi friends! Life is sooooooo busy [Mamas & Papas raise your hands!] but I am continuing to move forward on this book project. I don’t know what will happen, but I feel it in my bones that I just gotta do it.
Here’s an illustration that will be for the inside.
If anyone needs/wants a reminder of why I am writing this, read my original announcement here. I will also post my cover again to see the art together.
Stay tuned for more updates!
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. 🙂
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.
Hello my little one…. it’s me.
[We will teach you about Adele when you grow up a bit!]
I can’t even believe you are already 28 weeks along, and growing so strong inside of Mama’s belly. Wow, you are doing so great little bean!
First let me thank you for a precious gift you have already given me. [Truthfully I think you and God were in on it together.] A few weeks ago, your Mama and I were putting the Christmas tree up, and decorating it with all of our ornaments. Your Mama said she felt you moving around inside, and to come and see if I could feel anything on the outside. I hadn’t yet. I put my hand on her belly, and we waited there for a minute, in the silence of the twinkling lights from the Christmas tree.
All of a sudden we both felt a huge BOOM from inside – a direct hit to the palm of my hand, and my heart skipped a beat! I heard you, little one! Blinking back tears, I realized how real this journey is. This is happening – you are coming into our lives, a kicking, screaming, laughing, thoughtful little being. You, my little girl, are my miracle. I already thank God daily for your existence; for being allowed to witness this sort of love in my life. I am in awe.
Now, little bean, I have been thinking about something else I wanted to share with you.
As you will learn, there are many different types of families. Some families just have a Mommy. Some families just have a Daddy. Some have two Mommies or two Daddies. Some are raised by a grandparent or an aunt. Some – maybe most – will have a Mommy and a Daddy. The love is still the same, my sweet one.
I grew up with a Mommy and a Daddy. I was very lucky that they were [and are] both around for my whole life, spoiling me and loving me as I grew up. And if I am being honest, I was definitely a Daddy’s girl. My Daddy is very generous, very funny, and one of the true heroes in my life. I know I can always count on him to be there, fix anything, or make me laugh. I have always thought, even as I am now a grown-up, that I have the best Dad. (He will be the best Grandpa to you, I know it. 🙂
And as you get bigger and bigger in Mama’s belly, I realize that you will never say those words: I love you, Daddy.
My Evangelical Christian upbringing wants me to feel guilty about that. I want to say that I am sorry that I have chosen a “lifestyle” that omits a Daddy from your life. And I admit that it was one of the fears I had when I was struggling with becoming a Mama myself. How can I withhold anything from an innocent child?
But, my Sweetheart, I won’t apologize. Because I have chosen love, and love is something we never apologize for. My heart is too full of peace and gratefulness to be sorry, little one. No, you won’t have a Daddy in the traditional sense. You will have two Mommies instead. Two Mommies that already love you so entirely, it is hard to properly put it into words. So we will show you. We will show you with every hug, with every tear we wipe away, with every cuddle, with every crust we cut off your bread, and with every moment of sleep we lose when you cry or are sick. You will be so absolutely loved.
I believe to the depths of my soul, that this is the path God has chosen that has led you into this world. I believe that God knows what He is doing, and He isn’t scared that you will be coming into a family “without a Daddy” – but that was His plan. God does not make mistakes – He makes miracles.
So maybe one day you will be with your friends and they will be talking about their Daddies, and it will hit you: I don’t have one. And maybe you will wonder why. And I hope you will come to us with all of these questions, and more. And above all, I hope that your heart and soul is just so surrounded with love that you won’t feel like you are missing anything – but have everything you need. That is my prayer for you, little one.
We are counting down the days until we can stare into your beautiful little face. 🙂