Story Keepers

 

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There is something like magic that happens within, when you begin to tell your stories.

As words form and take shape from your heart and your mind to your throat and vocalized or extended through written words.

Sometimes it begins in a whisper

Maybe for a while it is held within the space between only you and God.

And then maybe it is a story you dare to share with someone close, someone that you hope will listen.

And then maybe it is shared in vulnerability in a broader sense.

…and sometimes that story develops into a ROAR!

Beauty happens when you tell your story. Whether that is in quiet trust or public display…beauty happens.

There is something tangible that can almost be held thick when a story is shared between one human being to another.

It is the connection, the vulnerability, the truth-telling.

It is the releasing of a piece of yourself to be received by another.

It is the combined comprehension and resonation of the human experience.

Your story is a freedom song getting it up and out of you, putting words to it, making a face for it…bringing color to it. It takes bravery to offer pieces of yourself to others.

 

I have a story.

You have a story.

We all do.

Stories worth telling.

Worth value.

Treasured scripts of life.

 

Your story can be told in words written.

In words spoken.

Your story can be told in pictures.

Or in music and sound.

Your story can be expressed in rhythm.

And in dance.

Your story can be told in all ways of expression…in the ways that only you know how to tell it.

The sharing of our stories does something within, but the most beautiful part, the magical and mysterious practice of story-telling, is that it does something within others too. It is the “Yes, I feel that also…” affirmations. It is the “I am not alone in this…” acknowledgement. It is the spurring on of dreams and visions. It is the grounding of togetherness and solidarity of personhood, sisterhood and brotherhood. It is the mind sparking and daring and collecting of thoughts and instigation of change, forward, upward movement with depth that keeps us close to our roots…because we’ve gone deep first. It is the feeding of one mind to another, one experience to another, the dispelling of us and them and the creating of WE. It is the keeping and documenting of the past and the foretelling of the future.

I began telling my stories to the first open ear that would listen. Really listen. And I kept seeping little parts of myself outwards to show-and-tell.

My way of telling is through written word. I have been a writer by calling, by gifting, by form of expression from the moment I began to spell.

I remember bringing a fictional story to life in kindergarten with the help of an older student. Everything about the story telling process. The creation of characters and storyline from my mind. I adored the formation of a story from the words put into sentences to the narrations that coincided. Stories both fiction and non-fiction have everything to do with life portrayed through experience and imagination.

Some of the first listeners of my stories as a child were my sisters and my mom. The short stories I would write. The magazines I made up: “Strictly For Kids Club”, and the comics I created.

There were also the sacred places where I shared my stories, like a verbal diary – out loud into the air. Beneath the canopy or upon the branches of my favorite trees; it was in those shelters that I began telling my stories to Jesus, to the trees with the audience of the insects. Simply talking, simply conversing. Feeling the warmth and welcome Spirit and deep love of Christ. Feeling the safety.

Later I began telling my story to others. I slowly found the courage to share parts of me. As I began to share my life, I began to see that my stories mattered.

I began to grow and become a person that realized that my voice counts for something.

By telling my stories I began to gain confidence.

By telling my stories I began to see myself in a new form.

As someone that often defaulted to guarding myself in relationships; careful to keep people at arm’s reach and no closer. The act of telling my stories outside of myself and my safe places, it gave me a sense of vulnerability, yes… but it also gave me a sense of freedom. To dig deeper into relationships and by sharing my stories more often than not it then opens the doors for others to share their stories with me.

You are the keeper of your stories. Your part in this human journey is valuable, worthy and beautiful. Maybe your stories are shared in small circles around the table. On couches or around fire pits. Maybe your stories are shared in books or articles. Or spoken through a microphone. Maybe your stories are shared while fishing or taking road trips. The practice of passing down our stories through the telling of what was and what is and what is to come, is the verbal practice that has been handed down through all tribes and nations from generation to generation. May we be sacred keepers of the stories that come our way. Listeners that value words given to us:

Listening ears are quick to listen, slow to get angry.

