5 Ways to Hug Your Anxiety Today

I recently went through the most intense bout of anxiety that I have experienced in years. It grabbed hold of my very being and altered my reality in such a way, that I could only see life through a lens of fear. I was not okay. And even though I knew what had triggered it, I couldn’t seem to make it stop or go away. It lasted for weeks and there were days where I found myself curled up in a ball in the middle of the day trying to simply slow my heart rate and even my breathing out. In the midst of this unwelcome visitor, there are a few things that I learned during this most recent encounter with anxiety. Acknowledge It One day when I was sitting at a stoplight, I spoke directly to my anxiety. Saying something along the lines of, “I see you. I hear you. I know you’re not okay right now. But take one day at a time, and just breathe. Things will even out and eventually, return back to normal.” It was surprisingly comforting to acknowledge and speak directly to the very feeling that was causing me such distress. Recognizing and naming how you feel, and then speaking to it with compassion was a technique I hadn’t tried in the past, but that I found particularly comforting. Share About Your Anxiety With Someone Sharing how you feel with someone (as long as it’s the right someone) can help immensely at getting you

A couple weeks ago, I had my first experience at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC. Let me tell you friends-it was hot, it was humid, and it was holy. Photo and all related rights belong to the author. I didn’t know what to expect and quite frankly, was a little nervous about what I would find. But these three days in the woods of the Appalachian Mountains were much more than I anticipated. Driving through the one stop sign town of Hot Springs, NC you would never know that there were 4,000 people packed into the woods just beyond the road. But we were there. And we were connecting and building meaningful relationships with one another on all topics related to spirituality, arts, and justice. There were many highlights for me: eating my first Veggie Thing (a delicious veggie-filled crepe-like “thing” with amazing tomato based chutney), enjoying lunch with Brian McLaren and talking about the future of the church, hearing a powerful talk from Jen Hatmaker on the importance of embracing pain, and connecting with friends new and old as we waded in the river, grabbed an ice-cold lemonade, or just sat beneath a tree catching up on life. But then there was Amy Grant, my friends. And for me, she defined the weekend. There was lots of buzz leading up to “the Goose” (as people like to call it). People repeatedly asked me, “Is Amy Grant affirming?” and I had to admit that I honestly didn’t

Hey Friends! I hope you are enjoying your Pride month and finding ways to celebrate what makes you uniquely YOU! Two quick things I’m excited about and want to share with you: I AM CURRENTLY BOOKING SPEAKING EVENTS THROUGH DEC 2018. If you attend or pastor a church that is looking for guest speakers, or if you have an upcoming event, I am currently booking speaking engagements through the end of the year. (I may even book into spring of next year if you have a burning passion to do so!) I do encourage you to book as early as possible as my schedule is quickly filling up. So don’t wait! If you’re interested, reach out to me at: Beyond.AmberCantorna@gmail.com for more information. I’d love to chat with you about it! BOOK TWO OFFICIALLY HAS A NAME! For those of you are anxiously awaiting details about my second book, here it is! Unashamed: Coming Out as an LGBTQ Christian will release from Westminster John Knox Press in Spring 2019. It is the book you have all been asking for and will be a practical guide full of tools and tips for those of you wrestling to figure out how to come out of conservative faith families and navigate these unexpected waters. I’m so excited to share it with you and can’t wait to tell you more as we move forward. Stay tuned!As always, but especially during this month of Pride, I encourage you to love those around you, and love yourself.

“I’m so proud of you Amber,” my dad frequently told me growing up. He said it more times than I could count. It didn’t matter whether it was a new piece on the piano I had accomplished, a story I’d written, or a good grade I got on a test, my dad was good at telling me that he loved me, and that he was proud that I was his girl. As his only daughter, my dad and I were close. I was the apple of his eye and we shared a special bond that can only be formed between a father and his little girl. From butterfly kisses, to Saturday morning cuddles, to special “father/daughter” dates, I never doubted that I was loved. Although our connection shifted a bit as I entered my teen years, we still made an effort to get together for coffee, or watch a late-night action film; things we not only enjoyed but that kept us bonded and close. But all that changed 6 years ago when I came out. Once I shared with my dad that I was gay, I never heard those words “I’m proud of you” from him again. For 6 years now the tape of his voice that I’ve heard in my head (even in his years of silence) is “I’m embarrassed by you,” rather than “I’m proud of you.” The first two years after coming out were full of turmoil and hurtful words from my dad. The last four have been dead air as

