Six Ways Churches Can Be Safe for LGBTQIA+ Folks

Happy, beautiful, wonderful Pride Month! Oh do we ever love our LGBTQIA+ beloveds in this community! You have made this space infinitely better. We celebrate you this month and every month for infinity. 

Lotta words being written this month about Pride, so I thought for some time about what I could add (besides “I LOVE YOOUUUUUUUUUUUU SO MUCH!!!!!!” which while true might not be particularly useful).

I find myself located at the specific intersection of LGBTQIA+ affirmation and the church. What a simple space! What could go wrong?? Zero head-on collisions here (sic). 

So I’m whittling down this writing to a very narrow demo: Tons of the queer community don’t go to church anymore because it has been so reliably unsafe. Also a bunch of churches are definitively uninterested in being allies and have made that clear. So I suppose I am writing to queer folks who still treasure church (or want to) and churches who still treasure queer folks (or want to).

There are tons of ways to make your church safer for the LGBTQIA+ community, but I think these six are a great start, beginning with the lowest common denominator and moving up in rainbows.

1. Please do not make the grave mistake of assuming everyone in the sanctuary is “us” and the gays are “them” somewhere else in the city.

Every word spoken about the community is heard by the gay people already in the room. Oh yes, sirs. The closeted gay adults, the choir director, the quiet gay couples, the “fabulous roommates,” the inwardly tormented, and maybe most importantly, the gay kids trying to figure out if their spiritual leaders love them as they are or think they are doomed to celibacy or damnation.

Church isn’t an insider club for straights where exclusive language and ideas are agreed upon. You have fragile hearts right there on row nine. I will waste no ink debating that condemnation is “loving,” so you can miss me with that nonsense. Your sanctuary is loaded with gay kids and adults, both out and not, and people who love them. Every word is already registering.

2. Please be clear about your theology.

It is actually BETTER to be non-affirming and crystal clear than non-affirming and ambiguous. The “we welcome all” banner tricks gay folks into thinking they are safe, then they find out later they can’t serve, lead, teach, volunteer, oversee, or mentor. My inbox is flooded with people whose hearts were broken by their “welcoming” churches and later barred from active participation because they were queer. 

If gays can’t lead and serve and are considered “in sin” by church policy, then at least let them know up front. This should be abundantly clear on your website under your beliefs. At that point, it is their choice to stay in that environment if they want to. But please do not soft-sell your theology when it is the source of LGBTQIA+ suicidal ideation, self-hatred, self-harm, and internalized shame. Belonging is too powerful to handle carelessly, and pretending a church is safe when it isn’t is not just cruel, it is dangerous. These dear bodies and souls and hearts deserve better.  

3. If your church is in that disruptive season of reexamining your doctrine around sexuality — if the cognitive dissonance is becoming unmanageable — first of all, WELCOME. You are so not alone.

We know more than ever before about sexuality, biology, and — thanks to a wider circle of scholars including women and people of color — theology. You don’t have to find “a work-around” to change your doctrine. Brilliant theologians have gifted us with an affirming hermeneutic that places theology, science, and faithfulness in wonderful alignment. 

Keep reading. Keep talking. Invite as many LGBTQIA+ folks into the conversation as possible. Call other pastors who’ve led their churches toward allyship. Follow leaders who have gone ahead of you. You can protect the queer community or the religious status quo, but not both. Please note: Be ready and willing to suffer disruption over this. You will lose some things, and it is still worth it. As someone who hit that crossroad too, I can promise: You will never regret becoming an ally and making your church safe. You will only regret taking so long to get there. It is stunning on the other side. Doing the right thing feels so right. 

4. This is such an obvious thing to say, but your queer church folk should be everywhere.

They should be on the stage, making announcements, volunteering in the nursery, preaching, leading worship, supervising rowdy teenagers at youth camp (God help them), leading Bible studies, serving on committees, on the board, on your website. Representation matters so much in the church world. 

But LGBTQIA+ people aren’t tokens or photo ops. They are beloved, gifted, ordinary people just like everyone else and our churches are so much the lesser without their investment. Just like the barren days when women were barred from meaningful church leadership, we are operating at half-mast when the only acceptable gift from queer people is their tithe money. The church needs the fullness of who they are. Gay people should get to be sick of leading the church just like the straights!

5. Preach it.

Representation and full inclusion and affirming policies are monumental, but it is the most healing, empowering thing to hear it from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Preach about the scriptures, preach about exegesis, preach about relationships and love and bodies and science and repentance toward the gay community for abusing them. Hand the microphone to your queer members and let them tell the story. This matters for a million reasons, but see #1: Little gay ears are listening. Every word is indeed registering but for good

Christians are looking for spiritual language and faithful interpretations to create safety in their own homes, workplaces, and families. By preaching affirming theology, you are equipping your entire little flock to become better allies, safer parents, braver leaders, and smarter collaborators. This is leadership. This is discipleship. This is what it means to build the kingdom of God.

6. Go to them.

You can rightly understand why some queer people wouldn’t dare subject themselves to church; why seek out spiritual abuse? But beloved people made in the image of God still crave their namesake. Take your little church to the Pride Parade. March with your big gay rainbow banner. Wear your “Free Pastor Hugs” and “Free Mom Hugs” shirts and throw your arms around as many bodies as you can. 

Love and support the queer people already in your town. Go to their book signings, restaurants, stores, salons, concerts, plays, bars, shops, parties. Support them with your dollars and presence and endorsements. Brag about their work on social media. Leave stunning reviews. Buy their products. Support their businesses. Love their families. Just be a normal, good neighbor. Your life will be infinitely better for knowing them. Sometimes church looks like a 35% tip and a note to the boss praising good service. 

