During the summer of 2012, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. I have a certain fondness for books read in the summer. A book has to be enticing to lure one away from playing in the sunshine.
I was consumed with this book because it was everything I believed but didn’t have the beautiful language to convey. This blog was started in 2006 and named A Work of Heart with the tagline, paying attention to God in our midst. I wanted to write about all the ways God shows up in everyday life. Reading this book made me feel understood and embraced. It’s my deepest hope to lay down words here which more often point to God than to me. It’s the place where I get to share about the geography of my faith.
“Or I can set a little altar in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is. I can flag one more gate to heaven–one more patch of ordinary earth with ladder marks on it–where the divine traffic is heavy when I notice it and even when I do not. I can see it for once, instead of walking right past it, maybe even setting a stone or saying a blessing before I move on to where I am due next.”
~An Altar in the World
We have plenty of time to take notice of our surroundings and our lives now. There are no longer the perpetual distractions and busyness of appointments, events, practices, sports, etc. In many ways, we don’t have the luxury to look away and bury our thoughts in a full schedule anymore. We have the gift of being able to reflect longer and deeper than usual if we dare.
We don’t have to redecorate our homes to make a place of refuge, a respite from the storms which rage throughout our world. It’s as simple as lighting a candle at the beginning and the end of each day. Maybe it’s pulling out the good dishes while you eat grilled cheese sandwiches and telling jokes during dinner. You could sit on your porch with a book, making sure to greet all who walk past. Or spread a blanket on your front steps and drink a favorite beverage. Yesterday, we anchored a crate to our giant maple tree along our parking strip and filled it with bottles of bubbles for passing children, hoping to impart a tiny bit of airborne joy from our home to theirs.
In what ways can your home become a place of refuge and rest in a weary world?
Those who have loved Barbara Brown Taylor’s writing have often borrowed a question she was asked when invited to speak.
“What do you want me to talk about?” I asked him.
“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” he answered. It was if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground. I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.”
Recently, I have been closing some posts by recounting what has helped over the past week. It is the same as describing what is saving my life.
Daily rhythms are saving my life right now. When I look over the past month, there have been productive days and days when I felt kind of crummy inside and out. There have been days the pace of a snail and other days I couldn’t believe it was time to fix dinner.
The consistent part of my days has been maintaining, adhering to and if I am honest, running towards my rhythms. They have been an anchor during this turbulent time. I have written these ways before but repetition is the beauty of rhythms and routines. The value multiplies over time.
At night, I write in my journal documenting the day. This helps me remember and drains my brain so I can sleep. It’s kind of like how I wished I had written down EVERY funny or cute thing my children said instead of thinking I would NEVER forget them. This is for the same reason, I will forget. I want to remember.
After I finish writing, I bring my Bible, studies, other journals (#writer problems), planner and whatever book I want to read in the morning. It could be non-fiction, fiction or a devotional book. I make a stack in front of my chair at our dining room table. Sometimes I fill a glass of water and place it on the table as well. I love cold water but sometimes room temperature water feels better in the morning. I pray, write or recite any verse I want to memorize and usually write a card to send.
This rhythm circles my day. My end of the day rhythm helps me sleep and prepares me for the next day. The day begins in a way that brings me peace and direction for the hours ahead. Each has become a sturdy signpost drawing my attention away from fretting. A colorful journal to remind me of the beauty in a day when the world seems to have shifted to black and white hues. A small stack of hope to help affix to my heart and mind.
A signpost could be reading glasses to remember to read or running shoes as a nudge towards the outdoors. It might be a water bottle to stay hydrated or a sticky note with the word BREATH in bold letters. Rhythms don’t have to be complicated or take hours. Try one thing, repeat it and see if it adds value to each day. We all have rhythms whether we are conscious of them or not, now is a wonderful time to create rhythms to strengthen you now and hopefully will last way beyond this patch of time.
What’s saving your life right now?
May the gift of each day, whether filled with easy or difficult parts, be anchored by rhythms to equip you with peace and stability. May your dwelling place feel like a sanctuary of rest and hope.