While Away

Wordy Wednesday

If you thought I had abandoned all Jenn stories completely the last few months, you obviously haven’t yet “liked” the That’s a Jenn Story Facebook page. Some of you are cleverly in the know already, but in the event you haven’t been to that page yet, and just so that you don’t feel you missed out on too much (because that would indeed be a shame!), I shall here post the highlights.

Actually, I’ve been sort of quiet there recently, too, to be honest. But it’s still much easier to write a sentence or two than set up a whole blog post, and Jenn stories do keep happening.

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 7.31.12 PM


Over the winter I tried my hand at creating some memes.

Some were parodies of memes you might recognise . . . kind of . . .

The Most Important Woman in the World

The Most Important Woman in the World

I also made some original Oscars.





They’re always about food. All two of them. Somehow neither one has gone viral yet.

My Paul and I have also started this game we call #Overheard, where we pretend we’re going to post something that we further pretend we overheard, but which really one or the other of us says that sounds bizarre, and even more bizarre totally out of context.

"Mi driftwood es su driftwood." #overheard

“Mi driftwood es su driftwood.” #overheard

We keep waiting for someone to chime in with their own, or to figure out that we haven’t actually #overheard these things, but . . . now you know.

I’ve been thinking and writing and dreaming an awful lot about C.S. Lewis lately, on account of a class I was taking.

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 7.50.26 PM


There has also been a strange new foray into fitness, and some beginnings of a new kind of Bible study. But those are other stories for another time. In the meantime, I’d be delighted for you to jump on over there and see what else has been happening. You are very welcome both here and there. Because mi Jenn story es su Jenn story. Or something like that.




Guided Learning

Theology Thursday

One of the best things about The Seminary is their “head, heart and hands” model. The idea is that, particularly in theological education probably, it’s no good simply to fill the head with knowledge, it’s less than effective if all you do is focus on the inner spiritual world, and it’s even an empty exercise simply to train in practical good works which aren’t grounded in anything. The recognition is that each one of these components is vital to the others, in a life of living faith, and so the professors intentionally build things into each course to help foster growth intellectually, spiritually and practically.

However, in certain classes, we the students are also called on to incorporate each of these elements in our learning, and so each have two mentors with whom we meet on a frequent and regular basis (mine are awesome) and we draw up a plan for a “Guided Learning Experience” (GLE) on which we will work throughout the course. I am one of these complicated people who hates to be told what to do, but also needs some kind of structure in order to function effectively, and so this construct fits me just perfectly. I appreciate accountability–if I’m the one who gets to discern for what I get to be accountable. Otherwise I get kind of defensive. Maybe one of these days I should do a Guided Learning Experience regarding defensiveness . . .

Maybe this isn't that new of a concept . . .

Maybe this isn’t that new of a concept . . .

The basic process of the GLE goes like this:

  1. You draw up your own plan for your Experience, which includes the Learning Need you have discerned for yourself, a Learning Objective, and some Learning Activities in which to engage so that ideally your reach the Objective. The activities must represent each of five categories: Scriptural, Cognitive, Experiential, Interactive, and Integrative.
  2. You show your write-up to your mentors and they approve it or not. Once it’s approved, you turn it in to the professor.
  3. You work through the activities that you have set for yourself, checking in with your mentors at mutually agreed-upon points.
  4. At the end of the term, you write up a report on what you did and what you learned, get your mentors’ feedback on whether they think the Objective was accomplished, and turn it in.

If you’re someone who likes to be intentional about your faith, as I do, and you sometimes  feel like there’s an aspect of your life God is poking at because He wants to help you work through it or something, this GLE thing is a really helpful way to focus on that thing. I feel like I’m probably going to keep doing these even after I graduate, if I can keep on finding people to mentor me. I also feel like I would like to help mentor others in this same process. In fact, I’m really starting to think I want to learn more about becoming a Christian “spiritual director,” and I feel like the GLE would be a great tool in the arsenal of spiritual direction.

But anyway, for now I just wanted to tell you about it–because I like them, and because classes start up again next week and once again I will lack time to blog. So I wanted to explain that next week I will post my most recent GLE plan, and the week after that, I will post the report I wrote up at the end of it. And in the weeks following, I will post some mini-papers I wrote for my Old Testament survey class last term. That way, at least there will be something to read around here on Thursdays. It’s just most likely all to be very theological . . . Here’s hoping that’s in the best sense of the term.

