In March of this year, I became a work-from-home nomad.
For a while I claimed the living room chair. It was comfortable, with a terrific view of the front and back yard. But the chair was located near the main thoroughfare of our home, and therefore subject to many loud conversations, meal prep, and the general busyness of homelife.
So I gathered my laptop, notebook, and manilla folders and journeyed to the basement. There I discovered less noise but no outside view. I found that I could concentrate better on my work but proximity to a bathroom brought sensory challenges.
As the weather warmed, I summoned my inner nomad and trekked to a small room behind our garage. It’s a workshop of sorts, which proved convenient as I carved-out a space and assembled a workstation. In that room I regained an outdoor view, enhanced solitude, and limited distraction. It was there that I labored during the summer months of pandemic restrictions.
I can’t deny that I rather liked working in that space. It was a bit rugged, but it was mine. While there was room for an officemate, no one (not even my wife) accepted my invitation. I suspect the regular appearance of spiders, flies, a few mosquitoes and of course summertime bees was a deterrent. And early on, I had to fend-off a tenacious Red Squirrel who thought he had squatters’ rights.
In the midst of my working out there, something unexpected happened. Between Zoom meetings, phone calls, and the ever-fresh stream of email I heard something. I saw something. I was enthralled by…them.
Lots of birds. Goldfinches, Blue Jays, House Sparrows, and Cedar Waxwings. Chickadees popping from branch to branch. Robins wrestling worms from the lawn. And on occasion, in the quiet of early morning, I’d hear the call and response from a pair of owls. It was wonderful! There were birds everywhere, all the time. I know they’ve been there all along, but I simply hadn’t noticed. Not until my nomadic wandering led me to construct a makeshift office did I see what I’d been missing. Which got me wondering: What else am I not noticing?
How are my worries and distractions obscuring my vision? Are my passions and desires consuming my imagination? Have I oriented my life around too much of me? Am I thinking too often about my disappointments, my comfort, what’s next, or what I’m missing? And if any or all of this is true, could I be missing moments to recognize and experience God?
In her book, Signs of Life, Stephanie Lobdell suggests, “However it comes to us, the knowledge that we are seen by God—and invited by God to see God as well, to know God deeply—changes us. It breaks us open, creating space for the resurrecting Spirit of God to infiltrate our minds, enlivening our dead imaginations and allowing us to see a new future.” (p.54) Might a call to notice God’s presence be instilled in a work-from-home nomad through something as normal and everyday as birds? Absolutely!
Advent is a season when we alter our routine and seek to quiet ourselves to reflect and reorient. It’s an invitation to center ourselves and recognize the presence of God. To listen for Him. To remember His care and provision. To submit ourselves to His love and embrace the truth that He is always near and will never abandon us. To thank Him for his love and mercy, acknowledging that He is our only comfort in life and death.
During this second week of Advent, join me in crafting intentional times to be still. To notice. To be prayerful, inviting the Spirit to help you recognize God in ways you may not have before—or perhaps have not in quite some time. Like the birds in my yard, God has been here all along. And while we might know that in our heads, may our hearts receive and experience afresh the beauty and wonder and love of our God who is with us!
A Prayer for Noticing
Our Heavenly King, robed in a garment of light,
Your presence pervades like the light of the sun;
Tune my ears and open my eyes
to Your everyday touches of grace.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
(Psalm 16:11, ESV)