Claire Jepsen
“C” — daughter of the broody hen

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Of all the holidays, Christmas is my favorite. The others I let go so I can summon the strength, energy and motivation for the BIG One.  Our traditions bring much anticipation and joy, for both us as parents and our children.  I love the decorations, getting the tree out of the box and placed in the window, planning the menu, buying the gifts, stringing the kids along all month and seeing their faces light up on Christmas morning. Eating together and enjoying one another…and putting myself back to bed at 10:00 AM when it’s all over.

This year, though, has been more difficult than in the past. Each task has been monumental, like trudging through sand to get to the destination. I do it because it’s my job and I do want to, but I have wrestled.

The strain of Advent is big. The wondering if it’s all just a sham. Is it true? This Child can and will honestly bring hope, joy, peace? But what about____? And _____? And _____?  Really?! I don’t quite trust it. I don’t quite believe that He can do all of this. The world He was born into, really was worse than this? And here I am in my suburban living room, surrounded by my life, recognizing my privilege in so many ways feeling just a bit guilty for having these questions and doubts.

Sitting in the dark, remembering grace, silencing the voices, I am reminded:

Be still and know that I am God. 

Be still? Really? There’s so much to do, so many details. So much confusion and misunderstanding…and fear. So many hurting people. So much uncertainty.

Be still and know that I AM.

God, Omniscient, Personal, Human and Divine. More than Enough. Grace. Wholeness. Sufficient. Satisfying. Hope. Joy. Peace.

Be still and know.

Because God already IS, I am enough, known and loved beyond measure or comprehension. Because He is perfect, I never need to be. I have permission to let go of the fear in the form of expectations that I put on myself and assume others are putting upon me. I get to accept Hope, choose Joy, receive Peace.

Be Still.

Be restful, find pleasure, celebrate, eat, give and receive with grace, let go, be kind, love well. Be myself, and find joy in what is now, what is here. Be expecting the gifts of this present moment and be fully who I was made to be. Accept peace.

My prayer is we will trust in the generous provision and abundance of our loving God, Emmanuel, come to us. Let us love generously and receive the many gifts that our ours by virtue of this Baby born in the humblest of ways, tended to by a young mother and terrified father, lowly shepherds, assorted farm animals, and the angels. Let us know we are each loved regardless of our circumstances, our performance, or how we “feel”. Recognizing the immense beauty of gracious rest, we are invited to participate in the generosity of this time.

Lord, let me not forget this…the beauty of Your coming to our world as a Baby, in a dark, makeshift delivery room, a cave, for us all in all of our mess, muck, busy, dysfunction, longing, joys, hurts, and fears. The mess of the stable is the mess of our hearts.

He knows!



large__65829367As long as I can remember, I have desired to have the body of a little boy…thin, lanky, hard-edged, muscular, straight. I have no idea when this notion implanted itself upon my conscience, but as a young girl, I felt too curvy, too feminine. It may have been the “style” of the day and Lord knows, we were in the age of discontent when it came to womanly form.

As my back issues have progressed, exercise has been set aside: running, Pilates, spin. While grateful for the break, having more time and energy to focus on the Holiday season, I have feared losing my edges, of becoming soft. As a not-boylike grown woman, I admit the temptation is still present, to long for the lean, athletic model physique. Fortunately, and I say this honestly, I have not the desire to go the lengths required.  More frequently, I am practicing kindness…embracing, upholding and appreciating my created form, recognizing the opportunity my health and strength afford.

With Advent upon us and all occurring around our nation and world, it is easy to draw parallels between our modern times and those in which Jesus arrived as an infant. The society was harsh…oppression, pain, hunger, injustice. The culture hard, lined, furrowed, people desperate for relief and hope. He, as a toddler, hunted by the authorities. Yet when He entered our world, He came in through softness, through humility, through simplicity. The stable reeking;  the night cold; father afraid, but trusting; Mary pondering, body providing sustenance for her new precious Life. Who got the first word of the Messiah’s arrival? Shepherds. Worn, tired, grimy, less-than.

Softness, of body and spirit, provides a delicate place to land..of safety, security, and grace. To be soft is to yield, to allow for displacement. When my babies arrived I had brief moments of relishing my soft. Breasts created to nourish, belly providing a nest for the new life, arms and shoulders supple to rock. Emotions at the ready to process  joy and grief, fear and awe…all simultaneous.