Quick to listen, slow to judge.

Quick to listen, slow to speak.

– Jenny Rose Foster

 

** The painting shared with this article is part of my story told in picture. Yet, another form of story-telling and story-keeping.  We are all in this together. May we see glimpses of this beauty.

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PROJECT DIGNITY

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Last Friday night I parked my car after circling the streets for at least 20 minutes to find a parking spot. Apparently, our city is growing! I had to walk about 7 blocks to get to the art show where my good friend was singing. Once a month in our downtown area arts district we have a “First Friday Art Walk”, for the community to walk from studio to studio meeting artists, looking at work, listening to music and eating fine foods. It is a fantastic event.

As I was walking down the street I noticed a woman shuffling behind a large brick beam next to a building. I sensed she didn’t want to be bothered, plus I was walking alone, so I crossed the street to walk on the opposite side from her.  As I passed her, out of curiosity, I looked over to see what she was doing and in the dim light I saw that she was stuffing toilet paper into her pants. My stomach dropped.  I quickly turned my head away from her direction and she quickly dodged to the other side of the beam. She wanted her privacy, yet in that moment, she had nothing but a building beam to shield her. It brought to my attention something I have overlooked, which is how difficult it is for women living on the streets to go without basic hygienic items for a woman’s monthly period.

Many women experiencing homelessness live without the basic necessities including feminine pads and tampons. The basic items that aid in a sense of cleanliness and dignity.  This woman didn’t even have a private space to care for herself, let alone appropriate products.

What I witnessed was on my mind and heart Monday morning, I deeply felt the impact of what I saw. Her humanity. Her sacred value… So I began to research local homeless resources in our area. I found “Council for the Homeless” and reached out to the donations coordinator. She confirmed that this is a “spot on” need for women in our community. Women living on the streets often lack the necessary sanitary items to protect their dignity from public embarrassment and for cleanliness.

This is where Project Dignity comes in. I decided to rally the community, those that I know and hopefully those that I don’t know as well! To spread the word and donate what you can to providing a stock room full of provisions for our women.

Because I believe that every woman deserves the very best, I have only selected organic pads and tampons to be purchased for them from the Target Charity Registry set up for Project Dignity: tgt.gifts/ProjectDignity

Not only does organic show that we value these women, but in their case sometimes these women may be in situations where organic products can help to eliminate toxicity problems.

Let’s rally, let’s come together, let’s provide items that support the dignity of women in Vancouver.

HOW TO DONATE: 

STEP 1: GO TO this charity register link: CLICK HERE

STEP 2: View (4) item options and choose what you want to purchase for this fundraiser.

STEP 3: Check out at cart:

  1. CLICK STANDARD SHIPPING OPTION
  2. CLICK PROJECT DIGNITY’S PREFERRED REGISTRY ADDRESS
  3. LASTLY, SIMPLY CHECK OUT. This fundraiser address is all set up. Please dismiss store pick-up options and don’t worry if the Target store displayed on your screen is not your local store. You don’t have to worry about picking up/delivering the products. You don’t have to go shopping. Just a few clicks and your items will be delivered to the right source.

STEP 4: While checking out please state who you are, for tax deductible reasons. Your purchase is fully tax deductible! You will receive a slip when this fundraiser is over!

STEP 5: EMAIL us at Stewartandrosereno@gmail.com so that we can forward your specific donation to Council for the Homeless, in order to get you a tax deductible slip.

THANK YOU! For partnering in the beautiful generosity offering of dignity for every woman!

Thank you,

Jenny Rose Foster

  • All donations are tax deductible. Please save your receipt and a donation slip will be provided to you by Council for the Homeless once the fundraiser is completed. http://www.councilforthehomeless.org/
  • Project Dignity will go until November 10th. At which point all products donated will be delivered to Council for the Homeless. This non profit organization operates the Housing Solutions Center, our community’s coordinated access point for homelessness services and housing assistance. Council for the Homeless is the first stop for people in need, having toiletry items on hand is extremely helpful.

