Jennifer Camp

Summer Writing

They fill up three journals so far, the poems I started writing in 2019. For one year I wrote three poems a day, in the early morning dark. Writing was the second thing I did upon waking. Right after tiptoeing through the quiet house—opening up windows to let in the morning air.

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The poems were prayers. Conversations between God and my heart. I was just the scribe. The trick was to be quiet enough to not fully wake. I trusted that my heart was more awake than my mind, right after I woke. And I wanted to stay in that state. I didn’t want my mind—any ideas—to get in the way of what my heart was feeling. Rather than employing rationale, intellect, reason, to discern the stories of the heart, I wanted to simply be present. I wanted to show up. I wanted to be in the room.

The practice became an act of worship, a time of engagement, an experience of exploration, a desire for truth.

While that season of writing three poems a day has ended, I continue to practice listening, writing poems about twice a week. Writing poems is a practice of honoring my heart: I lean in as a listener, asking God to show me, through my imagination, how He wants me to see.

In the listening required to write poems—God uncovers wounds, ideas, possibilities, memories—I would otherwise struggle to know. It is the best adventure: watching what story unfolds when I simply try to describe, with as little interference from my mind as possible—what it is my heart sees.

After almost two years since that initial push to steadfastly write every morning, I am now editing the poems. I am typing them up, transcribing them from my journals and typing them into documents on my computer. To edit, I continue to listen—letting the poems tell me their truths. But it is my mind that is engaged now—deciding whether the poem—what my heart has spoken—has been translated effectively. At its core, it must feel true.

If it’s not, then we, as the readers, can’t hear it. I want us to hear it (feel it, know it, believe it). You see, while I am the listener and the scribe, I am the reader too. When editing the poems, I remove myself from the initial creative process of writing them—and, instead, try to experience the poem as a reader who has encountered the poem for the first time.

To create a poem, I listen to my heart and try to decipher what it is saying. To edit a poem, I listen to the poem itself and ask my heart whether or not it resonates and feels true. Some questions I ask myself are “Who is speaking? What is happening? How am I being made to feel?” The poem needs to answer these questions for me—in a way my heart understands. If it doesn’t, then I, as the poem’s editor, have more work to do, analyzing and making adjustments to word choice, cadence, tone.

Here you can read “The Mothers” and “Where Dreams Live.”

Would you like to join me? Here is an invitation. Over the next few days, ask your heart this question: what is your favorite kind of day? If you share your poem as a comment below by Monday morning, I’ll publish it to my stories on Instagram. Click here to read other poems from the Loop Poetry Project community.

Much love to you, friends,

Jennifer

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com


A Story about a List and Some Spoons

It wasn’t a conventional list—my list of things I fear. I didn’t write down my fear of certain places—the deep ocean, outer space, being trapped in a small area with no way out. Or my fear of things outside my control—Justin and my kids dying, my body getting older, my family not being happy. It was a list far less important. But it was interesting to me, and I felt compelled to write it all the same.

At the top of a clean journal page, I wrote, “Things I am Not Good At (So I am Afraid to Try)” It is a list of things I have feared doing because I’ve always assumed I won’t be good at doing them. A list of things perhaps trivial—and probably not life-changing. But it felt important somehow—empowering even—to write them down.

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Ice skating; playing chess; hosting people last minute; learning a foreign language and trying to speak it to native speakers; offering my heart when I feel I have notice valuable to offer; surfing; golfing. . .(there is more, but you get the idea).

It was interesting to realize that a lot my life choices (not represented on that short list) have to do with whether or not I anticipate success. If I do that task, will I be able to achieve it? If I don’t, will people see me fail? If I’m good at it, what consequences will I have to face? And will anyone find out?

When I read my list to a friend last week, she observes, “Almost everything on your list is about performance.” And she’s right. My life has been built around my ability to perform, achieve, prove, control people’s perceptions of me. Such a small life—a life where fear of failing dictates what I do and don’t do.

