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Interview with Jeannie Kendall, author of 'Held in Your Bottle'

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Interview with Jeannie Kendall, author of 'Held in Your Bottle'
Interview with Jeannie Kendall, author of Held in Your Bottle

Whether we are crying tears of regret, loss, gratitude or anger, the Bible says that God holds them all in his bottle. We can draw comfort from the fact that no tear goes unseen by him.  Jeannie Kendall explores a rich variety of emotions in her new book Held in Your Bottle.  Modern day testimonies are related alongside a retelling of a relevant Bible character’s experience of the same emotion, and then honest and insightful reflections help us understand the issues raised.  Held in Your Bottle will enable you to look at the Bible in a fresh way and help you better accept and understand your emotional life.

Jeannie Kendall is a Baptist minister, who has served in two churches and had extensive experience working within a pastoral and counselling setting. She is a former Spurgeon’s College president and currently teaches on the Pastoral Supervision course.

Jeannie, why did you decide to write Held in Your Bottle?

I’m never sure if I decide to write a book or it somehow decides to get written! I came across some photographs of tears and was astonished at how different they looked and the incredibly varied occasions on which they had been shed. That really started me thinking about the times people cried in the Bible, beginning the journey of discovery which resulted in the book.

This is an unusual title – why did you choose this?

It comes from Psalm 56:8, which in some translations reads that God has collected our tears in a bottle. It has been my privilege in my previous roles as a counsellor and then minister to be with people who are deeply distressed and I have sometimes quoted the verse to them, as a way of helping them see their tears are not something to be ashamed of, but rather are precious to God.

Who have you written this book for?

Anybody! I think so many of us need help understanding and accepting our emotions – finding them overwhelming at times, or alternatively not giving them the space they need. I’ve found over the years that Christians particularly can be troubled by them, feeling that faith means they should hold their emotions back rather than befriend them and learn from them. I hope that Christians might find fresh insights from the biblical stories, and so grow in their understanding both of the Bible and the way God has made us. I also think this would be a good gift for those who do not have a faith but are interested both in stories and in how we tick as people or want to understand themselves or others better.

You have mentioned that the inspiration for the book started with some photographs of different types of tears. Can you explain a little more about these and how it inspired you?

The author, Rose-Lynn Fisher, had collected her tears cried in very different circumstances and, once dried, put them under a microscope. The resulting photographs are quite extraordinary, very varied and some are quite beautiful. I’d only ever known about the three kinds of tears (basal tears which ‘wash’ our eyes, reflex tears caused by an irritant such as peeling onions, and emotional tears). Looking at the extraordinary variety started me thinking about my own journey with tears as well as the wider complexity we share as people.

You say in the book that you had an ‘ambivalent’ attitude towards your own tears for many years. Why was this and why has this changed?

My parents, for different reasons and in different ways, struggled with their emotions. Through no fault of theirs I therefore grew up rather ashamed of my tears, recognising in theory that they were important, and very happy to be with others who were crying, but feeling I needed to keep mine hidden and apologising if they ‘escaped’. My training as a counsellor helped me understand more about how important expressing my feelings, including through tears, is and how much my emotions could teach me. However, I think the main change came both through some significant people who have ‘allowed’ my tears, and by discovering more about God’s love for me, that he has made me as I am and that includes my emotions.

You combine modern day personal testimonies with first person retellings of connected Bible stories along with psychological and theological insights for each type of tears. Why did you choose this approach and what do you think each component brings to the book?

I love stories and I think we can all relate to them. I wanted to include the biblical ones as I love the realism of the Bible and the way the stories there are still incredibly relevant to us today. The current stories also show how we face the same things today and I think those reading the book will identify with them. The insights are to ground our stories, in a very accessible way, with why we feel what we feel and that understanding ourselves can really help us to not be overwhelmed by or be afraid of our feelings.

What was the most challenging element of writing the book?

This book is more personal than my previous book, Finding Our Voice, both because some of the anonymous stories are mine, but more so because throughout the book I have drawn on, and at times been specific about, my own ongoing growing in this area. As writers know, that is quite a vulnerable thing to do, but I am glad I have.

And what was the most rewarding element of writing this book?

I’m not sure if rewarding is the right word, but it was a huge privilege to receive the stories I did from people today, and I do hope I have done them justice. I am very grateful to them for their honesty.

Have you learnt anything new / been reminded afresh about God/ your faith while writing this book?

I’ve been reminded I still have a lot to learn! I’m not someone who has all this worked out – God is still walking with me in it. Oddly, during Covid at times I have found it hard to cry, I think because my feelings almost run too deep. I’ve sung wordless laments instead, but in that God has reminded me how deeply he understands me, that who I am is OK and he and I are journeying together.

Held in Your Bottle says that our tears are important for our wellbeing and to God. Why do you think that is?

Sitting on my emotions has never done me any favours, and I don’t think that is unique to me! I truly believe Jesus was the most truly emotional person who ever lived, because his emotions were as God intended. He cried – sobbed – at times, as I explore in the book. Learning to recognise and express our feelings in an appropriate way and a safe setting, including with tears, is part of God’s salvation – wholeness – and because he loves us so completely our emotions and tears really matter to him, so much so he collects each tear.

What would you say to anyone who is in the midst of a season of tears at this moment?

This last year has seen so many tears, for so many reasons. Seasons of tears come of course in different ways. If your tears are of joy or gratitude, enjoy the circumstances that have brought them about, and savour the time. If the tears are because of a painful time, I would encourage you to let others companion you, whether that is friends, people in a church, or those who can help professionally such as counsellors. Above all, know that God has promised to be with us, that Jesus has lived a fully human life, including with tears, so truly understands and that you are precious to him.

What do you hope readers will most get out of reading this book?

I think that will vary for each person, and at different times too – I hope this is a book people will re-read at different times. I hope that it will be a mix of finding new ways to look at the Bible stories and realising again it is a remarkable book, relating to the stories, learning more about our emotional lives: but above all, finding more about how much God understands and loves you.

In one sentence, how would you describe Held in Your Bottle?

An exploration, by someone still very much learning, of our God-given emotions and particularly those expressed by tears.

Is there anything we can pray for you?

Thank you - please pray that the book will get to all those who will find it helpful, and that God will work through it in ways only he can.

Authentic Media

Authentic Media is a UK Christian publishing house committed to delivering quality Christian books, music and film to help people on their journey of faith. They are based in Milton Keynes.

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Held in Your Bottle (Paperback)
Jeannie Kendall
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