Friday, March 23, 2012

saving my life.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kari began a series on her blog inspired by Barbara Brown Taylor. The series, entitled "How to Save a Life," offers Kari's answers to the question: "What is saving your life right now?" It's a question Taylor was given before one of her lectures, and its answers inspired her to write the book An Altar in the World. Over the next few weeks, I'm joining Kari in offering my answers to the same question. This week, an introduction.


I am restless in the spring.

I have given myself these past two weeks to decide if my tired, aching soul is tired and aching because of daylight savings time, or because it is spring, and this is what my soul does every spring: It longs.

It longs to be outside, to be reading, to experience sun on shoulders, to sweat, to drink, to laugh, to breathe in deep, to lounge, to take things slow.

And it continues to long, because I cannot satisfy it.

Yesterday, I sat in my office, editing furiously, trying to ignore the roar of the jackhammer from the wall on the other side of mine. I turned on music, put on headphones, but nothing really worked. The noise just got louder and louder. Finally, I opened my window.

The noise of the jackhammer was loud, but the sounds of the birds and the breeze and the grass moving and the air conditioner blowing were all louder, somehow. I could hear what I'd been missing, and that made the invading construction far less noticable. It was still there, but I was choosing to ignore it.

I'm in the middle of reading An Altar in the World, and I find that all I want to do is start putting her suggested "spiritual practices" into place right now. I love that Barbara Brown Taylor doesn't offer a list -- no memorization, 30-minute a day Bible studies, lengthy prayers. Instead, her words remind me to simply be present, to acknowledge that this life, this body, is a gift, and it is up to me to recognize it as such.

That's hard to do when you're in an office all day.

I think it would be easier to experience God through the depths of my fingers if I were ever using them for something other than typing. I could be wrong about that, and I'm desperately trying to find Him in the keyboard and in the screen, in the tiny office and the red-marked papers, but right now, when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing and the sky is the most perfect shade of blue? I imagine God is more easily found in the waves and in the dirt and in the hanging fresh clothes on the line than He is in my tiny square footage of office space.

But I am trying. I am getting out of the office when I can. I am opening windows: all the windows I can find everywhere. I am parking farther from my building so that my feet can walk a longer path. I am breathing deep, even when the result is a nose filled with pollen. I am singing in the car; I am taking long walks. (I jog, too, but the other night I chose to mostly walk, and it was glorious.) I am laughing when an afternoon shower catches me outside without an umbrella, and I am finding dried leaves in my hair at the most inopportune times.

My life, right now, isn't as simple as I might like it to be in the future. I go to a job in an office complex every day, without fail. I do that so I can become a better writer, so I can help support our family, so I can use the degree I worked really hard to earn. I do dull things so that sometimes, I can do exciting ones.

There's a poster I've had hanging up in my office since I started my first post-graduate job four years ago. I don't know who Justin Taylor is, but apparently at some point in time, somewhere, he said: "Whatever your vocation, God calls you to honor Him, to reflect His image, and to labor with all of your might. You may not be in your dream job right now. But the secret is to honor God in the little things and to sanctify the ordinary."

Sanctify the ordinary.

I'm not finished with An Altar in the World just yet, but I think the basic premise is that. Sanctify the ordinary. No, I don't live out in the country on a farm filled with wild, beautiful, unruly creation. I don't wake up early and sit on a front porch and greet the sun as it rises in the sky. There aren't a lot of things I have very much time for, simply because I go to work and sit in front of a computer screen every day.

But even in the things I do have -- in the lighting of candles at night or the cooking of dinner or the walking in the park or the opening of my office window or the driving from point a to point b -- there is sanctification.

There is no difference, Taylor argues, between the sacred and the secular.

I am trying to make that true, even in a life that looks like mine.

photo by Alec Vanderboom


Lauren said...

This post is why I think we're blogging soulmates - you perfectly captured exactly what I am feeling with the coming of spring, while at the same time reminding me to experience the ordinary, day-in, day-out of life and work. Thank you (as always) for sharing!

Kari said...

I, too, get restless in spring. When I worked an office job, I had to eat my lunch outside every day. And I used to work in a school where the library was in the middle of the building, so I got no sunlight. This year has been better because Atticus forces us outside every afternoon and I am in a new library with tons of windows.

I see pretty instagram pictures of people's days. I work in a school building, so I can't post the real beauty here (the students) and it's downtown, so I wouldn't say the surroundings are particularly lovely. I have been wondering: How do I find the beauty in this ordinary?

Leslie said...

Sanctify the ordinary. Wow. So trying to do that with motherhood. That is one of the most powerful phrases I've ever read. Just awesome.