BE STILL

 

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Today is my birthday. I am 35…Mid thirties! Wow, how does this all happen so quick. I am thankful for this big, full, messy, beautiful life and I am honored to have the opportunity to share my writing at SHE Loves Magazine today. Follow this LINK to read.

Much love,

– Jenny Rose Foster

I See the Spark of God in Your Eyes

I have started a morning practice with my kids this summer. A practice of sitting down with each child, just the two of us and taking time to meditate and greet our day with prayer.

So many mornings go by without a pause to simply soak into and embrace the gift of the day in which we get to live. So many mornings are too often the kind that feel rushed with a swift kick in the butt tumbling into the day. It’s not a healthy way to enter life, and I am working towards changing the rushed moments into a slow present space in time, when my attention is required to love my children and be loved by them, rather than rushing myself forwards.

I think that love is slow. We can love fast, but I think we can love much better slow. What do I mean? I mean that, love takes time —  ( I know, I am one of those people too, that if I hear a few words that I have heard in a song, then the song ends up rolling around in my head and usually I have to belt it out… “Love…takes time, to heal when you’re hurtin so much…” — Did you hear that song too or was that just me…..) Anyhow, Love takes time. It takes time to stop and hug one another. Have you ever heard of the 20 second hug? Yes, there is some major science behind that one! A truth in taking time. Even just to hug a little bit longer!

Love takes time to listen to someone.

Love takes time to talk to someone.

Love takes time to pray with someone.

Love takes time spent with someone.

Love takes undivided attention. (No cell phones, no media, no movies – staring at screens together, which is all well and good, is not considered quality time. We love a good movie in our family, but I never count it as undivided time together, it is more of a chill out decompressive relaxation that we all do together, when we are just too tired to give any more and want to zone out).

Also, love takes kindness.

Because, being kind is thoughtful, purposeful, and often pre-meditated.

I notice that when I start the day off rushed and want the kids to just get on with their kid things so that I can get on with my Jenny things, I am quicker to be irritated with them. Quicker to snap. Quicker to want my own space, because I am quick to think about myself and quick to get into the day without a moment of pause, of soaking in the fresh awakening of life, of meditative sweetness. And we all have those things that we want to do and accomplish each day, and it is so easy to just get up and eat and just start doing.

I have been there on the reciprocating end. I have felt the difference. I can tell when a moment is being rushed. I have been part of prayer with others and the prayer was constricted into a quick slap-it-up time frame, and people are looking at their watches and waiting for end cues.

Or when you are hanging out with a friend or a group of people and some of them are looking at their phones while you talk directly to them… Hmmmm. I can feel the difference. I get it, I have done it too…but most importantly, I don’t want to be that person, that watch glancer, that distant listener, that quick to move-on-er with my very own children. Them most of all. I just don’t want it.

Summer-time has its perks, I get the luxury of fairly easy going mornings, but I am looking at it as an opportunity to practice a slow beginning before the wild blur of school hits in the fall.

So my kids and I began to take a moment of sweet connection with one another each day, or nearly each day, or at least a couple times a week. It’s called a practice. We are perfectly imperfect and we are getting to it. I am getting to it.

Nevertheless, each time we do this, the practice becomes more of a beautiful habit. My conversation starter topics will change, we are just getting started, and as all things go, things change in the way we approach them, but for now it looks a little something like this:

My son and I will sit next to one another. Or my daughter and I. We will talk about God together. With questions like, “Do you have any questions about God?” or “What do you think about God…” or “Do you think about God lately and if you do what do you think about?”

And then we will go onto topics of “how are you’s” but much deeper than the simple reply of, “good”.

The questions I try to use are intentional with the hope to pull more out of my child then generic answers. I want my kids to feel comfortable to express how they are really feeling. “How are you feeling today?” or “Is there anything that you are concerned about?” “Is there anything you want to talk about?” “Do you have any questions about anything?”

