On Sunday mornings, after I drop the twins off in the nursery, and quickly run from their screams (which, thankfully, only last a few minutes, I’m told by the care-givers), I sit. Lean back as comfortably as one can on a wooden church pew. Look up. Breathe.
The sanctuary in my husband’s church is large, but relatively modest. It’s Presbyterian, after all. Protestant. Reformed. Meaning, it’s not meant to be extravagantly ornate since that would take away or distract from God’s glory somehow. But despite the simplicity of the surroundings when I finally get a moment to look around, I drink it in. I feel I could stare all day at the two stained-glass windows that frame the chancel – one is of Jesus blessing the children, and the other is of the women encountering Jesus in the garden on the third day. The walls are warm, the floors are bright, and the light is cheerful. It seems to whisper, “Sit and receive.” Sometimes it seems to sing, “Open your heart.” Mostly, I hear, “Come and see.”
A few minutes of quiet, a little organ music, and on those first Sundays of the month when we break bread and share the cup, I feel it is enough. Enough to get me through another hour. Another day. Another week. But then Monday comes around. And Tuesday stumbles afterwards. When Wednesday seems to limp forward, I am thirsty again for that sanctuary. I suppose I could pack up the babies, take them for a “visit” to Daddy’s office, and take a moment to sit in that satiating stillness. Usually that’s just not feasible. Andy wouldn’t get much done if I showed up every morning and afternoon during his work week.
“Laundry, liturgy and women's work all serve to ground us in the world, and they need not grind us down. Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-supporting work, do not define who we are as women or as human beings.” -Kathleen Norris
So I find sanctuary elsewhere. It comes to me when I’m curled up on the couch staring out the living room window into the cul-de-sac at the end of our driveway framed by impossibly green trees. It comes to me when I’m driving, and get lost, and end up driving much too long, but the babies fall asleep, and suddenly the world feels right. It comes to me when I’m folding mountains of laundry and putting away stacks of dishes and the babies are quietly reading or chasing each other around the room. It comes to me when I first wake up in the mornings, those rare moments I’m awake before the alarm clock or the babies, and lay there searching out the dawn, praying for strength for the day.
Lord prepare me To be a sanctuary… With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you…
It’s a song from my childhood. In some ways, a bit cliché now when I think about it. But, appropriate to this season of life and motherhood. What’s sacred about the sanctuary to me is not only the physical space, but the feeling of connectedness. Rootedness. In community with others. In communion with God. And most of all, thanksgiving. Sanctuary provides space to cultivate gratitude. And gratitude ends up being the grace that gets me through the day. It’s fitting that the windows in the church speak of blessing and resurrection – those seem to bookend the chapters and seasons in my life. I grew up in the church, and took for granted the power of that space, that community, but somehow it was imprinted on me. I wonder if that’s how I’m able to feel that same sanctuary in other places besides the four walls of a church. I wonder if I’ve finally discovered that sanctuary within me.
Mihee is an ordained minister in PCUSA. She is a writer and part-time staff person for a Presbyterian college ministry in Bloomington, IN. Mother of twins, and expecting a third in March 2013, she never ceases being amazed at the strange and wonderful timing of these seasons, and continues to be thankful for the surprising places of sanctuary in her life. She blogs at . (www.miheekimkort.com)
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