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As regular readers of my Twelve contributions know, I read to my daughters every night from the diaries I kept when I was their age. A couple of nights ago, I found a little gem from September 29, 1988. Tucked in between a list of the order of my school subjects (Bible, Language, Social Studies, Recess, Math, Reading, Lunch) and the announcement that I was going to “challenge” the first chair flute for her spot in band, I found this:

Me, Erin and Sarby made this club called the 3 Poeteers. I’m President, Sarby’s Vice President and Erin is the Treasurer. Our dues are 20¢ a month. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday at the Tree of Words. Our goal is to write a large book of poems.

As far as I can tell, dues were never collected and we never managed to write a single poem as a group. I don’t think we even held a second meeting at the Tree of Words! One might consider this the first of many of my failures to gather people around a vision. Alternatively, this could simply be some whimsical evidence of a childhood love for language and beauty—a young love looking for community and structure.

I did go on to personally fill three notebooks with my poetry and songs. I wasn’t able to locate the notebooks last night, but here are some of the verses from various compositions that I remember to this day, 25-30 years later (this memorization happens quite naturally when you read your poetry aloud and often – into a tape recorder or to anyone who will listen):

My daddy has some taddy poles and I want you to know
My daddy’s little taddy poles go fishing in the snow…

I like trees. I like them when they sway.
It feels like I’m at the seas and I want to stay there all day…

Step into the shower; don’t know what to do.
I’m telling myself, I’ve got the shower time blues.
Oh, yeah…

You took me down life’s halls and corridors
Until I finally realized that my life was yours.
You shaped me, you made me.
Then you changed me, now you’ve claimed me…

Promise me forever – promise me tonight.
Promise me that your arms will always hold me tight.
And promise me that time will never end – that you’ll always be my friend.
Forevermore…

Oh, little Heidi. Bless your heart.

My poetry career never took off (haha), but I still spend lots of time under the Tree of Words—picking the fruit for sermons and blog posts and Facebook updates. Writing creatively is a sort of spiritual practice for me. It’s a meaning-making discipline wherein I take my experiences, relationships, and encounters with God and offer a little chapter to people that I love.

In his most recent book, He Holds Radical Light, American poet Christian Wiman, says it so richly: “One of art’s functions is to give form to feelings that would otherwise remain inchoate and corrosive, to give us a means whereby we can inhabit our fears and pains rather than they us, to help us live with our losses rather than being permanently and helplessly haunted by them” (pp. 64-65).

Christian Wiman

A dear friend of mine (who also loves words) gave me Wiman’s book as a birthday gift this year. The beginning of the book includes a 1963 poem by Denise Levertov – “A Cure of Souls.”

The pastor
of grief and dreams

guides his flock towards
the next field

with all his care.
He has heard

the bell tolling
but the sheep

are hungry and need
the grass, today and

every day. Beautiful
his patience, his long

shadow, the rippling
sound of the flocks moving

along the valley.

Denise Levertov

When my friend gave me Wiman’s book, he included Levertov’s poem in a typed birthday letter. With apologies to the poet, he changed the pronouns to match my own. This gift of a pronoun switch blessed my little heart like a perfectly ripe piece of fruit from the Tree of Words. In this gift, I felt understood and known and loved as a pastor. Allow me to share edited-Levertov in full. Perhaps this will especially bless the hearts of my sister pastors.

The pastor
of grief and dreams

guides her flock towards
the next field

with all her care.
She has heard

the bell tolling
but the sheep

are hungry and need
the grass, today and

every day. Beautiful
her patience, her long

shadow, the rippling
sound of the flocks moving

along the valley.

My fellow lovers of words, that’s my 20¢ for this week! See you in two weeks at the Tree of Words!

Heidi S. De Jonge

Heidi S. De Jonge is the pastor of Westside Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Kingston, Ontario. She and her husband, Tim, a CRC chaplain, parent three grade school daughters. Heidi enjoys cake decorating, cycling, and digital scrapbooking.

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