My Dear Friends, This last weekend, I had the rare and incredible opportunity to gather with a group of 50 women from across America for a unique conference experience titled “She is Called.” Together we had discussions around the topics of sex and power, intersectionality and equity, and prevention and repair. We made art, we did yoga, we encouraged one another, we laughed together, we cried together, and we bonded in a way that only women can. It was magical. I admit I was highly hesitant to walk into a space of all Christian women given my previous experience with evangelical women’s retreats in the past. The last thing I wanted to do was sit around in dresses, drink tea, and talk about purity and submission. But this was far, far from that. It was rich with conversation, deep with emotion, and all about empowering one another to fulfill our calling in these progressive and inclusive spaces. Not at all like my previous women’s retreat experiences! These women were small business owners, pastors, artists, leaders of non-profit organizations, marriage podcasters, sex therapists, and just about every other beautiful occupation you can imagine for a woman to make roots in. For many years prior to coming out, I was an avid journaller and musician. And while I’ve done a lot of writing and blogging since coming out, I’ve struggled to reclaim the artist, songwriter, poet side of me. But being around such powerful women this weekend awakened something inside of me

I am a motherless LGBTQ daughter. My mother is not deceased, she does not live out of state, and my parents are not divorced. My mother lives only 60 miles from me, yet because of our differing religious beliefs, we are divided. We have not spoken in years. I never dreamed it would be this way. It certainly didn’t used to be. My mother and I used to talk on the phone at least once every day. Even after I moved out of the house, I never lived more than a mile or two from my parents’ home. We saw each other often. My mom and I went to garage sales together, we watched movies together, we took our dogs to the park together, and we helped each other with projects that needed to be done. We had many years of mother/daughter bonding moments. And as long as I stayed in the closet, wore a smile, and pretended to be who my mom wanted, we enjoyed spending time together. But one defining moment of authenticity changed all that. Once I came out and told her that I was gay, everything she thought about me changed. In her eyes, I was no longer the daughter she knew, or the daughter she raised, or the daughter she loved. Her devotion to her religious beliefs convinced my mom that she must choose between her loyalty to God and her loyalty to her daughter. She chose God. I expect she did this out of fear: fear

Hey Friends, This week I have the exciting privilege of featuring another guest blog by my friend, Alicia Johnston. Alicia was a pastor in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church before coming out as bisexual in 2017. Here are some tips from her about how to engage in the important dialogue of LGBT+ inclusion. Enjoy and share around! Because Love Makes All the Difference, Amber Cantorna When I came out about a year ago, I did it in the most explosive way possible, with a video I shared on social media. I followed that up with my website, blogging about LGBT+ affirmation in Christian spaces. Before coming out, I was a pastor in a conservative denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Losing that career and becoming an advocate for change has meant a lot of conversations with people who do not affirm any but heterosexual relationships. I have made so many mistakes. If you’ve been following me, you will probably have seen some of them. And I have learned so much. I would like to share some of those things with you today. In sharing these lessons learned, I make no apologies about one thing: I am trying to be persuasive. I want people to change their minds and be affirming. I think this is a holy pursuit. 1. Are You Okay to Have This Conversation? This will always be the first step. You are under no obligation to engage in any conversation no matter what the circumstances. This is even more true

Tomorrow marks six years since I came out of the closet. In some ways it feels so much longer. So much has happened in the span of those six years–I’ve fallen in love, gotten married to my wife, published a book, and started a non-profit for LGBTQ people of faith. Could it really be only six years ago that I was more scared than I’d ever been in my entire life as I prepared to tell my family following morning? And yet, it seems like yesterday. I can still see so clearly the stoic look that was on their faces when my parents and younger brother arrived to my house, barely making eye contact as they came in the door. It was as if they knew something was up. I can still sense the tension in the room that grew with every word I spoke about my journey of reconciling my faith and my sexuality. I can still hear the deafening silence that hung in the air once the words “I am gay” finally left my mouth. It was the most vulnerable I’d ever felt in my life. And I can still feel the pain that struck my heart with a knife when my dad looked at me with anger in his eyes and said, “I have nothing to say to you right now,” and walked out the door. That screen door slamming behind them as my mom and brother followed suit was the sound of rejection. It broke my

The End of the Beginning

My Dear Friends, Greetings from Denver, CO! I am finally home in my own town for awhile after months of traveling and speaking, and am breathing a sigh of contentment tinged with sadness as I write to you. I’m sad because I’ve gotten to meet so many of you on the road these past many months and you’ve filled my heart with joy and I don’t want it to end. But I’m content because of the stories you are telling me of the work God is doing in your hearts and lives. As I prepare to celebrate Easter this Sunday, I’ve been thinking this week about the idea of the “end of the beginning.” In the last six months since Refocusing My Family released last October, we have traveled just under 20,000 miles and spoken at 25 different events nation-wide. Ranging from universities in Los Angeles, to churches in North Carolina, to bookstores in Seattle, we have met some of the kindest and warmest people on the planet (many of you have been among them!). Being on the road has stretched my wife and I in so many ways – physically, emotionally, relationally, and financially. But the reward in the form of the stories we’ve heard and the people we’ve met has brought fulfillment in its deepest forms. I’ve gotten countless emails and met hundreds of people who have read Refocusing My Family who’ve said they couldn’t put it down, or they felt like they were reading their own life

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