Christmas Miracles and an Anchor of Hope

Since I’ve been back home the last few weeks, people have been asking for stories from the road of the Refocusing My Family tour. While I’ve loved all the people I’ve met and each unique story I’ve heard, one of my favorite stories so far comes from a trip I took in mid-November.

As a young girl, I was part of a girls group we fondly called the Green Gable Girls (a reflection of our favorite story, Anne of Green Gables). It started when I was in the second grade and continued all the way until I graduated high school. Over time, I have lost touch with a number of those girls for varying reasons, but since coming out, I’ve been able to rekindle a healthy adult relationship with three of them who have all been supportive of my relationship with my wife.

One of these girls and I didn’t reconnect until after my wife and I got married, but we had the honor of attending her wedding in the fall of 2016. While at the wedding, I saw my friend’s parents (who were close family friends growing up) for the first time since coming out. They’ve been nothing but kind to both Clara and I since getting reconnected and at the wedding, her dad even admitted through misty eyes, “I don’t understand, but I love you.” That right there opened the door for deeper conversation, and so, the rekindling of a friendship with them began.

We live in different states, so the start of our renewed relationship mostly happened via Facebook as we got acquainted with where each other was in life. But when when I booked a tour stop in their hometown, they offered to let me stay with them, and I accepted. I had no idea how healing that weekend was going to end up being, both for them and for me. In the week leading up to my visit, they wrote me and said, “We read your book and it has completely changed our mind on LGBT people and the church.”

Nothing could have been more encouraging or validating than hearing those words from someone who was a part of my former life and was acquainted with the world in which I grew up.

In the couple short days we had together, we spent many hours in deep, rich conversation about life and faith, we asked questions, we began catching up on the many years of life we’d been out of touch for, and they lent their support by attending both my events in the area that weekend. For me, this is my favorite tour story so far.

To see a couple of family friends from my youth become allies in my adult life, has perhaps been one of the most redeeming and rewarding moments for me since this journey began.

I’ve heard many powerful stories of how my book has changed people’s lives and families, and each one has touched my heart, but because this story is so personal to me and the journey I’ve walked, it has made it that much more healing for my soul.

I don’t have many stories like this, so for me, it was a bit of a Christmas miracle.

2017 has divided our country and its people in so very many ways. So many families torn because they stand on opposite political parties and so many harmful things done in the name of what’s “right” and “godly.” We need more redemptive stories like this one I’ve written about here. We need more relationships restored and more hearts healed.

But while we work (and sometimes wait) for those to happen, let me leave you with the inspiring words of this Christmas hymn…
This last Monday, I watched The Voice finale as each of the finalists gave stunning performances. But when Brooke Simpson sang “O Holy Night,” the lyrics to the second verse grabbed my heart and anchored me with a fresh dose of hope. The words reflected a much more accurate view of who I believe Jesus is and what the gospel represents (or should represent) in our world today:

Truly, he taught us
To love one another
His law is love
And his gospel is peace
Chains shall he break
For the slave is our brother
And in his name
All oppression shall cease

Oh how our world needs this kind of hope: a hope where the message that we speak is one of peace (not distension), where the law of our lives is love, and where all oppression ceases as a result of our radical and Christ-like inclusion of one another.

And so as we go into the Christmas weekend, may the lyrics to that verse anchor your heart as well, and may the miracle of Christmas through Christ’s birth make its way even deeper into our everyday lives in the coming year.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

*To see Brooke’s performance of O Holy Night on The Voice finale, click HERE.

Tour Tidings and Planting Seeds of Life

Dear Friends,

As this year nears its end and we enter into the Christmas weekend, I wanted to take just a few minutes to tell you about what we’ve accomplished in 2017. Since the release of Refocusing My Family in October, we have traveled 9,714 miles, and conducted 15 Refocusing My Family speaking events in over 12 cities nation-wide.