I am learning what it means to appreciate softness, in body and mind, tears ever present. I want to be that place to land…a place of not issuing judgment or decree, but a listening ear. To see the world around and grieve for what should be, that which God created, yet is not. I pray this Advent that we may experience the both/and, as Glennon Melton says, the Brutiful…the brutal and the beautiful. This world has enough hard edges, and harsh stares. Let us be softness and kindness and grace to all we encounter. Let us give generously and mercifully in all aspects of our lives. Let us seek first to understand another, rather than make assumptions. Let us be open in the moments of loneliness  and lack to seek the generous voice of the Holy Spirit, the One who longs to demonstrate His Love and reveal His Presence to us. We are deeply loved and cherished, let us remember the One who came, to bring life abundant, to feed the hungry and satisfy our souls.

This Comfortable Perch

In the past month I have had two quite debilitating episodes with lower back pain, the kind where I walk as if my tail is tucked between my legs. Once the critical stage is over, I can function in short bouts, for an hour or so at a time, before needing to lie down. I have been able to catch up on a few worthless TV shows, plus finished a book about Martin Luther King Jr’s last year of his life (Death of a King by Tavis Smiley). I finally visited a local, well-respected physical therapist yesterday. I thought he was going to say something like, “Running is damaging to the body, you need to find other forms of exercise.” Or something else that would threaten my love for pounding out my problems on the road. Nope. He inquired about my couches and didn’t need to ask any more..I immediately understood. My down-filled couches are deep, fluffy, cozy and horrible for my posture.  Who knew one could develop a bulging disc from being too comfortable?

What other crucial parts of my life are damaged or injured because of my comfort? My relationships? My spiritual life? My learning? Friendships? My ability to honestly see myself?

What am I afraid of?

Over the past month, since the Ferguson grand jury reported they would not seek an indictment in Michael Brown’s death, I have been Twitter-crazed, scouring constantly for information  about what it must be like to live as an oppressed individual in this nation of ours. We stand by while people in power are not held accountable in hundreds of deaths each year. And maybe this power, for any and all of us, needs to be held with great fear and trembling.

The question remains, what damage is my comfort as a white suburban, Christian causing to the very fabric of my home, my community, my nation? And, the greater question: what power do have to shine a light on the oppressed and misunderstood folks in my own backyard? How do my choices and actions (or lack thereof) contribute to a deeper attempt to understand another?

I have no idea what it’s like to be a young black man in America.

I have no idea what it’s like to be homeless.

I have no idea what it’s like to be elderly.

I have no idea what it’s like to be transgender.

I have no idea what it’s like to be depressed or have serious mental illness.

I have no idea what it’s like to be obese.

I have no idea what it’s like to be chronically ill or have a chronically ill family member.

I have no idea what it’s like to be hungry.

I have no idea what it’s like to to suffer grave injustices in a foreign land and come to America, only to be cast aside and told to go home.

I have no idea what it’s like to be gay.

We each have a serious responsibility.  To learn. To ask questions. To place ourselves in someone else’s shoes for a moment, a day, a year, a lifetime. I have been on the receiving end of someone else’s stereotype. It feels wrong and frankly, kinda creepy to have assumptions made about me by someone who doesn’t know me. Imagine what it must be to have your entire existence scrutinized. This imagining? It’s called empathy. Empathy then breeds compassion, and compassion, love. True love…that thing we are called to above all else is our work. Those of us fortunate enough to only experience a shadow of living oppressed or misunderstood, let us take our comfort and challenge it a bit each day. Let us recognize the gifts we’ve been given and that not all are gifted the same. Let us use our individual and collective power to stand for those who have little, if any.

I am moving towards discomfort, towards not having answers, towards learning and remaining quiet..unless I want to ask a question. I am moving towards freedom from fear, where I can humbly approach another person, genuinely inquiring about what it must be like to be them. I want to not have to know everything, from my privileged perch…but to sink down and rely upon the perspective and beauty of another who must fight each and every day to be considered fully human.

Let us not rest in our comfort…for too long, anyway.

Saying Good-bye to Church…for now

There is no tension like that which occurs when I, as an adult, married for 20 years, mother of three, spends more than 24 hours consistently with my or my husband’s family of origin. The tricky balance happens while managing the expectations of each people group: the parents, the grown siblings, the children, the husband, the nieces/nephews, and most difficult…those of myself. I get caught between seeking out my own needs, to stay safe internally and sane, with the desire to be a hospitable host, entertainer and conversant. I have not found the solution to this strain, other than to manage my own needs most of all. For an introvert, this can look rather selfish on the outside, as I hole myself in the little corner of my house that provides me with a brief sense of relief. As a 42 year old, as much as I feel I’ve made little headway in this land of fog, I do know that I have grown.

