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What is Saving My Life These Days–take 2

July 26, 2012

A couple of days ago, I opened up on my favorite bloggers to discover this question:  What is saving your life right now?  I smiled to myself, immediately recognizing the source, Barbara Brown Taylor.  While I thought this was a question unique to Altar in the World, I discovered she also shared the challenge to reflect on our lives in Leaving Church.  Earlier this year, I had asked myself the same question, so I read over my response, just to see if my answers had changed in the past three months.

Nope.  Still mostly the same, however I am discovering in the summer, while the time with the littles have intensified due, those things I wrote about are more important.  It’s a bit like my mom’s fuzzy tea that she makes.  My mom goes to the kitchen garden and clips tall, fuzzy mint.  She steeps it in boiling water for awhile, adds some sugar, and then pours it into saved Stewart’s Root Beer 1/2 liter glass bottles.  It is kept in the fridge into one of us wants some tea.  To drink it, we fill the bottom of a glass about a 1/6 full of the concentrate and then add enough water to fill up the glass.  That’s how it is with the things saving my life these days.  It takes just a little of these things to flavor my whole day–to make it a bit sweeter and me a bit nicer.

Reading other responses,  I discovered that my original isn’t that creative…or even original for that matter.  Initially, I felt rather normal and usual, not in a good way, more like the I am not unique way.  However, as I had time with my response and others’, I wondered if maybe instead of being sad about my normalcy, I should celebrate it instead.  There are many out of there similar to me….I am not alone….I have others with me on my journey, whether I know them by name or by the blog header.  The number of my “neighbors” have greatly increased.  Hallelujah.  Thanks be to God.

Here’s my original post, first published on May 2, 2012:

I can be a grump.  I am the first to admit it.  Some days, I would like to just stick to my own agenda, not move on my children’s schedule, much less other adults’ schedules.  Sometimes, I don’t want a neighbor to call me to ask if I can watch her son for 10 minutes after swim practice in order that she can juggle her busy schedule with two children.  I don’t want to go up to my daughter’s school to volunteer, much less make supper for the Wednesday night classes at church.  Showing up for my women’s group seems like to much work some weeks.  Sometimes I just want to be left alone.

Today was one of those days.  Two weeks ago, I got strep for the first time in my life and it was miserable.  It took me until today to finally feel completely like myself again.  In the midst of my sickness, I also had to care for my daughter was sick and juggle my boys.  As I recovered, my husband left town to help his mom move her things to from the West Coast to Texas.  I feel like I am all given out.  I have self-sacrificed, I have taken care of others, and now I just want to withdraw for a while.  Is it too much to ask to go on a silent retreat for two days and recover?

Yes, it is too much to ask, I realized this afternoon as I managed to fit in my quiet time.  I read this in Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, et al:

God, help us to imitate you as we feed those who hunger for bread, for justice, for companionship, for forgiveness, for alternate ways of living in this world.  Give us your words, equip our hands, and guide our feet.  Sustain us, Lord, with your healing love.  Amen.

Well, there it was.  My pleading for an escape was the wrong prayer.  While retreats are a good thing for spiritual renewal, retreats as an escape from responsibility are not.  I didn’t need an escape.  I needed sustenance, so I could help out that neighbor who needed help, so I could forgive that driver who was tailgating me even though there was no one in the passing lanes next to me.  Sustenance is what is necessary, not escape.

If escape is not an option, than what do I do?  In the introduction to Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World, a “wise old priest” invited Barbara Brown Taylor to speak at his church.  When she asked what she should speak on, he responded  by saying, “Come tell us what is saving your life now.”  In preparation for a book study I am starting this week, I stumbled upon this interrogative again.  What is saving my life now?  The answer to that is in part the sustenance I seek to enable me to feed those who hunger for companionship and forgiveness.

I’ve realized the answer to that isn’t that complex or deep.  My superheroes?  Time reading the Bible and books on Christianity.  Journaling and writing.  A few hours on my bike a week.  True girlfriends–women with whom I am beyond small talk.  My gratitude list which I’ve been working on off and on since 1994 (that’s right, I have whole journals full of things I am thankful for–the names havechanged over the years–happy list, gratitude list, thankful list, but the essence is the same.  I keep thinking I should count them, but the number doesn’t matter).  Time spent with my husband.  Time volunteering at Madeleine’s school.   Time being present in the moment, without rushing.  These are things I need to remember to turn to when I don’t feel like it.  These things can transform me when I feel like the grump is here to stay forever.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you,

Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims way.

Those who go through the desolate valley

Will go find it a place of springs

For the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

Psalms 84:4-5

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2012 9:52 pm

    Beautiful.

  2. July 27, 2012 12:25 am

    I needed this reminder. Sustenance, not a retreat. And boy, am I a retreater. 🙂 Thank you for these thoughts.

    • July 27, 2012 1:27 am

      Oh yes. I think retreats especially appeal to the introverted type—nothing like the idea of a silent retreat (or one where I know very few people) to make me get all giddy. 🙂

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