And then we talk about our hopes for the day: “What are your plans for this day?” “What are you excited about doing today?” “Are you reading any good books? Tell me about it.”

And then I end our talk with a time of slow – thoughtful – prayer. A time when I first ask them about anything they want to pray about. Usually their answer is reflective upon praying for others in need. I love that about children. So we will go ahead and begin by praying for those people or the animal or the circumstance. Then we will move onto thoughtful words of prayer for one another. I will pray for my child and then my child will pray for me.

“I am so thankful for my son – He is so beautifully made. Every part of him is perfect. He is a joy in my life. I am thankful for who he is, for his sense of humor and his creative mind… I am thankful for his smile and his laughter.” And so on. Speaking truth words about them. All positive words.

“I am so thankful for my daughter God – She is a gem. Everything about her is perfect. I pray that she feels loved by you. I pray that she feels loved by me…most of all I pray that she feels love for herself, for exactly who she is. I am thankful for her kindness and thoughtfulness, her excitement and compassion and curiosity.” And so on.

Then they will pray for me. We give and receive. We talk and we listen. My hope is that it opens a space and a doorway in which my kids can practice being still. Saying kind things to those that they love and to speak life into others, and a time to be able to open up and talk.

Then we end it with something like this… I hold my sons face in my hands. Or if I am with my daughter I hold my daughters face and I look into her eyes and say: “I see the spark of God in your eyes…”

Or I look into my son’s eyes and say, “I see the spark of God in your eyes.” With his personality, his eyes smile back at me and he sincerely replies, “Thank you” and then says, “I see the spark in your eyes too…” He looks deep into my eyes with his rich brown eyed-gaze, contemplating the spark with depth and warmth.

My daughter’s reaction, when I first told her those words was to open her eyes really big and dramatically and say back to me, “You can see the spark!!?” And then inquires with her inquisitive mind, “What do you mean? How can you see God in my eyes?” And question after question, which I am in a mind frame of listening and talking, so I am devoted to her questions wholeheartedly… she then tells me that she sees my personality in my eyes and I tell her that I see her personality in her crazy eyes.

I love the differences between my two kids. Different personalities. Different reactions to the same scenario. A different language.

Namaste, is a word that means I see the divine spark within you. I remember learning what this word meant years back after reading a book by Shane Claiborne, as he was inspired by his time spent with Mother Teresa whilst volunteering in Calcutta, India where he discovered this word. It inspired me to end my prayer time with my children by speaking about the spark of God in their eyes. Namaste is such a relevant word. We are all created in the image of God. ALL OF US. Thus within our eyes, we see the spark of the divine. I personally think it is seriously one of the most beautiful concepts in this life-lived-world.

May the peace and love of God be with you in the spaces in which you live on this day.

Namaste,

– Jenny Rose Foster

 

 

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Teach Me

… She opened up and explained to me that as a black woman she has too often been described in her life as cool or brave or strong; she has more often experienced compliments that are masculinizing. She shared with me that her hair is like an object to people: different, trendy, or interesting. What she wants though as a woman, is to be embraced with adjectives such as beautiful, stunning, and pretty.

White people, she told me, always get those kinds of compliments. Black people … get strong.

In that moment held between the two of us, I leaned into her story and I empathized deeply with her words. It was something that in my privilege I had been completely naïve about. It took asking questions and listening, despite my pride.

And at that table, I looked at my friend and I apologized:

I am sorry. I am sorry that my words put you back in that same place that you have been rising up out of. I am sorry that my words belittled your beauty. I am sorry for my ignorance within my privilege. I am sorry for your pain. … 

[ I am overjoyed to guest write over at SheLovesMagazine today! READ THE REST HERE ]

– Jenny Rose Foster

RISEN INDEED

 

Risen Indeed

“He is Risen” were the first words my brother greeted me with when I saw him at church on Easter Sunday.

I had forgotten for a moment how to respond back, it had been so long since someone had said that phrase specifically to me. In the back of my mind I pictured the words “Risen Indeed”, it came from a faint memory from attending the Nazarene church as a child.

