Healing, Hope, Lyme Disease, Trauma recovery

Morning’s Rise

Dark meets light as first thin layer of dawn emerges from behind distant darkened peaks. A horizontal sliver of glowing brightness slowly claiming more of night’s sky with morning’s rise. Revealing, minute after minute, a rounded, pulsating ball of glare. Forcing me to look away.

For many years I’ve been watching these mountains. In predawn peace they appear grey black against a sky of the same color. By mid-morning the mountains have turned bright brown. Afternoon finds them dressed in light grey. Impending dusk turns them taupe, then rose pink followed by pale pink partnering with evening’s greyish blue. Night shadows the mountains against a star-studded sky, black on black.

Mornings with these mountains captivate me most. Choir of birds joining me in my morning’s reverence. Singing a new day’s canon in chirps, calls, twitters, buzzing’s, hoots, echoed responses, and sounded alarms. Mostly from my left as morning traffic sounds reflect off the mountains to my right. Bouncing off these grand giants into the pocked valleys below before climbing up the foothills to where I sit. Staring. Listening. Breathing in the sweetness of desert Spring bloom. Noticing a young jackrabbit’s entrance into the yard. A quail calling from fence’s perch. A hummingbird zipping by.

In this morning place I feel the deepness of my fatigue. The concerns I carry. The sadness filling me, always moving within me like flowing caplets through my veins. My body, in its weighted worries, rests here among birds, desertscape, and in what remains of night’s coolness amidst these mountains. A combination allowing my truth within its safety. 

The sun continues its climb, today into a cloudless, blue sky. Blanketing peaks with morning’s haze. A dry fog diffusing downward until the mountains are fully covered. Allowing my eyes to gaze their way again. Seeing their craggy skin, full of bumps, crevices, and stubs, appear more immense than the sun.

A quail couple walks along the view fence unaware of my presence as more hoots and chirps resonate around me. My breath releases. Body quivers as I embrace this act of morning sitting as self-directed, compassionate self-care. Even though it is not my day off nor am I on holiday claiming a series of days just for basking here while watching the day progress through its phases. Instead, I am, like so many now, working remotely for a brief time. Doing so affords me the chance to be with my son as he once again attempts to free himself from Lyme Disease, a co-infection, and mold growing in his body. Our days’ rhythm aligned with the tempo of healing—slow, weighted, disciplined. Combined with calls to this doctor or that hospital’s billing department—the business side of finding answers, possible medical protocols, and people who can help.

This desert, the Sonoran Desert, my son’s physical and emotional container for this time. Mine as well. Only leaving the house for necessary food or an occasional bout of discount retail therapy. Birds, lizards, and rabbits, the only visitors allowed inside the fence. Deep healing requiring solitude. “Like being a monk,” my son tells me.

Sort of like those ancient Christians choosing to live in desert caves, I think. Begin referring to this contained place and time as his monk-dom and to the work itself as monking having worn out the word healing these past eight years.

Last night, my son banged around the house waking me up. The night giving him respite while stealing mine. Once quiet, I sobbed in bed. Something I did nightly, upon a time. The first time living in New York City feeling directionless and alone at the same age of my son, twenty-five. The second, twenty-seven years later in acute traumatic stress which after a few months shifted officially into PTSD. Again, feeling alone. Pain isolating my sons and me. Home, creating a physical and emotional container reaching only as far as our home’s walls and deck. A time demanding a closing off from the world. Parameters secured with lots of therapy, and time. No mountains. Just a field stretching one direction into farmland and the other into woods. Accompanied by birds as well—just different ones with different sounds. 

It was in that solitude that I learned the difficult-to-accept realities of true healing, of becoming whole from within. One, that healing is always possible even when it seems elusive. Two, that healing takes healers (as many as needed). And three, healing demands its own time and is stubborn, sure of its own way. Its own rhythm, tempo, count.

Returning from these memories, I sit. Desert breeze comforting me. Sun sending warmth. Mountains rising in protective stance while birds’ flit around me in the light of day. Dart. Land. Preen. My morning’s only external movement in this daily ritual. Allowing pent up breath to discover an escape route. Releasing into body’s inner dance. Desertscape containing me in active witnessing to what my sleeping son’s body does in its cloak of skin and bones. Rid itself of festering disease. Return to true homeostasis breath by breath. While we exist together in illness’ quiet pause, safely in our mountainous waiting room wondering if the birds’ combined, chaotic message is really one of hope.

