Is ordinary okay?

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” -C.S. Lewis

Yesterday Jesse had a half day of school, so I drove there to pick him up at 11am only to get home some time after 2pm. What happened in between was this.

I was buckling Jesse in the car of the school parking lot when another parent came over, remarking that I had something in my tire. Well you could definitely hear the air hissing out with a thin, sharp metal object pierced in the rubber. I called Jason to see if he could come check it out and later he determined the tire needed changing.

He changes the tire then makes the executive decision for all of us to eat a late lunch at Chic-Fila (which why would anyone ever oppose that?). After lunch and Jesse playing in their indoor jungle gym (I make a mental note to use a ton of hand sanitizer afterward), we head over to the car shop.

I’m informed that they can’t even look at the tire or replace it until tomorrow morning. So, weary and with a slight stress headache, we head home to watch Frozen for the hundredth time.

This was not a normal day for us, but not anything extraordinary either. It happens every day to people. Most of life isn’t flashy and exciting and like life on vacation. We get up, go to work or school, meal plan, buy groceries, laundry, clean, etc. All to do it over again the next day.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes the subliminal message in our culture seems to be that ordinary is boring and therefore to be avoided. There is a push to be “unique” and in one sense we all are because God didn’t create any of us alike. Even twins develop different personalities (ask me how I know). But if everyone is striving to stand out and be “different”, isn’t that just another kind of conformity?

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In Paul’s letter to Titus he says, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14).

We still have to work, eat and sleep. Our basic needs still apply and often this includes taking care of others too. My hope is that you and I learn not to despise ordinary living. That even being ordinary is okay even as you use the unique gifts God has blessed you with.

Because it really sums up most of our lives. The moments each day add up over time and turn into weeks, then months and years. It would be a tragedy to have wasted your one life, always seeking the next thrill and not appreciating the commonplace. Our worth isn’t calculated by how “exciting and interesting” we are is it? It’s so much more than that.

 

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So what does Paul encourage Titus and the church to do?

Do good. Live your lives.

I think this is part of “keeping your eyes on your own paper”, to stay faithful right where you are.

When we are faithful to do this, we begin to realize that we are exactly where we need to be. You and I have a different ordinary, but it doesn’t make mine or yours less significant.  Our kingdom work happens here.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

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when you need white space

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The day after Jesse’s 5th birthday party he got sick. The boy who always says “hi!” to everyone and never stops was quiet and lethargic. That’s how you know he doesn’t feel well. Jesse kept a hard, non-stop cough for a week and then I got it. Sickness has a way of forcing us out of our scheduled routine. We hunker down at home and don’t leave except to go to the doctor’s office or pharmacy.

To be honest I got a little stir crazy keeping him home from school, not doing anything while still trying to keep the little guy semi-entertained. Add to that not feeling well myself and I start to sputter. What do you do when the mama needs her mama?

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I craved some white space, a time out, but that would have to wait. As moms, we are used to putting ourselves last and for a little while that might be necessary for survival. But after the immediate needs of little ones subside there should be moments of self-care, even if it’s in the cracks, one hour here, five minutes there.

Once Jesse was well enough to head back to school I still floundered with how to nurture my own body back to health. Coughing and fatigue set in, but I was restless. My loving husband suggested a short walk, so I did.

There’s a huge, old tree across the street from our neighborhood. It’s branches fan up and out, hanging heavy under the weight of its years. I’m smitten. This tree declares God’s glory, as all creation does, and I have wanted to take a picture of the grandeur. I’d pull into the neighborhood, making a mental note to do so, tucking it away for another day.

Monday was different.

Slipping on my knock-off canvas Toms I wandered down the sidewalk, iPhone camera in hand. The sky blue of spring couldn’t have been more perfect. Breathing deep the thick scent of honeysuckle I gave thanks to the Lord for all of His goodness and grace – more days like this please.

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The white space for my brain and soul was carved in that ten-minute walk communing with the God of heaven and earth, delighting in the new day He had made. I snapped a couple of pictures of the well-lived tree attempting to capture exquisite beauty. It didn’t translate to the small phone screen. But I got what I came for anyway. He refreshed me, filling my lungs with sweet air and my thoughts with a high view of Him.

Mamas need to be taken care of too. I’m thankful to serve a tender God who knows that.

“He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;

He gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11)

As God calls us to live out our days serving as mothers let us not forget that we have not been forgotten. He sees you, tired from the monotonous day in, day out cycle of raising the next generation. It’s hard stuff. But you are His and you, dear one, are being held. Even on the days we feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole nothing escapes His knowledge or control.

Rest in Him. He has never let you go. God takes care of His children as we tend to the ones He gave us.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

 

What August has taught me

514412697My last post was about how the world seems to be spinning at rapid speed and how most of us do not take enough time to enjoy the present and slow down. So, in the spirit of that, I want to take time to reflect on the month of August and a few things I have learned and/or discovered. It ranges from the deeper things of life to the not so much.

