Grief, Hope, Newsletter, Trauma recovery, Writing

NEWSLETTER (MAY, 2022)

Photo Captions:

Discovering my book on the shelf at Prairie Lights (Iowa City), Barnes & Noble (Coralville, Iowa), and an upcoming event with Faith + Lead.

RECENT & UPCOMING HAPPENINGS

New article with Faith & Lead: “Heal Self, Love Others.”

“Childcare in Iowa,” on Ethical Perspectives in the News. Sponsored by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County.

Saturday, June 4th at 5:30 pm: Preaching at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa.

Sunday, June 5th at 9:30 am: Preaching at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa.

“Beyond Job’s Friends: Accompanying Those in Trauma’s Pits.” Thursday, June 16th, 2022 at 2:00 pm: Faith+Lead Online Book Hub event.

“Beyond Talking About Trauma.” July 14-17: Wild Goose Festival in Union Grove, North Carolina. Stay tuned for more information.

INVITE JENNIFER TO SPEAK

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.

THOUGHT

Pray for compassion, for just mercy, for our culture prone to carry unhealed pain buried within its layers of controversy until it explodes into others–so often and again innocents. Then get off your knees advocating with every word, deed, action, courageous works of self-healing, and posture for God’s love, compassion, and justice to rule our world. Not those humans whose pain permeates their stolen power. Prayer is like empathy, only the beginning. The first step. Stagnant unless it leads to compassionate action.

BONUS SECTION

I journal a lot, daily. Or I have in past years. Right now, I’m slowing down. In part because journaling for a writer also includes returning to finished journals. Rereading them. Looking for themes, recurring questions, poetry fragments, hints of unhealed pain, and the next piece or book asking to be written.

My current confession is I do not like rereading my journals. At all. Feels like work done begrudgingly. Like I know its good for me and that feeling never really works with its shift into shame’s posture. So I often avoid rereading my journals. But recently five tattered notebooks created a pile in my office. Greeting me each morning with a whined, “Hey, remember us!”

Until one morning I muttered, “Fine! But I’m not going to add to this pile by continuing to journal until I’ve read all five of you!”

So I haven’t, much. Journaled. Although occasionally something flows into my heart and head which begs to be written down. Then, I scribble away again. Or in reading yet another trauma recovery book I do some sort of suggested exercise. Because nothing short of dutiful am I in investigating these small moments of healing. Which often fill up many pages!

Much of what I reread in my journals is repetitive, boring, and often depressing. The gems, the possible sprouts of something bigger, are rare. Making the discovery of something moving me to write are longed for gifts. And these gifts do appear! Here’s one from the height of the pandemic, before the vaccine.

November 6, 2021

Quiet morning of shiny sadness felt in cheeks. Turning down toward the earth. Maybe in sadness we return to creation waiting to be made anew like a seed. Irony: This thought makes me smile…

WHAT I’M READING

Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN by Tara Brach.

My primary therapist often talks about Tara Brach’s work. Post seminary, I have time to read outside the Christian theological canon. Which I love doing because I believe that when we are curious about God, when we believe we can never fully grasp the immensity of God and are humbled because of it, we become curious about other faith traditions’ thinking about and relationship with God.

According to her website, “Tara Brach’s teachings blend Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practices, mindful attention to our inner life, and a full, compassionate engagement with our world. The result is a distinctive voice in Western Buddhism, one that offers a wise and caring approach to freeing ourselves and society from suffering.”

Radical Compassion Book Cover

THE VALUE OF REVIEWS

Whether we like it or not, there is a business side to writing. Every author relies on readers to write online reviews. Please, please, please consider reviewing my book on Goodreads and at my Amazon author’s page. You have my gratitude!

BUY MY BOOK

CP chalice only  Put A Time to Mourn & a Time to Dance on your bookshelf! My book is currently available (on sale!) at Chalice Press.  Also available at Prairie Lights, Barnes & Noble, Coralville, Iowa, Barnes & Noble Online, Books-a-Million, Target, Bookshop.org, and Amazon.

MAY Newsletter, 2022: All rights reserved by the author.

Healing, Hope, Writing

HEART’S BEAT

Infused in the words we speak, imbued in the words we write, dripping in the words we think is something pulsating with direction and meaning. Writers call this something many names, none right or wrong. Just ways of describing our unique urge to use words when making sense of self, other, world, and God.

