Beauty in the Ordinary
“But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-11
I will be turning forty-nine next week. At this age, birthdays often induce some refection, especially since I am so close to the big 5-0. Some women view turning fifty as the beginning of the end when wrinkles, cellulite and grey hair take over. Other women see it as a pivotal turning point where they make a bucket list and prioritize accomplishments to achieve before the end of their life. I have one more year to think about what I want fifty to look like. But this year, at almost forty-nine, I feel contemplative. If I look back on my life, it is nothing like I imagined it would be, but everything I hoped it would be. And if I had to describe my life in a few words, I would say “beautifully ordinary”. This may seem like a contradictory statement, and maybe a little bit of a letdown, but take a little journey with me through an ordinary life lived out beautifully by the grace of God.
As a child, I thought I was headed toward a career making a big impact on the world. At one point, I wanted to be an investigative reporter exploring the streets of Calcutta. I also thought about being a lobbyist climbing Capitol Hill, trying to influence Congress for social justice causes. Later, I hoped I would be a therapist helping other people overcome childhood trauma. Regardless, all my dreams involved travel, adventure, and influence!
My reality, however, has looked quite different. Instead of a career, I chose to stay home with my children and home-educate them. Yes, we did travel, but never anywhere requiring a passport. Any international travel was done from our living room through the pages of books, or in my kitchen where I tried to introduce my children to international cuisine. Adventure was not found in a war-torn village, instead it was found camping in a tent, banging logs together to scare away the raccoons, or exploring nature in our backyard. And, although I never became a licensed therapist, the people I influenced the greatest were those who lived in the four walls of my home. This did not happen by me extolling the virtues of a Christian world point of view, although both my children would say I did my share of that. I impacted lives around me by doing the ordinary things in my life through the inspiration of God and to the best of my ability!
My friend, Lynette, an incredible micro blogger with “Joy Intended”, wrote, this week, about “the momma of that little boy with three loaves and two small fishes. Yes, the unnamed lady. She was somebody great. Because she was back home, in the kitchen, way behind the scenes. Doing the mundane thing of baking bread for the 192,384 time.” Little did this mother know that her very bread would be used in a miracle to feed thousands. It is in the mundane, ordinary tasks we do every day that impact others. It is finding the one gift or talent God has given us and developing that talent to bless the kingdom of God. It is choosing to reflect God’s beauty in your corner of the world, no matter how big or small the impact may be.
I have spent a lot of time writing out menu plans and grocery lists, not only to feed my family, but also to make sure our pantry is always company ready. I have learned to preserve several different flavors of jam, some of which delight a certain eight-year-old on her toast, every morning. I try to keep my home sunny and comfortable, so that both my family and friends can be in a place that is inviting and conducive to good conversation. I keep a stack of cards on hand to jot short notes of encouragement to others.
Susan Branch, in her book, “A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside”, reflects on her travels. She says, “What we do matters. It’s the everyday little things that mean the most & make all the difference.” She later goes on to say, “Perhaps just going about our business, thinking small, thinking Home, thinking, “What do I have to give?” is the true secret for a happy life.”
As I turn forty-nine, I am not looking to start a non-profit that will have a global impact, although I might. I am not looking to travel to Africa to help children in an orphanage, although I am open to that. I am not looking to be a licensed therapist, although if God lays it on my heart, I will go back to school. Today, I am writing this post and praying that it speaks to at least one person. Today, I am going to write a few cards out to some important people in my life to let them know I care. Today, I am going to finish my load of laundry and put it away, so that we have fresh linens to use. Today, is just an ordinary day in a beautiful life!