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Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

Please also visit the website, The Livelihood Project, for more information.

Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure, is an idea-driven lyric exploration of work as a place of spiritual journey, particularly when the tensions between passion and need, and the planned life and the given life trigger longings for satisfaction, provision, and meaning. Traditional expert opinion often falls short in admitting these tensions.

I think Finding Livelihood is particularly timely given the intensification of conversations about work and vocation online, in print, and at conferences. The book provides a missing piece in these conversations: the contemplative voice of the working individual living into work's complexities as distinct from the authoritative instructional voice of the academic, pastor or theologian.

The book started with the question, How do I make peace with the fact that my husband lost his job just as I started graduate school and we had two sons in college? That question led to others, as questions usually do, particularly, How do I make peace with the shadow side of work, when it’s not all passion and bliss? How does work become the venue for a spiritual journey?

Excerpts have been published in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Indiana Review, Comment, Under the Sun, and Relief. Three excerpts have received notable mentions in The Best American Essays 2012 and The Best Spiritual Writing 2012, and three received Pushcart nominations.

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Endorsements for Finding Livelihood

“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, Author of Adventure of Ascent: Field Notes from a Lifelong Journey and Scape: Poems; writer in residence at Regent College

"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 A Land Without Sin and The Holy Way

"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? (My personal question: Can cleaning fishing nets of rotting jellyfish really be redeeming work?) 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 Journal; Author of Beauty Will Save The World