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Jennifer Camp

Jennifer Camp
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Jennifer Camp, co-founder of  Gather Ministries, and author of  Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both  Facebook  and  Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.

what home means now: new definitions to consider during the outbreak of covid-19

The world is shaking. And we feel it. New patterns of living and moving, thinking and speaking. As the COVID-19 global pandemic shuts businesses and schools, recreation areas and churches, we are left with the question: to what will we turn for community, for comfort, for truth? In what new ways will we spend our time? How will we confront our idols? How will we cope?

While much of us shelter in place, not all of us are able to stay home. Physicians and teachers, delivery drivers and food service workers and so many more people are not staying home. Working or not, in your home or someplace else, each of is feeling vulnerable. A bit out of sorts. Discombobulated. Not quite the way they did before. 

The world has always been dangerous. Never safe. Never peace-filled. But this reality, for the world as a whole, feels impossible to ignore now.

So, in this new landscape, we have a question to answer. And that answer is unique to each of us: What now, is your truth? To what and to whom do you turn? What do you call home?

While many of us are having to stay, physically, at home, and then some of us cannot, how is your heart? How is your mind? To what is your mind turning? To whom does your heart run? 

Will you spend a few moments today–this week–considering where you are looking to find hope, meaning, comfort, strength? And as you look for these things, what does that look like? In the morning, in the evening, in the moments of being in this space, alone or with other people you live? How are you carrying on? Who are you, at home?

For the Loop Poetry Project this week, consider the word “home.” What does it mean for you? Yes, it is a physical space, and helpful to ponder as you write–describing the physical space where you are, with details of sense (what you see, smell, touch, hear, taste) around you. But you might want to consider other elements of home–what home means to your heart–what your heart is crying out for now, and the ideas or memories that fill your mind when you think of home. Let your imagination run. 

Home can be more than what exists within walls. How would your heart describe “home”, versus your mind versus your imagination?

I can’t wait to read what you share. Your ideas–your words–offer us another way to think and feel and see. And we are hungry for that now. But don’t worry about that, at first. Most importantly, and always as a beginning, write what is true to you. So, write about “home.” 

And if you feel like sharing your ideas, your notes, or even your poem, please do here, or on social media, using the hashtag #looppoetryproject. And, as always, consider joining the wonderful women over at the private Facebook group. We would love to join with you, encouraging you as you trust your heart.

bless you, dear ones,

jennifer

Is Home a Memory

I have awakened from a dream and again,
the idea of home is pressed upon me, 
memories, really
of sisters sleeping, 
three wooden beds side by side,
a static scene so different from what
you show me in the wild rustling of dry grasses
as we run, our young feet never tiring

and I think this is home,
the merriment that comes from safety
and freedom, and I am recognizing
home is not an age.

And you pull me out of the scene into
another one, the four of us in some heavenly place
where you chased me to the ends of the earth
my heart beating hard and long, 
through mazes of shadow
(I felt I had to prove: I could belong to you)

and now here we are,
me in my middle-age and yet ageless 
and the three of you 
impossibly one
to make the impossible my home, saying yes
again and again to what the three of you 
have together.

-jennifer j. camp

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com


in these strange days: the importance of giving voice to your moments and emotions

Week two of shelter in place. A strange existence. All five of us in this bungalow every day except for walks with the dog. Things are both simpler and more complicated. A focusing inward while also looking outward. How are we doing? How are our hearts? How is the world hurting and how do we respond? What do we do? How do we pray?

Hearts might crack open more easily here, in this space. Relationships that need tending to are more difficult to ignore. And this cracking open is good, I think. As the saying goes, “You have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.” But with all this opportunity to slow down–have a different pace, from our being forced to stay home–the being home day after day brings with it different challenges. Don’t you agree? And hiding is still possible, isn’t it? Hiding from the people in our house (emotionally, if not physically). Hiding, even, from our own hearts.

Some of us might not be trying to hide, but we’re lonely–the weight of isolation a burden heavy and difficult to bear. Or some of us might be overwhelmed by noise and activity–all the new kinds of work brought about by being home with people who need our attention and care.

Yes, it’s a lot. A lot of change. A lot of newness. A lot of pressure. Maybe.

There is so much we don’t understand–about this virus, about how to respond, about what God is doing (I think He is always doing something good). But while all this is happening, there is one thing we must not ignore and fail to attend to: the story, in this moment, of our hearts.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

As water reflects the face,
so one’s life reflects the heart.

