A New Season for My Blog

If you look at the “Archives” tab to the right, you will notice that this blog goes back to 2005.  Much has happened to me during that time.  I have continued to grow, change and become who I am today.  A process I highly recommend.

A new season of blogging is emerging for me.  Beginning tomorrow, I am moving all of my blogging energies over to the newly formed Presence Blog.  I have teamed up with a wonderful group of women and we are going to focus on spiritual formation for women.

The Presence Vision is simple:  Encouraging women to embrace God’s loving and intimate Presence into their own lives and then freely extend that Presence to others.

Women can often be busy and distracted with the many relationships and responsibilities we have in our lives.  What if we could live a life of grace, remembering that God and His love are always available.  What if we could fill up on Him to a place of overflow, where we have more than enough left over to share with others?

Please make your way over to the Presence Blog now.  Join in on the conversation by following, reading and commenting.  Join us!



How to Embrace the Dark Night of the Soul

www.gemhelen.comLaying in a hospital bed after surgery, I felt peace.  Mind you, it was a drug induced peace, but peace all the same. I couldn’t worry, I could barely put thoughts together or even open my eyes. I simply lay there, coming in and out of consciousness.

The drugs were doing their job.  My body had been through a trauma and I was being numbed so that I wouldn’t feel what had happened.  My body was beginning its recovery.  Feeling the pain in its fullness would have certainly impeded healing as my stress levels would have been through the roof.  Yes, having a sense of physical numbness was definitely better.

I could tell that my husband, Alan, was there, but I didn’t have enough energy to speak to him. I remember feeling his presence as a kind of warmth, a knowing that someone I love, and who loves me, was near.  Words weren’t necessary.  Presence was enough.

Sometimes in life we can hit a numb place, a desert or fog like experience.  Some might call it a dark night of the soul.  Whatever you call it, it can be a little unsettling.  In these times, God is gracious enough to let us feel numb as He is bringing healing to a place deep within our soul.

If you are in such a place, take heart.  It doesn’t last forever.  Receive the grace for each moment.  If you are truly in a dark night of the soul, this numbness is exactly where you should be.  It is a great grace to take you to another level of wholeness in Him.  Think of the fog / numbness / darkness as a gift from a loving Father who wants your ultimate best.

Rest.  Breathe.  Be.

“So I tell you, it is to make the soul rise from imperfection that I withdraw from her feelings and deprive her of the comfort she had known.” (Catherine of Siena. The Dialogue. Trans. by Suzanne Noffke, O.P. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980, p. 119)

Prayer Starters

www.gemhelen.comThe following is a journal entry from February 25, 2010.  I didn’t blog it back then because if felt raw.  Having enough space from that day (and further along in my journey) I share it now.  I hope that you might resonate with the sadness and/or anger that can come when we are doing our inner work.  Sometimes we “hear” from God and sometimes we don’t.  I was thankful for the way He met me that day.  It began with just a couple of words…they paved the way for me to lay out before Him what was troubling me.


On February 25 I attended the Spiritual Formation Partners gathering in Huntington Beach.  The theme was receiving healing from the Father.  After a talk, we were given time to be with God and interact with Him, using some sentence starters.  The two sentence starters that resonated most with me that day were “I miss…” and “I’m angry.”  Here are my sentences.  My thoughts follow:

  • I miss Your felt Presence.
  • I’m angry because I feel unstable and discombobulated.
  • I miss inner peace.
  • I miss sensing my place in Your story.

It seems as though the slate has been wiped clean and I am still trying to make sense of things as though things are the same as before.  During worship today I had a small sense of my depravity – my utter lostness without You.

I then had an image of “the slate being wiped clean.”  The old was gone.  The image morphed into a banquet table.  The room around was dark and the table was empty.  The question arose from within me, “What is on Your banquet table for me?”  It seemed as though God was saying, “Be patient.  I will fill the table.”  I had the sense that He would bring “new food.”  It felt peaceful.