Put your little rainbow flag outside your church as a talisman of safety so the LGBTQIA+ community will know if they want church, they will not only be welcomed but cherished, honored, and deeply included like they always should have been. I see a safer church for the queer community coming, and what a beauty she will be. 

In the meantime, not that you need to hear this from anyone, but let me say to my LGBTQIA+ sibs: You are just oh so lovely and loved by God and exactly right. At no point was your worth a question mark to the heavens. Are we really going to believe that the same God who gave us mountains and tulips and music and sex didn’t also give us GAY PEOPLE?? Come on now. That is just being obtuse. He went about making this world gorgeous and his handiwork is evident. Thank you for the million ways you have made my life better. I love you so dearly. God loves you so dearly. I want the church to love you so dearly too, and I believe she is on her way. 

Happy Pride, beloveds! 


MORE RESOURCES:

I am honored to share this free webinar with you. I think it will be transformative to you and your family’s journey.

I am joined by iAmClinic founder Isaac Archuleta, LPC (he/they) and we are answering some of the most common questions about raising LGBTQIA+ kiddos.

This webinar is only a small glimpse into my on-demand Me Course: “Parenting LGBTQIA+ Tweens & Teens,” where I am joined by Isaac along with Free Mom Hugs founder Sara Cunningham. You can save 50% with code PRIDE through June 30, 2024 when you register here.


FOR THE LOVE PODCAST: A Moment of Pride: On Being Gay, Christian, and Loved with Sydney Hatmaker

In a profoundly moving encore episode, I am sharing the story of interviewing my beloved daughter, Sydney. This is raw and real, as she vulnerably shares her journey of accepting herself as gay while still holding onto her faith.

This episode has been an incredible force, sparking deep discussions around LGBTQIA+ issues and Christianity in our community.

From mending broken family relationships to causing church leaders to reevaluate their approach, and more,  it is a beautiful reminder that embracing authenticity allows people to flourish.

Listen here.

Delightful summer mocktails to put in rotation

Where are my mocktail people?!

I have an arsenal of summer mocktails I absolutely love to make with elixirs, sparkling waters, lime, a tajin or salted rim. You know how I roll.

In addition to just “winging” it with my mocktails and flinging a few things into a glass, I’ve been inspired by creating some intentional flavors — heavy on the fruity, citrus, and unbelievably refreshing notes.

And, make no mistake: I DO have a magic ingredient that really takes mocktails to the next mega level: FOCL CBD drops.

Put a dropper-full in your mocktail — and you get a double-down on flavor and chill factor. Not only do you have a dreamy, delicious cocktail, the CBD drops promote calm centeredness and relaxation.

Even better? You can get FOCL CBD drops at 20% off with the code JEN20!

Cheers to all this goodness!

Spicy Jalapeño Margarita

You know how much I love spicy — and this marg has it going on.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of jalapeño
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 dropper FOCL Daily Calm CBD drops
  • Lime and salt or tajin (if desired)
  • Ice cubes

Instructions

  • Rub a slice of lime around the rim of your glass and dip in salt or tajin
  • Fill your glass with ice
  • Add 4 slices of jalapeño
  • Pour in 1/2 a cup of orange juice and ¼ cup lime juice
  • Add CBD drops

Optional: Top off with sparkling water and/or pomegranate seeds to jazz things up.

Watermelon Basil Summer Cooler

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh watermelon cubes (seedless)
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey or simple syrup (adjust to taste)
  • 1 dropper FOCL Daily Calm CBD drops
  • Ice cubes
  • Sparkling water or soda water
  • Watermelon wedges and basil leaves for garnish

Instructions

  • In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, muddle the watermelon cubes and basil leaves until well mashed.
  • Add the lime juice, CBD and honey (or simple syrup) to the shaker.
  • Fill the shaker with ice cubes, close tightly, and shake vigorously for about 15-20 seconds to combine the flavors and chill the ingredients.
  • Strain the mixture into a serving glass filled with fresh ice cubes.
  • Top off the glass with sparkling water or soda water.
  • Stir gently to combine the liquids.
  • Garnish with a small watermelon wedge and a fresh basil leaf.
  • Serve chilled and enjoy!

Sparkling Limoncello Mocktail

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Simple Syrup
  • 2 shots Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 3 fl oz Sparkling Water
  • 1 dropper FOCL Daily Calm CBD drops in Citrus
  • Ice
  • 1 sprig of mint for garnish (optional)
  • 1-2 slices lemon for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Add Simple Syrup and Lemon Juice to a serving glass. Top with sparkling water and CBD Drops.
  • Add the ice cubes. Stir.
  • Add garnish, serve.

Mocktail Mule

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Gently muddle (mash) the mint sprigs in the bottom of the mug using a cocktail muddler or wooden spoon.
  • Add the lime juice, simple syrup and CBD. Stir to combine.
  • Add ice and the ginger beer and stir gently. Garnish with lime and mint.

Orange Green Tea Sparkler

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Boil a kettle of water and put the tea bag in a mug. Pour 8 ounces of boiling water over the tea and stir in the honey.
  • Taste and add more honey if you like, but remember you’ll be adding orange juice later.
  • Allow the tea to steep at room temperature until cool.
  • Fill an 8-ounce glass with ice and add 1/2 cup of the tea, the orange juice and an orange wedge. Add CBD Drops.
  • Top up with sparkling water, stir gently, and serve.

