Pushing Through with Queer Eye

I’m carrying a lot these days; this year has been a tough one. The first third of the year was miserable with leaving my toxic ministry and dealing with panic attacks. The middle has been full of rest, healing, and discovery. But this last third has almost undone all of the healing that I worked so hard for.

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Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

I am grateful for those who have encouraged me and shared my ministry with others. Starting a new ministry with Tales of Glory means that I need help, and asking for help can be really hard. But I am also disappointed that I haven’t received as much help as I have needed and asked for. It’s discouraging and lonely.

I have made some tough decisions in regards to setting myself free from abusive situations, how to move forward, and realizing how that might (permanently?) affect my future. I am fighting off another cold (I had one just a month ago!) and we’re coming up one month of living in a hotel after our fire.

It’s hard not to be depressed. It’s hard not to lose my faith. It’s hard not to close myself off from others and completely withdraw within myself. Sometimes I feel as if I only have my husband and myself. Part of that is beyond my control. The other part might be my own doing as I retract from the world that seems to really have it out for me.

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Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

On my sick day, I decided to go back and watch Queer Eye from the beginning. 5 gay men, known as the Fab 5, enter a person’s life to make them over on the outside and makeover their home, but also reach deep to boost their confidence and self-image, work on their relationships, work on their professional lives, and truly bring out the beauty in each one of the “heroes” they work with. It never fails to bring joy and light in my life. But it was extra profound to watch these episodes that hit on so many of the things I am experiencing: loneliness, complicated family situations, struggling to connect to others, struggling with faith and theology, and even the grueling struggle of starting a business.

In one of the most recent episodes where they took Queer Eye to Japan, one of the Fab 5 named Antoni, who specializes in food, was watching some of the footage from one of their makeovers. They always watch footage of how their makeover has helped their “hero.” Antoni was openly weeping when he saw the hero and her friend embracing each other for the first time after decades of friendship, which they said was not common in their culture. He cried out, “Why does kindness always make me cry?!” Through my own tears, I laughed and said, “That’s all of us watching this on every episode!”

I have been knocked off my feet so many times just this year alone that I know there is no way to know what the future holds. I don’t really know how this chapter of life is going to work out for me. I keep scanning the horizon for a sign and coming up empty. What I do know is that Queer Eye is the microcosm of what the kingdom of God should look like. I am going to keep gathering these little pockets of joy and kindness to sustain my soul. Maybe my own faith and my own ministry can grow from there. For today, Queer Eye has kept my faith in God and in the goodness of others alive. Each day looks different, and each day I react differently as I stumble through; but at least for today I am pushing through with the small gift of hope given to me by the Fab 5.

Advent 3: Joy

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.

Joy is almost as hard to write about as hope. I think we’ve nearly over-sentimentalized it:

“I choose joy!”

“I won’t let anything steal my joy!”

“Joy is what I feel deep down inside. It’s not like happiness, it can’t be taken from me.”

While I appreciate the attempts to differentiate joy as a state of being from the fleeting emotion of happiness, these have become the catchphrases associated with joy. I think when we’ve adopted catchphrases for something then it’s probably safe to say we’ve lost the essence of it.

I think having a deep abiding peace is quite different than joy. Peace is centering. Joy is jubilant. I think joy involves the whole self: our voices, our ears, our eyes, our bodies, our hearts, our souls. It’s a rejoicing that involves every part of us, fully engaged, entirely attentive, completely immersed.

Therefore, joy can only be sustained for so long. It can be fleeting too. Happiness doesn’t require so much of us; joy reaches down to our core. I’m not so sure that we “choose” joy so much as it chooses us and demands our attention, appreciation, and wonder. When it comes by, let’s just surrender to the gift that it is and lean into the moment with our whole selves, unabashed and free.

 

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

St. Augustine

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Growing up, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN were the “go-to” places for a family getaway or a day trip. It was only 2 hours away and it’s full of fun family activities and over-the-top hillbilly hokey-ness. Pancakes, black bears, Dolly Parton, apple butter, old timey photo booths, arcades, and ridiculous attractions make for a cheesy, yet memorable good time.

Living in Decatur and Clarkston while spending time in Georgia meant just a 20 minute drive into Atlanta and accessing the theatres, concerts, food, and attractions that were all downtown. If you needed out of the city, there were mountains to the north, Stone Mountain for a close by adventure, and a monastery in Conyers.

Now, living in Daytona Andy and I needed a getaway place. Enter St. Augustine. Just a short 1 hour drive makes this the perfect place to escape without having to travel very far away. (Orlando is an hour away and will probably be an escape for us too, but only when we can afford it!)

Andy and I LOVE coastal, historic towns: Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans… learning about pirates, settlers, the Civil War, all the crazy ghost stories, southern aristocracy, the Civil Rights movement are extremely interesting to us. Non-coastal towns with great history such as Memphis and Birmingham are fun for us too, but we have a soft spot for the coastal cities. St. Augustine satisfied all of our desires!

We learned about the history of the Spanish settlers, fighting the pirates on the Gulf Stream, and about Flagler’s riches and humanitarian acts. We heard about all the ghosts in the old jail, the graveyards, and the old pharmacy. We had great seafood, incredible authentic Spanish food, and lots of ice cream to keep us cool.

Shrimp and grits at the Florida Cracker Cafe were simple, yet yummy. The chicken and shrimp with sherry sauce and yellow rice at “Columbia” were incredible, but their slow roasted sliced pork with black beans, yellow rice, yuca, plantains, and chorizo were out of this world. Who knew Andy and I loved Spanish cuisine so much?

We took the history bus tour and their nighttime ghosts and gravestone tour. We visited the Castilla de San Marco Fort and spent hours in the colonial quarter. We visited the small history museum and the old jail. We also visited a number of religious sites, such as the Basilica, Memorial Presbyterian Church, and the Greek Orthodox Shrine.

That’s not even half of what is around St. Augustine! Since this is our new getaway, we plan to go again and again. Next time we hope to see the lighthouse, go on a ghost walking tour, and learn more about pirates! This will be our new home away from home when we need a day to escape from work and stress.