During our travels, one thing has become very clear: this story needs to be told. Between the people we’ve met on tour at our events and the hundreds of emails, Facebook messages, and friend requests I’ve received, I’ve heard a lot of personal stories. Many of them are stories of heartbreak, of feared rejection, or of a desperate need for hope.

We’ve even had people travel as far as 4 hours to attend one of our events because they were so desperate to meet someone like them and find a beacon of hope to cling to.

Here’s what just a few people are saying about Refocusing My Family:

“Reading “Refocusing My Family” has changed my life and helped me better understand my child. I don’t feel so alone on this path now.” –Julie T.

“Never have I read a book that brought me so much hope before. Reading Amber’s story, and coming into the realization that there’s someone else out there who gets what I’ve gone through, was such an amazing experience.” –Anonymous reader

“I read this book without putting it down. This is a must read!” –Cynthia S.

 “This book made me feel less alone. It made me see that it is indeed possible to love both God and my wife. This story will without a doubt save people’s lives when they need hope most.” –Anonymous reader

“I was captivated from the first page. The life story that Amber shares will challenge some and encourage others. It is a story of faith, loss, restoration, and perseverance. It’s an inside look into the experiences and thought processes of one in the midst of their own personal coming out story. A must-read for allies and LGBT people alike!” –Christina

“This is one of the best books I have read on the subject of LGBTQ. It truly does resonate with me and so many others that understand where Amber has come from. I highly recommend this book.” –Mother of LGBT child

 “Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a former Christian and homeschooler myself, reading about your experience was real and powerful.” –Anonymous reader

This is why we do what we do. We do it to make people feel less isolated in their journey, to let them know they are fully loved by God just as they are, and to provide them, not only with a story to relate to, but a beacon of hope to which they can cling as they also work to reconcile their faith with their sexuality.

Yet there are still so many people who need to hear this message. People have written from Canada, from France, from Australia, and from Greenland.

It’s evident that the need for this message is universal.

We currently have 10 additional tour events booked for early 2018, but are receiving requests from readers come to places like Texas (specifically Houston and Dallas), and Atlanta, as well as requests to add more New England, southern, and mid-western states. We want to be able to reach all of these regions with this message of hope and love and would also love to expand our tour to include Canada this year as well.

But we need people like you to partner with us in order to make this happen. We need people who are willing to plant seeds now, so that trees of life will grow this spring. Your financial partnership through a year-end gift can and will be cultivated to produce beautiful fruits of life, hope, peace, joy, and love in 2018. There are so many people whose hearts are hungry for these fruits of life.

So we are asking you to prayerfully consider sowing into the orchard of Beyond this season by making a tax-deductible year-end gift. We know the holidays are busy and that there are many worthy causes asking for your resources, but we would be honored if you would choose us as your year-end non-profit to which you contribute. We can only plant so many trees on our own, but together, we can produce an orchard that will change the way LGBT people experience love and help them embrace life to the fullest.

PLANT SEEDS OF LIFE BY DONATING TODAY!

Whether your gift is $5, or $50, or $500, or $5,000 we thank each and every one of you in advance for your help in planting these seeds so that LGBT people of faith can have life. The holidays can be such a hard time for so very many LGBT people, but your generous gift could bring them hope in the New Year.

Merry Christmas to each of you!

 

Because LOVE makes all the difference,

Amber Cantorna

Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday

Hello My Friends!

I am writing you on a brief break from home in between touring and travels. We have had a very exciting series of events over the last couple weeks as we’ve traveled from State College, PA to Washington D.C. to Raleigh, NC and then on to Salt Lake City and Phoenix! It’s been a wild ride but such an exciting time to see how Refocusing My Family is touching hearts and changing lives.

We’ve heard so many encouraging comments as we’ve met people across the country who have read the book. The most common comments we hear are, “I couldn’t put it down!” and “I felt like I was reading my own life!” which are both exactly what we were hoping to hear. We’ve also heard from a therapist that reading this book completely changed the way she approaches counseling with her LGBTQ clients, and from another Christian couple, that this book has completely changed their views on LGBTQ issues! All these things are so very exciting to hear after so many months planning, writing, and working to bring this into fruition.

