Such a glorious word. A gospel word, even. It suggests that we have more than we need. That the work has been done. That we can rest in the overflow. I have come to learn a thing or two about this word in the last few months.
I had an audition for a national commercial last week. It was the first one I had gone to in over a year. I got a callback from that audition. I waited for four days, which felt like forever, all the while hoping and praying that I would get it. A fragile ego I nursed, hoping for a win.
I got the call yesterday that I didn't get the part. But I wasn't left empty handed, I was asked to be a union job extra. In the acting world, an extra is basically a body. Someone who shows up without a name and without a single line and just does what they are told. It was the smallest role I have ever accepted.
And yet, I took it with thankfulness and joy. Because I am learning the true meaning of what it means to be and have, extra.
After recently walking away from a job that consumed every ounce of extra time I had on my hands, I was squeezing essentials like bathroom breaks and even meals into the margins of my day. I was scurrying around like a squirrel with cheeks full of nuts who had a bounding black lab chasing my tail.
Days faded into one another with nothing but deadlines, criticisms, diapers, naps, mess making, mess cleaning, writing until my eyes burned, waking with my eyes still burning, coffee that never stayed in my cup long enough, and frayed nerves that snapped at the littlest detour in my daily, rigid schedule. All the while I prayed for God to make clear to me if I wasn't doing what I should. I can't help but laugh. The Spirit within was telling me what I didn't want to hear.
But now? It has stopped. The spin cycle has subsided.
I jumped off the merry go round mid-twirl, stood up on wobbly legs marked by scraped knees, and I carried my bruised heart and broken will, home.
There are still the diapers, the laundry, the endless snack fetching, mess making and mess cleaning. But I've been breathing. I've been feeling space in ways I wasn't able to before. I've been exposed to extra. And it feels so freeing. Except for when it feels frightening. (Of course.)
I am a planner. This is the first time in my life where I have stepped out onto nothing. Well, maybe not the first time. My wedding day I walked down the aisle into a white page of unwritten script. When I held my firstborn in my arms I couldn't see past the moment. I didn't have an inkling of what was to come. And it cradled me just as much as I cradled him.
Sometimes not knowing is the most beautiful part of painful endings that roll into new beginnings. It's that sliver of time that suspends itself between what we thought we knew and what we are completely clueless about. And no matter how much we try to see beyond–no level of guessing or strategy exists. We are forced to walk in the dark holding the hand of God. We have to feel with our hands along the walls and take timid steps that snap sticks and rustle fallen leaves.
In these dim moments we are tempted to live in fear of an opportunity-less life–like nothing good will ever come our way again.
But when we begin this blind journey, our eyes begin seeing things that were hidden before. Things about our dreams, our passions–who God created us to be. For so long my biggest fear in life was being ordinary, someone that just lived life quietly, simply. As I've matured in my baby-like faith, I have come to realize that God tells us to "aspire to live quietly" in 1 Thessalonians because he realizes the gift to be found in the extra.
Not extra stuff. Extra whitespace.
And it is in this most recent "whitespace" (which I have learned so much about from Bonnie Gray and her delightful book), I have discovered something amazing: My life road, like so many of ours, is a river.
I left home at 17 to pursue an acting career. That ran upstream into pursuing a music career. Which twisted into pursuing a book deal and a writing career. Then it ran over the smooth rocks and dropped off a jagged edge into a freelance photojournalism career. But through it all, these streams have all confirmed that I am made for all matters of creating, performing and artistic expression and I've even found that I can make a mean jam sandwich and slay dragons. Who knew?
The highs and lows of each pursuit pale in comparison to how God used each to patch together a life raft that I have needed time and time again. One that is fashioned from planks of trust built upon the rotten-turned-repourposed soft spots of my sin. One that is tied down and reinforced with strong ropes of forgiveness and embrace. One that is propelled by the wind of his will, and I'm just along for the ride.
It twists and turns, dips and dries out, floods and forges. It is exhilarating like a waterfall and quiet like a glassy lagoon. If we surrender to the river mentality of life we may come to a new understanding of our own gifting in the light of where God is leading.
Tethering ourselves to the "foundation of God" isn't enough if all we plan to do is to leave it in the foreground while we fly, accomplish and check off to-do's. Jesus isn't interested in safe distance from our real needs and desires. Jesus wants to wipe the tears when we think we are crying alone. He wants to clink glasses full of rich, ruby-red wine when something needs to be celebrated. He wants to kiss your eyelids while you dream. He is that personal. He is that in love with you.
Only calling on him when our balloon deflates or we hit the bottom, cheats us out of the small, quiet rivers we ignore with sights set on the ocean.
For so long I looked at my career, motherhood and my "calling" as a bridge I was building to get from somewhere I didn't want to be to somewhere better. And that isn't the way God designed our life to be.
Instead, if we let ourselves flow freely through the hands of his will we will embark on an adventure fashioned from his strengths to offset our weaknesses so we can accomplished those God-sized goals he's placed inside of us.
Take time to drink in the beauty of every day ordinariness. The symphony of sparrows in the early morning; the tight hug of your child when he whispers, "I love you so much mommy." These are the ordinary moments that are potently poetic. Don't miss them–like I have so many times–to blaze a trail across a ravine that God never intended for us to have to cross.
Jump into the cool river. The water is nice.
We're in this together,