Proverbs 27:19

I think it is important now for each of us to write the stories of these strange times, these stories we are personally experiencing and feeling. I think it is important, no matter our situation, to do whatever it takes to carve out some time to process what is going on inside us. 

Yes, we reel from these unfamiliar circumstances. And, yes, God is still in charge. And yes, the earth still spins.

What is the story of this day you’re living, this moment now? What if processing it–one small choice, and then another–could be one of the most important things you do?

I encourage you, as a place to start, to write about today. Just today. A segment of time that is more than time. A catalog of moments. A myriad of emotions. A holy space. A sacred kiss. A touch of palms.

Here are some places to start:

If today were a person, and it walked into the room where you are right now, what would it say? How would it sound? Would it yell? Would it cry? Would it sing? 

If you had to wear today like a piece of clothing, how would it feel draped over your shoulders, or perched on your head, or tucked around your waist? Is it beautiful–something you’d like to wear, with confidence and excitement? Or is it something you don’t appreciate and would love to dump into a bag and give to Goodwill?

If today were a holiday on your calendar, what would it be called? Would it make you happy? Would it make you sad? Would you enjoy celebrating it? How does this holiday make you feel?

If today were a song, what would its melody be? What instruments would you hear? What genre of music would it describe? Are the lyrics ones you like? Who is singing it? Who is participating in its creation?

Keep going.

Do this next.

Let’s use writing as a tool to process what we think and feel about today. To begin, focus on a single moment of this day and enter into it, through observation. List details of the moment: what you see (objects, people, the room, the outdoors), what you smell, what you hear, what physical sensations you feel. Get very specific. Let the description of a few sensations represent your thoughts/feelings/emotions about this day. Use imagery to help bring the reader into the moment with you. Help us feel it, see it, experience it. 

Think of your writing as a snapshot that is opening you up to a larger world–a specific moment in a day that means more than you realized it did before you started writing. Maybe, just maybe, the process of describing this moment will awake you, in a fresh way, to your heart.

After you have spent some time writing down these details and description, consider crafting the description into a poem–using the form of each line (consider where you break each line as well as the rhythm of the words you choose) to say what you are intending to say. What feeling are you trying to give the reader? How did you feel–as a participant or an observer–of the moment you are describing? How do you hope to convey that feeling through the descriptions and details you are including?

I look forward to learning about the moment you think you want to describe. Would you like to share a line or two about it in the comments below? And, as you work on crafting these ideas into a poem, please consider sharing it here below–or on social media using #looppoetryproject as the hashtag. Or, if you’d like to join this private group on Facebook where we share, in safety and love, our poems with one another, that would be so wonderful too. Click here.

Bless you as you write the moment, unique to you, in the way no one else can,

jennifer

*Below is my poem on the prompt “today”:

I ride my bike through empty streets this Sunday morning, 
all churches silent save the ones
we visit through virtual connection 
on our computers and phones, 
the virus keeping us tucked away
from each other, sheltering in place
attesting we leave home only for essential 
services: medical appointments, food, and, I say,
getting fresh air. Except the problem is we can’t
stay away from one another, our eyes 
seeking one another as we walk, 
on sidewalks, across streets.
A hello. A friendly nod. A wave.

In the afternoon I chaperone my son
as he visits with his girlfriend, walking the dog
between them; six feet apart. It is not
just young love that draws them
toward each other. For we each 
look to each other. You and I? Don’t we? 
Am I still here if you don’t see me?

I think these things as I pedal my bike
through the university and see a young woman
on a bench in front of a building, 
tower of brick and stone, let her dog
off its leash where it scampers, nuzzling its
nose into one delicious smell of grass
and then another. And we smile, the woman and I; 
our eyes finding each other even as I barely
pause, morning light in my face. 

And I think this is love, the reaching out 
across the great divide to join one another
any way we can. 
And the stories are being written now. 
Of groceries delivered to ailing seniors, 
brothers throwing footballs across
the street, one sidewalk to another, 
neighbors organizing camping chairs in huge circles
in the middle of otherwise silent streets, bottles of
beer and snacks in knees and hands.

Let the stories be written, the ones we need
to hear. In the wind. In the empty
spaces between us. Where the silence
is great and we speak through it anyway
because we know the cost.
Choosing the opposite. Knowing
there will always be more to say.

