Q&A with Kristen Vincent

1. Tell us a little bit about the events that led you to write Beads of Healing.

The book begins with a traumatic event that occurred when I was seven. Though I’ve wondered over the years whether I would write about this event, I was always clear that I couldn’t write about it until my wounds had healed. As I say in the intro (referencing a quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber), I wanted to be able to write from my scars, rather than my wounds. Thus, when I experienced profound healing at The Academy for Spiritual Formation, I recognized that I was ready to write about the trauma and my journey of healing.


I felt a particular calling to write about the healing because I see so many people who are wounded in various ways. They may get counseling but they don’t always get support to deal with their spiritual wounds, and that’s critical. Plus I was, and am, so deeply grateful to the Academy and to God that I couldn’t help but write a story of profound gratitude.


2. In your book you say that being still was a game changer for you. How so?


I’ve spent my life being on the go, always moving as quickly as possible. I did not want to be still because being still was scary and felt hard—impossible even. Even when I got to the Academy, I fought it by bringing piles of work and my computer to each session.


But over time I began to trust, because in the end, being still is about trusting God, ourselves, and sometimes others. And I learned that the stillness didn’t contain anything scary; instead it offered peace and healing. Once I understood that, I opened myself up to it. Now I crave stillness and find it easy to enter into it at any moment and in any place.


3. For readers unfamiliar with Protestant prayer beads, explain what they are and why people use them.


Protestant prayer beads are a prayer tool designed to help facilitate stillness, prayer, and connection with God. While the Protestant prayer bead format was only developed in the 1980s, the practice of using something tangible in prayer dates back thousands of years to when the Lord encouraged the Israelites to use knotted fringe to experience God’s presence and be reminded of God’s commandments.


Since that time, Christians have used other common objects such as pebbles, knotted rope, and strings of beads in prayer. The beads help you refocus when your mind wanders in prayer, remind you of God’s presence in difficult times, offer structure or a path to make prayer easier, and facilitate stillness and listening by using each bead to repeat a word or phrase. For the purposes of this book, the beads can also create a safe space in which survivors can bring their pain and hard questions before God.


4. In Beads of Healing you write, “Healing carries responsibility.” Explain what this means.


Healing changes you. Whether you experience spiritual, physical, or emotional healing, you will come out of the experience a changed person, one with a greater sense of God’s deep love.


This means two things. First, you will begin to move from a different place. Whereas before the healing you moved from a place of fear, grief, anger, etc., now you will move from a place of peace and belovedness, requiring you to learn a new way of living. You will need to take responsibility for learning and being open to this new way of being.


Second, you will need to share this place of peace and belovedness with others. You won’t be able to help yourself. Peace is not meant to be held onto but to be shared, which means you’ll be responsible for identifying ways to share this message of God’s deep love.


5. In your book you talk about many of the emotions, both good (forgiveness, peace, trust) and bad (anger, shame, fear) that trauma victims may feel. Which ones stand out the most for you, and why?


I would not want to characterize any emotions as bad. That implies judgment. Emotions are just emotions, and all are natural and necessary for life and growth. The difference, I would say, is that we were created by a God of love and goodness and thus are meant for love and peace, which form the foundation of trust, forgiveness, and gratitude. So the problem is when we get stuck in those emotions that keep us from experiencing love and peace: anger, shame, fear. That’s where the healing comes in.


As for your original question, the emotion that stuck with me for most of my life was fear. I talk about the Great Fear, a reference to The Shack. In my 40s I recognized I had lived my entire life from a place of fear: I woke up afraid and anxious, I spent my day afraid and anxious, I went to bed afraid and anxious. And I got so tired of that and knew there was something better.


Now I would say I am most focused on love. I have come away from my healing experience with the absolute conviction that our God is a God of deep love, which means that I am deeply loved, and so is everyone else. I celebrate this and can’t say it enough, because it’s from this foundation of deep love that I feel trust, forgiveness, gratitude, peace, etc.


6. Major breakthroughs in your healing came when you participated in The Academy for Spiritual Formation. What would you identify as the most important parts of the Academy environment that contributed to your healing?


The Academy is about rhythm: the rhythm of leaving home every three months for a 5-day retreat, the rhythm of the week’s themes, and the rhythm of the daily schedule. While this doesn’t seem like much, the rhythm has a specific benefit: you can trust the rhythm. You can relax into it because you know how it works.


