A Both/And Life

In the fall of 2020, my daughter Ale, son-in-law Clint, and I hiked the trail to Fern
Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park for a couple days of camping. The trees
were alive and green then. But a week later fire swept through that area, destroying
large swaths of the forest. This fall I hiked back up there by myself. And one thing
stood out to me: the flowers. Before the fire, the canopy of leaves above shadowed
the forest floor and there was not enough sunlight to sustain many flowers. But
now, in the midst of dead trees and ash, beautiful hillsides of flowers flourished.
This reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 61:3, written hundreds
of years before the birth of Christ. It promises that God will send One (Jesus) who
will give beauty for ashes.

And so, I chose a picture from that hike to represent what 2022 has been to me. As
I continue to process the losses of recent years—fighting cancer, losing my
husband, and the challenges of Covid among others–my life sometimes seems
“ashy”. There are times of loneliness and of wondering where I belong. I have days
of frustration as I try to handle practical life details (not my strong suit!) that my
husband would have taken care of easily. And yet, unforeseen beauty is emerging.
I spent three weeks in Ireland, England, and Paris this spring. There were moments
there when I felt like I was in a dream! I have had delightful opportunities to take
on new ministry challenges. In January I will graduate from the Anam Cara
spiritual direction apprenticeship that I have been in for the last two years. I have
experienced personal transformation and learned deep lessons in how to be
lovingly present to others as they process their lives. And I have had many
wonderful times with family and friends that I love. I am learning to live a
“both/and” life. Life is both very hard AND such a gift. It is both full of pain AND
abundant joy.

As we move into 2023, I pray each of us may find beauty growing, even in the
places of loss!

– Jo Newell

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us,
O long-sought with-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name,
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness,
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

– Malcolm Guite

from: Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year

Life: a reflection

You never start out thinking it will be like this
You imagine something cleaner; something easy
You think, “we might have some hard times”
But overall, you assume that life will be simple.

And then it isn’t. Not clean or simple or easy.
You think, “we might not survive this.”
You wonder why it’s this way.
You scream at heaven, but get no response.

This is your life, not clean or simple or easy
But it’s yours, nobody else’s
They couldn’t endure it, much less find the joy in it.
They will never understand the sorrow or the heartache

They will never know the beauty or the grace either.
But you will, you do, it’s all yours; all of it
Yours to have, yours to hold, yours to bear
This life, this sorrow, this gift.

-J. Hunter Frye


When I was about 13 years old, I spent many of my Saturdays building fence with my grandfather. (Yes, I mean “building fence” and not “building fences”—it’s a Kansas farm boy thing, I guess). Because he had a shoulder injury that caused him to be permanently disabled, I did most of the hole digging, post driving, and wire stretching, but unless one of his friends stopped by to visit or he just got too cold to stay outside, he was with me for the work. It didn’t matter to me that most of the physical labor was mine to do. I didn’t care that he would occasionally bark orders when I wasn’t doing the job just right. I was just happy to be with my grandpa, earning a little money and learning important life skills. 

The day usually began by him picking me up at 7:30 am or so. We would leave my house and then drive to The Red Maple, the local family restaurant in my hometown, for a hearty breakfast. Because, “You can’t build fence on an empty stomach.” Then we would drive out to my grandparent’s place in the country, gather supplies, my grandpa would have a cigarette (or two), and we’d get to work. 

On particularly cold days, we would take more frequent breaks. We would sit in the shop where the wood stove was always burning while my grandpa smoked Kool kings and told stories. Sometimes he would reminisce about his childhood, the time he and his brothers built the dam for the old pond by hand; just a few boys with shovels. Or when he and his brother went to California for the summer to work on the railroad when they were fourteen and fifteen and lived in a tent in the front yard of the twelve year old girl that would eventually become my grandmother. Sometimes he would tell stories about hunting in the Sandhills (the local name of the area where he grew up and lived until he died). And nearly always, he would tell a story that I wasn’t sure was actually true but he would swear on his life happened just the way he told it to me. When one of his friends would stop by, the tales got taller and my work breaks sitting by the stove in the shop would last much longer. 

