“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7
“Once upon a time, there was a very busy girl with a tired yet hopeful soul. Then, one day her soul asked her to stop and just breathe, and so she did, and the girl and her soul lived happily ever after. The end.” Maggie Lindley
I glanced at the clock — 12:02 AM. I stopped writing and closed my laptop. I turned on all the lights, cranked up the music, and danced in the middle of the living room. It was officially my birthday! Then I sang—with the help of one of my favorite “girl groups” of the 70s — one of my favorite love songs to Jesus! In my best Wanda Hutchinson voice, I belted:
“Doesn’t take much to make me happy and make me smile with glee
Never, never, will I feel discouraged ’cause our love’s no mystery
Demonstrating love and affection that You give so openly
The way I feel about You, Jesus, can’t explain it. Want the whole wide world to see
Whoa –oh! You got the best of my love
And Jesus smiled and danced and sang back: “Deborah, giving you the Best of My Love” (You see, Jesus is the most non-religious, unconventional person I know, totally unbothered by the R-and-B-ness of the song)!
And I breathed! Inhale Love/Exhale Gratitude
My birthday gift to myself was a weekend that was solely dedicated to honoring Deborah. It wasn’t so much about what I did as much as it was about what I purposed not to do. I purposed not to be driven by “should’s” and “have-to’s” and to-do lists, by schedules or other people’s needs. To set my own pace, to flow with intentionality through my day rather than hurry through it in order to check things off a list. I wanted to relish the gift of life –my life — hidden in the simple things I too often don’t allow myself to enjoy.
So I took pleasure in lying in bed until my body actually felt rested and wanted to move. I ate fried fish from the “hood” and sat in my recliner, slowly and deliberately eating the key lime cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory my dear friend had brought me, savoring each delectable bite of key lime goodness!
And I breathed! Inhale Love/Exhale Gratitude.
I treated myself to a mani-pedi and refused to become frustrated that it took a bit longer than I’d anticipated. I simply allowed myself to feel the gentle massage on my hands and feet and watch as the manicurist meticulously brushed Cajun Shrimp polish over each nail.
And I breathed. Inhale Love/Exhale Gratitude
I listened to the thunder and rain as it hit my roof, grateful that I didn’t have to brave the storm on Saturday morning if I didn’t want to (and I didn’t want to). I popped popcorn, and spent the afternoon watching old black-and-white movies, simply because I like old black-and-white movies. And I convinced myself that it was OK to wait until Monday to do laundry and mop the kitchen floor (after all, should Jesus returned before Monday, neither clean clothes nor clean floors would matter much). I read and I wrote.
And I breathed! Inhale Love/Exhale Gratitude
Sunday I attended the Church of Bob Evans and ate pancakes with maple syrup – lots of maple syrup. I people-watched and created characters in my head based on my observations (it’s a thing writers do). I smiled at strangers and whispered prayers for them. I went to the bookstore and I marveled at how many people hang out in bookstores on Sunday afternoons. I visited the Spirituality section, the Fiction section and then to the Reference section, gathering the books that called my name. I spread books on a table and read bits and pieces from them all, allowing them to make a case for why I should take them home with me.
“I love Anne LaMott,” the lady at checkout said. “She makes me feel — normal.”
I chuckled. “I know what you mean. You read her books and you either think ‘I’m not alone’ or ‘I’m not as crazy as I thought.’” We both laughed. As I headed to my car, carrying a bag with $86.00 worth of books, I felt tears well up in my eyes. I was at peace; it had been an absolutely perfect day. It might have seemed pretty ordinary to some, but I had been engulfed by God’s presence, encountered His grace and peace in simple things. And I had remembered how to breathe.
I realize now how much time I have spent trying to simply catch my breath or, even worse, how much time I’ve wasted holding my breath rather than reverencing it as the gift it is: the very life of God flowing through me. As I lay down that night, I promised myself to breathe deeply, to take all of life in, recognizing that each breath is a moment I will never regain, a moment filled with awe and wonder and love!
I closed my eyes and breathed… Inhale Love/Exhale Gratitude.
“Remember to breathe — it is, after all, the secret of life” Gregory Maguire
Photography by Bonnie Kratzer/BK Designs