2013 in review

Thanks, The Readership, for your part in making these stats what they are. Happy 2014, one and all!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Wordy Wednesday–”Under the Influence” Series, Part 3

My mother has some cool cousins. I mean, they’re her cousins, so it’s not like I myself am particularly close to any of them, but the one I’m probably closest to is Hali, with whom I went to the Newport Folk Festival in 2011, and who has invited my Paul and me to a “Moon Dance” in mid-August. We don’t really know what that means, but we’re going to be sure to find out. When I was a kid I thought she was intimidatingly beautiful. Now she just makes me feel happily like I’m not so far from being an abridged hippie after all. Guilty by association or something.

Hali is the one on the far right. Yes, that's Emmylou Harris next to her.

Hali is the one on the far right. Yes, that’s Emmylou Harris next to her. You should probably click on this picture to read that story.

My mom gets along with all her cousins, but the one she’s probably closest to is Ann. Cousin Ann and I share a birthday, so we already have something in common, too. As a child, during our very rare Extended-Family reunions, I would always try to play with Ann’s daughters, both of whom were slightly younger but also prettier and less socially awkward than I was. Maybe. Maybe we were all socially awkward, because I definitely remember wanting to be friends with them, and having less than zero ideas what to talk to them about–but I’m not sure they were any better at making conversation. I like to think we would all do better now–although I’m probably no less socially awkward–but unfortunately I haven’t seen either of them in years.

Their family had a permanent impact on me, however, because it was Cousin Ann or maybe her mother, Auntie Eva, who first recommended that I read the book A Wrinkle in Time. I remember overhearing this conversation but maybe not quite being a part of it, and, as with most books which had been recommended for my reading pleasure by older relatives, feeling somewhat resistant to it. (I always ended up loving those books, too, though, once I gave in to the pressure.) Probably the main motivator to check it out was that I had this sneaking suspicion that Cousin Ann’s daughters were not only prettier, but also smarter, than I was and that reading a book they had read might help me catch up, even if I couldn’t get ahead.

This cover didn't exactly make me want to rush out there and . . . borrow it from the library.

This cover didn’t exactly make me want to rush out there and . . . borrow it from the library.

I have read this book as an adult and wondered what it was that captivated me about it as a tween, and I’ve decided it wasn’t the writing, but the fact is, after I broke down and read it for the first time, I really was captivated. I remember being fully aware that it was science fiction, but also aware that there was enough science in it to make the fiction believable and thinking it was kind of astonishing and inspiring that a writer could know so much about science and hoping I could someday write that believably about something I didn’t, at the time, know that much about.

I went on to read many more books by Madeleine L’Engle–not all or even most of them, but both her fiction and nonfiction, and both her books for children and for adults. Here is what I like about her books besides the Extraneous Knowledge thing:

1. She wrote fiction and nonfiction.

2. She wrote for children and adults.

3. Her characters overlap in her novels. She wrote novels in series (A Wrinkle in Time was the first in a trilogy, until in the 90’s she wrote a book about the twin siblings who didn’t get much air time in the trilogy–and I’m still not sure if that was supposed to be part of the series, or a stand-alone), but then you’d be reading a book in another series and suddenly a side character from the last series you read would be a main character in that series, and even though crazy sci-fi/supernatural/paranormal stuff might happen in the story (and then again it might not), it would remind me that life is like that. Everyone’s a main character in their own story, even if they seem like a side character in someone else’s. I have been asked in years past to write a sequel to Trees in the Pavement, and I just can’t because although the ending is somewhat open, I feel like it’s a self-contained story from which an add-on would just detract. However, that’s not to say I haven’t considered utilising Zari’s ex-best-friend as a character in a novel–maybe in a novel for adults, in which the ex-best-friend (and Zari, for that matter) is an adult, too.

4. Certain characters had more sci-fi things happen to them and other characters were in more “realistic” stories, but L’Engle didn’t let that prevent the overlap, even if it was slight. I’m also not positive about this, but I do think that some of the characters in her children’s books ended up sneaking into some of her adult novels as well. I am not sure it’s strictly true to say she used magical realism in her stories, but there was realism, and there was “magic,” and I liked that combo. Lately I have got a few story ideas up my sleeve along the same lines. I’ve tried to write fantasy like Lewis and Tolkein before, and I just can’t do it, but I think I could take the L’Engle approach pretty successfully.