This pride runs deep . . .

Recently, I went for a walk with a different friend who, years before, had given me some lovely decorative teaspoons. When she came over to my house for our women’s group a few weeks later, I was panicked that I had forgotten to take out the spoons she had given me. I wanted her to know I appreciated the gift by having them available for her to use for her tea.

“I have been loving using the spoons so much!” I told her as I went to the kitchen cupboard where I had placed them, still in their tidy gift box. I suggested she use them for her tea, and I eagerly handed her the box, thinking she would like that I had been using the spoons. (Because certainly I was the kind of friend who appreciated thoughtful gifts from my friends!)

The problem was that I had yet to open the box, which was taped, with each little teaspoon securely fixed to the back of the box with an (almost imperceptible) silver tie to hold it in place.

I had never used the spoons. She knew I had lied. Right in front of her. I was caught.

Um.

Mortified, I made a joke that I (conveniently) don’t remember now and quickly washed one of the spoons for her and led my friend into the front room to join everyone else. She sat there, with the spoon on her saucer, drinking her tea. We never spoke about it again.

Ever since the “Teaspoon Incident,” I couldn’t help but think about that moment each time my friend and I got together. It made me feel uncomfortable to not talk about it—but I also couldn’t imagine bringing it up; it was just too embarrassing.

Fast forward four years. Lots of walks together. Lots of conversations.

And then, a few weeks ago, God was definitely encouraging me to finally bring it up. And this is what He wanted me to know—and tell her: sadly, the problem wasn’t just that I had lied to my friend. It was that I was bothered about being caught in the lie. I cared less about my act of lying and more about her perception of me as a liar.

Wow.

So, near the end of one of our walks together, I confessed—not only to the lie itself, but also to the more insidious truth: I was less bothered about the lie—and how that made her feel—and more about her opinion of me.

Oh, help.

“I have something to confess to you.”

I apologized. I confessed. I asked for her forgiveness. And I shared with her the root of the sin, exposing the motivation for it. With my dear friend I felt Holy Spirit prompting me to share the reason for what I had done.

It was time to not hide. It was time to strip away all the deceit. It was time to stand before my friend with the sin unvarnished. It was time for shame to not be the boss of me.

With characteristic kindness and compassion—treatment I so appreciated but did not deserve—my friend responded, softness and sincerity in her voice: “Yes, I forgive you. I actually don’t even remember giving you those spoons.”

Oh, Jesus, you are so kind. And I am so hopeless without You.

The fear of people’s perceptions is a noose around my neck. It wants to convince me—this idol of pride—that I should fear what people think of me more than anything else. This fear keeps me in bondage—preventing me from living like my Father’s child, unafraid to take risks, unafraid to try new things, unafraid to fail.

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So, with my new list of things I am afraid of—the things I am afraid to do because I don’t want people to see me fail—I have begun taking little risks—doing the things on the list, one by one. Justin has taught me chess and now we play regularly on Sundays, riding our bikes to a beer garden and sitting underneath leafy branches of trees. I am joining my oldest son this fall in learning German. (After years of Spanish, the true test will be, I know, in trying to speak it and not just read and write.) A friend of mine says we are going golfing (which I am trying to not freak out about). I have started sharing my heart more off-the-cuff, unscripted and vulnerable with strangers. (You can find videos of me doing that recently here and here.) And I hope to keep taking action on that list, with confidence and hope. Not because I am—or will be—good at the things. Not because they are things to achieve.

Rather, the list is an act of rebellion, a step towards healing and truth. It is what Justin, my husband, loves to call a “bold move.” I don’t want to live being afraid of failing anymore. I don’t want the fear of messing up, getting things right—and people’s perceptions—continue to have power over me.

Life should be rich and wonderful (and scary in the best way) and fun.

(Sharing this story with you might be on the list too.)

What role does fear play in your life? What is your heart telling you about it—and how to respond? I’d love to hear about it and pray for you!

