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.

poetry of raw truth: mistakes and glory all in one

I resist talking to her. Although I am desperate to hear her voice. Or have her hear me. It is confusing, which way the conversation will go. 

I see her there–separate from me though part of me–and I edge in closer. I have been watching her from a distance, studying her posture, the way her hands hang at her sides, the jut of her hips. But it is her eyes I am afraid to read. For that would require closeness. Intimacy. Begging for permission. And her time. Her attention. Her voice. Oh, how I long to hear her voice.

But I have told you that already.

How would a conversation with her begin? Can I even speak the first words?

“Hello. You are unknown to me though I can’t keep my eyes off you. Do you mind? Do you mind my staring? Do you mind my curiosity? Can we speak, face to face? Will you share with me your heart?”

Would that be weird? Would she tolerate my questions, my attention? Would she exhale, earnest in her appreciation to be known, seen, heard?

I want to know her. Understand her. And she is a puzzle to me. Pieces of memory and imagination. Experiences lived and unlived. She has traveled long distances to get here, and I want to honor that sacrifice. A life of trial and beauty. A journey of mistakes and glory all in one.

She is me. And I am her. And we need to get to know each other. Starting from the middle, the beginning, both the songs of joy and the dirges of sorrow. There is much I can teach her. And much she will help me understand. Do I dare to begin? To speak? To listen? To ask her the toughest questions? To invite her to stare into the face of shame and speak truth–instead of lies–straight back?

I think it is worth finding out.

For this week’s Loop Poetry Project prompt, I invite you to explore an unedited, raw truth about yourself–something about you that you love and admire–or something about you that you struggle to accept or understand. 

Let me give you some background that explains why I think this is important.

One thing that is difficult to do as a writer is to write unselfconsciously–to write without caring whether or not you will be liked by the reader. (We all do this, right?) We want to sound smart, appear decent. We want to seem wise, put-together, kind. But if we care more about the presentation of ourselves than the sharing of what is true, two things are happening. First, we are dismissing the opportunity for intimacy with the reader. The voice of the poem is much less effective when it is filtered and untrue. But secondly, and most importantly, we are rejecting the invitation for our own deeper healing. Each poem, if true, is an entryway to the mysteries of the human heart–an invitation to delve deep and discover what God is saying.

Here is something to consider: Can you imagine beginning a poem with an admission of failure or error? Personal or professional. Minor or major. Not because you are trying to get better at self-condemnation. Certainly not. But because you don’t want to hide. Because you want to take off the grave clothes of shame and let God into the places of vulnerability that we so often want to ignore and hide. 

Can we let our poem, this week, be a declaration of glory in our weakness? Can we look for how we are beautiful even in our brokenness? Can we write from a place of honesty and self-revelation rather than from self-accusation regret, or blame? And remember, you don’t have to write your poem from the first-person point of view. Rather than saying “I was cruel to the girl in the mirror,” you could say “She was cruel . . . ” if that helps you not censor yourself and write from a place that is unfiltered and raw, beautiful and safe.

Here is mine:

If you need help getting started, here are some questions you can ask yourself that might help: 

  • What mistakes do you have trouble surrendering?
  • What worry makes it a struggle for you to sleep?
  • What did you forget to do this morning?
  • What secret makes you most insecure?
  • What is something about which you refuse to speak?

Use the first person, if you’d like–or have the speaker be someone outside yourself, an observer, someone else telling a story. Do whatever the poem requires. Listen to your heart. It will tell you the right words to say. 

Photograph by Abby Camp

And then, when you’ve written your poem, consider sharing it with us here, by pasting your poem as a comment to this post. Or, open up your heart to sharing it with your community on social media (on your personal Instagram feed and your personal Facebook page) and make sure to use the hashtag #looppoetryproject. Another place to share–where it will be kept private except for the members of the private Loop Poetry Project group members–is to the Loop Poetry Project Facebook page. (Click here to join!)

Much love to you, from this one true heart,

jennifer

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com


poetry to sing out your suffering and pain

I know they can hurt. And they can be hard to hold: these feelings of ours that overwhelm—a particular moment, a certain memory. We hold them in our hearts, our bodies. Yes, it can be hard to breathe. 

Even feelings of joy—moments where we inhabit freedom and hope—can be difficult to process. How do we live in joy? Walk in it? Feel it is not an imposter but a true home?

Pain and joy.  Suffering and hope. Each can be a tangle of both beauty and heartache that God can help us understand.

In the mornings when I write, the room dark except for a small light that illuminates my page, I try to honor the cry of my heart. What is it feeling? What does it see that I don’t? What does it want, so much, for me to understand? What, really, is it trying to say?

When you don’t know where to begin—how to begin writing what it is your heart is feeling, give yourself space.  Be kind to yourself. Sometimes, my writing time amounts to me sitting there, in the dark, with God. My eyes are sometimes open. Sometimes closed. When I struggle to get words out that feel true, I can get frustrated, impatient. Sometimes self-condemnation pushes its ugly way in. And this is when writing is not fun. And not productive. And not true. And I ask God to help me surrender all that is false to Him.

But, truly, in these moments where our hearts ache, either because of a past wound or a current situation of suffering, we can do two things: Ignore our emotions, do our best to bury them. Or ask God to help us see and understand—for the sake of His healing—our deepest pain. 