Writer Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew calls this something, “heartbeat.” Without a heartbeat, without this “internal engine” moving our words in all forms–spoken, written, and thought–into truth, our work falls from”mattering” in this world. (58)

This same author suggests ways of unearthing the heartbeats of our pieces. Exercises and practices designed to discover the emotions and subsequent behaviors brooding and bubbling beneath words’ surfaces. Last September I did many of these exercises for three articles and a book manuscript I was writing. In my journal on September 4, 2021, I wrote the
following:

Heartbeat

Hope in healing’s many ways. Hope gifted to us through the ancestors of faith. Hope in healing–God’s and humans. Hope in ourselves. Hope in our bodies. Hope in each other. Hope in God. Living, active hope is the heartbeat…

Yet left to wonder how and what defines hope. Various online dictionaries instruct me that hope permeates our lives as both a noun and verb. Linked (in either grammatical form) to trust, belief, and desire in what’s possible for the future.

Definitions lead me to scripture’s many versus speaking directly of hope while linking it to faith. Here are just three of so many.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope; Psalm 130: 5

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 

Theologian Andrew Purves connects hope with compassion especially in “the feeding stories” found in the Gospel of Mark. “Compassion,” he writes, is associated with “…the most profound human need for hope…” (25-27)

Again and again the Gospels show hope through the behavior of those needing feeding and healing. Hope meets or even at time collides with the compassion of Jesus. Think about the profound hope of the man with a skin disease in Mark 1: 40-42. Or the hemorrhaging woman willing to risk touching Jesus in Mark 5:25-34. Or the father in Mark 9: 14-29 bringing his non-verbal son through an argumentative crowd to see Jesus. In each story Jesus is willing to see the
hope of people whom others deem invisible and undeserving. In doing so Jesus aligns willingness with keeping awake and aware of others’ needs. (Mark 13:35)  Jesus understands these needs in empathy and does something about them in compassion.

This hope in Jesus leads me to what mental health clinicians and researchers think. Many consider hope a skill, a good one to have. In other words, hope can be learned, practiced, and strengthened.

For Dr. Daniel Goleman, hope is more than “solace amid affliction.” Hope changes outcomes. He writes, “From the perspective of emotional intelligence, having hope means that one will not give in to overwhelming anxiety, a defeatist attitude, or depression in the face of difficult challenges or setbacks.” (86-87)

Based on some of the same research Goleman uses, Brené Brown writes, “…Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities…Hope is learned!” (240)

We often categorize hope as an emotion. But really hope is a cognitive function. Something we can acquire and grow through observing others who are hopeful as well as practicing hopefulness. I also wonder if we are genetically primed to learn hope as a way of survival. Practicing hope then can be thought of as a life giving and sustaining spiritual practice. 

Back to exploring my heart’s beat. About a month after the first heartbeat entry I again write about hope. “…Even in the depth of despair, I reach for hope eventually found in God through
scripture, through those who help, and through healers…[my writing projects] begin in the depths searching for hope.”

Scripture, dictionaries, mental health research, and writing exercises lead me to embrace the rhythm of hope as my heart’s beat. Hope in my own innate abilities to heal, hope in healers, hope in God, hope in my growing compassion for self, others, and the earth, hope in both the emotion and action of love, and hope in believing in what is possible despite all that surrounds me.

What is your heart’s beat?

 

SOURCES

Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman

The Search for Compassion: Spirituality and Ministry by Andrew Purves

 

 

 

Grief, Healing, Trauma recovery, Writing

Writing Tools

IMG-2135Once I wrote every morning. Upon waking. In dawn’s first light. Under cover’s warmth. Hidden. From world. Not long ago. Life laying low. No reason to rise. Except for brief moments. Fixing food picked at. Not fully ingested by three souls, sitting with silent, wailing hearts.

Still scratch away most mornings. In bed, abating cold under think downy comforter. Or at kitchen table, sky brightening over Eastern tree tops.  Or at desk, feeling grown-up and professional. Even in yoga pants and sweatshirt.

No longer all dawns though. Not now. Life’s varied actions taking over sacred word space. Words watching as I cook, clean, study, parent, build and rebuild relationships, love in verb form, plan ahead, make lists, pay bills, run errands, exercise, sleep.