And since the rhythm is based on prayer, worship, solitude, and community, you can begin to lean into the God who is the focus of all this. That’s the beauty of the Academy. So no matter who you are or what your story is, when you enter into the rhythm of the Academy, you can begin to find what you are seeking.


I particularly loved the themes for each session and talk about those in the book. The idea was that you entered at a somewhat superficial level the first day of the session. Then as you get closer to midweek, you have left your busy life behind and entered into a deep, and sometimes dark, place with God. From there you prepare to reenter life, but hopefully from a new, more enlightened place.


Also, I loved the leadership team members. Absolutely loved them.


7. What do you hope readers will take away from reading Beads of Healing?


First and foremost, I hope readers will understand that God is a God of love. Because of this truth, no matter what happened to them, they will know that God did not cause the pain but was with them in it. Indeed, God never left their side and has been working ever since to comfort and heal them.


Second, I want readers to know that joy, peace, and wholeness are possible after trauma. It is so common for people to lose hope and get stuck in places of depression and fear. But it gets better. Even if all they can say is, “Help!”—if that’s all they can manage—that’s enough to begin the healing process because God will hear their plea.


Third, I hope readers will learn techniques to aid them in their healing journey. Whether it’s the prayer beads, reflection questions, reading, or discussion, I pray they will feel encouraged to continue on their healing journey.


I also hope people will learn that this book can be useful even for individuals who haven’t experienced a traumatic event. Indeed, we have all experienced pain and loss, we have all been angry, and we all have tough questions for God. This book is an opportunity to bring those feelings and questions before a loving God.


8. In your book you recommend that readers undertake this study with others. How might small groups use Beads of Healing?


It is essential that readers have someone to support them as they read this book, since it may trigger memories or bring up questions or emotions. A small group would be a great way to provide such support. In the Leader’s Guide I urge small groups to invite a trained professional such as a therapist, spiritual director, or pastor to help lead and provide support during this study.


Being part of a group can remind you that you are not alone in the darkness; many of us are there as well, as is God. Group members can also help you learn to speak your truth and process the emotions and questions that arise. They can also point you toward the direction of the light where trust, forgiveness, and gratitude lie.


Small groups can use the Leader’s Guide as a basis for their group meetings. Still, healing takes time and I wouldn’t expect that participants would move through their healing journey in just 16 weeks. Thus, my hope is that the book will allow a group to explore and discuss the healing process without any expectation that they should all be in a place of wholeness by the end.


9. How did God bless you while you were writing Beads of Healing?


More than with any other book I’ve written, I felt a keen sense of purpose and hope in writing this one. Never have I loved writing a book more. I really had to trust God in the process, figuring out how to tell my story, what I needed to say, what I learned from my journey that would help others, how to structure the book, etc. I absolutely love the three sections of the book—speaking your truth, healing your spirit, experiencing God’s peace—and feel that was a revelation. And I loved having the opportunity to process my journey through words and reflect on all that has happened and what it means for me and for others.


What I also loved most about this book is how it led to opportunities to hear other people’s stories of healing. When they heard what I was working on, people began to share their own stories of pain or loss. I was honored to hear people speak their truth—in some cases for the first time—and offer up either their questions for God or their testimonies of God’s healing grace. I realized the book was creating sacred, safe space for all of us.


10. What are your hopes and prayers for Beads of Healing?


I pray people will find healing and progress in their journey toward wholeness. I pray they will experience God’s deep love. I pray they will develop the courage to speak their truth.


11. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. What’s next for you?


When I answered this question, I was preparing for the launch of this book. That journey will continue as people read and study the book and as I lead workshops on prayer beads and healing. I want to be ready to hear more stories of truth, enter into people’s pain, and celebrate their journey toward wholeness. I am so excited about that.


I am also listening for God’s voice and direction as it relates to my next writing project. Right now I feel compelled to speak again about God’s deep love and am exploring ideas around that. In general, but particularly in this day and age, I think people don’t hear that message enough and are so desperate for it. And I understand the fundamental shift that would take place in our world if everyone began to embrace that message. So we’ll see.


Meanwhile, I am trying out different chocolate mousse recipes in my continued quest for perfection. It is serious business.