We know the toll, physically and mentally, of ignoring the pain of our hearts. Anxiety. Depression. Panic. Stress. Addiction. We hurt ourselves even more deeply when we ignore the initial pain we feel. So, let’s not do that. Addressing our emotions is going to take courage. It’s going to take perseverance, determination, hard work. But it’s going to be worth it. Let’s ask God to show us our deepest pain. He invites us now to address it, to feel it with Him, to trust Him with it, and enter in. 

Let’s not put off what God is offering: freedom, wholeness, and deep healing. Want to try this now?

Here is the Loop Poetry Project prompt for this week:

In a poem, consider expressing, with specificity and detail, a present or past suffering where God is inviting you to enter in for the sake of helping your heart heal. Write about a moment of pain or suffering you no longer want to ignore. An experience of suffering you want to reclaim, you want to feel, you want (even with tears and heartache) to sing.

What have you been avoiding? How have you been hiding? From what have you been running away?

What past or present suffering do you now want to engage your heart around, with courage and trust? How can your suffering be something about which you can sing? (A song of lament? A song of pain? A song of hope? A song of desperation? A song of joy?)

In this deep place of your heart, how do you need God to come? How do you hope God will take the broken pieces within you and glue them—glue you—together? 

In the place of this suffering, what and who are you inviting in?

This is so easy task. I know. 

But write. You can do this. For you don’t do it alone.

Pain and suffering that is ignored can be too much for our hearts to hold. To participate in the rescue mission God is already doing in our hearts, we must delve deep into experiences of pain we’ve pushed off for far too long. 

Writing poetry about our suffering and our pain helps us to see it. We are not ignoring it. We are not disowning ourselves (which is what we are doing when we ignore our pain). Rather, we are making our own emotional health and personal wholeness a priority. But, most importantly, we are saying no to self-pity—that insidious and debilitating disease of the heart that distracts us from pursuing the true healing and wholeness that God wants to bring.

Now, this poem—or poems—you write might bring about more questions than answers to your suffering and pain. This is why poetry is the beginning, always the beginning, of more and deeper engagement with our hearts. An opportunity to delve into the questions the writing brings up. 

Let poetry help you to see the truth God has always wanted you to see. Say yes to healing. Say yes to the more that He has. This is just one step with Him. You can trust Him to show you step two.

And if you feel that sharing your poems would be part of your healing process, please use the hashtag #looppoetryproject on social media. 

 

Much love to you, from this one true heart,

jennifer

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com


talk that heals: using poetry to have a conversation with your muse

Some writing comes from a place deep within you. And sometimes the words aren’t ones you are looking for. They struggle out upon the page in an undignified mess. A topsy-turvy jumble of emotion that is difficult to decipher.

And you aren’t sure yet if you want to tiptoe near.

But your heart is drawn to the words. Curious. A little nervous. Maybe scared. But captivated. Compelled to get close. 

So your heart walks around the words for a bit. Sizing them up. Deciding whether they are safe or dangerous. False or true. 

And if there is any truth in them, then, yes, the words are indeed dangerous. But sometimes this danger is exactly what we need. Because occasionally, no matter how precarious it feels to venture into the unknown of our emotions, what else can we do? We must grab the words by the shoulders, shake them a bit if we have to, and let them know who is boss. “Come on, now! That’s all you’ve got? I’m not going anywhere. I can handle anything. Bring it on!”

So, are you ready to dive into this week’s poetry prompt? Here is what you are invited to do: Consider what it would be like to engage with yourself–or a different version of yourself: either a version of yourself at a different age or yourself in the present (today, yesterday. a minute ago, an hour ago, last week). What emotions rise up within you when you imagine yourself conversing with you/her? 

  • Compassion? 
  • Frustration? 
  • Empathy? 
  • Pain? 
  • Joy? 
  • Gratitude? 
  • Self-deprecation/Condemnation? 
  • Anger? 
  • Confusion? 
  • Shame?

How do you represent yourself to yourself? Are you a young girl, or an older version of yourself? 

What is the most burning question you’d like to ask yourself? What do you least understand about your personality, your choices, your ways of viewing/inhabiting the world?

How can she–this version of you–be your muse? How can she inspire your writings, invite exploration and excavation and imagination?

What is it like to be in the same room with her? How does she make you feel about yourself now?

Imagine her as your companion. What is your relationship with her? Is she separate from you or integrated into your present self in a way that you can understand, recognize and maybe even explain?

Can you write a poem about her–or to her?

Things to consider: 

  • a particular memory that illustrates her personality, her values, her view of the world
  • bringing that idea of her, whether it is a memory from long ago or perception of her that is more recent, to this present moment and having a conversation with her
  • or tell a story: isolate a snapshot and bring it to life with sensory details (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) that make the reader easily participate in the scene with you.

Here is my go at it:

As I share in this video on Instagram, listen to your heart as you write. If you’d like, share here, on Instagram (use #looppoetryproject as your hashtag so I can find you) and/or in the Loop Poetry Project Facebook group. But don’t share if you feel like it will cause you to censor your heart.

The conversation you are about to have with yourself? It might be a tough one. Or it might not. One thing is for sure, the outcome is going to be beautiful. I hope I get to hear about it.

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.