white space is rhythm
There is a rhythm which is like
an inward dancing.
And all the time there is the solitude,
. . . isolation from daily life
so much of which is nervous, cacophonous, where one’s attention is
unhappily jerked from this to that,
so that the imagination cannot
accumulate its strength and light.
Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
I want to dance on the inside no matter what surrounds me on the outside. And sing. In that interior space, a sanctuary, I am worshipping my savior, allowing my soul to accumulate its strength and light.
I'm pretty sure that means I need wide stretches of white space, but also work; solitude, but also people; sunshine, but also rain.
I have always thought we were made for work, not drudgery, but honest, simple, gifted, contributing-to-a-better-world work. But we were also made to rest and enjoy. Before we even get to Sabbath rest, there are smaller rhythms to embrace.
Jesus worked as a carpenter most of his life, then was a preacher-carpenter, but he also went to weddings, sat by wells, enjoyed hillside picnics and the sweet company of his closest friends. He seemed to have a sense that he needed movement between opposites like the pendulum in the grandfather clock down the hall in south Texas. Jesus swung gently, faithfully between his teaching to a mountainside of hungry people to sitting around a table with his closest friends to the courts of worship to the local watering hole and then, to time away alone with his Father in communion, prayer and sweat.
I have told you about my father in Dickie Daddy. He was a worker all his life. When I was growing up we all worked together as a family before we could run off and play with our friends. On Saturday mornings, we all did yard work. Daddy mowed and edged, Mama pulled weeds and raked grass into piles that my little brother picked up. I remember sweeping the grass clippings along the edges in front of our house until I had blisters in that soft place near my thumb.
We painted the house as a family too. Daddy painted the boards and we helped Mama with the trim or staining the arbor in the backyard over the brick patio. Mama always chose a pop of color for the front door. I remember one front door that Mama painted mustard yellow, a happy ray of sunshine on our shady front porch.
At the time, I thought all this work was drudgery. It was hot and humid in Texas and I was itchy, besides the other kids weren’t working. They were waiting for us to play. But later, I can remember being “so happy of myself”, a favorite saying in our family. When our home was tidy and trim and the sprinklers were swishing back and forth in a spray, I was satisfied. Laying in the thick St. Augustine grass watching clouds float by while my little sister turned cartwheels was sweet reward. It was kid white space, pure and simple.
My childhood had a nice rhythm to it of family chores, school and homework and then free time, unstructured and unscheduled, both alone and with my friends. My Mama did not pack our schedules or her own by driving us all over town to activities. She was just fine with us being bored too. She always offered to find
something chores for us to do.
I remember being a Brownie and then a Girl Scout with her as troop leader. That's about it until high school. Gasp!
Otherwise, she made sure the game closet was stocked with puzzles, board games and creative things like Spirograph. We read books, ran through sprinklers, did lots of art projects, tiny, cut-out shadow boxes of Betsy Clark and Holly Hobbie, (google it) and we played with our friends in the neighborhood. In the neighborhood. Outside.
I know the world is different now. Our neighborhoods may not be a row of houses with moms at the kitchen window or people we have known long or well. Today, there might even be a Dad at the kitchen window on some days and that's a good thing for everyone.
Maybe it's just me, but I am searching for a more balanced rhythm between being on the go and using my imagination at home, both for me and my family. Because of the Beautiful Cull, Mike is too. I may not be a kid anymore, but I still need those rhythms.
Rhythms go back and forth like that sprinkler swishing in the Texas sun watering the clean-cut St Augustine.
Rhythms in life give meaning as they come and go, not frantically, but purposefully. Think of the turning seasons built into the weave of the world. One of my exquisite joys is in how they ripen and then fade increasing my appreciation on both ends. And sometimes making me sad to say goodbye.
We love summer with all of her long days of sunshine, barbecues and relaxed routines. But weren’t you ready for the order that school brings to life, for the organization of reams of lined white notebook paper and bundles of humble yellow #2 pencils, for seeing familiar friends again and the opportunities for making new ones, for backpacks in a row by the door ready to go?
I just took my youngest daughter back to college. I dare you to walk across any college campus in the fall and not be inspired by all the possibilities that a fresh school year brings. I think our kiddos always looked over their shoulder for the first week of school fully expecting to see their Dad running across the lawn to his own class.
Now that the leaves are falling and the air is crisp and cool, aren’t you ready for baked apple crisp, pumpkins by the front door and boots to stomp around in? The days are shorter and the light has changed. October is refreshing in its own way, different than September.
Here are some tiny things to do to swing into the rhythm of autumn.
This large wooden bowl sits always on my coffee table and I fill it with whatever reflects the season. Right now it is full of raffia pumpkins and seeded gourds that my Mama has given me.
Take a moment to set something that says October on your coffee table or kitchen window. Choose anything that makes you smile when you come around the corner.
Go on a nature walk and pick up what catches your eye, acorns, fallen leaves, bark, feathers, or twigs. Today I saw a fat,fuzzy caterpillar the colors of Halloween (I was not picking him up!) and this group of mushrooms in the fallen leaves and pinecones.
See what's in your local grocery store. These hazelnuts would look great in a bowl or a hurricane with a candle snug in the center.
God gives us these turning of the seasons and the changing light along with other rhythms that Jesus modeled: work + rest, love + boundaries, engagement + retreat, silence + word, stillness + action. In being a follower of his heart, I want to stop and take notice, to savor these gifts from his hand. I wonder what they might say about his heart, his love for me and how I am woven and spun. I am thinking that these small rhythms are not just for the here and now, but speak into forever, into my timeless soul.
God is too creative for heaven to be one string of sameness. I wonder if there are seasons in heaven. How can there be with death overcome? And yet it is already. I know there will be trees and a river in heaven and I just bet there will be changing light playing in their healing leaves.
Ruth Haley Barton in her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership says,
All of these rhythms create space for God,
fostering an ability to bring something truer
to the world than all of our doing.
I am a doer. I admit it. But I want my doing to be from deep being. From a true place with my authentic voice, the one that speaks of God as only my soul can. I want to make room for God, to hear him, to see him, to love and enjoy him.
And to share him with you.
I am convinced I cannot do that without the rhythm of white space somewhere in my life; space I set aside for laying my head on his chest and hearing God’s heartbeat, time taken to notice his handiwork in the seasons and creativity all around me.
Go enjoy the autumn! See what God is up to.