******

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Shop FOCL CBD drops and use code JEN20 to save 20%!

Dear 18-Year-Old Jen

Hello, darling. You are so beloved. 

I am writing to you from the year you will turn 50. I know. Impossible. You will never be an old lady half a century old. It is light years away. Honey, it is basically tomorrow, but I’ll leave your fantasy alone for now. I have bigger things to tell you. 

Let’s start with you. One thing I love is your earnestness. You are sincere, hopeful, and idealistic; as doe-eyed a creature that ever lived. Your world is four inches wide, and you believe in it all breathlessly. You mean it. You believe it. Your perception of the world is generous. Now, this will all be tested and challenged and upended eventually, but for now, you believe in people, in their goodness, in their motives. You’re nice. That means something. You are about to move into young adulthood with your arms wide open, and there are worse ways to start. 

Faith is uncomplicated for you right now. Well, mostly. You are growing tiny, tiny seeds of question marks around the exclusion of women in spiritual leadership, but I’ll get to that. There will come a day when you miss this season; when faith was simple and safe. Answers seemed straightforward. The path seemed clear. The formula sounded trustworthy. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you are doing the very best with what you’ve been given. Don’t waste time regretting these years later. Truly, you are making sense of the world with the tools you have. Later, you might be tempted to look back in scorn at this version of your faith, but don’t do it. Allow hindsight to be kind, not contemptuous.

Know this: when you know better, you will do better. You are capable of growth and evolution and change. Don’t be afraid. 

Let’s talk about your body, your lovely, beautiful, young body, the one you hate. Darling, everyone is lying to you. The beauty industry, the magazines, Hollywood; later the “internet” will pile on, but for now, just be grateful it hasn’t been invented yet to document your nonsense. I know you feel huge, how you stand in front of the full length mirror and scrutinize your thighs, your belly, your arms. This isn’t your fault and it isn’t true. Whole industries profit off you hating yourself. You didn’t originate this self-disgust; you’ve been targeted for it. An insidious diet culture will capitalize on this invented standard, and I can tell you with certainty it will never deliver what it promises. Ever. 

May I share something I only learned recently? Your body is not an unfortunate container carrying around your brain. It is entirely, beautifully, wonderfully you. As you as your personality and thoughts. As you as your dreams and emotions. A mentor named Dr. Hillary McBride taught me to call my body “she” and “her,” because she is you, dear one. She is your best friend, your most loyal partner. Look at all she has done already! She is to be loved and only loved. Learn to reject every voice that tells you she is too big, too tall, too soft, too anything. They are all lying. Practice telling yourself and your friends how lovely you all are. Say the words out loud. Give her water and delicious lotions and oh! Sunscreen! Please! Love her like she deserves to be loved, because your precious body will see you through more than you can even imagine. She is not your enemy; she is your fiercest ally. Trust her. Listen to her. Cherish her. Believe her. Protect her. 

You have a largeness inside you have no idea where to place. It is growing. You feel like you might be powerful, or have powerful ideas, or be a part of powerful work. But where? How? Don’t worry. It will all come. But hear this: don’t spend one millisecond tamping down your strength. Not one. Do not conform to the small spaces you’ve been handed. Yes, you will in fact become a wife and mother as expected, but that is not the totality of your work on this earth. When big ideas rise up seemingly out of nowhere, say yes. Step into them all. You’ll do it not just imperfectly but in some cases disastrously, but never mind that. Say yes. Move toward that North Star that shines so brightly in your imagination. You won’t believe how exciting it all becomes. 

Finally, a word on women. You don’t know this yet, because you think you will be an elementary teacher, but you are going to serve and love women your whole life (more of them than you think, but don’t worry about that for now). They will become your best friends, your allies, your compatriots, your mentors. Frankly, they will astonish you. All that will come, but know this: women are not your competitors. They are your sisters. They are the smartest, best people on earth. Believe it or not, we are still fighting for autonomy as I write this, but legislation is no match for this community of women. Reject voices that pit women against each other or reduce you to adversaries. The patriarchy has a vested interest in keeping you rivals; if you fight one another for the only seat at the table, the men will not have to add more seats. Solidarity. Women will carry you through your life in ways that a thousand husbands could never do. They will be among the greatest loves of your life. Serve them fiercely. Protect the community. Defend them endlessly. Represent them sincerely. 

What a life you have ahead of you. You simply won’t believe it. Oh god, it will be so much more painful than you think, so much more beautiful. You will suffer and you will rise; let it all come. Big yes to life, darling. Yes to adventure. Yes to risks. Yes to failures. Yes to love. Yes to tenderness. Yes to fierceness. Yes to everyone is in. Yes to a bigger table. Yes to a more just world. Yes to joy. 

Yes. 

Yes. 

Yes. 

You are more beloved than you can possibly imagine. Everyone is. There is no us and them, only all of us. Isn’t that wonderful? Build a life on that. In fact, dear one, you will. 

Tenderly, with love and only love, 

Me

Flourishing is on the other side

One sunny weird day in remote Canada 10 years ago (what is life?), Bob Goff famously said he quits something every Thursday, and I remember thinking: “I need to go to therapy just to recover from that sentence.”

Bob Goff

I’ve learned something about myself recently: I am far more resilient at alchemizing change when it happens “to” me.

When someone else makes a choice and it affects me — for better or worse — I know exactly how to adjust my sails. When yet another kid moves out and launches, I recalibrate the shrinking household, the relational change, the start of their independence. When my body goes perimenopausal without my permission, I take my ass to a functional doctor and turn every dial my lab work suggests. I have rebuilt far past the capacity I knew, because I had to. 

