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

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.

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

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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.