It’s funny, as I try to remember some of the stories he told, the details are vague at best. I’m sure I’ve forgotten the vast majority of them, but the feeling those memories stir in me is as present as if I was sitting by that wood stove right now. I can smell his menthol cigarettes, the wood smoke and hot metal. His voice, his laugh, his gestures when he would get wound up telling a story, those are indelibly etched in my memory. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I remember him. And as I think back, I realize how significant it was to be a 13-year old boy whose grandpa picked him up on Saturday mornings and, more than the breakfasts or the stories or the work ethic or the life skills, gave him a safe place to become and belong. 

That’s what being “with” does. When one offers the gift of presence to another, they are making a space where we can become and belong. We find groundedness there with them, even when the rest of our life may feel unmoored. To find a person who will hold this kind of space for us is indeed a rare gift. 

In 1997, Fred Rogers received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th annual Daytime Emmys. During his acceptance speech he did something that must be etched in the minds of everyone who attended. I know that it is etched in mine. As he was accepting the award, he said; “All of us have had special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are . . . ten seconds of silence, I’ll watch the time.”  Then he pulled up his coat sleeve and looked at his watch. There was a giggle that rippled across the audience. But as the camera began to pan across the room filled with television and film stars, people started to realize that he was serious. In that moment, tears began to fill people’s eyes. The room got very quiet as people began to remember those who had loved them into being. 

Everytime I see that clip, (which you can watch here), my grandpa comes to my mind. His presence was a safe place for me to find my way. May you too find safe places to be loved into being, dear friends. 

– Jeremy

photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/B7SUX_gx_7M?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

Burning Candles

Once you’ve heard a child cry out to heaven for help,
and go unanswered,
nothing’s ever the same again.
Even God changes.

But there is a healing hand at work
that cannot be deflected from its purpose.
I just can’t make sense of it, other than to cry.
Those tears are part of what it is to be a monk.

Out there, in the world, it can be very cold.
It seems to be about luck, good and bad,
and the distribution is absurd.

We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair,
faith and doubt, life and death,
all the opposites.

– William Brodrick


Taken from Celtic Daily Prayer Book Two Farther Up and Farther In p.888 ©2015 The Northumbria Community Trust

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Introducing Jo

Jo Newell is a mom of 6 adult daughters (and one son who she can’t wait to see in heaven), a grandma to 9 grandkids, a widow (after almost 42 years of marriage), a cancer survivor, and a lover of many animals, including her 21-year-old cat, Sophie! She works in staff care with The Navigators. She lives in TX, but a big part of her heart is in Colorado, her home state. She is a graduate of the Potters Inn Soul Care Institute and a current Anam Cara apprentice. Among her favorite activities are reading, hiking and camping, gardening, and eating New Mexican cuisine. Her heart’s desire as she meets with others in spiritual direction is that they would be able to hear God’s voice calling them the Beloved and learn to live out of that love.

Introducing Kate

Kate Davelaar Guthrie has worked in large churches, tiny churches, para-church ministry, and academic institutions. A couple of questions she has found herself asking (and being asked) in all these settings are: what does it look like to truly ground one’s identity in their Belovedness? And, what does it look like to love our neighbors near and far, especially the least, the last, and the left out? Kate plans to be asking these questions her entire life. She is passionate about the intersection of anti-racism and spiritual formation and believes that our inner work is not merely for our own liberation, but for the liberation of all of God’s good creation.

Sabbath and Gift Economy

I am part of a very giving community. We share meals, vehicles, tools, financial resources, our homes, our skills. We watch each other’s kids, pick each other up and drop each other off at the airport, and share whatever else we might have to offer. Some have helped others pay a few months’ mortgage when finances got tight. I’m so aware of how rare and beautiful a thing this is.. Just recently, one of our friends spontaneously picked up a chicken coop and brought it to our house because we have a large yard and they knew we’ve been wanting to start keeping chickens. It’s a joint venture, we are providing the yard and the care, our friends are providing the chickens and the feed, and we get to split the profits (read: fresh eggs every morning!) I am often reminded of the book of Acts when I think about this beautiful community.

And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. 

  • Acts 4:34

But why live this way?

That’s my question and honestly the question of most people who look at me like I’m part of a commune when I talk about my neighborhood. What causes a community to be formed in this way? We are by no means the only group of people living this way, but it does seem rare.  We don’t look like the wider culture. And, believe me, it isn’t perfect—but it is beautiful.