-jennifer j. camp

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com


what hope looks like: poetry in a pandemic

Light is shining. I can see it. Covering my skin, entering my heart. I breathe deep. Let air move these lungs. Day five of shelter in place and every one of these days I leave my house and walk. The dog needing to get out is my excuse–but really, I need the walk too. My heart needs solace. And I find it in the strolls around the neighborhood, meeting, at a distance, at least a dozen people each time–always on other sides of the street–out walking too. We smile. Say hello. And there is a knowing, a comfort, somehow, in the shared experience. The world, as a whole, feels closer, smaller now. And not because we literally can’t go far from our homes–but because our attention has turned. 

God, You are good. You are doing something good. Even though it is difficult, now, to understand.

I am hungry for the stories being written now–the stories of people searching for God–this virus disrupting the life we once knew. Our ways of relating. Our pace. Our values. Our ways of seeing the world. A myriad of opinions and challenges. Suffering and smiles. Pain and hope.

A few days ago, on a video on Instagram, I shared a conversation I had with God. It was before the shelter in place was in effect, and yet I woke up feeling uncertain, uncomfortable, pushing back fear. I wrote in my journal:

Father, it feels dystopian—this world right now. There is so much fear. I am fearing, I realize, that the world my kids grow up in–maybe raise their kids in—will be vastly different and unfamiliar than mine. I feel like something is being taken away—innocence, naiveté? I feel a hardness wanting to develop in me—and that is unfamiliar too. It is an unwelcome feeling. I don’t like it; it doesn’t feel right.

 It was good to be around friends yesterday, but there is so much pain and suffering now. Please heal this world. It feels like an old world is dying—and I am confused about how to feel about it. I feel myself tumbling a bit into complacency and negativity—like, what’s the point of hope if everything is going to get worse before You come back to rescue and redeem and restore this world? I am scared. What is wrong? What is broken? Will You fix things—mend things that are broken before You ultimately come? Or will You let things fall apart—until all is destroyed and then You come, ultimately, to fix it?

If everything is just going to get awful, will You please come now before it gets any worse? 

Father, what do You want me to do? What do You want me to think? What do I pray for? Whom do I pray for? What is Your plan? What are You doing? How do I wait on You in this turbulent and unsettled place?

And this is what He said to me:

I want you to hope. I want you to fight alongside Me. I want you to keep your gaze on Me. Do not break gaze. Do not silence your ears. All is not breaking. In the morning the sun is rising. The lies are destructive—telling you fear is more important than hope. You know how to encourage. You know how to look to Me. Do that now. Stand fast, daughter. I’ve got you. I’ve got your family. There is more beauty coming. All will be restored. Walk with Me to bring hearts to see it. Speak hope. Speak joy. Speak connection and love. Love. Love. Love. Shine with my strength in you. The lie is that all things are falling apart—but I am making all things new!

And I remember His words to me on January 1st, when He shared with me the word He invites me to cling to this year: still. When He told me the word, and I asked with what it meant, He gave me words to explain what this looks like for me, in my life, to live this way. and what His role will be as I trust in Him.

and still I will stand
and still I will wait
and still I will trust
and still I will believe
and still I will move
and still I will grow
and still I will be
for still you are with me
for still you wait
for still you love me
for still you adore
for still you sing over me
for still you believe
for still you stand with me
for still you do not leave

I heard Him say stillness is “deep knowing, peace within you, even in moving. This staying steadfast even in storm requires grace–and acceptance of strength within you. This year will require resilience and malleability, and then steadfastness and strength. So bend and move and be still within, and this is how you will experience peace–and Me.”

For this week’s Loop Poetry Project prompt, let’s give room for our hearts to share how they are feeling in the midst of this unusual time. Let your heart tell a story. Let it speak to you as a person right in front of you, explaining to you, through imagery, description and concrete detail, how it is doing. If you’d like to focus on a word, I encourage you to write on this topic: hope.

As you consider writing your poem, please leave a comment here to let me know how you are doing. And/or, let your poem do the explaining for you–and share your poem below. That would be wonderful! If you’d like to share your poem on social media, please use the hashtag #looppoetryproject. And click here if you would like to join the Loop Poetry Project private Facebook group. Your heart has a story to tell. I can’t wait to hear it. Please leave a comment! (My poem is below.)

with much love and hope,

jennifer

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com

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About Jennifer Camp

Jennifer Camp, co-founder of  Gather Ministries, and author of  Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both  Facebook  and  Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.