Thoughts on LGBT + faith.

Learning to be brave.

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Well, shoot.

Right now I am working on final revisions for my manuscript for “Still Stace”. I’m also reading Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed”. This is quickly becoming a tumultuous, beautiful, terrible, gut-wrenching, wonderful, life-changing gift.

I have to read it very slowly, digesting it in small bits. Sometimes in the bath (the only place to read where I can lock myself away from toddlers), I can only manage a couple pages. My copy of her book is already dog-eared, annotated and frantically underlined. I’m not halfway done yet.

I feel, as I know many people feel, it was written JUST for me in this season of my life. No but, really, it feels that way. Glennon, can you hear me??

Today was a rare day for me. I was taken to the spa for a glorious getaway. As I laid on a surprisingly comfortable wooden recliner outside, wrapped in one of their lush white robes, I tried to muscle my way through a good chunk of her book. I feel in my bones that I need to absorb what every page says, but it’s hitting (too) close to home. Once again I hit the “oof, that hurts” wall after just a few pages.

I folded it face down on my chest and stared up at the blue sky. The spa doesn’t allow technology on-site, so I was actually forced to notice things. The way the soft breeze rustled the leaves overhead ever so gently. I studied the way the clouds swirled and reformed their puffy shapes quickly and slowly at the same time. The soothing sounds of the spa music – all that was missing was a masseuse’s hands on my shoulders.

Brené Brown talks about how she knows a book is good when she wants to throw it across the room. Well, Glennon, your book has a lot of air miles in my mind. I don’t want what you are saying to be true, but dammit, it is.

She says:

“Brave is not asking the crowd what is brave. Brave is deciding for oneself. To be brave is to forsake all others to be true to yourself.”

That sounds easy.

That sounds logical.

That sounds impossible.

How is it, that at the age of 40, I am only now learning how to truly be brave?? How to  listen for my own knowing, not the mix of voices in my head that want to do the “right thing”, make others happy or do whatever it takes not to hurt them.

Guys, this is so tough.

As I write about my younger self’s struggles in coming out and finding peace with my faith and sexuality, I realize I am yet again on another excruciating journey of finding myself. (Not in the same way mind you, I’m gayer than ever.)

But then, that’s what’s life is, right? “Being human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, it’s hard because you’re doing it right.” (Damn you, Glennon. Also, thank you Glennon.)

Okay, let’s keep reading.

This is 40.

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Yesterday, I turned 40. I’m not sure how that is possible, when inside I feel no older than 14!

Life is (real) messy right now, but I woke up feeling stupidly grateful to be alive, and convinced myself to take my first selfie ever because WELL WHY NOT. Are bathroom selfies still a thing?! (Revealing my age now.)

I know this:

I am loved.

My mind is smarter and clearer than ever.

My body is strong and healthy. (Working out almost daily is the best thing I have ever done for my mental health and self care.)

I am the closest today to who I was made to be, and I’m excited about that. I have screwed up big throughout my life, but dammit, I really like me.

I’m not certain I deserve this beautiful life I have, but I am trying hard to grab hold of every day, stay present, work hard, dream harder, and make the most of it.

40 is also the age I will be when books are published with my name on it. (Actual books! I still don’t fully believe that until I hold one.) So many of my dreams are yet to come true, so bring it on 40’s!!!! 💯🎉🌈

Yesterday was filled with my fav things – kitchen dance party with my kids, swimming in my fav lake and breathing in deep the mountain air, sneaking in a workout, and enjoying my fav foods with a few of my people (in our Covid bubble). Man, I am so damn lucky to be alive. I don’t want to waste this breath in my lungs.

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“I am a human being, meant to be in perpetual becoming. If I am living bravely, my entire life will become a million deaths and rebirths. My goal is not to remain the same but to live in such a way that each day, year, moment, relationship, conversation, and crisis is the material I use to become a truer, more beautiful version of myself.”
– @glennondoyle “Untamed”

Pride.

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It’s the last day of pride month. 🌈

2020 has felt more formative for me than ever.

