We are always excited to introduce you to the faces behind Being Human. Our goal with these interviews is to offer you a small glimpse into the heart and story of another traveler so that we can build connections through our shared humanity. Rob Bell likes to remind us, “The real art is: Can I look far enough inside of you to find me?”
Our biggest hope is that you would uncover surprising commonalities, practice listening learn anew, sit with the truth of someone else’s experiences, and see into the heart of a fellow human without categorizing them or making judgments.
With that said, we’d like you to meet Jenneth Graser. Jenneth is a writer, contemplative pianist and homeschool Mom, living in the Western Cape of South Africa with her husband Karl and three daughters. She is the author of several poetry and devotional books. Jenneth loves her library of second-hand books, practicing the presence of God in nature’s cathedral, and flying in airplanes on her way to new adventures. She believes in the healing power of heart conversations, centering prayer, and the constantly transforming journey of the inner life.
And now onto our chat with Jenneth!
The first question is always this: What emotions, images, thoughts, or ideas come to you when you hear the phrase “being human”?
A cappuccino and leather couch with tantalizing time to spare, reading a book. Doing homeschool life with my girls. Honest conversations from the heart. Learning to love myself unconditionally. A mindful awareness of shared global connection. Family and everything that comes with it, the ups and downs, the laughter and tears in a space of continual growth, forgiveness and most of all, everything that comes with love.
Being barefoot on the earth with my feet in a stream under a cathedral of leaves, taking in the sights, sounds and feelings of nature with all of my senses. Making friends with my feelings. Slowing down to take everything in.
Praying as a relationship, not for answers or to tick off on a to-do list. Developing, discovering, adventuring, healing and growing. Not expecting perfection from myself, or others. Learning to listen. Becoming instead of striving. Growing comfortable with silence.
Rather than achieving or arriving, learning to be on a journey. Rather than having a driven ambition for success and constant activity, growing in awareness and acceptance. But especially, learning to be loved, and learning to love.
Looking back on your childhood how did you see or feel or experience your innate connection and belonging to Love/the Bigger Story?
Through my parent’s love and a feeling of belonging in my family.
Through the beauty of nature.
I remember the gigantic pine trees in British Columbia, the feel of summer lake water on my skin, freshly fallen snow, toboggans and snow-angels.
Reading books that took me to different worlds, like A Wrinkle in Time. Watching movies like The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal.
Adventures on a houseboat with my family, being crazy with my sister.
The smell of my Gran’s pottery in the cellar.
The yellow slip ‘n slide on our lawn with laughing friends. Picnics and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Being awed by the salmon run frenzy, totem poles and panning for gold.
A conservatory of blooms and golden koi fish in a pond.
Waiting on the bridge at Hell’s Gate with my Mom and sister.
Cherry blossoms and picking cherries from the tree in our garden.
What are some of the unique and/or basic contemplative practices that you have in your life?
Centering prayer and praying with my family, walking on Llandudno beach with the constant rhythm of waves over my feet, writing and reading poetry, reading books on contemplative practices, being in nature, playing my piano and singing, Lectio Divina, Mystic Prayers (quotes of the saints and mystics), listening to scripture and music, journaling.
How do you view your relationship to the natural world/Mother Earth?
I feel deeply connected with God through nature. It helps me to realign, to balance, to come into a grounded pace for life, to reconnect with myself and others. I feel God healing me through nature, beautiful views, the noticing of what is around me in creation, using my senses to experience it as fully as I can, taking in the sights, sounds, textures and fragrances, appreciating the silence nature brings to my heart.
Paula D’Arcy says, “God comes to us disguised as our life.” What does this stir up in you and how do you see the truth of it unfolding in your day-to-day?
Life doesn’t look the way you always thought it would as a child or a younger version of yourself. In fact, I still feel like I’m “growing up” and I don’t think I’ll ever feel different about that. Some of my dreams have come true, others hang in the balance possibly waiting for another time, and some won’t come true on this side. To come to a place of peace with that and gratitude… instead of constantly striving for more things to happen, for the grass to be greener on the other side, for life to arrive at a place of making perfect sense.
Because constantly waiting for things to happen is exhausting to the soul. I’ve discovered it’s better to do what is in front of me to do, without waiting for perfect settings.
To follow my dreams as best I can, without needing permission. To stop striving for success whatever that looks like and climb down the never-ending ladder of ambition to rest my feet on the ground. To rather listen for the true heartbeat of life and search for true meaning – that love is waiting for me in every moment – love for myself, love for God, love for others. That love is everything.
What are some things you do to nurture your soul and practice self-compassion?
What I say to myself when I feel like I’m unraveling, is “Do something you love and that makes you happy.”
The action in itself helps me to practice self-care and draw myself towards myself. One of the ways I do that, is I shop in a second-hand bookstore looking out for a kindred book…that’s a book that makes me feel like I’m coming alive and my fingers tingle when I leaf through the pages.
Also, I watch movies with my husband, make intentional space for writing and we go to my parents in the country for holidays…where it feels like a home away from home. It’s so safe we can leave the doors unlocked, which is a big thing for us in South Africa. We wade and swim in the river, notice the tiny crabs, fish and shells, and walk up into the mountain where the fynbos flowers are so generous. It restores me deeply.
Another self-nurture practice is my time at the piano, which takes me to a different place in my spirit.
I stop off at the most beautiful tiny shrine in the world, at Schoenstatt Retreat chapel garden, make the sign of the cross and light a candle.
I breathe in my favorite essential oil blends with a diffuser, chat with an understanding friend, and watch Korean drama series.
What are you currently reading and/or listening to that we need to know about?!
I just finished reading The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe and found it deeply moving and inspirational. The author manages to bring this incredible woman’s story to life in a compassionate and heart-wrenching way. Based on fact, this living story will remain with me.
Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is Japanese for “the reason you wake up in the morning,” and their supposed secret to a long and happy life. What currently makes you excited to be alive in this world?
Waking up early to work on my book, Unlocking the Secret Garden. This book is so close to my heart because I felt God inviting me to write this as a way to heal through the incredibly difficult times we’ve all been going through over the past year and more. My husband lost his job because of Covid and we’ve been pushing through, seeing ourselves provided for every month even though there has been no salary to depend on. This rearranges your mindsets about life completely. Writing my book through this past season is how I feel ikigai in a very important way.
Thank you for this little peek into your life Jenneth, we are all better for it! Don’t you just want to relish in her responses? They all seemed to read like a poem. Was there anything in particular for you that stood out or that stirred up a memory or a story? Where can you relate with Jenneth?
And, we are so happy to announce that since the writing of this interview, Jenneth has released her latest book, Unlocking the Secret Garden: 100 Days of Imaginative Prayer, as well as the companion journal. You can purchase your copy online on Amazon or wherever you buy your books!
Jenneth would love to connect more with you. There are so many ways to find her!
Be sure to read her latest articles on Being Human here.