#1 Jillian Michaels kicks my tail every.single.time.

  I have been doing her Yoga Meltdown dvd for a few years now….not consistently of course. Every time I think I got this, the woman yells at me from the t.v. and tells me “Do NOT phone this in!!!” Ugh. I believe she can see my half attempts from her studio. She knows. She always knows. And yet I’m thankful the next day feeling the soreness (which means I worked something, right?) and stiffness. I may not accomplish much during the day, but at least I finished a 30 minute workout video for what that’s worth.

#2 I am learning to be an advocate for my son even when it might annoy others. 

My son started a new school this year and because of his special needs I felt a huge amount of worry. I want his teachers and therapists to understand him, to know his strengths and weaknesses. They will over time, but I wanted it to happen right out of the gate. When it comes to someone else taking care of him, I am not relaxed about it. I need to know your credentials and experience, etc. So I emailed his teacher and did ask her those things in the most polite way I knew how. She was very nice about it and answered my questions. Communication is key, I realize. I have gathered his therapists emails and contacted them and I may ask a lot of questions but I figure we all need to be on the same page anyway. This shy girl who would prefer to “go with the flow” and keep her head down is learning to be a voice these days.

IMG_3825#3 Hannah More is an amazing woman that I wish more people knew about.

I recently finished reading Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior. It is a biography on Hannah More and it. is. incredible!!! There are few books in my life that are truly life changing and this is one of them. Hannah was the female counterpart to William Wilberforce during Great Britain’s abolition movement. While he focused on the political reform to end the slave trade, she worked the social and cultural scene to show how uncivilized trading humans like cattle was. One of my favorite quotes from her is: “It should be held as an eternal truth, that what is morally wrong can never be politically right” (136). I guess also because it draws for me such strong parallels to the cultural war we face today on abortion. One quote from the author in which I could not help but think about infanticide (i.e. abortion) is: “The social conscience had drawn a veil over the horrific business of trade in human flesh. The veil had to be lifted” (125).  It is an inspiring read, plus there are fancy sounding names like the Bluestocking Circle and the Clapham Sect that I want to resurrect somehow.

#4 It is okay to ask for prayer.

Recently I had a dear friend over and we visited for quite a while. As she was getting ready to go home, I felt a strong sense from the Spirit to ask for prayer. The kind of feeling that you know you need to obey. Here is a little of the inner dialogue that went on in my heart: Spirit: Ask for prayer. Me: What? I’ve got this. She has enough on her plate, I don’t need to bother her with my struggles. Spirit: Ask for prayer. Me: But she’s about to leave and its too much to explain and I’ll just wait for another time. Spirit: Ask for prayer.

So I actually had to swallow my (pride? fear?) and with a dose of courage ask her for prayer on a certain issue. Asking another brother or sister in Christ to pray for you or with you can sometimes be hard, especially if the request leaves you feeling very, very vulnerable. It is also humbling, which is apparently what I needed as well. But we share in each other’s burdens as well as each other’s joys, right? Not only are we blessed by their prayers, it allows them an opportunity to minister.

515831109#5 Celebrate Tuesdays.

This one comes from a book that I’m currently reading called Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman. I would also recommend this. I’m not done with it yet, but the idea is to celebrate our smallness and the small things that God has planned for us. She writes: “We don’t have to worry that embracing smallness will shrink our impact […] In all our small ways, it is Christ who makes it possible for us to move through our lives, believing and trusting he is establishing his kingdom-sized purposes within and around us” (37). Emily talks about how Tuesday seems to be the day that is just squished in the week without given much thought. It is just a Tuesday, not a weekend day, or a Friday, or the middle of the week, or the start of the work week. It’s just…..small, simple, little Tuesday. She encourages her readers to appreciate the ordinary times, especially in our fast moving world and live our lives for Jesus in those moments as well.

On an end note to celebrate more Tuesdays, I had breakfast at a cafe this past Tuesday by myself and thoroughly enjoyed it! I had a crepe for the first time, stuffed with blueberries, strawberries, and bananas with honey drizzled on the top and a side of whipped cream. My eyes were the size of Montana when I saw that thing! And it was heavenly of course. Top it off with a vanilla latte in a Friends-sized coffee cup and I could have floated to Paris.

And if we really want to get started about celebrating Tuesday, this one coming up just so happens to be this girl’s birthday. So, yeah, I’ll keep up the tradition, at least until next Tuesday.

Grace upon grace,

April

Ordinary but Extraordinary

553241169I love summer. I didn’t always love it though. Here in the South, Alabama heat can get down right unbearable. I have always been a fair weather kind of girl, enjoying spring and fall best, but this summer is different. Jesse finished his first full year of school, so now I’m cherishing these moments at home more. The house is a little messier, but there are more afternoons to cuddle. I’m exhausted by the end of the day, but my heart is full of happy and funny moments.

