I live in an attic. I share the top two floors of a three-story house with two other twentysomething girls. The attic is my room, and provides a fairly accurate reflection of what’s going on in my life. One could walk up the stairs, into my room and do a pretty adept evaluation of my interior life.
One side is my living space. My daybed is tucked into a nook in the corner, with a pile of whatever books are currently in rotation beside it. The rest of the books are stacked along the wall, next to my cedar chest, which is filled with sweaters and my journals, chronicling my thoughts and stories since I was 15, nearly 10 years now. I’m going to have to weed through my sweaters so those from my twentysomething years will fit. Sometimes this side of the room is chaos; sometimes it’s neat. Most often it’s in a state of being picked up that doesn’t quite hit the mark. I am something of an extremist—but no perfectionist, hallelujah. I’d go nuts.
On the other side is my office. I’m an independent singer and songwriter, and this is where I wear the hats of distributor, booking agent, promoter, producer, planner and whatever else this little calling requires. Here my press kits are stacked up and ready, while my coffee-stained desk calendar fights to stay in view under whatever project is in process. I try to keep my papers in files, and am forever wondering when and where something should go from pile to file. In this office, I am still a girl who knows that learning about and sharing truth and beauty is a legitimate job. And I am a girl who was trained up in a left-brained military family and knows that if she wants to feed her soul and her stomach, she must do what needs to be done.
The middle of my room is my dreaming and creating place. I am a girl given to dreaming. I agree with C.S. Lewis that the saying about people being so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good is hogwash and heresy. That’s the point, getting the Not-Yet smeared all over the Now. My porch swing, seated on the floor until the day she flies free again on the porch of a first-floor home, is my nook. My guitar is here, and my silver bucket stuffed with all the Songs That Might Be. This is where I think and sing and write and pray, and drink tea and coffee. This is the making place. It’s my favorite spot, and I long and hope to spend much more time there in future years. Which leads me to the point I’ve been pondering …
Right now I’m 24. I’ve just finished a new album, and for various reasons I am still an independent artist. Part of me takes joy in the freedom, part of me really wants some help, part of me fears giving up control. So, given that I need to eat and that I need to share truth and beauty, I need to spend time playing shows, selling albums and cultivating some happenings. It takes a lot of time and persistence to book and advance shows, especially as a young quasi-unknown (“Hi there, I’m Katy Bowser. I’m calling on behalf of Katy Bowser…”). Fortunately, it’s a great season in the history of music and technology for doing this, probably easier than ever before. And I truly enjoy it, because I know why I’m doing it. And it’s something of an adventure. It feels like the task of an air-traffic controller–getting things to line up just right, just in time.
My office is 10 steps away from my bed, and five from my guitar. Which doesn’t mean the temptation is to nap, or to write songs all day to the exclusion of the business side. My temptation is to not sleep, but to stay up (I just realized it’s 1:34 a.m. and I had no idea) and work until I’m bleary. To not stop, to come under the illusion, the untruth that I control my life. I am dangerously capable of staying here at my desk and looking up one more venue, returning one more email instead of sleeping. I’m dangerously capable of waking up, turning off my alarm and turning on my computer before I go turn on my tea kettle and say good morning to my Father. And dangerously capable of leaving too little room for songs and prayer to rise up in me and season my thoughts and conversation. When these become habits, the timbre of my life resonates more with fear than trust. If I truly am responsible for as much as I give myself burden and credit for, I have good reason to fear.
John Piper gives voice to my nagging subconscious in his essay, “In Quest of Rest”: “Just think of it: a third of our lives are spent like dead men. Think of everything being left undone that could be done had God not designed us to need sleep.” It’s a provocative thought: God could have made us 24-hour-absolutely-productive creatures. But he reminds, “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). And Psalm 127:2 is both a balm and a merciful blow: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of nervous anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved in his sleep.”
Sleep is a gift, rest is a humbling mercy. I cannot and need not provide all I need, and am called to rest. It’s not that God has a quarrel with good work, hard work–it echoes His own nature and we are called to it. But He who calls us to meaningful work calls us to Himself and says that He is our rest and our provider. And the world will still spin while we stop. Humbling. “Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign…Man is not sovereign …” Piper writes.
Our work, our lives are to be born of rest, and our hope is that God who made us sustains us, and it is His loving purpose to accomplish what He’s doing even when we’re not helping Him, even in spite of our efforts. And now I am going to save this article, go have a cup of tea and snuggle down. Good night.
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