As a college student, when this process really began, I would return home for breaks, longing for the comforts of home: good food, safety, familiarity, laundry facilities. Yet, even after being gone for a short time, I noticed that I didn’t quite belong anymore. Life in my family’s home did not stop for me, I felt a bit like an outsider.  Now that I have been out of the nest for over 20 years, I can say I have reached a differentiated state, where as an adult, I am learning who I am, what feeds me, exploring boundaries and respecting differences. The process, however, has not  been ideal, pretty or comfortable.

 Early in our marriage, my husband and I would have our worst times while with extended family. He would gravitate toward the old patterns of his youth, and I would do the same…trying to navigate the minefield of how to differentiate as a couple and as grown adults, while with people who have provided and nurtured life. There were many tears shed, particularly as I felt  pulled in every direction, trying to please each party entirely. Thankfully, after almost a quarter century, we have found a happy medium and a united front.

 I often wonder if this might be part of my tension with church. Just as my church served me well throughout my formative years…protecting, teaching, showing and guiding…I believe I am in the process of differentiation. The church was faithfully present during the traumatic events of my youth. I was known and deeply loved. I could say that church saved me, it provided identity, safety and clear boundaries. As I reflect, I realize now that much of my devotion to God was defined by church involvement.

I have left the faith of my youth. When I attend church now, or get with certain Christians, I feel tension. The “proving” component of my faith, the earning and the doing, needs to take a backseat.

I long to rest in the work of the Holy Spirit, in and through me. As much as I crave the comfort and safety of the people, the songs, the messages, I am still learning what it means to walk by faith, in my own expression.  I want to live in the knowledge and confidence that His love for me is sure. I want my work to be characterized by love, justice and humility. I want to live my faith out by listening, waiting, and resting.

It’s time to hang up the credentials of being a professional church-going Christian.

Spirit matters

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you.  John 16:7

This has been a long winter of questions, of seeking, of long-held assumptions and beliefs being flipped and turned. Growing up under the spotlighted fishbowl of a pastor’s home, one learns how to do the right stuff, be the right way, believe the right things (some don’t..but I did, people pleaser that I am). And I wouldn’t say it was all placed on me by the dominating force of The Church (enter big deep voice) or of Religion. No, I truly believed this was my Calling. I desired to please, honor, glorify and praise God, which meant I chose well. I chose to follow the rules, I didn’t dance with my now husband at prom, I didn’t go to the theater (very often), I certainly didn’t cuss, didn’t drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs. I worked hard, was kind (mostly), was a Bible Study Leader in college, attended church all Sundays, prayed, read the Bible (even bored out of my mind), waited until marriage (barely) to have sex. I was quite the good girl and so thankful that I didn’t have to undo any major poor choices.

There is a flipside to all of this..guilt, fear, condemnation. Grace, redemption, freedom…all foreign concepts. These good-girl rules prevented the full experience of beauty and life in the Spirit. I was gifted at finding fault in others and really great at finding fault in myself. Any little thing could potentially bring the wrath of whatever and whomever.

Surprisingly, however, I discovered that in some ways living by Grace is actually harder. I did difficult  things and made tough choices in my quest for holiness (perfection) but it was spelled out…do this, do that, certainly don’t associate with that group, etc. Living by Grace or the Spirit is tricky. Sometimes there isn’t a way to define the next thing to do, or to validate a choice, or to define if I’m good with God or not.

Church…all things church…have been the source of my personal winter. It started when my youngest brother came out as gay. I didn’t wrestle in loving him, but I wrestled with the “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing. I lived with it for a time, but knew that he longed to be loved as a whole person, not in parts. He deserved to be accepted for being human, my brother, my parents’ child, friend, musician and brilliant man. It felt disingenuous to part and parcel him out in pieces…love this piece, hate this piece. Good grief, I practice the “sins” of gluttony and greed, people weren’t telling me they could only love bits and pieces of me. So why him?