These “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” can sometimes be way too long, but then I remember that the years are even shorter. In our house a typical summer day consists of something fun to do in the mornings, sleepy afternoons, and evenings either playing outside after the day finally cools down, or Jason and Jesse rough housing in the living room. I smile to myself, hearing their laughter as I put dinner away and wash the dishes in the kitchen. I lean over the counter responding to Jesse’s “Mom!” which means, “Look at me!” Jason has Jesse “flying” and I have to watch every single time. I don’t get tired of it. I actually want time to slow down and enjoy my two blessings as much as possible.

Our family has already gone to the beach this year, which was glorious. It was a needed break from everything. I call it my Zack Morris “time out” week where everything else stopped in our world back home. Most days around here since we have been home from the beach are wonderful, but also very ordinary. What I mean is, washing the dishes, laundry, diaper changing, cooking dinners, and making the bed day after day seems very monotonous and mundane. A week or two out of the year is a beach vacation, but most of life is not. Daily living is wiping runny noses, going to the grocery store, naptime, saying ‘no’ to cookies for breakfast, and cleaning the toilet. It is not glamorous, but it can be holy. It is holy work if the attitude of your heart reflects a willing servant like Jesus.

Jesus washed his disciples’ dirty, stinky feet, one of the lowliest jobs in His day. He did this right before He gave His life for them and us. Jesus’ act of feet washing was holy. It was worship. It was something that needed to be done and was performed each time a guest entered a home. It was ordinary. So what made His action any different? Jesus displayed humility, the life of the ultimate servant while on earth by putting others before Himself. He fed. He healed. He taught. He saved.

Philippians 2:5-11 showcases Christ’s humility and how we are to live accordingly. Philippians 2:5 simply states, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (NIV). I just love it. This is a high calling. The work we do each day can be used to worship the Lord. It is ordinary living with an extraordinary purpose. Sometimes I think, “I’m just a homemaker, a stay-at-home mom.” The world loves to tell us that this kind of job is throwing your life away. But God shows me the beauty and purpose of it all. My kingdom work for right now is raising a little one to know and love Jesus. Mothers in particular can have great influence on the spiritual lives of their children. Paul commends Timothy’s grandmother and mother, Lois and Eunice, for their faith, which they taught Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). Susanna Wesley is known as the Mother of Methodism, because of the example she set for her children, in particular John and Charles Wesley who founded the Methodist church. It is said of Susanna that “…although she never preached a sermon or published a book or founded a church, (she) is known as the Mother of Methodism. Why? Because two of her sons, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, as children consciously or unconsciously will, applied the example and teachings and circumstances of their home life” (Susan Pellowe, Susanna Wesley Biography).

Most of us will never be “the next big thing” with our name in lights over Broadway, or a recognizable face as an athlete or on the silver screen. It is not about us anyway. If we stop pursuing a self-important mindset and embrace our common calling, I think we will be a lot more content. God has purposed you to live in the 21st century, in whatever town you call home, at whatever job you are employed in. An engineer, teacher, janitor, CEO, barista, homemaker, pastor, and doctor can all be used for God’s glory doing His work to bless His Kingdom. Paul alludes to this in speaking to the Athenians:

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

Michael Horton wrote a book called ‘Ordinary’ which after I listened to it via Audible, I wanted to shout in agreement, ‘Yes!’ He argues that sometimes in the Church there is the notion that missionaries who dedicate their lives to serve in Africa are the Christian elite. Their work is definitely more visible than me making scrambled eggs this morning for my son. But what if the heart of the missionary is not humble, and there is some measure of self-glorification rather than glorifying our King? I say this hypothetically, and hopefully this is not the case at all. Most people will not see the work you or I do in the name of Jesus, and that is okay. God sees you. He knows your heart.

In the body of believers we all have different gifts and functions, so if the Lord calls you to serve in a remote 3rd world country, praise God! If He calls you to stay in the States that is wonderful too and by no means less significant. Your mission field is right where He has placed you. It is among your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family. 1 Corinthians 12:4-31 shows us that workers are needed everywhere with varying abilities, even if to the world, or perhaps yourself, your work seems pointless and mundane, it does not have to be. Horton writes, “Even our common callings in the world are not really our own, but they are God’s work of supplying others- including ourselves- with what the whole society needs. There is a lot of work to be done, but it is his work that he is doing through us in daily and mostly ordinary ways” (Ordinary).

I live a simple, fairly quiet, ordinary life, but it is not a wasted life. I desire to live it out everyday pursuing Christ as He pursues me, and allow the Spirit to be the overflow of my heart in words, thoughts, and actions. In the heart of Huntsville, I want to be Jesus’ hands and feet, washing the stinky feet. This is ordinary work with an extraordinary purpose.

Grace upon grace,

April