Image by Jollymama from Pixabay 

Grief, Healing, Trauma, Trauma recovery

Easter Grief

Each year during Holy Week and into Easter, I am reminded of how thin this time is. How tears form and fall after many months of dry eyes. How hearts fill with sadnesses assumed transformed into something resembling new life.

My therapist says these times are dips into small pockets of what once was. Not places demanding we stay or get stuck in. Just revisit. For a few hours or days. Until this small opening reseals and the present now invites us back in. Leaving us with another memory. This one, a remembrance that we loved, love, and will continue to love.

For more writings on grief, trauma recovery, and this time of year, visit my post Easter Early in Grief.

Healing, Healing meditation, Trauma, Trauma recovery


“…What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” *


Fallow field. Ground still, frozen. Plowed and harrowed for future days. Covered in frost or snow. Waiting for sowing, tending, harvesting.

Dormant, but only to the unobservant. Moisture seeping, trickling down. Absorbed through minute openings in hardened ground. Causing movement beneath. Winter’s soil preparing, ripening. For springtime’s burst. Energy creating improvisations, mistakes, hidden gems, harvest, and a few weeds.

In the beginning, healing is like standing on dormant ground. Cold seeping up through soles. Life numb, standing still. Feeling like a small speck in life’s vastness. Waiting to trust the un-death of dormancy.

Healing Practice: Unseen Seeds of Hope

Keep a list today. On a small piece of paper. One you can fold up. Fit in your pocket. Carry with you for writing on. Perhaps with a stubby pencil recording the moments, even fleeting ones, in which hope settles on your heart for a second as a realization, a discovery, or an opening into what’s possible. Name these moments of unexpected joy, mercy, compassion. Gathered for sowing in future’s field.


God, witness in me this day what I cannot see. Witness the tiny seeds of healing and hope I sow in my own fallowness. Witness in me my life-force still living. Witness in me my surprise in discovering unexpected joys. Receive my thanks for what I do not know will bless me this day and tomorrow and in my own healing. Amen.  

*1 Corinthians 15:36 

Image by Gergely Meszárcsek from Pixabay

Family, Food, Grief, Healing, Newsletter, Trauma recovery

NEWSLETTER November 2022


Eleven pounds. Eighty-six ounces. Fresh. Organic. Not too heavy for me to lift into my grocery cart. Remember the brussel sprouts. Forget the cranberries. Because I burned my orange, cardamom, cranberry sauce in the crock pot yesterday. Making sauce no one will eat. Because really what we all want are good lingonberries with our feast. The hard-to-find ones costing seven dollars a jar. But I like the smell of simmering cranberries. Warms up our home with thoughts of holidays’ past. Until berries remind me of their fragility and burn. No longer evoking memories. Just another failed cooking attempt.

Earlier, when leaving for the store, gazed at sparkling crystals covering drive. Made mental note to sand upon return and remind sons to scrape mid-afternoon. Ensuring safety for myself, my mother, the delivery people. Before late November sun sets to soon.

Now arriving home, the back seat full for our upcoming feast. Sand our drive, pock-marked by your overuse of salt. Wanting once, a lifetime ago, to make sure I did not slip on this descending slope. Throwing grit down now. Missing you. Not because I do your chore. But because I simply miss you. Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow. Miss you on this sunny Sunday day.

Hours later sit with strangers in writing workshop. Flowing tears shift them in their seats. Like so many others blindsided by our pain. Spectators more comfortable with emotions on the page than in living truth. Curious voyeurs hoping against hope to keep covered their own pain while not empathizing with a slice of ours.

Tears emanate from truth told through poem written here and shared. Today, this Sunday before Thanksgiving, I bought my first Thanksgiving turkey since you died. We, no longer qualifying as refugees, welcomed at others’ Thanksgiving tables. Released this third Thanksgiving to celebrate on our own. The stuffing mine to overcook. The cranberries mine to burn. The gravy mine to whisk into lumps. The pumpkin pie mine to forget the sugar. Like the time my sons will not forget.

