This Ordinary Life
By Beth Hautala
This piece was originally published in the Year of the Spouse Journal but was revised for the Year of the Family.
It was several years ago now, that morning as I sat in the quiet early darkness with my infant daughter. It was the third time I’d been up with her since I’d fallen into bed the night before, and I was tired. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure I’d actually slept in the last nine years—not since my son, the oldest of four, was born. But my new baby’s long eyelashes against her firm little cheek made me catch my breath. They always do. And it was at that very moment a robin chose to burst into song outside the nursery window. It was early spring, and that robin was the harbinger. That little bird sang for the sun alone. He sang because he was created to do so. Without applause. And I marveled at his courage.
It takes courage to do the ordinary. This has been a slowly-dawning realization for me.
Our culture praises the risk-takers. The adventurers. The ones who leave it all behind and risk life and limb for great causes and glorious endeavors. I praise them myself—I admire them. Sometimes I wish I could be them.
But I am brave. It takes courage to rise in the wee hours of the night to meet the needs of others. It takes courage to make all the daily meals, which are often met with complaints rather than thanks. It takes courage to fold acres of laundry and match hundreds of pairs of little socks. It takes courage to plant your heart in the lives of the people you love, knowing fully that the gift may never be truly recognized.
Even in Christian culture we have a tendency to magnify the extraordinary and minimize the ordinary. It’s laughable, really, because Christ lived a beautiful ordinary life—dust and sweat-covered, selfless and giving, mess-ridden and thankless. God spent days with children and the child-like, washing feet and mending hearts. God cooked meals and carried those who were too tired or too weak to go on alone. God chased away nightmares and chased away the night. And yet, when it comes to my own life, I get hung up on the fact that I’ve not “done great things” for God. As if I could out-live Christ.
But this thought, this fear of an unaccomplished story, a mundane life, is shifting in me. A quieter, deeper resonance of truth is ringing where my frustrations used to lie. What if this ordinary life is a thing of glory and greatness? What if the very act of setting myself aside, is also a high calling? I would die for them—for these loves of mine, who drain me of energy, sleep, and occasionally brain cells. But even more, I would live. Not at the cost of myself, because it would do none of us any good for me to lose myself in their existence. But this could be my gift. My God-honoring could be the extraordinary wonder of a mundane life filled with everyday grace and courage.
What acts of bravery do you have to offer in the midst of your beautiful ordinary life? What early hours are yours to give up as praise? What songs were you made to sing in the pre-dawn darkness? What unseen gift, what catch-of-breath can you offer? It takes great courage. And it is a thing of great beauty. That robin sings, never knowing I hear—perhaps he sings for an audience of One. His Creator. And I’m trying to do the same. In my sleeplessness. In my hours before morning arrives… in all of my ordinariness.
About Well-Read Mom
For our Tenth Anniversary, the reading list put together by Well-Read Mom reflects on the theme of family. In Well-Read Mom we desire to create a place for women, not to escape from family life and work, but to experience a kind of leisure through friendship and literature so that women can return to their lives with a renewed vision and vigor. By reading books together, we help sustain a tradition of reading, which is a gift not only to our families but to the world. We hope you’ll join Well-Read Mom for our Year of the Family. Find out more.