The DIVINELY QUEER Ferndale Launch was one for the books! We had a great crowd join us at Affirmations for a few readings from the book followed by a very engaged Q&A session. It was exciting because I was joined by old friends who I had not seen in a while, family members who came out to show their support, and even made some new friends who had discovered my book and were excited about the opportunity to connect. We held an after party across the street at Rosie O'Grady's where 10% of the proceeds for the night benefited Affirmations. My friend, Christina brought her GlitzBooth open air photo booth and we were able to capture these gems! It was such an amazing night and I'm so grateful to my friend and director of public relations, Megan Shacklett, who organized the event and made sure that everything went off without a hitch! She and our Dream Team are amazing and are going to help me make 2019 a year of ACTION! Keep an eye our for a DIVINELY QUEER even near you! If you know of a local bookstore in your area that you think would welcome an event, please drop us a message at the email below!
I am absolutely ecstatic about the stunning cover that was designed for Divinely Queer! I could not possibly be more happy with it. A fun fact about the cover is that the photo that we used was not actually shot for the book. In fact, I had sent a different, headshot type photo - which had also been taken in front of the rainbow wall - with a mockup of what I had in mind. However, I also sent along what has now become the cover photo to be cropped and used for the wrap around cover which you see on the back. The guy who was hired to do the cover saw an opportunity with this photo and ran with it and the rest as they say is history - or herstory, as I like to say!
The shoot in which we captured this photo was actually taken last year when I was updating my website and asked my friend Emily Haase, who was just getting her photography business off the ground, if I could be one of her first clients. I am so incredibly grateful that she was up for it and so happy with the photos she delivered! These photos were all taken at Eastern Market in Detroit.
#divinelyqueer #bookcovermagic #comingsoon #firsttimeauthor #selfpublishing #voicepenpurpose #spirituality #sexuality #queer #lgbtq
So, I just spent a week in the rainforest of Costa Rica contemplating and processing my fears and anxieties about speaking my Truth and shining my unique Light in the world as I work on finishing my book, Divinely Queer: My Journey to Spirituality through Sexuality. I was surrounded by inspiring women who are walking their own path to do the same and they reflected back to me the message that I have received and felt in my Spirit many times and that is that I have everything I need inside of me to do the work I came into this world to do, that my message is one the world needs, and that it will literally save lives. Hearing their words brought such strong emotion that I immediately recognized as Validation Tears - my verification from the Universe that what I’m experiencing is Divine and the Truth. It also brought fear, overwhelm, and anxiety about how to effectively engage people in my message, how to reach those who are needing to hear my story and my words, and how to overcome those who will try to extinguish my Light.
The human part of me wants to turn the other cheek, to choose not to engage with the negative energy and simply focus on the positive energy in my life and in the world. But the Divine part of me is being summoned to answer the Call of the Universe. I feel so much conflict as I experience these two aspects of myself. There is a constant struggle between the Calling I feel and the Fear I feel about stepping into it. However, I’m noticing that the Universe will lead me if I pay attention.
Yesterday, as I was on my way to the airport in Orlando for the final leg of my trip home, I received a text message from my cousin about a church in my community that he attended as a young person. I’ve been to a couple of services at this church and although I have absolutely loved the music and delivery of the service, I have struggled with the exclusivity of their messages along with the knowledge I have of my cousin’s experience there. As a young person, he had been quite involved with their youth ministry. However, when he came out about his sexuality, he was told it was unacceptable and their approach was to pray the gay away. That was well over 20 years ago and so, when I attended a couple of recent services, I tried to let that just be context information and let myself be open to the idea that perhaps, they have changed their stance.
Midnight service on Christmas Eve is my favorite part of the holiday and our church was not having one, so I went in search of one to attend. It just so happened that this church was having such a service. Knowing how much I enjoyed the musical worship at this church, I was excited to attend. They did not disappoint. The service opened with Drummer Boy and when they struck those drums, it was like my whole heart opened up and I was immediately in tears, experiencing that Divine communication and connection with God. The message of the service was a pretty standard Christmas Eve message and as we left the sanctuary, I felt so energized and inspired and in the Christmas Spirit. I remember saying to my husband, Ethan, with excitement, “We need to be doing this at OUR church! The music, the production, it was SO amazing and inspiring!”