With love,

Jennifer

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com


Turning Bad Memories Upside-Down

We can be awfully hard on ourselves sometimes. We may not even realize our struggle to accept God's grace.

We can look on back at that girl of our past and feel so sad for her. Or angry. Is that me? Did that really happen? Did I really make that choice? Listening for God's words in our hearts can sometimes feel just so hard.

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It can be overwhelming to experience, even in little tastes, just how much God loves us. We hear about Him never leaving us, how He walks with us during the most difficult experiences of our lives (Psalm 147:3, Psalm 34:18, Psalm 23). He has been with us in our mess. And He loves us more than we can understand.

Yet, when we see ourselves as more broken than loved, more of a mess-up than a daughter of beauty whom He adores, we can struggle to believe we are going to be okay.

But we need to let Him help us to try.

You know those moments—the ones we wish we never had, the ones we work so hard to forget. God wants to uncover these moments for us. He wants to pull them up from the darkness and bring them into His light. Those are the moments He wants—those most horrible memories that have broken our hearts—to heal.

And when we let Him show us what He sees in those moments, when we give Him the pen and let Him rewrite our past, we experience more of His love for us. We see the miracle—our whole story redeemed.

We think we know the truth of ourselves. But we don't know this truth; we don't know how to view our lives with clear eyes; we don't know how to be with God in the unique way He has made us to experience Him, unless we let go of all the things we think we know about ourselves and let God rewrite our history.

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We need to see our past and our present through God's eyes. That is the only way we can experience glimmers of His joy for us and our future. His story of our lives is the one we need to believe, especially when the past we have been believing in for so long is likely not the full truth.

Our views of ourselves are skewed and inaccurate; they are not the full picture of truth—not unless we see where Jesus is in the memories of our lives.

No, you weren't alone when she died.

No, you weren't abandoned when he left.

No, you are not weak and incapable of change.

No, you are not unloved, ugly, unintelligent, unremarkable.

And there are so many untrue things we continue to believe about ourselves and our past and our present that affect how we receive God's love and experience Him right now. So many things that are far from true.

We can't trust ourselves to look at our mistakes and our regrets by ourselves. We need God to translate our lives for us. We need His truth to rewrite the false ways we interpret our views of our selves and our past.

Our views of ourselves are skewed and inaccurate; they are not the full picture of truth—not unless we see where Jesus is in the bad memories of our lives.

It's not a fun thing to ask God to show us a memory . . . and the person we see, in the memory, is the person we most want to forget. I get it.

We hate the choices we made. We regret those words we said. We wish he didn't do that thing to us. We wish our yesterday was different, that we were better at making decisions and trusting the heart of God.

And then there is the uncomfortable part when we struggle to keep listening for the truth because we resist believing something so good: Can I be so loved, in the pain, in the sadness, in the moments when I feel I just can't go on?

Even though it feels like we just can't do it—asking God to show us the worst memories of our past—we have to.

We have to invite God's love into all situations in our lives, including our worst memories.

Our hearts are desperate for God's complete healing. We need Him to come in, repair our broken places, show us what He sees, bring light to memories that were otherwise completely dark.

God's love overwhelms all dark.

So let us keep listening, keep wrestling out words He shows us of our past. Let us see the moments, the pictures, the glimpses of His love in the moments of struggle and pain. Let us search for words to write them down so we will see them . . . and we will see her--whom He sees—too.

For she is beautiful.

God knows it. He wants us to know it—and live like we believe it, too.

Have you asked God into your memories? Have you asked Him to bring His light to illumine the dark?

Or, will you write a poem on memory, just a few words even? Don’t overthink it. Just let your heart whisper to you what it thinks. And then do your very best, for just a few minutes, to write it down.

I’d love to hear what your experience is like as you listen and trust your heart. Here you can find my poem, “Little Boy | A Glimpse.”

Love,

Jennifer

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com