I never had a correspondence with Madeleine L’Engle like I had with Lloyd Alexander, but I did meet her once when she came to my college with a number of other authors (notably Chaim Potok and Frederick Buechner). I wanted an autograph, but all of my copies of her books were back home in New England, and I was in Chicagoland. What I did have was a blank book which I used to have my friends sign after choir tours and mission trips and things. I opened it up to an empty page and mumbled apologetically, “This is a little weird, but . . . can you sign it anyway?”

She did.

Sometimes I wonder if this inscription foreshadowed the book I'd be trying to publish now.

Sometimes I wonder if this inscription was a foreshadowing of the book I’d be trying to publish now.


Wordy Wednesday – An Interruption

This week I am at a conference in the middle of the country with a bunch of teenagers, and I can’t tell you how it’s going, because I’m actually writing this post the day before I leave. (It’s the closest I can get to time traveling, I guess.)

Because of this, I’m not going to go all longwinded introducing you to another one of my literary influences today. I’m just going to remind you of the books I’m selling out of the back of my car. 

These books. Right here. I know, you just saw them last week, but like I said, I'm reminding you.

These books right here. I know, you just saw them last week, but like I said, I’m reminding you.

I am also selling them out of this blog, at the Jenn Store. I have, furthermore, added a note to the Jenn Store, underneath the description of the story in Trees in the Pavement, to the effect that if you wish to be able to purchase this book in digital form, you should leave a comment there–kind of like signing a petition. I have no idea if this will really encourage the publishers to consider offering the book in that format, but it couldn’t hurt, and the Editor did say to let her know if there was significant interest. Is there?

Alternately, you could just buy one of these hard copy versions, because not only can I sign it for you, but also almost all the details in the author bio on the back are no longer true, and so maybe it will become a collectors’ item in a few years. Isn’t that what makes things collectors’ items?

So many questions. Like–how do trees grow out of pavement?

The pavement, out of which grew the trees.

The pavement, out of which grew the trees.

In Spite of Not Believing in Reincarnation . . .

Wordy Wednesday
I might be able to squeeze me in somewhere around Jane Austen or Shakespeare. Otherwise, I don't really fit into this map . . .

Apart from Austen and Shakespeare, I probably would have put different people in this map. But that’s just me, I guess . . .

When biographers write about writers and artists and musicians, they often–directly or indirectly–mention the influences that other writers and artists and musicians had on their subject. I always think these sorts of connexions are interesting–more interesting than modern-day networking (although I love my The Readership–believe me, I do–and all those of you who poke at me and prod me and remind me that, if I’m writing into a void, it’s not the kind of void that I thought void meant), because these are connexions that can span time and space and even life and death. Sometimes these Influences are conscious and sometimes they’re not, and that’s interesting, too.

I feel like I’m pretty aware of most of my Influences, and I may take this lull-before-finding-out-if-that-solitary-and-kind-literary-agent-actually-wants-to-flog-my-book to talk about some of them, but today I’m going to talk about the one that I’ve only recently become aware is an Influence. Actually, I’m not sure that’s even the word. I’ve been aware of her for ages, and I’ve read and enjoyed some of her writing, but it might be more accurate to say that, rather than an Influence on me, I am an echo of her. There are some distinct differences between us, but the similarities are legitimately bizarre.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Dorothy L. Sayers.

Dorothy L Sayers: Her Life and Soul, by Barbara Reynolds

If you REALLY want to know about her, you should just read this book.

One night, two seminary terms ago, we had a particularly rousing theological discussion in my Systematic Theology class and I suggested, only moderately facetiously, that we should all go out to a pub afterwards and continue our discussion over a beer. I was thinking in terms of the Inklings, and I was also considering I might be the only woman there (there are other–fantastic–women in my class, but for some reason the only one of them I could imagine hanging out with a bunch of men–and me–over beers to talk theology, lives about an hour away, and it was getting late), and suddenly it occurred to me that, although I wasn’t sure Dorothy Sayers ever actually hung out with the Inklings (she didn’t), I could, like her, be a token woman writer-theologian (who isn’t Rachel Held Evans), in the sense that . . . well, she was one, and she had male theologian friends, because there just aren’t that many  orthodox female theologians.