As I was going on about how awesome it was and he and I were talking about how this could look at our own church in terms of welcoming in a younger community, I noticed some pamphlets on one of the counters as we were leaving the lobby. Out of curiosity, I picked them up and was immediately in tears again, but this time out of anger, hurt, and frustration. The pamphlets, although not specifically about sexual or gender identity, had the logo for Focus on the Family displayed on the cover. Focus on the Family is an uber conservative religious organization that is anti-LGBT, supports conversion therapy, and is categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I was so angry to see that this church, that was clearly doing a bang up job of engaging young people was also almost certainly, based on the source of their pamphlets, preaching self-loathing and hate to any young people who may be exploring or navigating their sexual and/or gender identity. I was overcome with conflicting emotions. I felt equal parts moved and compelled to take some kind of action that would communicate to these young people that what they’re being told is not the Truth and terrified about the kind of push back or objection I might experience from those who are preaching this rhetoric under the guise of “God’s love.” It felt like such a huge, overwhelming endeavor to raise my voice, fearful that it might be shouted down.
I processed this experience with my book coach and even explored the idea of sending a friendly email to the pastor to inquire about what their current perspective is on supporting kids who are exploring their identities and maybe even invite him to a conversation. I felt so much anxiety just thinking about it and in the end, I never sent the email. The human part of me had won. I had stayed in the fear rather than stepping into the faith that God will lead me and support me.
Fast forward about 6 weeks and I receive this text message from my cousin with a screenshot of a workshop this church is offering to “girls (by birth) ages 12-16.” The workshop is “for those struggling with the thoughts that they are Trans - Bi - Gay or other” and their purpose is to “help your girl be unashamed of her true sexual identity given to her by God at birth.” The language in the event description makes it clear that, despite having the audacity to name the workshop “UNASHAMED IDENTITY WORKSHOP”, they will be teaching these young girls that anything outside of heterosexual and cisgender identity is unacceptable to God.
My heart sank as I took in this information and anxiety rushed into my body. There it was again, this conflict between knowing this was the Universe calling my name again and feeling completely overwhelmed and fearful about how to engage. As I waited for my flight to board, I prayed to God for guidance about how to engage in this situation and finding the courage to do so. It’s obvious I’m supposed to, and even though the human part of me wants to avoid the conflict with every fiber of my being, the Divinity in me knows that this is what I came into the world to do.
So, I arrive in Detroit and I request a Lyft ride from the airport to my home. The driver is an older white gentleman who seemed nice. We quickly got into small talk about how long he’d been driving with Lyft and what brought him to Michigan after living almost his whole life in Tennessee. He openly shared that he was drawn here by the opportunity for ministry. I immediately thought ‘Oh, man...here we go.’ as I recognized that this was the Universe at work. I felt the temptation to change the subject or even pull back my energy altogether, rooted in the fear that this guy was “one of those Christians.” However, I also recognized the Universe giving me an opportunity to practice, to engage in the conversation I’ve been fearing.
So, I cautiously proceeded with the conversation, asking round about questions about the ministry work he was doing and if he did his work through a local church. His answers were still pretty vague and I couldn’t get a good feel for what “kind” of Christian he was. At some point, he shifted the focus to me, asking about the photo in my Lyft profile in which I was standing against the backdrop of a conference I had attended. I explained to him that my work was teaching people about gender and sexuality. I shared with him that I was actually returning from a writing retreat as I’m writing a book about my own journey to spirituality through sexuality.
At this point I was feeling the momentum of taking the leap, of “going there” and so I went right into how I have come to understand that despite being told that I was unworthy of God’s love because of who I am, God’s love is for everyone and we all have direct access to God. His response when I mentioned what had happened to me was “I’m sorry that happened to you,” which, at first I still found myself questioning in terms of what exactly he might have meant by that. However, he then shared with me that his son is a drag queen and is also gay and shared that with him at a very young age, and that he has always loved and supported him. Needless to say, I felt my anxiety about putting myself out there melt away and a sense of gratitude and awe settle in as I recognized this opportunity, this test of sorts, for me to step into my Purpose. To answer the Call.
We talked the entire ride home about our beliefs and when we arrived to my home, I let him know that it felt like the Universe had arranged this conversation as a test for me. I thanked him for showing up and giving me the opportunity to take a leap of faith. As I locked my front door behind me and settled in for the night, I recognized that the Universe has been calling my name for so long. This was yet another Call, another opportunity to step into my Purpose. It was also an opportunity for me to test the Universe and to find that when you answer the Call of the Universe, the Universe will see to it that everything goes as planned. I’m also learning that when you don’t answer the Call, the Universe will keep calling your name.
Divinely Queer will be available for purchase soon!
The beauty of this place is beyond words. I am so incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for an entire week to work on finishing my book. This is my favorite photo so far. Excited to share many more with you when I return.