Why would a group of people move beyond the transactional economy that the world says is the only one that works, and into a gift economy that reflects something that looks more like the kingdom? Is it “grace powerfully at work”? To be sure. Is it the genuine love that the group has for one another? Definitely. But I think there’s something else. I think perhaps that part of the reason a community forms in this way is because it practices resting together.

I was recently reflecting on a prayer written by Walter Brueggemann entitled: Giver of all Good Gifts, that caused me to consider the correlation between truly living a gift economy and Sabbath.

The prayer begins:

You are the God who feeds and nourishes.

       You are the God who assures that we have more than enough,

           and we do not doubt that

           you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

I was struck by this stanza. Not because it is so blazingly profound, but simply because it isn’t.  It is something that we, the people of God, as Brueggemann writes, do not doubt the truth of. And yet, how often do we (how often do I) live as if this isn’t true?  The prayer continues with these words:

Even in such an assurance, however,

           we scramble for more food.

           After we have filled all our baskets

                   with manna,

           we seek a surplus—

               enough education to plan ahead,

               enough power to protect our supply,

               enough oil to assure that protection.

If the first stanza struck me, this second one wrecked me. This is our story isn’t it? Collectively as a society, we are hoarders. The majority of us have way more than enough and yet we still want more. We must “plan for a rainy day” or “hedge our bets” or “prepare for the worst case scenario.” The reality is that most of the time, we say that we believe it is God who provides, but we live as if our provision rests squarely and solely on our shoulders. So we acquire more. We are guilty of collecting lifetimes of manna, more manna than we could ever consume, when the promise of God is enough for today. (Exodus 16:4, Matt. 6:11)

This is where the Sabbath comes in. Sabbath is stopping (the word shabbat literally means to stop). It is a ceasing of the incessant acquisition of goods, the continuous consumption of resources. In that stopping, we are given a gift; the reminder that we are not our own source and supply. The reminder that we are deeply known and deeply loved by the God of the universe.  Sabbath is not an excuse not to work but a command not to work; so that we might be reminded that we are more than our work and that our provision is from God and not from our labour alone.

Until we really believe that the first stanza of Brueggemann’s prayer is true, we will continue to live the second stanza.  Sabbath is an invitation to believe the truth of the first stanza so that we can then live into the rest of the prayer:

And in the midst of that

       comes your word,

       that we share bread and feed the hungry,

       even to the least and so to you.

    We mostly keep our bread for ourselves,

                     our neighbors,

                     and our friends.

    It does not occur to us often,

       to feed our enemies,

       to share your bounty with

           those who threaten us.

    We do not often remember to break vicious cycles

       of hostility

           by free bread,

           by free water,

           by free wine,

           by free milk,

    Until we remember that you are the giver of all good gifts,

                       ours to enjoy,

                       ours to share.

    Stir us by your spirit beyond fearful accumulation

       toward outrageous generosity,

        that giving bread to others

           makes for peace,

        that giving drink to others

           makes for justice,

        that giving and sharing opens the world

            and assures abundance for all.1

I believe that among many other things, Sabbath is a weekly reminder that, as the people of God, we live in a gift economy: an economy not driven by buying and selling or demanding and taking, but by freely giving to and receiving from one another without expectation of reciprocation or payback. It is a weekly reminder that God is indeed the giver of all good gifts and that we need not live as though that were not true. I also believe that this peace afforded to us by observing the Sabbath is meant to be shared with the world; it’s not ours to hoard.

Where do we begin? As a wise rabbi has often said, “It all starts with stopping.” The invitation of the Sabbath is to stop and remember that it was God who rescued the people of Israel from Egypt; to stop and remember that it was God who promised to provide enough manna for each day; to stop and remember that transactional economy and “looking out for number one” is not only fundamentally flawed, it is unnecessary when we recognize that in each moment of each day we are being cared for by a God who loves us beyond words.

Entering into a Sabbath rhythm is, at its core, an invitation to trust that the God who loves us will indeed care for us as promised. It is an invitation to step into a different way of being; a way that is marked by rest and freedom rather than bondage to acquisition and consumption. It is an invitation to live generously because we are reminded each week of how generous God is toward us.