I started viewing the church differently…seeing that only certain things are discussed and other things very much aren’t..or if they are, certainly not with an affirming or even loving sense. Sure, anyone can attend, but really? Can they really be fully LGBT in church? Can any of us really be fully ourselves in church or Christian circles? Fully honest? Fully authentic? Heaven forbid I honestly discuss with someone my frustration and anger at the Bible. And we think we have the authority to lord certain scriptures over people for their various “poor choices”. I’m not saying all churches are this way…certainly I have been in places and with groups of people that listen and respond with not only grace, but something even more important…understanding!

Living by Grace and in the Spirit is messy. The above scripture really challenges me, as I read it I recognize how essential the Spirit is for us. The Spirit is in us, leading, guiding, commenting, affirming, challenging. If left unchecked, my inner dialogue has the potential to take me to dark, hopeless places. When I slow down, sit quietly, surrender in the moment, I hear hope. I hear kindness, patience. I hear “I love you so much”. I hear, “You’re good..I’ve got this..I know..hang on.” I hear, “Why are you working so hard? What is your goal or motivation here? How about a little rest?” Granted, there are times where I do have to challenge this happy spirit voice.  Richard Rohr says in Falling Upward: “The Holy Spirit is always entirely for us, more than we are for ourselves, it seems. She speaks in our favor against the negative voices that judge and condemn us. This gives us all such hope-now that we do not have to do life all by ourselves, or even do life perfectly ‘right’ “.

Living by the Spirit means there is almost no black and white. Things are gray. Most issues and choices are complex and have multiple approaches from which we can get a better understanding. To me, this is Grace. This tells me that I’m not God…it’s not my job to judge, condemn or think I have the answers for or about a particular person or situation. The Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, and as unique beings, there are infinite expressions. I hear so frequently, “I just wish Jesus had been specific about the issues we face today like homosexuality or women in the church”. Some people believe Scripture is clear here, but I have to question if that is the case when it calls us to cast out instead of include, when we hear it saying, “Yes, but”.  

What if The Church was characterized as a place of safe seeking, of grace, mercy and freedom? What if we, as a body of believers lived this out? What if we checked our fear? It seems we are more known for our fear of Hell and striving for Heaven than by much else. We mistakenly think we operate best with a list of do’s and don’ts, rather than in the trust and faith in the God of the Universe, the Holy Spirit living in us. How would Jesus be viewed if instead of determining who’s in and who’s out, we love, we see people as people…created in God’s beautiful image, recognizing none of us are better or worse than another? What if we sought to understand through listening? What if we chose to see and sought to love all people? What if, as a Church, we started dialoguing thoughtfully about the hard-to-understand issues in our culture today? What if we agree to disagree respectfully, but we still continue the dialogue?

I believe this is our only hope.

What’s the big deal about Ferguson?

Nearly three months ago, Michael Brown was shot too many times, for a potentially minor offense. His body was left in the sweltering Missouri heat for four hours before being attended to. His family, friends and greater community have been mourning in the wake of this immense injustice.

We have an epidemic on our hands…where young people of color do not get the same entitlement to grow up and become. Where young people of color must be aware of prejudice and false assumptions, must work harder, must prove oneself, must be better. I have a 15 year old son. I think of his life, growing up white, with very little fear of those who are paid and commissioned to protect. My children, because of the pale color of their skin, will not know the need to be that much better and work that much harder.

My husband and I attended a rally at the State Capitol in Denver last night…National Day Against Police Brutality. Before Ferguson, before this pit in my stomach became a permanent fixture, I had no understanding of police brutality. I knew nothing of the fear people live in daily because of their skin tone. I knew nothing of the fact that police seem to have little to no accountability…they are accountable only to themselves. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem like the making of an effective business. We all need accountability..especially any of us who own power. After hearing stories last night from victims of police brutality in Colorado, I recognize the reality of the privilege my color (or lack thereof) affords my family and me. Hearing of police entering forcibly into homes, to kill a young man while family watched on; another young man, 19, African American, pulled from a car for a routine stop, requiring 45 stitches and broken bones, using the one phone call in jail to make sure his mother knew where he was. Local pastors who have been arrested for standing up for what is right. The question being asked, “How good do we have to be?” Good question. How good do our friends and neighbors of color have to be for us to pay attention? To believe they are worthy of the same rights and opportunities we white folks have by virtue of being born. For us to recognize our white privilege and stand in solidarity. How much are we going to ask of them?