Then in the following term we had to research some spiritual “parents” in the faith, and without even knowing that I was beginning to mentally ally myself with this woman, our Centre director suggested I research her, so I did. In doing so, I found out that if I were able to bring myself to believe in reincarnation (which I’m not), I might be fairly confident as to who I had been in my immediately previous life. It’s not that there aren’t differences between me and this British woman of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There are some pretty significant ones. It’s just that the similarities are really unusual. Here are a few of both:

Similar: We were both pastor’s daughters.

Different: She was an only child. I have TheBro–although it is arguable that both TheBro and I have some “only child” characteristics, perhaps because of the space of years between us.

Similar: Sayers and I each used to tell ourselves stories to fall asleep as small children–sometimes aloud. We also both strongly identified with certain characters in books we read–into our teen years, if not beyond. Sometimes we would act them out. Sayers seems to have been much more overt and flambuoyant about this than I was.

Different: As a teen, Sayers was uncomfortable with the trappings of religion; that didn’t happen to me until later.

Similar: On the other hand, we were both inspired by story and myth and the idea that the Christ story fulfilled these.

Similar: We both had, perhaps, a tendency to overshare with our parents.

Different: Although she did some teaching, Sayers didn’t do the child-centric, world-traveling, job-hopping thing that I’ve done: she taught briefly, worked in advertising for almost a decade (awesome classic Guiness ads, anyone?) and then spent the rest of her working life actually making a living as a writer–initially through detective novels, which I don’t think I could or would ever write–although hers are quite enjoyable to read.

I used to like Guinness. I'll always like these ads.

I used to like Guinness. I’ll always like these ads.

Similar: We each endured a somewhat long-term, heartbreaking, passionate but “unconsummated”–due to our personal scruples (somewhat different ones, but both related to being Christians)–relationship with complicated men who did not share our faith or, necessarily, values.

Different: Sayers rebounded by letting some other dude knock her up. I rebounded in a fortunately very short-lived encounter with a sociopath.

Similar: We each subsequently met intelligent, word-conscious men whom we each married after a surprisingly brief courtship–possibly to the perplexity, though not opposition, of our parents.

Different: I intend, by the grace of God, for my marriage to end up more happily than Sayers’ did–and I think this is possible both by that grace and because of the fact that my Paul would be delighted, rather than jealous, were I to become a self-sustaining writer. Also? So far things here on the Pond just keep getting more awesome. Please God, and let it so continue.

Similar: At some point, Sayers got the theology bug. She was completely unabashed about this, and although it worked its way into some of her earlier writings, she consciously wrote about theology and through theology when she was older. “The dogma of the Incarnation,” she said, “is the most dramatic thing about Christianity, and indeed, the most dramatic thing that ever entered into the mind of man; but if you tell people so, they stare at you in bewilderment . . . “*

Are you staring at me in bewilderment yet? Because seriously, The Readership. This is what I want to do. I want to keep writing words about God, through essay and article and memoir, certainly, but especially through story. I knew CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein did it. But it’s kind of simultaneously comforting and inspiring to know that there was at least one woman out there already who knew how to do this, too.

* Sayers, Dorothy L., as quoted in Barbara Reynolds, Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997.

Playing Catch-Up

Saturday Snippets

So I won’t win any awards for painting the entire downstairs of my house in a week, because I didn’t, but I did win some blog awards in the past, oh, five months or so. Every time I win one I tell the awarder that I will accept it eventually, which only seems fair since they had the goodness to think this blog was worth recognition, but the time, evidently, was not right until now. One caveat, however: because the requirements for accepting most of these awards stipulate that I tell you seven secrets about myself, I am just going to tell one set of seven for the whole lot. I mean really. I don’t want to run out of blog-fodder in one post, now do I?

I really hope I haven’t told you any of these before. What happens if I run out of Jenn stories??

Seven Random Things About Me

1. My brother and I are the first two grandchildren on both sides of our family. Then, when I was 8 years old, two different aunt/uncle sets, one on my mother’s side and one on my father’s, had daughters a few days apart. Both of these women are fantastic people. One of them was just visiting my Paul and me. More about that this week, probably.

2. I enjoyed my first ever pedicure three years ago. (I really need another one right now, but I also need money to get it.)

3. I went to India for five weeks in 1993. (I feel like everybody knows this, but I also have a feeling that’s not actually true.) I would love to go back someday.

4. Although there are places I’d be interested in visiting or revisiting, if I ever had a bucket list, I’ve already done everything on it.

