Unexpected Sacred Spaces: The Church of the Carpool

I am so giddy to share this next installment of the “Unexpected Sacred Spaces” series. Today, I bring you a piece written by Abby Norman, one of the first bloggers I started regularly reading. 

I love the candor and sincerity in Abby’s work; her post about scarcity continues to be cornerstone in my thinking about my place in the writing world. Maybe someday we can meet in real life, where I imagine we’d be fast friends, but for now, I find constant inspiration in her writing. I hope you fall in love with her words like I have. Please check out her blog Accidental Devotional to read more of her work. 

Abby writes of the sacred space we can find when we sit, stay a while, and listen. What a beautiful story of friendship between two women with different backgrounds who have found holy ground. 

“You keep saying that. You keep saying that if you got this job you would get your own chapel. What do you think that is about?”

This is what my car mate said to me about a week into my ultimately unfruitful expedition into career changing. I had interviewed with a church and was waiting for the call to come in to interview in front of the committee. If I got this job I would have a whole chapel that would be mine. Apparently that mattered to me, but I didn’t notice it until she pointed it out.

It didn’t surprise me that Megan heard what I was saying before I could hear it myself. We know each other pretty well. We should, we spend more time together than we do with anyone else.

Image courtesy of AirBeagle on Flickr

Atlanta is notorious for it’s terrible traffic. Ask anyone who has ever tried to drive to Orlando, they got caught in traffic in my dear city on their way to meet Mickey Mouse. I inherited this traffic when I got transferred to a school across town, lucky for me with the traffic came a carpool mate turned best friend.

Our first year we sometimes listened to NPR, but for the last three years we mostly talk. We spend two and a half to three hours a day in the car together. This is a lot of talking. We need a lot of talking, we don’t really come from the same place.

I was born, baptized and married in the church, the same church. Most weeks, my family walked through the doors on more than just Sundays. I liked it so much, I am raising my own girls the same way. Megan can count the number of times she has been in a church service on one hand.

Our first years worth of conversations were marked by clarification, what do you mean by that? How does that work? Why is that important? We knew from the get-go our starting points were different, so it took more steps to get to the same place. The extra steps have been worth it.

We have seen each other through a health scare, a church change, a baby, and 4 books making their way onto Amazon. We have seen each other through so many days where one has shown up in the other’s room ten minutes before technically quitting time worn from the wrangling of too many kids in not enough space, “let’s get out of here” we say. It is code for, I had a terrible day and need to decompress.

But mostly, we have just heard and seen each other. With three hours a day, there is no worry about people not getting a turn. Me feeling all my very big feelings out loud does not cancel out Megan’s propensity to handle things quietly and logically. There is plenty of space for each of us to be wholly ourselves and to even try out the other ones coping mechanisms. We both are seen, we both are heard, we understand each other.

Listening to a sermon series about Jesus’ encounter with women in the new testament, I was struck by the way Jesus really paid attention to the people He was interacting with. In a world where men and women weren’t even supposed to make eye contact, Jesus saw them. He saw who they were and who they were hoping to be. He saw their current position and affirmed their worth despite their circumstances. He told them there was hope. They were known, they were loved.

If there is anything I want when I walk into church once a week, it is to be seen.

I don’t think I am the only one who hopes to be seen on Sundays, but churches on Sunday are probably not the best place to be seen. There are songs, messages, coffee, words on the screen. I am not faulting the church for these things. I’ve been the one in charge of some of that, and it is all you can do to make sure the show goes on. But lately all I can do in my daily life is make sure the show goes on. On Sunday I am wishing it would stop.

The church doesn’t always give me the space to stop and breathe. It doesn’t always grant me the gift of being known and being reminded that I am loved. Or maybe it does, and I don’t quite remember how to recieve that gift. Maybe it just takes more time than either of us have.

In my car, on the way to and from work, Megan and I have learned how to give that much to each other. I know when she is silent because she is sorting something out, and when she is silent because she has a headache. She knows when I am going to cry, when to offer solace, and when to just let me work it through to the end. I know when to turn the radio off, she knows when to pop in a mixtape she brought me from 1999.

2 years ago we got stuck in that terrible snow storm that had Atlanta frozen and the rest of America mocking the south east. It was terrifying and hilarious, awful to be in but awesome to tell the story about later. Sleeping at the Home Depot together solidified our bond in the same way building a house with my high school youth group did. The getting through totally sucked, but the having been through is kind of awesome, especially because we did it together. We know now that we are capable of more than we thought we were.

Every day I drive in to work with Megan. Every day we see each other, we hear each other, we try to understand. In the space of my car we are known and we are loved. Sounds like church to me.


Abby Norman tells stories that are true. She loves Jesus deeply and still swears sometimes. She is giving up on having all the answers, and is hoping to one day ask better questions. Her kids are teaching her about that. Abby is the wife of a very smart man, the mother of two delightful children, the teacher to far too many students to count, and is learning to simply be. She writes at accidentaldevotional.com and tells on herself on her facebook page in hopes that we all might feel a little less alone.​

If you want to contribute to the “Unexpected Sacred Spaces” series. Email me at Meredith.Bazzoli@gmail.com.

I am looking for submissions between 500-1000 words that talk about a place that has shown you glimpses of the divine or given a taste of holy community…whatever that looks like for you. 

As the church shifts in our society, I want to chase echoes of church in unexpected places like McDonalds play places or bathroom stalls at work. Where have you seen church work? What communities could the church learn from? Where is it easiest for you to believe? Who helps you to continue in your faith tradition? In what unexpected ways have you experienced the divine or found healing from organized religion?