#divinelyqueer #voicepenpurpose #writingforchange #firsttimeauthor
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share the preface of my book, Divinely Queer: My Journey to Spirituality Through Sexuality at an open mic event called GodTalkUnfiltered. It was an event for people to share their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives about God. The event was the first of its kind in our community and was very open and welcoming to people of all and no religious persuasions. The experience was exciting and a little nerve-wracking for me as it gave me an opportunity to share my book, which is my personal story of my spiritual journey, with complete strangers. I'm happy to report that it seemed well-received and led to some very compassionate conversations at the end of the event. I'm taking this opportunity now to share it with the rest of the world. If you know someone who needs to hear this story - or even if you don't - I would love for you to share this post so that it may find its way to those whose hearts are seeking this message. If you are a person who identifies on the LGBTQ...LMNOP spectrum and as a person of faith, I also invite you to share your own experiences with the Divine here in the comments. Divinely Queer will be available for purchase in 2018.
Click here to listen to the preface of Divinely Queer.
Today I remembered the very last time that I had a normal relationship with my dad. As I was working on my book about my journey to spirituality through sexuality, I was giving the backstory leading up to the day that my dad confronted me about my relationship with a woman and I started at the beginning, the day that I left for Orlando for my internship at Walt Disney World:
“I remember during the thirty-minute drive to the airport an unfamiliar feeling of anxiety. Although as my mom would tell it for years, I’d always been the kid that would go anywhere with just about anyone, for the first time that I can remember I felt scared and nervous about going so far away. I remember sitting at the terminal gate at Detroit Metro Airport, my mom on one side, my dad on the other as we waited for boarding to begin. I had a huge lump in my throat and was holding back tears. I had only flown one other time in my life and never alone. I remember feeling like if I said anything, the dam would break and the tears would fall and I was trying to keep it together.
Before I knew it, the flight attendant was calling my section to board the flight. I remember my mom saying “That’s you” and feeling startled. I remember replying with “But, I’m not ready…” and there went the dam. I could hold back the tears no longer and I remember hugging both my parents, but especially my dad and him reassuring me that I was going to be okay. Little did he or I know, how dramatically my life was about to change in the next six months and I had no way of knowing in that moment it was the last time I would ever experience this kind of unconditional love and reassurance with my Dad.”
As I was telling this seemingly insignificant but necessary part of the chronological story, I was overcome with emotion as I remembered how I was feeling that morning. For the first time in 22 years, I had this realization that THAT seemingly insignificant moment was an ending of sorts. Unfortunately, due to everything that happened between us and his feelings about the choices I had made between the time I returned from Disney and the time he passed away, I’ve always had a hard time remembering how things were before the falling out. I’ve always thought it was so weird that although I had nearly 19 years of a good relationship with him, the last year and half of his life seemed to have stolen any vivid memories of good times with him. The hurt was so loud and obnoxious that it just would not allow me to see anything else...until today.
The emotion that came with today’s memory is hard for me to describe. I can’t even really distinguish if it was hurt and sadness over the loss of that relationship and the realization of the last time I had that loving connection, or if it was relief that I had finally remembered a time when my Dad still loved me like his firstborn. What I do know, is that this book writing process is a gift and this morning’s experience makes me both excited and a little bit apprehensive as I anticipate other discoveries that will inevitably come through this process. In any case, I look forward to sharing them with you.
#nationalbookloversday #whatsyourstory #voicepenpurpose #firsttimeauthor #divinelyqueer #spiritualitythroughsexuality
#voicepenpurpose #divinelyqueer #healingthroughwriting #facingmyfears #firsttimeauthor
One of today's writing prompts in the book-writing workshop I'm doing was "how is your perspective unique?"
The fact that I see my journey to Divine Spirit happening through the very identity that has caused others to want to separate me from God feels unique. I have come to see that, despite the condemnation of others - maybe even because of that condemnation - it has been only through my sexuality and that conflict that I have connected with God.
#voicepenpurpose #divinelyqueer #healingthroughwriting #facingmyfears
A few months ago, I was introduced to Amy Brooks, writing coach and book doula with VoicePenPurpose and have been following her on social media. This week she is offering a free "Kick-off Your Summer & Your Book" writing workshop. Since I've continued to feel stuck about my book I thought it would be a good exercise to get me back in the game. Today's focus was on establishing confidence and clarity. We had several writing prompts that helped to reflect on our thoughts about becoming an author, fear of failure, fear of success, etc. One of the most profound questions that we were asked to think about was "Am I ready to heal?"
I think this is so profound for me because I feel like I've spent most of my life doing healing work along the way. I've always been very open to it and actually love the work of processing things. It feels like healing has been a very functional part of my life experience in a way that has flowed and felt very seamless in a lot of ways. Still, this question feels like a big one and I think it's because, while I've been doing a lot of healing work in my life, I've come to a threshold or breakthrough moment that will ultimately take me to a whole new place. I think I'm ready - even longing for it in so many ways - AND I'm also still scared.
#voicepenpurpose #healingthroughwriting #firsttimeauthor #facingmyfears
Jennifer Miracle-Best is an author and speaker whose Calling is to help victims of spiritual violence find healing.