5. The first youth group I ever led was in London, England. It was pretty small, just like the one I lead now. That one met in the home of one of the kids, and we would always watch The Simpsons together afterwards. I’m not sure if that’s “kosher” for Christian youth groups, but it was rather a bonding experience.

6. When I was a little kid in Honduras, I had successive pet rabbits, respectively named Blackie, Greyie (Try saying that out loud. It isn’t easy.), and Snowy. Guess what colours they were?

7. When I was in elementary school I thought I wanted to be a zookeeper when I grew up.

The Awards

I read a lot of blogs, so probably I could nominate 15 for each of these, but you’d all stop reading after the first eight anyway, so I’m only doing seven a piece, okay? Sevens, all around.

Courtesty of Contemplating Love (click this badge to visit her blog)

Courtesty of Contemplating Love (Click this badge to visit her blog. Same concept applies to the badges/blogs which follow.)

This one came at me back in February . . . they don’t expire, do they? My nominees for this award of versatility are the following:

Raising Five Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane – You’ve gotta be versatile in every way for that, I think. I don’t know this woman, but I have a friend from high school with a similar situation and I have so much respect . . .

Anyone 4 Curry & Other Things – I’m always for curry . . . and other things . . . and this woman’s blog is warm and about food, clothes and travel mostly, all of which delight me.

Jill London – I feel like if we knew each other in real life, we would totally hang out.

Life and Photos by Andy – Interesting life, great photos.

hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley – This dude is one of those who manages to strike the balance between funny and serious, and to talk about things that matter, and sometimes things that maybe don’t, so much, but are just recognisable human experience.

Seasonsgirl – This woman’s blog is sweet and homey and even though my Paul and I don’t have  a farm, I think we have similar aspirations to what this blogger and her husband are doing in their corner of the world.

The Nomadic Soliloquist – I have some affinities for nomadic soliloquising, although I haven’t had to do much of that lately.


Then, this month, I got nominated for the same award again–but with a different graphic:

Courtesy of Lights of Clarity

Courtesy of Lights of Clarity

So here are some more versatile bloggers:

Wibble – We were gonna co-blog elsewhere together, and I flaked out on the project, but this guy has interesting things to think and say at this blog, too. He might think awards like these are pure nonsense, but . . . he still needs to be awarded something, so there.

Writings of a Mrs – Not gonna lie–sometimes I feel a little envious of this woman’s following when I’ve been blogging so much longer, but her following is surely deserved. She’s consistent and encouraging. Plus, her name is Jennifer . . .

The Blurred Line – Victoria and I have recently decided that we were probably separated at birth and then one of us was plunked in the US (via Honduras and a few other places) and the other in South Africa. Because that’s how these things happen. There’s a novel in there somewhere . . .

Rarasaur – She’s basically a blogging celebrity already, but is she versatile? Oh yes she is!

The Seeker’s Dungeon – I am not much of a poet, and I don’t regularly imbibe poetry, either, but this guy’s verse blows my mind.

Live2EatEat2Live – The Mouse is a sweet writer who blogs about what my Paul describes as “food, my favourite!”

The World’s Top Ten of Anything and Everything! – I don’t know where he gets this stuff, but sometimes it’s a little awe-inspiring, almost . . .

In the middle of these two (yet one) awards, the lovely Victoria nominated me for two other awards, as follows:

Courtesy of the Blurred Line

Courtesy of the Blurred Line

There are a lot of you who make great The Readership team members, but a couple of you are extraordinary. For example Victoria herself, but I always feel weird about nominating back the same award, so here are some other people:

How the Cookie Crumbles – Her blog is supposedly about old age, so should I be worried that I can identify with so much of it?

Ben’s Bitter Blog – Ben once contributed to what was probably the longest (and maybe eventually the most inane) comment thread on this blog ever. I was kind of bitter when I realised his blog wasn’t about beer, but it is actually really funny, so I let him off the hook. I hope he won’t be too bitter about this award, since it doesn’t involve money.

Alzheimer’s Trail – My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s for many years before passing (therefore my grandmother suffered from his Alzheimer’s too). Sheila Marie writes poignantly about caring for her mother who has this same disease . . . and she (Sheila) still has time to read other people’s blogs and comment on them. Respect.

Rajiv Writes – I suspect our points of view, which have some overlap, but which, so far, are not from the same place, intrigue each other. Rajiv is great about asking questions and engaging feedback on his own writing.