In following days leading up to event make another phone call asking to have your name removed from some bill, piece of mail. Like I have so many times these past twenty-seven months. Never ending, this removing you from our day-to-day business of living. Realize as this holiday approaches though that I must (once again) slow down. Be good to myself. Take care. Cease all dissassociations and denials. Just be in what was, what is not now, and what can be despite it all. A paradoxical trifecta of sorts. The holy trinity of living after trauma and death.

Third Thanksgiving. First turkey. Wonder what we will be thankful for this year. The brutality of what happened to us compounded by sons’ illnesses, mysterious and hard to treat? No. Will we be thankful for knowing and loving you? Will we be thankful for what we have accomplished in healing grief, trauma, illness? Will we be thankful for mercies still to come? Will we feel hope this day, our first alone. The first we trust ourselves to be alone just sons, me and my mother. Who will bring Norwegian lefse made with gluten free flour, thick instead of thin. Making us all remember when wheat lefse smeared with real butter rolled up easily. You wanting to sweeten yours with brown sugar. Me telling you this way is incorrect in purist lefse culture. You carving the turkey. Looking at me with silent words of, “I really do not know how to do this…”

Me believing you will figure it out. Like now I believe we will continue to figure out life without you as I dish up food. Light candles. Gather us into the grace of this day.


If your organization, church, podcast, conference, library, or literary festival is interested in inviting me to speak, preach, or lead a workshop, please click here: Invite Jennifer to Speak.


A Time to Mourn & A Time to Dance made the list of Best Christian Grief Books for 2022 at Choosing Therapy!


I love metaphor. I embrace metaphors for God in my own theological imagination, my own thinking about and encountering God. Rabbi Toba Spitzer’s new book is a welcome addition to my wonderings about God. Here is a small bit of her wisdom:

“There are two elements found in every spiritual and religious tradition that resonate with the power of Voice: music, and the sound of silence. Each of these modalities offer opportunities for transformative spiritual experience.” (109)

God Is Here


Recognizing the Hidden Suffering of Addiction, Faith+Lead.

Devotional in Rise & Shine: 2022-2023 Devotion Book. ELCA School and Learning Centers. 

October 1: Tara Eastman and I talk on her podcast, Holy Shenanigans.

October 4: Book Club with St. Mark Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa

October 10: “Being a Spiritual Writer,” with author Lori Erickson at the Iowa City Book Festival. Our session is at 6:30 PM at the Coralville Library.

October 22: “Trauma-Informed Worship” with Faith+Lead. (10-12–Online Only)

November 1: “Spiritual Care for Trauma” with Faith+Lead. (10-11:30–Online only)

November 8: “Spiritual Care for Trauma” with Faith+Lead. 10-11:30–Online only)

November 15: “Spiritual Care for Trauma” with Faith+Lead. (10-11:30–Online only)

November 29: “Spiritual Care for Trauma” with Faith+Lead. (10-11:30–Online only)

December: Essay (print/online) in Sundays and Seasons: Guide to Worship Planning, Year A 2023 (Augsburg Fortress) 


There are a number of exciting possibilities incubating for 2023. Stay tuned!


Being an author, especially a spiritual author, means also being my own marketing director. And I admit I have all sorts of feelings about being tied to the social media self-promotion cycle. Yet there has always been a business side to writing. So here’s what publishers, book sellers, and writers know about getting books into readers hands, eyes, and hearts:

NEWSLETTERS: The more people on an author’s newsletter email list, the more the author sells their books. You can be on my newsletter list by simply following my blog. To do so, press the SUBSCRIBE button on the upper left side of this page.

REVIEWS: The more online reviews a book receives, the more a book sells. Please consider reviewing my book on Goodreads and at my Amazon author’s page. 

TIKTOK: If you post on TikTok, say something about my book AND use the hashtag #BookTok.

Thank you!

© October/November Newsletter, 2022: All rights reserved by the author.

