Seeking Refuge in my Office

 My Office. Sometimes, My Sanctuary.

When Work is Rest

One little phone call had ruptured our Saturday afternoon as surely as a needle sinks a bright red balloon, draining its helium like blood from a vein.

We’d abandoned our plans and raced eighty miles to San Diego, where my mother-in-law lay in a hospital bed, her beautiful face bruised and stitched, blood matting her hair. A helicopter had carried her to the trauma center following a car accident.

A hospital may be the best place in the world to remember that I’m not in charge. Doctors determined which medications she would receive. Nurses decided when we could join her in the ICU.

We prayed on our own schedule, however.

Knowing that she needed God’s presence more than ours, we reluctantly headed for home on Sunday evening. I mined the refrigerator’s stores of leftovers and we ate something–I couldn’t say what. Finally we went upstairs and wrestled with sleep in the darkness.

Monday morning I drove to work. Amazingly, my office was just as I’d left it on Friday. Our world had shifted when those cars collided, yet this place remained the same. My stapler stood at the ready; pens lined up, primed for service. A vacation request lay in my in-basket, awaiting my approval.

I opened my file cabinet and admired the folders, neatly labeled, each one containing what it should.

I punched a few buttons and my computer screen glowed. I turned to my email. My boss needed a budget analysis. A coworker wanted clarification on a policy. The latest revisions to our marketing materials were ready for review.

I ordered the tasks set before me for efficient completion. I would line up the numbers in a spreadsheet, explain the policy, critique the booklet copy, approve the vacation request.

For the next eight hours, I knew what to do.

I took a deep breath, overcome by the sheer orderliness of it all.

On this Monday, after a weekend filled with anxiety, I saw my work in a new way. I could seek refuge here. The familiar rhythm of my job felt as comforting as liturgy; the shelter of my office was as soothing as a sanctuary.

Satisfying work blessed me. My day’s labor had been a respite.

11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.  12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 (NASB)


  1. Interesting observations. It made me think about how orderly God is. He’s not chaotic. In making us, He created within us a yearning for that same kind of order. How good He was to provide that for you in the midst of your turmoil! Lovely post!


  2. Oh, you write so nicely! I’m putting this on my site right now.

    Praying for you and yours!

  3. My work is often a ‘retreat from the real world.’ I experience the same thing as you did — its just the way I left it last night 🙂

  4. Praying for your beloved mother. Work does keep us balanced when tragedy strikes. God is with you and her, may the angels keep her safe and return her to her home.

  5. My husband the teacher returned to work yesterday along with my sons and a few hundred students and colleagues. About a week ago he asked me why he was so exhausted and then muttered something about not being able to wait to get back to the classroom “for a breath of fresh air.” There’s something about the rhythm of working, even when it’s a crazy place like high school, that gives us a place to regroup.

    And then, after a crazy day at the office, it’s sure nice to come home to a quiet house. (This is complicated for me, now that I work at home. 🙂

  6. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I’m surprisingly reassured to know that I’m not the only one who finds order and calm in the midst of a busy workday 🙂

    My mother-in-law is making tremendous strides towards recovery. We’re hoping she’ll be home soon. Thanks for your prayers.

  7. That’s your office? Really? I feel rested just gazing at the orderliness and the calm–inside and outside.

    I love that we don’t have to pray on anyone’s schedule. Praying for your sweet MIL and so very grateful that she is okay.

  8. That’s it, Sandy! My little 8 to 5 world, right there. I like it a lot.

    Thanks for your prayers. We are grateful.

  9. Sheila – I really, really loved this. I remember those days before my surgery working like crazy, tempted to complain. But really, the work was good for me, kept order in my life. I decided to write about this and link back here for There and Back Again this week. I was tempted just to point people here, you’ve said what I wanted much better than I ever could. This was an amazing post. Glad to hear your mother-in-law is improving!

  10. Charity,
    Thank you for your kind words. I’m honored that I’ll be part of your “There and Back Again.”

    Heal well, my friend.

  11. Boy, do I get this! During my mom’s last three years with cancer, work was the only thing that kept me sane. Each month, no matter how stressful the magazine got, I knew it was just a magazine and it would get done. Cancer and death, well, that’s something else entirely.

  12. Megan,
    Three years.

    My mother’s battle with cancer lasted just over three months, wire-to-wire, though she’d been feeling unwell for a few months before the problem was diagnosed. (they found something else and fixed that, but that wasn’t all.)

    I can’t imagine the stamina three years of that would require. God bless you.