Pish’s Blog of LovelinessLovely is the right word. Probably, considering I’m trying to nominate only people I haven’t nominated for other awards before, Pish deserves to be at the top of this list. Her blog is a sweet read to begin with, and then her comments and interactions on this blog are also heartfelt and heartwarming and I feel like I have a sister I’ve never met before.

Catholic Lite – Okay–I haven’t seen her around too much lately, because she’s got a lot going on. This young woman is a brave person, trying to find her way in Christ, in spite of opposition from those who want her to find Him only in their way. She shares her heart, in blog and comment, and I’m happy to have “met” her.

don of all trades – Dude is hilarious, whether writing on his own blog or someone else’s.

Also courtesy of the Blurred Line

Also courtesy of the Blurred Line

I don’t know, but I think this award might make me the happiest of all, partly because I’ve never seen it before, and partly because I like the idea that I’ve made at least one person’s blog-reading experience that much more memorable/enjoyable. There are so many blogs I could nominate for any one of these awards, really, but here are seven of the ones who just plain delight me (although the reasons for the delight would be as diverse as the blogs).

In Vegetables We Trust – What? YUM.

Things I Want to Tell My Mother – Similar to Alzheimer’s Trail, but remarkable in its own way.

helenvalentina – More poems. More amazing.

The River Walk – I had a small epiphany reading this blog.

The Forester Artist and The Backdoor Artist – Okay, so that’s two, but they’re husband and wife, which makes me happy. Plus, their respective stories about how they met are great.

A Mélange of Contradictory Tendencies – Two bloggers, one blog. Good stuff.

Lights of Clarity – She could just as easily have won the award before this, but this one’s good, too.

Thanks and congratulations, one and all!


God’s Family Album: A Script

Wordy Wednesday

This Sunday is Christian Education Sunday at Now Church and the Sunday school children are doing a musical. I didn’t write the script. But last year I did! Here it is (I can’t find my photos of it, but that’s just as well, as probably none of these kids’ parents would want their children’s faces on my blog . . . ):

God’s Family Album

(Script by Miss Jenn, Songs chosen and directed by Miss Fran and Mr Patrice)

 [Mark and Lily, in their pajamas, play on the floor with Legos® or something, center stage. A mild tussle seems to be occurring.]

Mom [offstage]: Kids! Time for bed!

Mark and Lily: Awww! Mom . . . !

Mom [comes in stage left, shooing at them with her hands]: Come on! Up, up up! Put away those things and get in bed—did you brush your teeth?

Mark and Lily [truculently throwing toys into a bag or bin] Yes.

Mom: How ‘bout you guys finish tidying up, and I’ll see if I can find your father to tell you a bedtime story before you go to sleep. Deal?

Mark and Lily [exchange knowing glances and a nod before looking back at their mother] Deal. [They finish throwing the toys into the box and run over to the chair in the corner.]

Mom [exiting stage right]: Hey, hon!

Dad [enters stage right, calling out with a fake Irish accent] All right, my Mark and my Lily! I hear it’s a bedtime story you’ll be wanting!

Lily [in a stage whisper]: Oooh—he’s talking fake-Irish again.

Mark: He always tells more stories when he starts off fake-Irish.

Lily: I’ll bet we can get him to let us stay up all night!

Mark and Lily [to each other, still stage-whispered]: YES!

Dad [strides over to the chair and sits in it. Mark and Lily sit on cushions or blankets on the floor. Now speaking with a “normal” accent.]: How about tonight I tell you a nice story about Abraham and Sarah?

Mark and Lily: What?

Dad: Abraham and Sarah.

Lily: But Dad . . . those are Bible stories.

Mark: Yeah. They’re . . . boring.

Dad [in mock horror]: Boring? Did you say . . . boring?

[Mark and Lily giggle.]

Dad: I can see I’m going to have to do something about this situation. How could your mother and I be allowing you to grow up thinking the Bible is boring? The Bible is amazing, fantastic, fascinating, with all kinds of stories of all kinds of people—kings and queens and orphans and warriors and people stabbing each other in the head with tent-pegs . . .

Lily: Ewwww!                                    Mark [simultaneously]: Cool!

Dad: It’s a wonderful book, and when we belong to God’s family through Jesus, we find out that all these amazing stories—are stories of our family members, too!