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Faith, Healing, Healing meditation, Liturgy, Trauma, Trauma recovery


In health and human development we often use this term: survive or thrive. An either/or term with an embedded orbit between the two. Teachers, child development specialists, medical doctors, therapists, chaplains, pastors, loved ones, and really most of us want children and all people to move beyond surviving into thriving. Because surviving can be a time of waiting, frustration, fear, feeling stuck, and powerlessness. We use terms such as survival mode, subsisting, and stagnate to describe the extreme edge of this survival spectrum and softer terms such liminal space and limbo to describe survival as more temporary.

Environmental and systemic circumstances such as racism, genderism, joblessness, poverty, lack of resources, and poor or declining health attempt to hold us in survival. The ongoing worry about safety, food, housing, income, and health overtime can become a traumatic experience adding another layer of pain onto life in survival. Any traumatic experience may also keep us securely in perpetual fight or flight, even freeze states. Surviving then becomes a form of hypervigilant maintenance. Of keeping things as stable as possible while existing always on the edge of the next bad thing happening.

If surviving continues or moves into more security toward or into thriving’s beginnings, trauma’s leftovers from the time of living close to death can create more disease, the autoimmune and inflammatory kind. Disease throws us back into surviving once again shutting down the other end of this trajectory of survive or thrive.

Surviving is not to be minimized. The experience of just surviving seems relentless and unending for most people. Yet self and other compassion asks us to hold gently the miracle of surviving. Our bodies keeping us alive again and again after possible non-survival. Desiring us to move the other way toward and into thriving.

We survive then to thrive. Surviving becomes the living basis in which to add on layers of living. Layers such as growing in deep health, relationships, possibilities, accomplishments, and resources. When we cannot move toward thriving we of course feel stuck because flow is denied.

I, like many people, overuse the word thrive. I want my sons to thrive. I want my new husband to thrive. I want all my beloveds to thrive. I want all of creation to thrive. I want to thrive. The word thrive means “to grow vigorously,” and flourish.* Yet my heart embraces the word flourish as something more than thriving. A word meaning “to grow luxuriantly.”** Flourishing, for me, extends life’s various layers of growth. Creating an out of rather than an or. Instead of survive or thrive, we build: Survive first. Move toward and into thrive leading into a time of flourishing and beyond.

How can we build from surviving? Through healing. Deep, ongoing healing leads us out of surviving, into thriving and toward flourishing. Healing creates goodness within and around. In goodness we are no longer separated from love of self and others. In healing we create more internal and external space to ensure everyone has access to healing.

How do we heal? We begin with the simple desire to heal. Just a tiny mustard seed amount desiring something else. Something replacing the suffering in us and around us with hope. Something washing away the layers of pain bit by bit until we find ourselves where we’ve always existed, encapsulated in love. Love flowing in, above, under, and around us.

Then what do we do? Without thinking we connect and reconnect. Realize we’ve been shut down and away from the world and its people. The process of healing rejoins us to ourselves, others and all that is greater than ourselves–the universe and Spirit. This connection and reconnection, in Scriptural terms, uses the word righteousness or righteous. As in I have reconnected to God. Words which have come to mean, in some traditions, following God’s rules, being obedient to these rules even if they are the rules of powerful humans and not God. For so many people, myself included, these terms feel like more trauma turning my stomach around. I remind myself in healing that there are other understandings of these words.

So, what if we substitute righteousness with healed? Here’s what happens in Psalm 92, verses 12-15 when we do. (NRSVUE)

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

The healed flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.

They are planted in the house of God; they flourish in the places of our God.

14 In old age they still produce fruit;
    they are always green and full of sap,

In old age the healed still produce fruit; the healed are always green and full of sap,

15 showing that the God is upright;
    God is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in God.

showing that God is healed and wants healing; God is my rock, and there is no un-healing in God.

There is no un-healing in God. What a thought! What a belief! God wants us to move beyond surviving. God wants us to heal. God wants us to build on survival into what is possible for ourselves, others, and all creation. And when some of us begin to move out of survival into thriving, God wants us to turn back toward those people still in survival. God wants us to connect, have compassion. Offer healing ways to all people, to all of creation. Only when we heal, connect, and ensure others will also heal can we truly flourish within ourselves and in our world. Flourishing then is an act of compassion for self and others.



Image by Joe from Pixabay