Sunday, July 9, 2023

Heat Was in the Very Sod, Chapbook by Jen Hunt

 November 24, 2019

Dear Loved Ones,

Please accept the following album as a gift. My way of saying

that you have been thought of all year.

May I share with you how it came about?

In 2018 I had reserved a week-long retreat in at my in-law’s

cottage in September, as well as a few short getaways

throughout the year with a view to completing a small book

of poetry (known as a chap book). However, near last

November’s close, I still had nothing concrete to show for all

my efforts.

Usually, I would beat myself up for failing to meet a personal

goal like this. This time, I simply enjoyed God’s presence and

his creation and trusted that if he wanted any writing to

happen, it would, in his time. If not, that was okay, too.

Then, near the end of November last year, a difficult incident

happened at work involving a colleague from another agency

I had intentionally been trying to bless. The situation

blindsided me. I didn't recall ever before being the recipient

of someone’s ill will for no apparent reason in quite that way.

It helped me see a bit more clearly how incredible Christ’s

love for those who rejected him was. In God’s grace, while in

this state of pain and confusion, my supervisors were

incredibly supportive and even allowed me a few days off to


In the weeks preceding this I, along with my church, had been

spending time in the last half of the Gospel of John. I would

savor portions over and over on audio during the long

commute to my various work sites. God used that to prepare

me to respond to this trial in his strength, not mine. Instead

of causing me to descend into bitterness, the difficulty drew

me closer to Christ. Christ met me during this time and

overwhelmed me with peace, joy and love—even for my


And then the words started.

On a particularly good day of writing, I am fortunate if I can

complete a rough draft of one poem through concerted

effort. But during this time, lines of poetry were coming so

fast and furious there wasn’t time to jot them down. When I

talked to family, even my sentences were coming out in

rhymes! From Friday through Sunday, I was God-struck. I

hardly slept Saturday night, as I struggled to capture the

words which seemed to be pouring from above into my lap. I

began to dictate them into my phone’s Evernote app, for

transcription at another time. (Most of the italicized or

bracketed words found in the poems reflect what is heard on

the initial audio versions.) By December 1, 2018, I had on my

phone the beginnings of maybe one hundred poems. I doubt I

had written more poems in my entire lifetime before that.

The blessing of God’s presence that weekend was beyond my

comprehension. It was as if the sword-piercing my enemy had

meant for evil had merely hit Christ’s Rock and formed shards

of healing poems in me for his glory instead. I resolved I

would never again doubt God’s wisdom, love, power,

presence or timing. Truths that I knew only intellectually

were now ingrained on my soul. I had visited a “thin” space,

as the ancient mystics would say. A place where the gap

between my in-the-world self and God’s unseen kingdom

seemed small. I understood how Peter might have felt when

he had been fishing all night and caught nothing, then Jesus

told him to put his net down on the other side of the boat,

and Peter found his net full. All he could cry out was, “My

Lord and my God!”

It is fitting that this experience happened right before Advent.

Advent has always been a time I’ve sought to draw close to

God, either in joy, as when I first trusted Christ and all the

carols started to make sense some thirty years ago, and or in

sorrow, sensing the vanity of its usual trappings as the world

around rushes about. Older friends may remember poems

from past Christmas letters, written out of this sadness or


Recently, I have taken up the popular trend of choosing a

“Word of the Year”. For 2019 I chose “With”. I wanted to

remember God is always with me; I need never feel alone. I

also set two goals: (1) minimalize my house and, (2)

transcribe some of the poems I had received last November

and assemble them into a chap book for gifting.

It seemed everything conspired against completing these

two, modest goals. On the minimalism front, by April I had

cleared boxes upon boxes of unnecessary goods out of our

house, only to have our (finished) basement flood. Boxes

piled up again everywhere as we awaited new basement

flooring. And then my mother-in-law fell, requiring surgery

and a stay in a rehab facility. Our air conditioner died. Our

dryer died. Our roof developed a leak. Our basement flooded

a second time. Then in August Mum fell again, while in rehab,

this time forcing us to acknowledge she would no longer be

able to live in her home nearby. All of September we were

preparing Mum’s house to go on the market. What couldn’t

be sold or stored elsewhere ended up in our recently purged

and refloored basement. So much for minimalizing!

Things went no smoother on the chap book front. Though

they were still refreshing times for my soul, as with the year

before, none of the times I had set aside for writing brought

me tangibly closer to my goal. Despite having taught others

the ins and outs of Shutterfly photo albums, and despite

being proficient in PowerPoint and Word, a simple Amazon

self-publish effort seemed somehow beyond me. (Part of the

challenge was I wanted to include a photo backdrop of a

snow angel I had made at the local Abbey labyrinth on each

page). Then my relatively new laptop died, right before the

August family vacation. Things were so busy my computer

had to be outsourced for repair. When we got back, Geek

Squad had indeed gotten my computer to turn on, but it took

another month before my computer-savvy but time-poor

husband could get my software up and running so I could

access my files.

Everywhere I looked, more important issues needed tending.

I knew if God wanted this project done, he could do it, so

rested in the thought there must be some reason for the

delay. Perhaps God was building my perseverance. Perhaps

he was working on my pride. Perhaps he wanted to use the

poems some other way. Or perhaps, I wasn’t supposed to

share them after all. But despite the year’s chaos, and my lack

of apparent progress on my goals, my word of the year held

true. I knew God was still with me.

Finally, last weekend-- again, when I least expected it-- God

answered my prayer. This time in a less dramatic, but no less

sweet, way. The location was, of all places, Newark Airport.

Yes, the airport currently ranked last in the nation, according

report cited in the sermon I had heard just that morning.

Terminal 35, between around noon and 5 pm. Truly a

delightful slice of time with nothing to do but wait for my

return flight following a weekend visiting Alden. (It is his

senior year and I was determined to hear his a cappella group

live before he graduated.) Usually I might swipe through

photos of my trip during a lag like that. Instead, I noticed that

the airline had recommended taking screen shots of one’s

boarding pass email to ease in retrieval when boarding. Along

these lines, it occurred to me that if I took screen shots of the

poems I had previously formatted in Word, I might still be

able to make a demo similar enough to what I had envisioned

in my mind but had not been able to execute with my current

knowledge of Kindle, despite not having brought a laptop—

and in time for gifting this year. Eureka!

I have not yet received the hard copy of the demo I ordered

off my phone at the airport last weekend. However, in the

spirit of simplicity and contentment with what is which

formed the foundation for these poems, I have decided to

send the link to the resultant album as is, in hopes a poem or

two might breathe life to you as you walk through this often

frenetic season, much like they did me when I received them.

For God longs to be “With” you. During Christmastime and

always. Of that, I am sure.

Jesus’ Truly,


P. S. Updates will surely be made once I receive the demo and

can read the text more easily. Process not perfection!

Thanking God for friends on the creative journey.

(Note: the chapbook has the photos of the snow angels, but the poems in blogspot do not.)

(If you are receiving this book in paper form, that is evidence

its editing ha