My gay Christian journey started when I was 16, but now that I am (so very) close to the big 4-0, I feel like I am just beginning in a lot of ways. I’m truly learning what it means to trust myself – the deep, knowing me inside. To show up for myself and do hard things.

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I’m learning it’s good and necessary to take up space in this world, to say things, to deeply feel things.

2020 has been a tremendously hard year – for everyone – but often the hardest times bring about the most growth and beauty. I have a sense the coming months for me will be the hardest, but I am tenaciously hopeful and believing for the growth and beauty in the midst of it. (Maybe, because of it.)

A friend sent me this quote that I have said to myself every day lately:

“I will go, and I will go afraid.”

– Morgan Harper Nichols

I hope that wherever you are on your coming out journey, you know it is okay.

You are more than okay.  You are loved.

Happy Pride, my friends. ❤️🌈🎉

📷 Photo of Stacey ©2019 Camilla Hrytzak.

Church.

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Pausing along the Maple Ridge / Pitt Meadows Dyke trails to breathe in the mountain fog.

Right now, this is my church.

On my bike, sweating down these trails, God and I have it out.
Almost every day.

This (quarantine) time feels uncertain, in more ways than one.
So, I confess my scariest fears.

My most visceral aches.

My wildest dreams.

My tender hopes.
My heavy shame.

My loud celebrations and my quiet grief.

My beautiful questions, my untamed excitement, and my honest heartbreak.

Something about this mountain air, it’s healing.

We can do this.
We can do hard things.

I hope you’re hanging in there, friends.

And I hope you are finding your church too. ❤️🌈 🚲

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT!

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Friends, I can’t believe I get to announce this dream come true. If you don’t mind indulging me, I will give you a quick timeline of how I got here:

I have always wanted to do a project combining my art and faith journey as a gay Christian. In late 2018 I thought of doing a kids book so that my kids, and other kids, could read it. I called it “Dear Younger (gay) Me”.

Nov 2018 – I had a call with Jennifer Knapp (childhood icon!) about an unrelated project we were going to collaborate on, and I brought up my book idea. She encouraged me to do it.

Feb 2019 – I started sketching storyboards & writing on the train to and from work. I was shocked at how quickly it all came pouring out of me. I reached out to Rachel Held Evans. (I wrote a guest post for her blog in 2014 and had kept in contact with her.) She wrote me back saying: “What a beautiful book, Stacey! I’m happy to share far and wide. Thank you for making this.”

May 2019 – I sent out my book idea on a whim to see if I could get an agent to represent me. Within four hours of sending it out, and to my total shock, I had two offers of representation. I signed with The Bent Agency in NYC a few days later.

July 2019 – My agent Claire sent out a formal book proposal to a bunch of editors and we wait. (I am learning publishing is a slow game!) Claire helps me evolve and expand my story from a kids book to a YA illustrated novel.

Oct 2019 – We are approached by Beaming Books who are very interested.

Nov 2019 – Beaming Books sends Claire a book offer to publish! Claire goes back and forth to negotiate the terms as I vibrate with excitement in the corner.

Feb 5, 2020I officially sign the book deal with Beaming Books!! They start a discussion about changing the name of the book to be more suitable for a YA audience. They land on “Still Stace: My Gay Christian Coming of Age Story (An Illustrated Memoir)”.

March 5, 2020 it is officially announced in Publishers Marketplace (above image) I can fiiiiiiiinnnnnnally share this with you all!!

I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. I am trying to do my best writing and drawing for the privilege to be able to represent a voice for the gay Christian community, and for younger me. ALL. THE. FEELS.

Children’s Bookshelf also shared my book deal in their list (below), and I still can’t believe this is happening. But it’s been a long road, so I’m going to celebrate each milestone! (In a perfect coincidence, I was having a dance party with the kids when the tweet came in! 😆) Click image for link.

 

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Stay tuned for updates as I continue to work on it!

Being a guest on “Blessed Are the Feminists” podcast

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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:

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“Dear Younger (gay) Me” Book Update

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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!

LGBTQ Story Illustrations for OnePioneer

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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!

 

Working on “Dear Younger (gay) Me”

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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!

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**ANNOUNCEMENT**

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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. 🙂

 

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