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A Spare Oom of My Own


The Door to My New Office

Of the six of bedrooms I can remember from my childhood, only two were completely my own, and the time I lived in both of them was less than two years. The rest I shared with my sister. In college I had five different roommates in three different dorm rooms and one apartment, then I got married. So I guess you could say I never really had a room of my own. Until now.


I’m not complaining about having to share my room over the years. My sister and I were very close growing up, and still are. In fact, if we ever had two kids of the same gender who were close in age, we probably would have made them share a room. I think all of my kids are in for a rude awakening some day because they’ve never been forced to share living space with another human. You learn a lot by having a roommate, and technically I still have one since I’m not planning to give up sleeping with my husband anytime soon. Let me explain the situation a little more.


In October I helped lead a session with three of my friends from Hutchmoot. It was called Voices of Grace: Encouraging Women’s Voices in Artistic and Christian Community. I spoke about how women bear a unique version of the image of God, and how the world needs to see and know this feminine reflection of his holiness. Then Father Thomas McKenzie told us how the Fall had severed the first relationship between a man and a woman, and how that brokenness has impacted the church ever since. After Thomas was Helena Sorenson, who drew from Virginia Woolf’s essay, “A Room of Her Own,” by talking about what women need today in order to become artists, as well as many of the hurdles she’s had to cross in order to become a fiction writer. Then Jill Phillips inspired us with an update on her recent vocational change, along with a charge for women in every phase of life, to use their gifts to bless God’s kingdom here on earth.


I was thankful to see how the Lord brought all our points of view together into a cohesive and challenging message for this special community of people, and I was very blessed by our time together. And I was especially proud to have two of my kids in the audience that day, along with their Dad, but little did I know that my husband left the session even more impacted than me, because he came home and began daydreaming of a way to gift me someday with a “Room of My Own,” just for writing.


Our oldest son is a sophomore in college, so for the past eighteen months, with the exception of Christmas break and two months in summer, his room has sat empty. We’d talked about what to do with it, but never made any concrete plans until I decided to go away for a long weekend with some girlfriends. We had discussed turning it back into a spare room, like it was before Ben was born; back when Sam still called it the "Spare Oom," quoting Mr. Tumnus from Narnia. Or perhaps it could be an office/workout/craft room we mused. But as soon as I put my trip to the mountains on the calendar, and unbeknownst to me, John got to work on his big surprise. He sent out messages to friends and family asking for gifts, ideas, free labor, and even a secret address for out-of-towners to send packages to.


Meanwhile, I kept working. For the past several years I’ve been writing wherever I could fit myself and my little Chromebook: in the bedroom, at the kitchen table, in various coffee shops, or even sitting on our sofa out in the living room—trying to finish a book of my own. But now, thanks to his hard work and the thoughtfulness of many wonderful friends, I can sit in my own comfortable spot, think my own thoughts, and work on my own projects, undisturbed.


Yesterday I sat in the comfy secondhand chair John found for me online, and opened handwritten cards from six of my friends. The day before that I wrote for a little while at the desk, and the day before that I just sat here and drank a cup of tea while listening to a podcast. There are several pictures, paintings, and drawings from friends adorning the walls, along with framed inspirational quotes, a refurbished bookshelf, a new Keurig, and loads of teabags. Not to mention the hand woven blanket, carved wooden sign, and antique window—all prepared especially for me.


Every time I’ve come down here in the last five days, I’ve smiled. I look at the bright blue wall and freshly made curtains (sewn by my daughter, Laney), breathe in either the scent of a fresh candle or my new Oil Diffuser, and feel at home. I think about how wonderful it is to have friends who know and love you, who are happy to care for you in tangible ways. I’m blown away by the creativity and talent on display within these four walls and I feel inspired to add my own voice to this already singing choir.


I still don’t have a book contract, a publishing agent, or even a finished manuscript, but I’m beginning to feel more like an author than ever before. There’s something about having a designated place to work that makes this job feel more legitimate. Who knows if I’ll ever make more than two hundred dollars for my work, but so far writing is the best job I’ve ever had. And now that I have space of my own, to focus specifically on the task at hand, I feel confident I’ll write more words and tell more stories. I can’t promise they’ll be fiction, like the ones that came from Woolf’s room, but I hope you stick around to hear them anyhow. And thanks for reading these.

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©2018 by Janna Barber

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Author photos taken by Lori Douthat