[Two singing girls take center stage.]

Song [2 girls]: “Wonderful Book of God’s People”

Mark [after the song is over, indicating the girls]: Uh . . . who are they?

Lily: And why are they singing?

Dad: I’m not . . . sure. But I do know life gets a little different when you start paying attention to God’s stories. I guess it’s because God begins to put us into them. Let’s get back to Abraham and Sarah. Remember I was going to tell you about them? They started listening to God and ended up in a completely different place from where they started.

[Children’s choir stands and joins 2 girls, center stage.]

Song [Children’s choir]: “Abraham and Sarah”

Lily [with questionable sincerity]: That was a good story, Dad. I like Bible stories. Can you tell us another one?

Dad: Sure I can, honey. I might as well tell you about Abraham and Sarah’s grandsons, right? They were twins—Jacob and Esau. They didn’t get along very well.  Jacob tricked his brother and had to run for his life.

Mark: Oh yeah—I remember that from Sunday school. Jacob laid his head on a rock pillow in the middle of nowhere and then he had this dream about a ladder reaching up to God.

[Children’s choir returns to center stage.]

Song [Children’s choir]: “Jacob’s Ladder”

[Children’s choir sits back down.]

Dad: That’s right, Mark. Or what about Moses? He . . .

Mom [enters stage right]: What in the world is going on in here? Kids, you should be in bed. As for you, [indicates Dad]—I can’t believe you’re encouraging this.

Lily: But Mom . . . Dad’s telling us stories about our family.

Mom [to Dadhands on hips]: Your mother or mine?

Mark: No, Mom—he’s telling us Bible stories. He said those people are our family, too.

Lily: He was going to tell us about Moses next.

Mom: Moses, huh? All right, go on. What about him?

Dad: Well, I was going to tell them how Moses was kind of a shy guy—he didn’t like public speaking.  But God had other plans for him than hiding out with sheep for the rest of his life. He told him to go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh—

Mark, Lily and Dad [loudly]: LET MY PEOPLE GO!

Song [Adult Choir]: “Go Down, Moses”

Mom [sighing happily]: I like that song . . . I mean story.

Lily: Will you tell us one? Do you know any?

Mom [indignantly]: Do I know any?! I should hope so! How about . . . how about Elijah? He was a prophet—that’s someone that God gives messages to for the rest of the people. The people in Elijah’s day stopped believing in the real God, so he did a kind of God experiment. He might’ve been the one person in all time who proved God existed . . . but he had hard times, too, and he had to listen carefully for God’s still small voice.

[Children’s choir, center stage.]

Song [Children’s Choir]: “Elijah Rock”/”Rocka My Soul”

[Children’s choir REMAINS center stage through the end of the musical.]

Mom: Okay, but now, really, I think it’s time for you guys to go to bed. [Aside to audience] I was really kind of hoping to relax and watch some old episodes of Downton Abbey before the new season starts . . .

Mark: But Mom—neither of you have told us about Jesus yet.

[Dad and Mom exchange glances.]

Dad: He is kind of the point.

Song [Children’s choir]: “Go Tell It On the Mountain”

Dad: “God sent us salvation,” because Jesus didn’t just stay a baby—He grew up, and lived and died and came back to life again. We know about Him because of the friends he made who wrote down things he said and did.

Song [Children’s choir]: “There Were Twelve Disciples”

Mark: But what did Jesus do?

Mom: He did so many amazing things. He really got along with kids, too. One time a boy shared his lunch with Jesus and Jesus made it enough to feed more than five thousand people!

Song [Children’s choir]: “Two Little Fishes”

Lily: Stories about Jesus are my favourites. He seems so real.

Dad: He is real—and He’s alive. Even though we can’t see Him, we can get to know Him when we read the Bible and talk to Him.

Mom: And the great thing is, with Him in our lives, we’re never alone. You guys will grow up one day and you won’t live with us anymore [aside to the audience]—all going as planned—[turns back to children] but Jesus will go with you everywhere. He wants to be our best friend.

Song [Children’s choir, nursery children]: “Jesus Loves Me”

Lily: But . . . but we can’t see Him. I know He’s my best friend and He loves me, but sometimes I forget because . . . well, he’s invisible.

Mark: Yeah—how can we know He’s really there?

Mom: You’re right—sometimes it is hard. But there are lots of ways to tell, really. One of the ways is when we’re able to treat each other like Jesus in our own family.