Somehow, I am the exact opposite when I need to make a change on purpose. My pattern is to stay well past an expiration date. I loathe change that affects other people, and my fixation on loyalty (or is it appearing loyal?) usurps clear data markers that say: “This has run its course.” Against not only my best interests but, frankly, those of my colleagues, I’ve extended the shelf life of numerous partnerships, alliances, and practices simply because I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or forge a hard conversation. 

Early last year, I made some really big business moves which included a great deal of change, but good reader, it took me ONE CALENDAR YEAR of weekly business coaching, sleepless nights, and prayers to my ancestors to work up the courage. The mere idea of being a villain in someone else’s story is paralyzing. Perhaps you can spot the outsized hyperbole in even imagining that basic best practices make me an EVILDOER. My business coach once said: “Jen, this is not a Best Friends Convention. This is business, and you’re acting like you are breaking a blood oath.”

Instead of initiating good and right change, I’ve taken the lesser paths of passive aggressiveness, atrophy, and the slow erosion of progress. I’ve made it harder on other people, the opposite of Brené Brown’s brilliant observation that “clear is kind.” My compulsion to be easy has actually made me difficult. And because two dozen other people touch every molecule in my ecosystem, my aversion to necessary change has ground our work down and, to be honest, made a bunch of folks miserable. 

Ironically, change has taught me that flourishing is generally directly on the other side. Whether change happened to me and I have to adapt, or I’ve chosen change that was necessary, either way, the result is growth. And hell, in most cases, expansion, relief, and hope. If I would read the room correctly, I should actually look forward to choosing change. It has been a reliable first down marker, no matter how challenging those ten yards were to gain. All reluctance has ever netted is a delay in possibility. 

Why do we stay too long? Why do we go too far? There are so many culprits. My preferred batch of reasons have to do with conflict aversion and an outsized perception of how hard/bad/disappointing the change might be for someone else. Apparently it is my life’s work to never be disruptive. This is almost entirely where my change anxiety is located. 

There are other bundles to choose from revolving around fear: of the unknown, of failure, of will this actually work. Change means something is about to be new, which is untested territory. We’ve never been in a different career, single, focused on our health, in a new city, liberated from this toxic environment, honest, sober, relationally healthy, spiritually in alignment. We crave those things but haven’t experienced them, so we’re just not sure they exist as promised. And getting there typically means leaving something or someone or somewhere; a precarious ten yards for sure. 

I just interviewed the poet Joy Sullivan on the podcast (episode out shortly), and through 10 degrees of separation a few months ago, I stumbled on one of the poems she wrote in her upcoming book, Instructions for Traveling West (releases April 9). It was so profound, I screenshot it, saved it on Instagram, saved it to my photo album, and wrote it in my notebook:

Leap

“Nothing my friends tell me shocks me anymore. No wild dream or unadvisable plan or moonshot idea. Recently, my friend told me she wants to move to Wyoming to be closer to horses. She tells me horses can hear your heartbeat from four feet away. That’s enough for me right there. 

Another friend is relocating to Peru. Another to Alaska in search of his true north. Another is adopting a child. Another is turning down a killer job so she can finish the book she’s been trying to write for years. Another is leaving the man of her dreams for a woman. 

Look, America is awful and the earth is too hot and the truth of the matter is we’re all up against the clock. It makes everything simple and urgent: there’s only time to turn toward what you truly love. There’s only time to leap.”

The refusal to change, to make choices toward change, to move in the direction of change, to acknowledge change as a profound source of autonomy only keeps us from truly living. That’s the bottom line. Flourishing is on the other side. We should trust its proven process. Until then, we are delaying not only our own blooming but everyone else trapped in our inertia. Clear is kind — to other people but also to ourselves.

When it is clear that change is necessary, even if something perfectly good has simply run its course — just because something is over doesn’t mean it was bad — then we should bless where we have been, honor it for everything it taught us, thank it for serving its purpose…

…and leap. 

This Counts as Worship, Too

Hello, beloveds. Happy New Life Day.

I don’t know how this Easter finds you…

Maybe it is full of joy and hope, and if so, I am so happy for you. You might be up getting ready for church, with your heart at rest. I have certainly had those years, and what a joy to settle deeply into your faith on this day.

However, some of you maybe aren’t there… for a million reasons. Suffering can knock the wind plumb out of us, as can pain, disconnection, the ordinary failings of the church, trauma, big questions around God or truth. 

Welcome to the normal human experience of people trying to make sense of Jesus. Every generation has wrestled with these things since time immemorial. This is not an anemic faith; this is faithfulness.

Honoring the day of resurrection has nothing to do with being inside a church building anyway; a fancy outfit in a church lobby has never been a litmus test for a seeking, searching heart.

For those of you at home today, finding new life in Jesus in brunch with your family, or in a long spring walk outside, or in music, or in stillness, or in prayer — however prayer looks for you — this counts as worship, too, even ringed with doubt or fury or confusion.

Regardless, however lost or sad or angry or scared you find yourself this year, know that Jesus insists that nothing is too dead for resurrection. And he understands your pain, because he was wounded before he was resurrected; his scars remain.

While I have no interest anymore in religious systems and structures and hierarchies and rigid interpretations, I will never get over Jesus. 

Never. 

He is like coming home.

He is risen indeed.