Now, a few years later, I can say that I am seeing God add to my table.  Having come through a time when he seemed far, I am now sensing Him near.  Another season of bringing further clarity into who He has made me to be and what He has made me to do.

If you’d like, you can try this prayer practice.  Below are a few prayer sentence starters.  Which one strikes you?  Turn it into an honest prayer.  Then pause to listen and be still.

I love…
I miss…
I’m angry…
I feel…
I wish…
I desire…
I think…
I’m frustrated…

How to Begin a New Pattern

www.gemhelen.comA little over a year ago, I had a hysterectomy.  If this is TMI for you, I apologize.  But it is completely relevant to my point.  I had been anemic for years.  I was getting more weak as time passed and I had moved to “take drastic action” status.  My doctor could not believe that I was functioning in my life as my hemoglobin numbers were so low.

Since that time, to say that I have been given a new lease on life is an understatement.  I did not know what it felt like to live with this much energy.  Before, I would tire out by just walking the small hills in my neighborhood.  Now, I am able to work out 3-4 times a week at the gym doing Zumba and BodyCombat, with energy to spare.  Cue salsa music.

There are so many things that I have learned this last year by engaging my body in new ways of movement and exercise.  Often, while working out, God teaches me something new about the parallels between exercise and my spiritual life.  I’ll unpack a few things I’ve learned in upcoming posts.

For now, let’s begin with:


On this first point, I had no choice.  I was weak in every way.  No muscle tone, no cardio strength and no pattern of exercise.  I just knew that I wanted to take my new found energy and get into shape.  The only thing I could do was start right where I was.  So I started with a Step Aerobics class because I had tried it many years ago and it was the only class (other than Yoga) that didn’t intimidate me.  The patterns were repetitive and I was able to keep up.  At first, I would tire out 25 minutes into the workout.  I felt like I had to stop, but I would keep going.  Over time, this subsided and I was able to make it through without bonking.

In my life with Jesus, I find that it is also best to simply begin where I am.  If I want to begin a new pattern, I try not to make any grand, heroic gestures that don’t last.  I simply make a choice or an intention toward God and take that first step.  For example, I am trying something that Larry Warner suggested on his blog.  It is very do-able and I am actually excited to try it.  Nothing heroic, just a new, simple way to think of God each day.

If you are choosing to begin some new prayer practice, engagement with scripture, or way of looking at your life, begin with full acceptance of where you are.  Then make that first step in your process.  No perfectionistic goals, just a desire to be closer to God.

The Presence of God

“If someone asked you to give them another word for ‘God’, you could use the word ‘Presence’, for that is what God is. When Moses asked Yahweh his name, Yahweh replied, ‘I am who am’ and this means ‘I am present’. God is really saying, ‘I shall be there for you.’ God is intimately present to everything, and especially to us. Jesus’s name is Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’. Matthew’s Gospel ends with the marvelous statement: Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” (from Finding God in All Things by Brian Grogan, SJ)


Inviso Video • Breathe

Many of us are beginning the New Year with ideas for changes to make in our lives.  We set goals to try to make a fresh start and do things better or differently than the year before.

Most of us are notoriously hard on ourselves.  If you are moving at the pace of the culture, you likely have a shortage of grace and peace.  Being aware of the “grace in the moment” can return you to a sense of gratitude and perspective.

As you begin this new year, whether you have made goals for yourself or not, I encourage you to remember to BREATHE.

Get comfortable in your chair.  Take a deep breath.  Click Play.  Breathe.

Wordle My Journal 2012

2012 is coming to a close, so I though I would Wordle my journal again.  If you are not familiar with Wordle.net you must check it out.  You can place any text in the box and it will create a graphic based on the words in the text.  The words used most are the largest and so on.  I copied my entire journal from 2012 into the box and this is the image that appeared.  It is fun for me to see what words I used most over the last year.  I am always glad to see that “God” and “Jesus” are among the largest words.

If you “wordled” your year, what words to you think would pop up the most?

Wordle Journal 5 2013