Then my brother reminded me of the code words shared by the original followers of the “The Way”. The first believers, who claimed Jesus Christ as Savior; risen from death — with the tomb left empty.

The People of the Way used to greet one another exchanging these words: “He is risen” and the other person would reply, “He is risen indeed…” It was a code between the people; a knowing signal of faith.

As my brother explained this, I began to remember hearing these words echo throughout my childhood as people at church passed by one another exchanging the age-old custom.

He is risen, audacious words of the first believers, He is risen indeed. This long-held practice captivates my imagination and grabs hold of my heart.

These ancient words communicated the revolutionary belief of Jesus rising up from death into life again. This transfer of a few words was essentially an affirmation of yes and hallelujah for the belief of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as son of God, and Jesus Christ as RISEN MESSIAH.

The People of the Way faced great persecution and opposition; they held these key words deeply and shared them amongst their brothers and sisters of faith… this was a time when believing that death had no victory over Jesus was a DANGEROUS belief to hold.

It is dangerous when our faith says: “Where oh death is your victory, where oh death is your sting” …

Because when we rise up and really grab a hold of that belief we recognize kingdom living: To live RIGHT NOW on earth as it is in heaven… It means, we live to love right now, we live to give right now, and we live to be the change we want to see…right now. Without fear of death, but rather joy of life now and life eternal.

We live to create beauty, on earth, just as love and life and value would be expressed in heaven. We live the now kind of hope. We live out the now kind of justice, your pain is our pain, when you hurt we hurt with you. When you rejoice we rejoice with you.

To defy deaths sting, is to claim a bravery like no other. This is dangerous living, because as followers of Jesus, we are beckoned to LOVE dangerously. Loving even when it hurts. Loving those who may stand behind things we don’t necessarily agree with. Loving people, not issues. Loving people, not politics… Loving people! Loving BEYOND THE LIMITS!

This kind of love looks like many different things to many different people in many different places with many different scenarios. We live this out in a myriad of ways in our local and global spheres of influence. What this looks like to me, will not neccesarily be the same as it looks to others, but we share the common rooted calling as People of the Way, that it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free!”

Anytime we fight for freedom through war and battle there will be pain and suffering and death. Death that clings and burdens that deepen. But with Christ we don’t have to fight for freedom, because it has already been freely given to us. Through Christ our burden is lifted. Thus we can carry the confidence which propels us forward as peacemakers, knowing that we are called for the making of beauty: the making of peace.

Every year we celebrate the ancient and mystic story of Jesus Christ rising from death. We celebrate because we are set free! A story so powerful that it permeates across the world thousands of years later. A belief passed down from generation to generation, as we the People of the Way, continue to this day, to carry on the practice and celebration of our Messiah!

So as a person of “The Way”, I will whisper to you with a knowing sense of joy, a camaraderie of credence held between us, “HE IS RISEN…” and I will hope to hear you say back to me, confirming that you are also a maverick follower of the wild freedom of Christ, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”

– Jenny Rose Foster

The Rose and The Thorn

“The rose’s rarest essence lives in the thorns” – Rumi

I remember studying as an herbalist apprentice last summer. We were on a trail, four women, hiking through a high mountain forest in Oregon. The terrain was thick with depth and diversity and then it would unfold into holy sanctuaries of wild flower meadows; surrounded by choirs of trees.

We continued on our path; winding and ascending and descending. We passed a small waterfall and stood in its sacred mist as if being baptized once more. We pressed onward, slowly. It was always slow. We were never in a hurry; for there was much to behold.

When I hike, I often reach my hands out to greet plants along a trail as I pass by. To feel the leaves and the pines and the bark and the moss; to experience the textures. On the path there was a bush of bright pink-salmon colored flowers…

– Jenny Rose Foster

My writing: The Rose and The Thorn is featured over at She Loves Magazine today. Click HERE to read more. 

Rose & Thorn