My kids need a bath. Can I admit that? To be fair, though, they’ve gotten soaked head to toe in water the past few days. So I’m going to count it. I’m going to count it because 1) it’s summer, 2) I’m bigly (that’s a word now, right?) pregnant and exhausted at the end of every day, and 3) my bath tub is dirty. My entire house is dirty, really. That’s our reality because cleaning just ain’t ma’ thing – unless people are coming over, of course. And even then I categorize our various friends and family based on different levels of how much I care that they are going to care about my dirty house. That determines either a whole house make-over, or a once-over wipe down of the one bathroom they will most likely use. If I get around to vacuuming, bonus. But I digress…
There is so much ordinary to the basics of living life, raising kids, having a job, and investing in community. I have come to discover that my most intense moments of irritation and frustration tend to occur when I am living in one particular moment of reality while wishing for another: to be somewhere else, do something else, have something else, etc. Usually they are moments that involve my children. And it’s in those seconds and minutes that I am looking around them instead of directly at them. I see an obstacle instead of opportunity.
“Receive each and every moment for what it really is. Holy. Ordinary. Amazing Grace.” –Ann Voskamp
Holy. Exalted or worthy of complete devotion. Having divine quality. Venerated as or as if sacred (Merriam-Webster). Do you ever stop to consider that the dishes you are washing, the papers you are filing, the I.V. line that you are inserting, the sales calls you are making, the dirty bums you are cleaning, or any of the other infinite daily tasks assigned to your present situation…are not just ordinary duties and responsibilities, but in fact holy moments? Moments of amazing grace? The rote, menial chores or tasks that have no obvious parallel to or involvement in God’s grand design for humanity and our universe can cause us to doubt if what we’re doing really matters at all. It’s easy to feel insignificant when imagining the scope of the entire existence of everything ever.
The truth is that every moment of every day plays a role in the process of time. Without some of those seconds or minutes, our realities could end up looking very different. I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the “Butterfly Effect.” If you’re not familiar with it, here is a basic summation of the idea:
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name, coined by Edward Lorenz for the effect which had been known long before, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed that runs of his weather model with initial condition data that was rounded in a seemingly inconsequential manner would fail to reproduce the results of runs with the unrounded initial condition data. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome. (Source: Wikipedia.org)
Although used mostly in science circles, I do not for a second doubt that its realness is central in our human actions and interactions. A simple example might be this: After dinner I decide to leave the dishes and wash them later. I go outside and play with my husband and kids instead. While outside my son asks me to look at our small vegetable garden to see how the plants are doing (something he does, in fact, love doing). I see that a tomato happens to be ripe enough for picking. I tell him he can pick it if he’s willing to taste it. (He does not like trying new things- this would be on par with the miraculous). But in that single moment he happens to be feeling brave, so he picks it and takes a bite. To everyone’s surprise he loves it and eats the whole thing. Now he eats tomatoes. This surprising, newfound love for tomatoes could potentially lead to a whole new way of thinking about food, which would revolutionize meals in our house. The revolution of meal times could lead to any number of infinite results as the years go by. But had I decided to wash the dishes that night instead of going outside with my kids, that brave moment my son experienced would not have been given space to emerge and may never have transpired again.
It’s seems so insignificant, doesn’t it? But how many stories have you heard where a person’s career decision was influenced in one single moment by something that seemed so completely ordinary and insignificant to everyone else in the room? Countless stories like this exist, and I love reading them because it causes me to slow down in my days, pay attention to the reactions of my children while in the midst of an experience, and then pursue those reactions with questions and conversation to see where they may lead.
My 2 ½ year old son is a (mostly) fearless daredevil. The other night while we were unaware, he rode his tricycle to the edge of the basement stairs- and went for it. His adventure ended in lots of tears and hugs. Then, after we closed and locked the basement door he proceeded up the stairs to the second level with his older brother and, you guessed it, the tricycle. He was going to go for a second attempt. GUYS. *Face palm* But I’m looking back on that moment as well as all the little things in between – his love of climbing, jumping, and all things kinesthetic- and I’m starting to pay attention. I’m involving myself in the ordinariness of zooming construction trucks through sand and making cars “talk” to each other, building Lego transformers and teaching my sons to throw away their own garbage in the trash can.
Instead of looking around my children in these moments and wishing for a different reality than my current “boring,” I have begun choosing to look at them and accept the challenge of these “boring” moments as opportunities in life’s learning process. I am now seeing that these small instances are developing relationships, skills, and habits that will have lifelong implications.
We don’t suddenly become experts in our own life’s awesome without first developing the skills necessary to be our own awesome. If you don’t learn it, you may never know it. But the learning process is often a slow, tedious one.
Even if you don’t have kids, but you have a job that doesn’t seem all that important in the grand scheme of things, know that your interactions and reactions to everyone you come into contact with matter. It may not be apparent to you in the moment that the kindness in your voice allows the other person to relax enough to create a positive interaction. Or the promise you make and the follow-through you prioritize, that may not seem important initially, can lead to better business connections, networking opportunities, and expansion. You just don’t know.
But you will find that you are able to experience glorious measures of hope and joy when you allow yourself to surrender to your ordinary – to embrace the mundane moments of your everyday life. And instead of choosing to be irritated and annoyed by that customer who always brings the negative vibes, try wrapping their negativity in your kindness and warmth. There’s a good chance that if they are used to being met with cold politeness or curt responses, your gift of kindness will give them pause. You may not see it or realize it’s happening, but it’s a holy moment; A divine moment determined by your choice to choose a better way that could end up being a catalyst for that person’s heart transformation. You just don’t know.
Have you experienced times in your daily life where the ordinary was transformed into extraordinary simply because you chose to embrace the moment and live into it instead of wishing your way around it? I invite you to share about it in the comments!
Peace & Love, Amy