I was very blessed to be home for Thanksgiving this past week and have a bit of a break after speaking 7 times in 9 days. Whew! We have two more events this week (Boulder, CO and Cheyenne, WY) but will then be taking a break during the holidays and will touring again after the new year. I’m looking forward to some time at home with my family, recovering from all the travel and recharging for this next tour season.

Many of you have been very kind to ask how my health has been through all my travels and I am very grateful to say that my body and its chronic health issues have done quite well, considering all the travel I have done in such a short amount of time. There have been some harder days here and there, but my pain has not spiraled out of control like I feared it might, and for that I am VERY thankful. I will have prolotherapy this coming Friday immediately after finishing my event in Cheyenne, WY on Thursday night and plan to recover through the weekend. But with the amount of travel I have done between my last prolo treatment and this one, I am really quite pleased overall.

Many of you have also asked if Clara has been traveling with me, and for the most part, the answer has been yes! We’ve been able to book a lot of our tour dates around her work schedule so that she has been able to come. She was not able to make it to my Salt Lake City and Phoenix stops this last

weekend, but I had my other little helper, Half Pint with me instead! She got to fly on an airplane for the very first time and did SO very well. We flew on 3 airplane rides in 4 days and she was a star. Not an ounce of nervousness or fear and she sat on mommy’s lap and flew like a champ. The attached picture is of her on her first airplane ride to Salt Lake City.

There is so much more that I want to write to you all about including the meaningful conversations that have and are taking place on the road with the people I meet, the hearts and lives that are being changed and becoming affirming of LGBTQ believers, as well as what God is showing me and teaching me through it all. And I promise I will write you more soon! But at least for the next couple days, I am still trying to catch up, rest up, and make sure these last two events of the year are as powerful and dynamic as possible.

So I will leave you with this for now…tomorrow is Giving Tuesday.

And while I know that there are SO many amazing and very worthy causes out there that you could choose to invest your resources in, I’d like you to consider giving a gift to Beyond.

As I travel and speak and meet people all across the country, I am more convinced than ever that this is a message that needs to be heard. People have driven as far as 4 hours to attend a Refocusing My Family event because they are so desperate to hear a story they can relate to and so desperate to know if God does indeed still love them. 

So many LGBTQ people are still wrestling in the closet of conservative faith communities, afraid to come out because of what it might cost them. Oh how I long for the day when that is no longer the case, and stories like mine no longer need to be told. But we are not there yet.

So I’m asking you to consider partnering with us so that we can continue sharing this message of hope and love to LGBTQ people of faith and their loved ones. The holidays can be hard for many people, but for LGBTQ Christians who haven’t yet been able to reconcile their faith with their sexuality, the isolation and divisiveness they often feel can completely overwhelm them. There are LGBTQ people who, right now, are considering taking their own lives, because the holiday season seems like more than they can bear. Your gift, your financial contribution, could bring them hope and help save their life this Christmas.

So whatever you can do, whether that is a little or whether that is a lot, please visit our website and make a donation today. Each and every little bit makes a difference in the life of someone who is desperate for hope that it will get better, who’s desperate for peace to be able to be who they are, and who’s desperate to know deep in their soul just how wide and long and high and deep the love of God really is. And isn’t that exactly what Christmas is all about?

Remember…your love could make all the difference.

Let’s be difference makers.

 

With all my love,

Amber Cantorna

 

 

 

We’ve just added Washington DC to our tour schedule!

Hey Friends,

We are excited to announce that we have just added Washington DC to our tour schedule for next weekend! Because it is coming up so quickly, we would really appreciate your help in spreading the word. Sharing about it on social media as well as telling your friends/family in the DC area are both so appreciated. Together we can help spread the message that LOVE makes all the difference!

You can use the graphic below to share with your friends, or you can help by sharing the Facebook Event of it HERE.