One thing I am learning in my walk of faith is that the thing I must do is the one next thing…I cannot live in the future, wondering about this or that. I am required to do that which is in front of me. In the area of equality, whether we are discussing race, gender, sexuality, I must do the next thing. Educate myself by reading about the realities faced by our marginalized in America. It is so easy to snuggle in under my covers at night, to watch my shows, to hang with my people, to eat good food and drink beer…all of these things are gifts, gifts from God…yet, there is the balance. When it’s all about me, my comfort and rights, at the expense of another, there is something less sweet. I long to be engaged, to ask new and important questions, to educate my children in what is being revealed to me.

What is happening is not right. We are asked to participate in the life of Jesus…a life lived in justice, mercy and humility.

Broody Hen Ideas

What is a Broody Hen? Interestingly enough, my husband is the one who suggested this as my blog title.

According to, to brood = to sit upon (eggs) to hatch, as a bird; incubate or worry persistently or moodily about; ponder.

We have a broody hen. She started to brood, even without fertilized eggs. Maggie sat on the nest for hours and we would have to remove her with a broom, to collect our daily egg allotment. She was mean, and would peck anyone who came near. Our neighbors also have a small backyard flock, including a rooster. Three fertilized eggs were given to our Maggie and instinct set in. She sat and sat for weeks. During the heat of the day she felt the freedom to emerge from the coop and engage in a dust bath, free range eating and some socializing with the others. Two of the three eggs hatched and out popped two black little chicks. Poor Maggie was torn…the chicks would jump out of the nesting box, while she was still trying to incubate the late-to-hatch egg. One afternoon I found her sitting on one chick in the middle of the floor, while the other chick was running around, and the egg was still in the nest. Poor thing…I know what it’s like to feel so frazzled.

My ideas are my clutch of eggs. I sit, ruminate, incubate on these ideas. Some I hold very close and some just pop out of my mouth to my deep chagrin. I fear the vulnerability of bearing these ideas to others, since they often are not fully formed, perfect or ready for the big world. This blog is hopefully my place to release these ideas, to let them grow wings and advance into the universe. I am not alone, these eggs are hardly new, but often times, the culture in which I live may or may not support these notions.

I lose sleep…my brain is rarely inactive…I read constantly, blogs and books, to learn, to navigate these new pathways, to grow courage, to see God at work in the lives, hearts and minds of others. I love watching my processes merge into those of others. I recognize the sweet relief of grace through this discovery, and in my thoughts. I realize the beauty of the heart of God for his precious children, regardless of our doing…it’s just in our being. So good!

First Things First

I can’t believe how clean my desk and house are at this moment as I find any reason to avoid putting words to page. My stomach in small knots, hands clammy, heart rate elevated. I have my people to take my honest thoughts, but now, to throw those carefully polished (and some quite rough) nuggets into the blogosphere feels…vulnerable.

I am Jen, wife of E, mother of three: the ABC’s. Our dwelling is in Boulder County, Colorado…almost one acre on county land with 4 chickens, 2 lambs, 1 rabbit, and a dog. We are trying our hand at living simpler (in some ways), wiser, and quieter…after having downsized from a lovely, spacious home in the local neighborhood.

I choose to stay home, but own a Master’s Degree in Nutrition. I have quiet in my days, but long for greater significance at times. I wrestle much with the expectations placed on my as an accomplished female, yet, I wonder often from where the expectations arise. Mostly me…although I will also say I don’t think women can have it all.. everything we want…without sacrificing in key areas.

I am an athlete…love to run, ride my bike, hike, backpack, walk, practice yoga and Pilates. I am a recovering triathlete…but reserve the right to reenter when time and desire allow.

I am discovering (or admitting) that I am a developing activist.  Social justice causes are regularly winding their way into my heart.

I am a Christian, in the sense that I love Jesus and believe He is the Son of God, having died on the Cross so ALL may have life abundant…whether it’s on this side of eternity or the other.

I started my first garden this year and learned how to grow (or more likely learned how to plant) beets, zucchini (holy cow!), carrots, tiny tiny kale, tomatoes, and others.

I am an introvert, yet that comes as a surprise to many since I can manage a conversation with just about anyone. However, a day at home, to myself is usually just what the doctor ordered after a night at a party.  My personality is identified by Myers-Briggs as INFJ.

I love naps, my dog, being outside, reading books and blogs, deep conversations, beer, my bed, watching my children become who they are, feeding my family (about 3 times a week), and snowy days.