________________________________

For those of you on a faith journey…

Maybe your relationship with the church has gotten complicated; or some things in your church aren’t sitting right with you; or something major has happened in your life that has been a watershed moment; or your political views; or you’re having trouble answering the hard questions about the BIG issues.

Maybe you just have a million questions about what it all means. 

This is exactly why Evolving Faith’s Sarah Bessey and I teamed up for this Me Course on the deconstruction and reconstruction of faith. We are here to walk you through the wilderness and remind you that it’s not a shameful thing. It’s possible to live out your faith in new, even nontraditional, ways.

Join Now

Four Steps to a Winning Super Bowl Party — Plus the Wings Recipe You Need

My perfect Super Bowl menu includes Diner Cheeseburger Sliders with Hot Trash Sauce, right around a million hot wings, and anywhere from four to 31 dips. If there isn’t a Crock Pot with a trough of Green Chili Chorizo Queso, is it even the Super Bowl?

Give me dips or give me death. I want chips, veggies, (gluten-free) crackers and crostini as far as the eye can see.

My favorite measure of happiness is how sloppy and saucy and drippy and messy my eaters are mixed with all their “Mmmms” and “Yummms.” Is your juicy burger dripping down your arms? Perfect.

Don’t think for a second that I didn’t include my favorite football food in Feed These People. Hell, that is an entire genre in my family.

Today, though, I want to give four steps to a winning Super Bowl party…

One, share the load. Super Bowl parties should ALWAYS be potluck. Furthermore, ask everyone to bring their award-winning, crowd favorite best appetizer. Weed out the lame, dry, store-bought cookies!

Two, disposable everything. SB parties are supposed to be fun, and what is not fun is two hours’ worth of dirty dishes after everyone goes home.

Three, read the room. At every Super Bowl party, some want to actually watch the game, and some want to eat the snacks and maybe watch the commercials. Have two designated spaces! One for the hard-core watchers, and one for the “go…sports” crowd.

Four, make these wings (or if you have a copy of Feed These People, you can’t go wrong with said sliders or queso, either — you know the ones).

Back to the wings… Maybe no other recipe that hits my favorite football marks more than hot, crispy chicken wings with homemade blue cheese sauce. Nobody doesn’t love them. No. Body. They are a delectable saucy mess. In my family, we make ‘em spiiiiiiicy—and we’re not sorry.

You can fry, bake, or grill these, but be sure to make a mountain of them, because you can’t eat less than six. I don’t make the rules. I’m going to beg you not to skip the blue cheese sauce because Wings + BC = TruLuv4Eva. However you do it, when you gather your favorite people and feed them outrageously good food, you are winning at life. Obviously: shoes are optional for this enterprise.

Chicken Wings and Blue Cheese (excerpted from Feed These People)

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds chicken wings (I’m assuming you want a bunch)
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (or kick it up if you like to party)

Wing Sauce

  • 1 (17-ounce) bottle sriracha
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 stick butter, melted but slightly cooled (that is Lindsay’s weird instruction)

Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 12 ounces blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups buttermilk (you might use less than the full amount)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper

This feeds a crowd, because who makes wings for three people?

Crank your oven to 425°F and let it preheat.

Rinse your wings and pat them totally dry, then coat them with the oil. Put the flour, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a large bag (I use an old-timey brown paper bag like I’m at the five-and-dime in 1957, but you can do this in a big bowl) and shake it up. Toss in your oiled wings. Shake shake shake. We just want these lightly coated.

Grab a couple of baking sheets and a wire rack for each. Line the pans with foil and set a rack on top of the foil. (Your cleanup now equals trash-and-toss.) Pick up each wing with tongs, shake off any excess flour, and set on the racks in a single layer, not touching. Slide them into that hot oven and bake until the 20-minute mark, then flip and bake until they’re crispy, brown, and sizzling, anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes more.

While the wings are browning up, get your blender out for the two sauces.

  1. For the wing sauce, combine the sriracha and maple syrup and blend. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Take a quick taste. Want it sweeter? Add more syrup. (Not a sriracha fan? Use your favorite store-bought wing sauce. But you don’t get to leave out the butter. Sorry. You remember that I don’t make the rules.) Pour this into a large bowl and rinse the blender jar.
  2. For the blue cheese dressing, combine all the blue cheese ingredients. Don’t add the full pint of buttermilk right out of the gate—maybe start with half. Blend it up and see if you like the consistency of the dressing, then add more buttermilk to thin it if you prefer. Pour the dressing into a serving bowl.

When your wings are done, put them in the bowl with the wing sauce and toss and toss to coat. Serve these with the bowl of blue cheese alongside for dipping.

Black flourishing means American flourishing

I recently spent three days in a little NorCal mountain town with five women who are something north of friends and more in the realm of sisters.

We “met” in the Wild West days of blogging when women wrote on the internet under kitschy site names like Cookie Momster and Swaddles n’ Bottles. We found each other in the lonely space of faith deconstruction, a conversation often unrepresented or unsafe in real life. 

We were women on a mission then, happily accepting every invitation for an internet fight. Twitter? Was a place to go toe-to-toe with seminary theology bros who underestimated our linguistic prowess and the focused rage in which we were prepared to wield it. We fought like wildcats in defense of women in church leadership, women’s bodies, anti-racism, LGBTQIA+ folks, bridging the wage gap, confronting church abuse, dismantling colonizing missionary culture, toxic theology. God, we were pissed. 