Also, there’s a couple new radio interviews and podcasts that have released this past week that you can listen to by visiting the “Interviews” tab of my website.

Finally, we are so excited about the stories we are hearing from people all over the world that are reading Refocusing My Family. Many are finding hope for the very first time. Thank you for what each of you are doing to help spread the word through sharing the book with others, writing Amazon reviews, and sending words of encouragement my way. I do read every one of them and am so grateful for all of you who are helping in different ways.

We are getting requests from people to add additional tour locations in places like Houston, along the east coast, and even Canada. There are still so many people who need to hear this message of hope and love. But we can’t do it without your help. That’s why we are asking you to prayerfully consider partnering with us in spreading this message to LGBTQ people and their loved ones this season. Every gift, whether one time or on a monthly basis, helps make a difference in someone’s life who is wrestling (often in isolation) to reconcile their faith with their sexuality and feel fully loved by God.

If you are willing to partner with us as we continue in this mission, please visit our Donate tab. Your donation could help save someone’s life who is contemplating suicide, help someone feel less isolated and find community, or help a Christian parent of an LGBTQ child embrace and love them fully for the very first time.  Together we can make a difference and create a more loving place for us all to live.

So please consider partnering with us, and don’t forget to spread the word with your family/friends about our event in D.C. next weekend! I’m so grateful for each of you and pray that as you continue on in your journey, you will know that you are beautiful and loved by God just as you are and feel the awe and wonder that comes with knowing you are fully included in the kingdom of God.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna

 

Refocusing My Family and Beyond Update

Dear Friend,

     Since my last email to you announcing the launch of Beyond, many exciting things have happened!
 
     Refocusing My Family is currently being reviewed by people for endorsements. Among those willing to endorse the book are author/theologian Brian D. McLaren, singer/songwriter Jennifer Knapp, Christian ethicist David Gushee, film producer of “For the Bible Tells Me So” Daniel Karslake, and well known blogger and activist John Pavlovitz, as well as about a dozen others. I’m excited about this strong list of names and believe it will help in catching the eye of those who may not otherwise open the book. We are excited that it will be available for pre-order on Amazon in just a few weeks!
     Since the launch of Beyond, I have met with someone from Out Front Colorado that is helping us network with other LGBTQ+ organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, PFLAG, and The LGBT Center. I also had an interview with another person from Out Front yesterday and they will be running an article on Beyond and my story in one of their upcoming editions.
     We’re also in the process of bringing a part-time intern on board to help with the many tasks that still lie ahead of us to really get Beyond up and running. I am interviewing a candidate this weekend and am excited about the prospect.
     As far as our fundraising campaign goes, we’ve had a handful of donations come through from people who follow us online or receive the weekly Beyond Blog. However, those donations have only covered about 2% of our total goal. We’ve scaled back our initial budget from $52,000 to $48,000 for this first year but we still have so very far to go in raising the needed funds. Part of this will be done through applying for grants and talking to larger corporations. However there are still a few ways you can help!
 

Three ways you can help:

1) Consider giving a tax-deductible gift to Beyond by visiting http://refocusingbeyond.org/donate/. Every donation counts! There is no amount too small!
2) Share and talk about this with your friends. The more we spread the word, the more people we can reach. Our goal through Beyond is to focus on helping LGBTQ+ people through their coming out process, especially those that come from conservative upbringings or strict religious families. There’s still so many people that need to hear a message of hope.
3) Consider whether your company may want to partner with us in this mission of social justice and activism. They can do that two ways. A) They can simply make a donation through the link above, OR B) They can consider being a sponsor and funding one or more of the cities on our upcoming speaking tour. By doing that, their company logo would then be placed on our marketing materials that we will be taking to our 16+ cities. If this seems like it may be a good fit for your company or for more information, please contact me at: Beyond.AmberCantorna@gmail.com.
   
 Thank you again for your love and support during this time. It is both exciting and overwhelming but I can’t wait to see what God does and the doors He opens for us in this coming year.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber Cantorna