I stopped in the middle of the trail, mouth wide open as runners passed me by.
Winter was still hanging on, everyone wearing an extra layer or two, but the sun was shining after a week of rain and one tree on the path began to bloom.
Amidst the weeds and the mud and the bare branches all around, this one colorful tree stood tall with the beauty of new life and the reminder that Spring always comes. I pulled out my phone, my roommate smiling because of course I needed to snap a picture. We stepped to the side to make room for those hurrying on by, held our phones up, took a picture or two and then continued on our way.
Hours later, I scrolled through my camera roll and only then did I realize just how much my view of ordinary has changed.
When you look at this picture, what stands out?
Because once upon a time, I would have said “the tree” and once upon a time I would have cropped the power lines out. Now? They’re what I see. I made sure to get them in the frame.
No doubt about it, the tree stopped me in my tracks. The light was shining perfectly overhead, the skies stretched out blue and empty of clouds. Beauty stopped me. But that wasn’t the entire picture. Right there in the corner of the shot, just above my head, were power lines.
I think we’re too quick to filter and angle and crop out the ordinary. But this is the conclusion I’ve come to over time: we miss out when we crop out. The ordinary is where the magic hides. It’s where real life lives. Noticing the ordinary doesn’t take away from the beauty… and I’m actually not sure if it adds to it. I think maybe they’re simply one and the same.
So here’s my ordinary challenge, and I hope you’ll take me up on it:
Pay attention to your day, your right now life, and look for one ordinary but beautiful thing.
Laughter. Comfortable silence. Food in the pantry. Crumbs on the table. A smile from a stranger. An encouraging text. Shadows dancing on the wall. A candle flickering. Power lines cutting across a blue sky.
Last week, I shared this picture on Instagram and Facebook. It’s a snapshot of my one line a day journal, a simple daily practice that helps me pay attention to my right now life. Day by day, I write down the ordinary and the mundane and every once in a while, the crazy or sad or unexpected. It’s a journal of my life over the past few years, told one or two sentences at a time.
There are five things I grabbed in the fire last fall, and this small book is one of them. Honestly, most days don’t feel exciting enough or important enough to remember. But for years now, I’ve written a sentence or two. After a year or so I realized I was starting to notice — in real time — the little things, the everyday moments that I previously hurried past. One line after another, I was learning to see beauty in the ordinary — like power lines stretching long through the sky. As time continued on, it became glaringly obvious day after day, page after page: there are threads woven through that connect seasons and storylines, each one pointing to God’s goodness all along the way.
I get to write in the last few sentences this year and I’m not kidding you, most days have me shaking my head at where He’s taken me, the things He’s brought me through, His faithfulness in every unknown and change.
College was coming to a close in 2015. On this day, I had just returned from Haiti and had spent the last three days in bed with a high fever — only getting up to go to a job interview. (Bless it.) I was overwhelmed and had no idea what I’d do after graduation.
One year later, I had a job that made it possible for me to spend a week back in Haiti. Miracles happened that week, some that I’ve yet to write because they’re too incredible for words.
2017 held long days walking hospital hallways, but on this day we finally got to go home. We didn’t know we’d be back soon, but even if we had we still would have celebrated.
And last year? It was a pretty ordinary day but even there, in between errands and a theology class, I see it.
I see His goodness on every page. I see storylines woven together, His fingerprints all over the place. And honestly, I’m not sure I could see it so clearly in the moment. I could trust that He’s kind, but I couldn’t always see His kindness. There are several extremely difficult stories told one or two sentences at a time. And yet… He’s there. In the heartbreaking and the incredible, in the unknown and in the answered prayer. He’s the constant… and He’s enough.
You don’t need a memory book to remember (although I love mine). You just need a pen and some paper, time to write a sentence or two, and dedication to keep at it, to keep looking for Him. I promise, it will change how you see. God, help us remember. You’re with us on every page, good in every storyline, writing beauty into every ordinary day.