The Space of a Breath

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“Always, we begin again.”

I imagine St. Benedict pausing as he writes down these words in his Rule of Life, and looking up at me, gazing intensely at me to see if I am hearing him, if I am understanding this most important of lines.

He knows, I think. What it’s like to be a mama with two little ones. What it’s like to be juggling a dozen different demands each day. What it’s like to feel stretched so very thin, to worry you’re going to give way at any moment and it will all fall apart.

I begin again a thousand times a day. When my baby boy wakes for the fourth (fifth, sixth?) time of the night and decides the day will start now, hours before light begins to spill through the curtains. When I snap at my daughter for making such a mess at the dinner table when I’ve reminded her a thousand times. When the sheer noise of two tired and grumpy tinies is more than I can cope with and I want to run and hide in the bathroom.!(Only, the lock is broken so they’d find me.)

I begin again when the train pulls out of the station just as I reach the platform and I see the tiny margin I’d built in for me-time slipping away. When I speak up in my evening class and see everyone look at me blankly. When I go another month with nothing written on my blog and next to nothing in my journal. When the agent calls and we’ve been outbid on a house again.

I’m discovering in these intense days, the grace that can be found in a single breath.

One breath. Not always a very deep one either (because the kids have already moved on to the next drama or mess). But there, in that single second’s pause, the Spirit rushes in, floods my head and heart with her clear and cleansing rivers of living water, their holy roar filling up my ears, drowning out the clamouring tired, angry thoughts.

And then silence–blessed silence–and I hear the whisper of grace to me.

“Always, we begin again.”

It takes just a second, sometimes only half a second. Then I am scooping up my chubby boy and soothing his spirit, crouching down to my tenacious and vulnerable girl and listening to her as she figures out this ever-expanding world again, raising my hand to offer another thought to the class.

I think St. Benedict understood. He understood how often I feel completely incapable to the task set before me. He understood how many times the brokenness in me–the fear, the impatience, the selfishness–rises up and overwhelms me. He understood how futile it can feel, when I worry that I will never be enough for these myriad roles, for these precious little ones.

He also understood grace, better than I have yet grasped in my many years of wrestling with it. Grace that is like the waves on the seashore–wave after wave washing up over the sand without pause, without ever missing a beat, sometimes gentle and sparkling, sometimes knocking me awake again with the force of its message.

So I take another breath and I begin again. And in the space of that breath I remember to let the waves spill over and out of me to my children, to my family and friends, to the post man who dared to ring the bell while the baby was napping … Grace after grace after grace.

Always, we begin again.

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Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona lives in London with her Danish husband and her two young children. She is determinedly seeking the sacred in the ordinary, learning to see that even the most mundane moments of her day can be spiritual if she wakes up to the Divine in those places. She is in training to become a Spiritual Director, and baking is her favourite spiritual practice. You can follow her through her blog at fionalynne.com.
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen

Latest posts by Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen (see all)

Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
  • Oh Fiona! You know the words by Jean Rhys written about in Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water? “All of writing is a huge lake…All that matters is feeding the lake…You must keep feeding the lake.” You fed the lake with this article, and this paragraph:

    “Grace that is like the waves on the seashore–wave after wave washing up over the sand without pause, without ever missing a beat, sometimes gentle and sparkling, sometimes knocking me awake again with the force of its message.”

    You fed the lake.

    • fiona lynne

      Oh wow Chervelle. This comment has made my week. What an encouragement. Thank you x

  • I ❤this! I literally was just thinking of what encouragement I could bring to my team at work at our Christmas do tomorrow. It’s been a year of obstacle courses for them. I read this and breathed out. Tomorrow I will offer the serving that “always we begin again!” Thank you Fiona!!

    • fiona lynne

      Oh this makes me so glad. I hope this is an encouragement to them. Thank you for being here! x

  • I wish I could have read this twenty years ago.

    And in addition to this stellar mothering rescue, there’s the reminder that, on a cosmological level, Christmas is God’s huge “begin again,” as He extended redemption to ever-widening circles.

    • fiona lynne

      Oh yes. I love that too. The great restoration. Thank you Michele x

  • Ah Fiona this is gorgeous, both the images you conjure up (love the quote that Chervelle highlighted!) and the grace that you speak of. I was feeling a bit frustrated just today about how there seem to be many things that I feel I have ‘figured out’ or ‘grown out of’ only to realise that that’s far from true: I am to learn, re-learn, and accept grace, again and again. So these words were a balm for my soul today. Keep going mama, you are doing amazing xx

    • fiona lynne

      Thank you friend. I think life is a cycle of learning and re-learning. I used to be entirely frustrated by that but I’m beginning to see it as a beautiful thing. Beginning… 😉 Much love to you x

  • Fiona, “Always, we begin again.” I read those words for the first time this fall and loved them so much. I needed to be reminded of them again today. Thank you for your beautiful reflection and the reminder to inhale and exhale grace.

    • fiona lynne

      Thank you for being here. So enjoy seeing your face in the comments! x

  • Megan Gahan

    Goodness, I love this. I desperately needed these words today. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your words in this space. Much love, my friend <3

    • fiona lynne

      I need the reminder every day it seems. This is a tough season. You’re doing much better than you think you are x

  • I love the image of grace like waves on a seashore. Coming back in again just as you fear it’s going away. Beautiful, thank you.

    • fiona lynne

      YES! Oh I’d never even seen that dimension of it. So beautiful x

  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    Fiona … these words are beautiful! “Always, we begin again.” Love this! It speaks to infinite chances beyond the second … its grace and breathing space and wiggle room.

    Thank you!