Words sidelined. Pent up. Waiting. Nagging. Prodding. Agitated. Resentful. Impatient for cleared moments meant only for them. In stolen time away from all else. Thoughts, emotions, connections released from inner captivity. Swooshing out with sighs.

IMG-2118Write on drawing paper. Bound in books, not tablets. Large ones for home use. Small for travel. Not the blank books given at birthday or holiday. No glossy or smooth inspirational cover art or quote from famous author. No place inside front cover for printing name. Making words official if only to self. Instead simple black cover. Woven texture. Raised weave masking cardboard beneath. Square holes punched along left side. Two strands of black wire inserted and spiraling down. Holding innards together. Inside thick paper. Heartier than blank books. Strong enough for frequent erasure.

IMG-2122Write with pencil. Beginning long ago with a DIXON Ticonderoga 2 SOFT. Boxes left over from sons’ elementary school days. Specific request on school supply list each August. Boys calling them “sturdier.” Me, grumbling about extra expense. Left now with boxes of them. Many pre-sharpened. Popping out of clear plastic containers smelling of pencil. Wood wound around graphite. Odor lingering in our collective noses from early on. From beginnings of formal schooling.

Along with sounds of manual pencil sharpeners found in every classroom. Near the door in the front. Drilled into cinder block walls, drywall, or ancient plaster. Leveled at a certain height. Increasing with grade. For standing in front of. Glimpsing the  world outside enclosed space. Teacher eyes waiting possible escape or eruption. But doorway blocked by budding sense of internal boundaries for many. Most turning back toward sharpener. Adjusting hole’s size. Sticking pencil in. Pushing crank. In circular motion. Away from self. Hearing grind. Wondering how pencil will come out. Broken tip or point?

IMG-2109Electric sharpeners buzzing with own sounds, vibrations, issues. Too quick for the lingering, dreaming school child needing small break. Have one of these machines packed away somewhere. Lost in boxes of what was and is no longer. Instead rummage each morning in kitchen junk drawer. For small plastic, pastel colored pencil sharpeners with dulling blades. The kind put in zipped up pencil bags for school.

This fall, new pencil entered my life. A Palomino Blackwing 602. A birthday gift christening another year lived. Marking healing, love, future, me-as-a-writer, another’s belief in me. Pencil, slate grey. Quote written in italicised, gold lettering. “HALF THE PRESSURE, TWICE THE SPEED.”

IMG-2133Topped with gold erasure cup. Not green. Holding flat, rectangular, pink erasure. For erasing on the horizontal instead of in a spiral.  Gift accompanied by utilitarian sharpener. Small with two holes. One to sharpen. Another to fine tune the point. Small door for emptying shavings.

Discover new pencil’s feel on page different. Softer. Smoother. Words gliding instead of stumbling. Flow like a felt-tip marker. Easy. Simple. Color sitting on top of paper like velvet. Not ground in, etched, or engraved.

IMG-2210A few weeks ago, a seminary friend gave me a pencil. Unsharpened. Along with a smile. Full of shared knowing. About life’s desire for tactile experiences. Our senses, in seminary, needing release from heavy frontal lobe exercising. Our emotional brains, the place where we feel God, crying out for attention, movement, freedom. My new pencil, a PALOMINO ForestChoice 2.

Pencils different than blank books of bound paper. Both necessary equipment. Paper, a receiving tool. Pencil, an active instrument. Paper, the noun. Pencil, the verb. A delivery system creating conduit through which emotions and thoughts merge into words. Uniquely placed on paper forming voice, my voice. Pencil point sailing over page. Blankness filling with lines, curls, dots, and shapes.  At morning’s dawn. Pencils containing memories, stories, healings, hopes. Ticonderogas, discovery of myself as writer. School days for sons. Life in a different community. Late husband’s work. Writing to breathe. ForestChoice, life in seminary in fellowship with others saying “yes” to God’s call. Blackwings, new beginnings after years of therapy expanding self, love, and future.

IMG-2135

Three pencils sitting on empty pages. Staring up at me. Welcoming. Reminding me of life’s trajectory. Movement mapped in pencils. Writing, my constant in never-ending change.