Having come up through evangelical subculture, we were accustomed to valuing certainty (and the sound of our own voices). Speaking for myself, I harnessed the exact same self-righteous fury I was raised with and swung it around without – and this is important – actually being a member of those marginalized communities (exception: women). I knew what to do. I knew how to think right. I used that white saviorism FOR GOOD this time (sic). The moral imperative was well-placed but the methods were cringeeeeey. 

Sitting around the fireplace with my girlfriends last week, talking about everything that basically ever existed, I noticed the evolution of our analysis ten years later:

“I was a bull in a China shop.”

“I should have passed the microphone.”

“I still have a lot of blind spots.”

Turns out, we aren’t the banner holders for every march. Usually we are best placed somewhere in the middle of the pack following the better leaders up front. 

So this is the more humble, less centered energy I am taking into Black History Month. Seven years ago, I would have told you EXACTLY how to “fix racism.” I had thoughts. I had ideas. I had data. I could bludgeon you with words. I came armed with history, facts, dates, references. I wrote a million words blasting white supremacy and alienated endless people maybe *three feet* behind me in the work, because no one is more self-righteous than a freshly woke white anti-racist who knows just enough to be a menace.

Now I am far more interested in centering the black leader, the black experience, black leadership, black wisdom. The only reliable source of truth will come from the black community, and any attempt to replicate their bone-deep knowledge of white supremacy is a pale (yikes) version of the full story. 

Now, I fully know white people, white women specifically, have their place in anti-racism. I am not suggesting we throw our hands up and let the black folk deal. It is our imperative responsibility to confront our own internalized white supremacy, do the hard work of unlearning and relearning basically everything we were taught about American history, and examine our privilege to use toward racial justice at our own expense and labor. 

And before I rush past that list, this work is major: majorly essential, majorly disruptive, majorly extensive, majorly challenging. A walk in the park this is not, not if you are taking it seriously. It will require white people de-centering ourselves from the conversation, and this has never been required of us. We’ve had the privilege of prioritization which snuffed out the need for self-examination. If scrutinized, default to “good intentions”, that one black friend you have, and a notable nonuse of the n-word. If that doesn’t work, cry. Our perception? Assumed accurate. Our fear? Justified. Our fragility? Defended. Our version? Believed. Our power? Protected. 

This work is not simple, fast, or comfortable. 

I would say it took me the better part of six years. 

And that only got me partially there at best. 

My boyfriend is a 6’2” black man with dreadlocks, and I experience the world now at his side. I have two black children but they have grown up mostly under the protection of their parents’ whiteness and notoriety. They caught the edges of white privilege. Being in an adult relationship with a black man has thrown a light on my own lingering white supremacy, no matter how much “work” I thought was in my rear view mirror. The number of times I bypass a rule, assume safety, presume belonging, or even hail us a cab (with success) has revealed my own innate sense of privilege. Whereas my partner says: “I would/could never.” For me, daily racism is out of the realm of theory and into the space of experience. 

In the work of anti-racism, the lived black experience is the leading voice, added to the helpful resource of true American history, and there is no better classroom than actual proximity. That’s just it. White folks, that makes our work pretty straightforward:

  1. Listen to black people. Read their books, download their podcasts, follow them on socials, hear their stories, heed their pain. They are telling the truth. Believe them. Stop telling them they haven’t experienced what they have experienced. Just listen and learn and be quiet. This is how it really is, and how it has always been. 
  2. Unlearn whatever garbage version of American history you were taught and get really serious about confronting the white supremacy this country was literally founded upon. Abandon American exceptionalism and learn the truth. America is not great but she could be. 
  3. If your world is all white, change it. You know what we get to choose? Friends, doctors, dentists, pediatricians, coaches, neighbors, school districts, pastors, churches, clubs, restaurants, leaders, teams. Sure you may have to drive further or take more time or make big changes, but that is why this work is called work. Proximity will change you. 

Black flourishing means American flourishing. White supremacy keeps us all in a prison of our own making. Anti-racism turns into representational leadership, a higher GDP, safer communities, better schools. It means brilliant black minds unleashed to the same degree as brilliant white minds, elevating dialogue, culture, art, innovation. It results in more just legislation and equitable policies. It is a solution to poverty, violence, and despair. Anti-racism will hasten the reversal of our outrageous school-to-prison pipeline and a prison industrial complex that suspects, charges, indicts, and sentences black men five times more than white men. 

The end of white supremacy is good for every single heart, mind, soul, and body in this country. It will heal our brokenness.

Racism is a scourge on the American landscape, and the only way through it is with confrontation, reckoning, repentance, and restitution. Then we would all be free of its insidious grip and could get on with the business of maybe, just maybe, actually making this country great. 

A good place to start? We’ve had incredible guests on the For The Love podcast. Check out their work and learn from them here.

Try Being Gentle with Your Earlier Selves

I’m writing a book right now. It’s a lot. The last trade book I wrote was in 2018 (came out April 2020…excellent timing!!). I had, truly, an entirely different life.

Anyway, I am deeeeeeeply examining all the systems and hierarchies and sub-cultures and biases that built me (easy breezy), and I’m doing so through memories and moments and snapshots…

  • 11-year-old Jen being called domineering by her teacher
  • 13-year-old Jen in the first class of True Love Waits
  • 18-year-old Jen sitting across from her parents with a budget on a legal pad explaining why she should get married

One recurring feeling is, surprisingly, a sense of compassion for the young versions of me. Current me wants to pull my hair out and wail at the absurdity of so much of it, the doomed-ness, the naivety and foolishness and limitations, but I can honestly say I was doing the absolute best I knew at the time.

