- Paperback: 258 pages
- Publisher: Kalos Press (April 15, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1937063593
- ISBN-13: 978-1937063597
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #496,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure Paperback – April 15, 2015
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"Nordenson describes wrestling with work as with a large force that wants to have its way with you, even as you want to have your way with it. This wrestling, sinewy and particular as its wrestler, enlarges us as we read our way into her life with its incisive insights and explorations. Can one wrestle meditatively? This author has learned the art and we are the benefactors."
- Luci Shaw, writer in residence, Regent College; author of Adventure of Ascent: Field Notes from a Lifelong Journey and Scape: Poems
"Written with a rare wit and elegance, Finding Livelihood offers a profound, often surprising reflection on the necessity of earning our daily bread. This fine new collection by Nancy Nordenson, which gathers under one cover such unlikely bedfellows as venipuncture, a flute-playing cabbie, and the prudent way to unpack Russian icons, includes some of the best essays I've read in years."
- Paula Huston, author of The Holy Way
"Finding Livelihood is deeply felt and deeply satisfying to the reader."
- Emilie Griffin, author of Souls in Full Sail
"This is an absolutely timely book, and an absolutely beautiful one too. Ms. Nordenson examines what it means to work, and does so in a lyrical, practical, moving, and spirit-filled way. In giving us her personal stories and universal observations, we are given as well the means by which, in these difficult days, to make sense of what it means to work. I like this book a lot for its voice and vision, and especially for its hope."
- Bret Lott, author of Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian and Jewel
"In this extraordinary new book, Nordenson asks what we all want to know: Can our daily workplace grind really become our daily God-blessed bread? Nancy answers an unequivocal "yes"! Through layered eloquent prose and her own vast experience, she offers us real ways of finding astonishment and transcendence even in the most stultifying jobs. This book is a revelation. It goes with me to my fishing camp."
- Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Surviving the Island of Grace and Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers; contributing editor, Christianity Today
"Finding Livelihood is a breath of radical honesty for the workaday Christian. Nancy Nordenson does not fear the long dark night shift of the soul, but neither does she accept it. Her real world stories of people at work inspire and challenge at every turn."
- Marcus Goodyear, editor of The High Calling
"Nordenson's prose is beautifully polished, lucid, and imaginative."
- Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image, author of Beauty Will Save The World
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I found the entire book rewarding and it is one that I think I could read multiple times and learn something about myself each time. Will be a lovely gift for dear friends.
The first story begins with her high school days in St. Petersburg, FL, where’s she’s on the “teen board” of a local department store called Maas Brothers. If you’re not old enough to remember, teen board members typically were attractive high school girls who, in Ms. Nordenson’s words, “modeled for the store and worked in the departments that served high school girls and guys.” Get the picture? You got to dress up in the latest fashions, make some spending money, and generally have fun.
I can’t tell the rest of this story as well as Ms. Nordenson so what follows is her version shortened by me:
"Sometimes we stood like mannequins on a platform at the top of the escalators between the first and second floors. The rules were simple: Don’t move. If someone approaches, no breathing except for the slightest lift from your gut if you got desperate. Keep your shoulders level, chin up, and face straight ahead … keep your eyes wide open but still.
"One day a little girl stands and watches my face. She tries to catch my eye … she wants to see that she’s been seen because then she’ll know I’m real. I hold steady … She tires of the game and gives up on being seen and instead, examines me closely from several angles. Out of the corner of my eye I see her jaw drop. She tugs at her mother’s sleeve, points, and says, 'Look, mom, that one has a zit!' "
With that, I had to stop reading and laugh for a good five minutes.
The second story is not so funny, but I’ll get to it in a bit.
Adding to the tension throughout these series of essays—many about Ms. Nordenson’s experiences as well as that of others she knows or has read—is the style by which the stories are told. The subjects of many of these stories are prosaic in nature—test tubes, pink slips, airplanes, Petri dishes, the morning alarm clock and the like. Yet the prose by which they are told is so tight—airtight actually—that I keep laying the book aside and say with a shade of awe, “I’m reading poetry.” So many subjects, so many venues, so many perspectives—all viewed through a poet’s lens. An amazing feat. And I realize why I can’t, as I set out to do, speed read or skim this book.
Now on to the second story. As this book unfolded before me—I read it not sequentially but rather front to back to middle and back again—I kept wondering: “Why has she taken the time and expended this effort to write this book on the meaning of work?”
I believe the answer lies with this second story.
Fast forward from Ms. Nordenson’s high school years to her forties and early fifties in Minneapolis, where she now lives. She works by day as a medical research writer. By night she writes to wring spiritual insight, any insight really, from a soaring epiphany or from the most mundane.
“Sunlight finds its way through the utility window set high in our basement wall and illuminates, just barely, the mahogany-stained oak desk and butcher block worktable, set against adjacent walls, and the space between. Bookshelves and filing cabinets stand in the shadows. This is my office,” Ms. Nordenson writes.
“Sometimes I walk past its door, see the lamp’s glow cast across the desk, and miss sitting there so badly. I glimpse my husband’s white coffee cup and long to throw it away and replace it with a cup of my choosing. I see the worktable covered with his stacks and want to clear them off with a single defiant sweep of my arm. I’d pull my chair up to the table and reclaim it. Toss his notes of false leads and plate of leftover lunch. Hang a No Trespassing sign on the door.”
A dream deferred: She wants to cut back on paid medical client work and let her husband’s earnings cover most of the bills while “I write my own words, at least for a while.”
“About this plan,” she says, “my husband agreed with smiles and cheers. Someday it would happen. We waited.
“Then, after turbulent years of my husband’s un- and underemployment and job searching, that ‘someday’ appeared to arrive.”
With a year under his belt, her husband—a professionally educated and trained social worker—was secure in a new job, having received an early promotion. “Start turning down some work projects,” he announced to her.
“We were still flush with peace over the start of this new phase in life … when he came home late with the news delivered in a dark kitchen, the hushed choked news of job loss … My husband—devastated, devastated—typed up a new resume and began again the search for a job. The years drag on.”
That, I suspect, was the catalyst for this evocative book.
It is with such prose that she fillets the prosaic. It is with such poetry that she grounds her dreams upon a humbling promise. And it is out of such milieu that Ms. Nordenson extracts meaning from Work as few have before her.