If we learn to live from this place of rest and freedom, perhaps one day, sharing things like cars and homes and chickens will not be seen as exceptional but normal. In fact, we may even discover that when there is no need for competition for resources and power to maintain those resources, enemies will become friends, strangers will become family, opponents will become team members. Perhaps one day we will find ourselves living in a gift economy, not because we worked harder to make it happen but because we Sabbathed our way into it. I think that’s what’s happening in my community, as weird and imperfect as it is, and I want to share it.

– j

1“Giver of All Good Gifts” from Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann, 2008 Abingdon Press

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash


While we are on the topic of soul care this month, check out this post titled “Beginnings” by Kaylene Derksen, new president of the Soul Care Institute. We are delighted that one of Kaylene’s new beginnings is as an apprentice with Anam Cara. You can find her original post here.


By: Kaylene Derksen

About a year ago a mentor friend of mine encouraged me to spend time with John O’Donohue’s blessing For a New Beginning.

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

John O’Donohue

Little did I know the power of this blessing would mirror the actual course of my life since then. I spent a good deal of time sitting at the start of the blessing poem. There I was being exposed. It was true. In all of the out-of-the-way places in my heart I was feeling an increasing emptiness. Not the kind of emptiness that we think of when a person is living without purpose. It was more like, the purpose for which I was created had outgrown my situation.

It was a vocational emptiness. The kind that stirs you to an understanding that you are no longer fitting where you are and you are compelled to set out on a mission to find where it is you will have space again. Space to grow, to be who you really are and who you are becoming.

This is a risky thing.

My then reality was powerfully working on many levels to keep me where I was. It’s not that it was terrible. I was working for the mission organization that I grew up in. This place and these people had formed me! I love them still and am proud of the work they do!

It was so seductive to stay where I was. Safe, cared for, loved. Cocooned inside what I knew well.

It reminded me of my first time flying outside of the country on my very first mission trip. I was headed to Central America with a drama team of 6 others energetic thespians and I was scared. I knew I was to go, but all I could think about was going home and waking up in the bedroom I had growing up, knowing my mom was cooking pancakes for breakfast and dad would pray over the food and over us. I wanted to crawl backwards in time. I called my mother, crying, “Don’t you want me to stay?” I gave her every opportunity to call me back. Being very wise, she countered, “You go. This is what is next for you. It’s time.”

And so I went.

It was a harbinger of how my life was to be. I have been developing my stepping onto new ground muscles ever since. It never feels easy, but I am recognizing the energy with which God stirs me is such a compelling force! It is delightful to enter into this space, knowing that I can trust the promise of the opening before me.

Today, on this first day of being the President of the Soul Care Institute, I am reminded to unfurl myself into the grace of beginning. What an exciting picture! Like a butterfly, daring to shed its cocoon, just barely hanging on, and then… unfurling those beautiful wet wings. Trusting they will dry. Trusting they will support her as she flys. These wings are not made by her. These are creator-fashioned wings. Therefore they are good and strong. She only needs to use them and she will see.

And so, this is the beginning, the unfurling, the trusting.

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.



Introducing Kaylene

Kaylene Derksen grew up a farm girl in northern Wisconsin to parents who loved God and loved people. One of eight siblings, she spent long hours being read to from scripture around the breakfast table and at night in family devotions. It was instilled in her from a very young age that everyone has value and should be treated with the dignity befitting God’s creation.

After college, she felt a call to spend her life in mission work. This call has taken her to Central America, the southern United States, the Netherlands, and Germany. She has a deep love for other cultures and languages and speaks both English and German fluently.

While in the midst of her productive life she became aware of a deep longing for a more sustainable rhythm. Her hunger for God led her to delight in Sabbath, which subsequently opened the door to her enjoying other spiritual practices. Going further on the journey inward, Kaylene became a student of the Soul Care Institute. This altered the course of her life by awakening a desire to live the Jesus way as a wholehearted and integrated person. She and her husband, Jimm, are both Soul Care Providers now leading the Institute.

She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where she enjoys long walks, cooking dinner for friends, singing, and birdwatching with her husband. She and Jimm have one adult daughter, Helena, who is married to James, their son-in-law. Kaylene can be reached by email.