I was earnest. I thought whatever I had was whatever there was, or at least was the right thing, or the good thing, or the true thing, or the faithful thing.

Who among us can’t look backward and realize how far we’ve come or how much we’ve learned or how deeply we’ve changed? This is how growth works, and there is no fast forward button; it is a function of time.

If you are tempted to disparage the earlier versions of yourself, berating her for not knowing or doing better, could you try being gentle with her instead?

She was probably doing the best she could with what she knew. She got you to where you are today, and that counts for something. She ran her leg of the race. Be proud of her for trying her best and going as far as she was able. She was probably handed some harmful narratives that take most of us a lifetime to dismantle, so good on her for surviving those.

Sending so much love to the young versions of you today, dear ones. Proud of them for getting you here. Let us be tender with our earlier selves, like wiser older sisters, like nurturing aunts, like good, good mothers.

“i hope
when you come home to yourself
there are flowers lining the front porch
that were left from all the women
you were before”

@maiapoetry
When the Waves Come

Fear Isn’t the Problem

I was raised by a mother who is something of an… under-responder.

I didn’t even know moms regularly worried about, well, anything. My mom’s motto was basically: “It’ll be fine.” She didn’t “over” much: overreact, overprotect, overrule, overkill, overcorrect, overbear.

I asked her once when my kids were little, “Mom? Did you and your friends worry you were doing everything wrong when we were kids?” And she famously responded, “God, no. You and your friends “parent” (air quotes employed). We just raised you.” Welp. 

You are forbidden to interpret this as criticism. My mom was the only calm human being in our house. While the rest of us ran up and down the scales with our hair on fire — the embodiment of melodrama — mom held a low-register steady note that never faltered. So rather than an entire family in the rafters, mom nonchalantly filed her nails waiting for us to descend from whatever ceiling we were glued to that day. 

However, because she was so unflappable and under-responded to things that should have arguably raised at least an eyebrow, we grew up and had no idea we were supposed to be afraid of stuff. I could fill 50 books with things I have absolutely no fear of that I should. No hint of a lie, I did not own a key to my own house for a solid decade. “What if someone breaks in??” gasped the friends. “Who on earth would break in??” replied Jen, truly baffled. Against substantial evidence, I steadfastly believe no one means any harm, people won’t swindle, nothing will go wrong, and everything is safe. I live in the upper portion of the top half of the glass. (This is no exaggeration. Ask anyone who loves me.) 

So it was genuinely disorienting to lose my marriage after 26 years and discover I was now afraid of everything. I didn’t sleep 15 seconds between 2:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. for six months, lying awake in complete fear, my mind a soupçon of panic. It would be quicker to list the things I wasn’t afraid of than outline everything that felt unhinged. Dread wrapped its tentacles around my brain, and I was certain I would never feel safe again. 

I was afraid I might die of pain. I was afraid I might live with pain. I was afraid I couldn’t do it on my own. I was afraid for my kids. I was afraid for our future. I was afraid about money. I was afraid about my career, my community, my church, our friends, bills, yard maintenance, our cars, my in-laws, my unborn grandbabies, loneliness, being broken, my credibility, Legacy Collective, faith, college, retirement, trauma, holidays, my own patterns, my foolishness, my naivety, my ignorance. 

Turns out, I should have been afraid all along. 

Which is the exact sentiment I took into therapy: I’m scared now. There is reason to be scared. I should have been scared. I will always be scared. Please teach me how to live as a scared person for the rest of my days. I have no training. 

As you might surmise, my therapist thought this approach to the next 40 years was ill-conceived. She would ask me horror questions like, “What are you exactly afraid of?” And I was like, “Ma’am, this session is $125 an hour. I will get to the end of the list and owe you a quarter of a million dollars.” But because I am an Enneagram 3 and wanted to win therapy, I listed my fears and begged her to tell me how to make it stop. I wanted none of it. I wanted to sleep through the night. I wanted to feel my old sense of confidence for 15 minutes a day. I wanted this in my rearview mirror and needed the therapist’s secret formula for making bad things end. 

“Jen, there is how you feel, then there is your resistance to how you feel. The first is hard. The second is catastrophic. You are afraid right now. This makes sense. This is appropriate, because you are a human person who experienced trauma. This is a normal response. But your refusal to face your fears with open arms, welcoming each and every one like the fitting companions they are right now, will delay your healing more than a single other factor. Your fear isn’t the problem. Your resistance to fear is.”

I didn’t care for this. My $125 an hour was meant to evade the suffering and resurrect the sparkling person who didn’t own a house key. All I did was resist my fears. At no point did I sit with my feelings and just let them exist. I fought like a wildcat against every worry, every doubt, every possibility of future anguish. I argued with my terror, gave myself every Girl Boss lecture, seized any 60-second burst of optimism and declared myself “healed.” I resisted fear like it was my paying job. 

Only because I couldn’t tolerate the suffering anymore, I reluctantly tried to figure out what my therapist was saying. I literally had no practice with this. I was a shiny girl born to a shiny dad with a zen mom and a historical nonchalance toward fear. In a sentence that cost me $2.08, I said to my therapist: “Talk to me like a kindergartner. When you say ‘stop resisting your fear’, what that means is… that I would… I want to say… just decide to be happy?” (I was definitely not winning therapy, and this is why counselors need their own counselors.)

With much guidance, I learned the rudimentary practices to embrace fear instead of resist it. I learned to go soft when a fear rose up, to unclench, to relax my forehead and hands and shoulders. I learned to breathe in for eight seconds, hold for four, then exhale slowly for another eight, and I’ll be damned if BREATHING didn’t help calm the internal panic. What on earth? Even babies know how to breathe! And they didn’t even have to pay to learn! 

