Sunday, July 29, 2012

vacancy wanted here

We sat down in the old Catholic church two blocks up the street.  Seven-thirty pm and candles lit up the dark room, a few handfuls of people speckled the pews.  The Father welcomed us to the service, reminded us that there would be ten minutes of silent meditation after we'd sung some songs and scriptures together.  I've loved Taize style worship ever since my college featured the community at a chapel service.  It's been a place of solace and healing, a pillar that I can return to regardless of how the winds have blown me.  My heart felt at home, my body relaxed, my mind even accepted the invitation to hush, kneel and drink.

It had been too long, and I knew it.

I don't think I could survive motherhood unless I knew deep down that it all matters, it's all holy, everything good and righteous and true will last into the new world coming.  While I grew up with strong 'sacred' and 'secular' labels on the activities of myself and (especially) others, they've nearly washed away these days.  Heaven and earth will one day be reconciled, along with all things in this very physical world.  The things I put my hands to, even wiping dirty faces and sweeping floors, when done in love is somehow building for God's kingdom, as N.T. Wright puts it.

This has changed me:  I hear psalms in the giggles shared between my two babes growing in love, prayers in my legs as we walk to the park nearby.  Forgiveness and re-birth fill the relationships that rub me like iron, that whisper in my ears; I glimpse eternity in the endless washing, hanging, collecting of nappies that wait to be washed again.  Every story I read to my children and every hour spent awake in the night-watch, it's all holy.   I know that everything's spiritual, it's all worship, nothing is in vain or lost or wasted.  "Holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like colour," Annie Dillard writes, and I see it, I see the colour even in the mess of my kitchen just as dinner's ready, stacks of clothes to be put in drawers, cups of tea with friends on our couch and conversations with folks in the neighbourhood.  My whole existence is a prayer, an offering, a sacrament.

But sitting in the church, in the dim, sacred and quiet - why was I so suddenly aware of my thirst?  Why did my eyes fill with tears when the Father spoke of silence, that we were free to come and light a candle before the cross?  I know to my very core that all of the rituals, all of the grind daily that fills my life to the full is sacred and holy - but where is that holy and sacred place in my life that isn't already filled by everything else?  Where is the place of empty, where I kneel with hands cupped in longing, expectancy, vacancy and need.

Henri Nouwen writes, "In the silence of prayer you can spread out your hands to embrace nature, God and your fellow human beings.  This acceptance means not only that you are ready to look at your own limitations, but that you expect the coming of something new."

I can make excuses until the sun sets again as to how I'm so busy, that much my children need me, how I feel stretch marks over my days and nights appearing more clearly than ever before.  But the life I found in the quiet, as I lit the wick of my candle and placed it at the cross - I need that.  I need that empty space to sharpen my eyes to the beauty and holiness and God's own essence in the things that fill the hours and hours; I need to receive in that peaceful place that I actually have something to give in the holy world that spins 'round.  I need silence to honestly and gracefully look at my limitations while still expecting the possibility of something new.

In the quiet of the church I lit a candle and knelt before the cross.  I lit a candle for my friend's baby, for the women and children in Syria, for the exploited women on my street.  And I lit a candle for myself, for that restless place in my soul longing to renew her vows of celibacy, and my empty hands cupped in need.  Vacancy wanted here.  I don't know how to carve out that empty space regularly, but the want for it has been passionately renewed.   



  1. Hi becca,

    I am a fellow mama on the other side of the planet that loves reading your thoughts. we share a good friend in kristina tawse. She just told me about your blog and i got to take some time the other night to read through your archives. i am going to try to get your email from kristina, i'd love to write you some more. much love from minnesota.

    -rachel :)

  2. thanks for stopping by and having a read! i love kristina and i've definitely heard about you and your family as well. just had a look at your blog - such a sweet baby you have! feel free to email me at would love to chat! -b