Dad: The thing is, when it all comes down to it, if we have Jesus’ love and forgiveness in our lives—if He’s our best friend—we’re all in His family—in God’s family: with Abraham and Sarah, and Moses, and Elijah . . . and people all over the world today, too.

Mark: It’s like you said at the beginning, huh? And you know what, Dad—maybe Bible stories are okay after all.

Lily [elbowing her brother in the ribs]: Family stories, you mean.

Song [Adult choir, children’s choir, nursery children, all actors]: “We Belong to the Family of God”

Chapters and Hinges

Memory Monday

So I’m taking this Spiritual Formation class and over the course of the term we’re supposed to be journaling our lives in order to come up with a “Life Map” or a “Spiritual Autobiography.” We start by identifying “hinges” in our lives: events where life took a turn for the different. Next we journal about the period of time between each of the hinges, trying to discern what was really going on underneath everything that was going on then–who was important in our lives at that time, what our frame of mind and frame of reference was, “where” God was in the events of the period. It’s proving to be pretty interesting . . . and time consuming.

Below please find, for your consideration, my list of hinges and some life “chapter” titles under which the hinges are incorporated. In upcoming weeks, I’ll divulge some of the content of the chapters, although anticipate vaguer details in the more recent chapters. I still know some of the people in them, and have no interest in airing other people’s dirty laundry. Or my own, for that matter!

See? Chapters, and hinges, too.

See? Chapters, and hinges, too.

Chapter One – In Which I Am Born and Almost Immediately Go International

Hinge Event One __Birth

Chapter Two – In Which I Am No Longer the Center of the Universe (not that I have even yet figured that out, really).

Hinge Event Two __Birth of TheBro

Hinge Event Three _Move to USA

Chapter Three – In Which There Are Growing Pains

Hinge Event Four __Period (Yeah, the girl kind) (Someone told me to be sure not to mention this in my class since I am the only woman in it–which made me realise that it was, indeed, a hinge event and that mentioning it and watching the awkward squirming might be kind of funny. I’m really not a very nice person . . . )

Hinge Event Five __High School Graduation

Chapter Four – In Which Faith and Friends Become My Own

Hinge Event Six __College Graduation

Hinge Event Seven _London

Chapter Five – In Which I Undergo a Third-Life Crisis

Hinge Event Eight __Back to USA

Hinge Event Nine __2008 (A lot, by which I mean a lot of stuff happened in 2008. Technically, a year isn’t supposed to be a hinge, but this one was.)

Chapter Six – In Which Third-Life Becomes Mid-Life and Two Lives Become One

Hinge Event Ten  __My Paul & Marriage

I wonder what chapters and hinges will come after this . . . You’re probably just wondering what all those chapters are about.

And how about you? What are your life hinges? Those moments that change everything–which was your favourite? Which was the most harrowing? Tell us a story . . .

A Break from the Break

Family Friday
shadow family


So there’s this little part of me that is enjoying my vacation from blogging and wonders if a retirement would be more in order–simply because people are still subscribing and I’m not even writing anything!

Then I realise I should stop being a crappy hostess and say, “Hey guys! Welcome to the Jenn stories! Have I got a story for you!”

And, I have. I have a story about experimenting with forsythia and the question regarding whether the flowers are actually edible or not. I have a story about my new, tumultuous relationship with our kayak, and one about this ridiculous workout you might have heard of, appropriately called Insanity, and lots of stories about a bunch of interesting Christians from Long Ago and Far Away about whom I’ve been learning.

On the other hand, I’m still having trouble keeping up with all my seminary-related projects, and if I were blogging I’d be completely incapable of the other stuff. So I’ll make you a deal. When classes are over for the term I’ll be back–on schedule and everything else. In the meantime, when I have a minute, I’ll post stuff I’ve written for class, or stuff I wrote Long Ago and Far Away, myself. At some point I’m going to take down the “Stories Evaluated by a Third Party” page and post those papers as individual posts, and create a new page for assorted blog awards, so maybe that will happen during this end-of-term crunch. Or maybe it won’t. But I will be back. I kind of already am.

I guess I don’t really know how that’s a “deal,” exactly. I mean, I don’t know what your end of it is . . . except maybe it’s that you’ll come back, too. The real reason for me to keep blogging, I guess, is that I kind of miss you guys . . .