I learned to let a scary thought ride its own wave without trying to squash it or fix it or deny it; I just let it live in my scared little mind while breathing helped me endure it. I would tell myself: “It’s okay that you feel scared about this. It is a normal way to feel. You’re not doing something wrong. Relax your forehead. Check if your hands are clenched.” Low and behold, the thought would find its end and I didn’t die from it. 

It doesn’t make sense, but facing a fear, letting it be what it is, letting yourself feel how you feel, while intentionally staying calm and keeping your body soft is better than resisting. I don’t know how it works.

Resisting fear seems smarter. It seems like kickass, Annie Oakley, mind-over-matter shit, and I can promise you I’d still be doing that if it worked. I’d be sparring against scary thoughts and terrifying what-ifs, talking myself out of every emotion. But some transmutation happens when you let the fear rise, peak, and recede without a fight. It forfeits a great deal of its power, like it feeds off the strain and without the tension, it goes slack. 

I wonder if whatever you are resisting might find a quicker end if you just let it exhaust its energy without your participation? Can you just let it come, knowing it will also go? What if you shifted your attention to your forehead, your hands, your shoulders, and your breath? Most fear is not productive anyway; inventions that are uncontrollable, unchangeable, or unlikely. When I think back to my litany of fears, almost zero percent of them came to pass. Well, to be fair, I don’t yet know if my unborn grandbabies will make bad choices because of my divorce, but I’ll let you know later if I should have hung on to that one. 

I’m less shiny now, sure, but I’ve developed some tolerance for fear when it comes. I’ve learned to shrink its run time, and that’s about the best we can do. The less oxygen I give it with resistance, the quicker it moves through. I would say I’ve returned to the bottom portion of the top half of the glass; fear didn’t permanently change my orientation but just lowered it a few degrees. You still cannot convince me the streets of New York are dangerous at 3:00 a.m., I’ll ask a stranger to hold my purse, and I never think any football player flagged for a face mask meant to do it. 

My shiny tendencies have mostly recovered, although on my best, most regulated day, I will never under-respond like my mom who, upon learning my brother drove her Jeep into a river, shrugged: “Well, it’s just a car.” Jesus, give me one-tenth the restraint of Jana King, but so help me if one of my sons drives my Bronco into a river, I will have to forfeit my salvation.

Hello rafters, my old friend. 

How I Want to Kick Ass and Take Names (KATN) in 2024

A couple of years ago, I found myself in a position where I just had to “kick ass and take names.”

Let’s call it KATN for short.

This was part of my KATN list at the time:

  • I had to get my life in order.
  • I had to get my money in order.
  • I had to get my home in order.
  • I had to figure out what it meant to be a single mom.
  • I had to figure out what it meant to be in charge of my own budget.
  • And so on.

Maybe you have a list that looks a little or a lot like this, too.

Somewhere in the middle of that whole process, I was like, “I am kicking ass and taking names.” And it kind of stuck with me and resonated with many of us.

So, I wanted to tell you how I am hoping to KATN in 2024. This is all aspirational at this point of course, but I have a couple of things that I’d like to tackle.

How I Want to KATN in 2024

  1. Content creation.

2024 is going to be a year of content creation for me, because I’m writing a book.

It has been a long time since I’ve done this in my world. I wrote the cookbook, Feed These People, most recently — and that is definitely a writing project — but I haven’t written a book-book since I wrote Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, which started in 2018.

So this is a year that I want to make what I hope to be my most meaningful content that I’ve ever created. Certainly, in the book project, but also everywhere — in the For the Love podcast, on the socials, and in all the places that I communicate.

I really want this to be meaningful. I want to be careful. I want every word to matter. I want to give it my all.

As we were preparing for this book project, my agent, Margaret, told me something, She told me: “Save nothing for the swim home,” and I love that. I’ve hung onto that sentiment.

Swim so far and hard out to the middle of the ocean and don’t hold back; don’t save energy for later; don’t leave any content for the future. Truly, save nothing for the swim home, and that’s what I hope to do.

  1. Mom-ing.

I really want to figure out what it means to be the best version of myself as a mom this year.

This is going to be a big year in 2024. My oldest kid gets married, so we have a wedding coming up in March. Then, in May, my youngest kid graduates from high school.

We are growing up. Our little family is growing up; my kids are growing up, and so I want to finish strong.

I want to finish this last leg of the race with my youngest in a way that is special and connected and celebratory — and I want to cheer on my oldest son as he starts a whole new life with his wonderful fiancé who we all love.

I want my kids to feel so loved and so supported. I want to figure out what my role looks like, and I don’t want to waste a lot of time being weepy about it all.

I want to be thrilled, I want my kid to feel like their mom is proud and she has our back and these changes are great. I want to be a part of their happy, happy memories with these big milestones.

So, that’s my KATN list for 2024.

To make sure it happens…

  • I am willing and ready to offload a bunch of other stuff, so that I can do those two things well.
  • I am willing to say “no.”
  • I am willing to say “not this year.”
  • I’m willing to say “this needs to be triaged.”
  • I’m willing to say this particular thing has come to an end.
  • I’m also preparing to subtract, so that I can do these two things really well.

I am willing to do it all to be the best mom for my kids and the best me for my community.

How are you going to KATN in 2024? Make yourself a little list of a couple ways — and think about what you’ll add or subtract or say “no” or “yes” to, to make it happen.