There are moments that stick with us forever. Fleeting glimpses of what really matters. And then, of course, there are the moments in between those prophetic moments. The daily, ordinary moments that end up defining our lives.
I remember once, when I was about 14 years old, I came home from school and headed straight for the hammock in our backyard. I dramatically threw myself in, thankful the drama of the day was over and I could just bask in my book. There was nothing unusual about this…this was a completely ordinary moment for me. But that afternoon, I laid my book across my chest and just soaked up the moment. I stared up into the tree above me and I intentionally took note of just how perfect the moment was. The weather that day was lovely…an odd combination of low humidity and a crisp autumn breeze. Leaves were falling around me and I could smell one of Grandma’s pies through the open windows. I had left the phone inside and, of course, this was pre-texting and pre-Internet days. So it was literally just me and my book and this moment. I thought if I could bottle this weather and this moment of content, I would. And I’d live in this moment forever.
In hindsight, I realize that the only reason I could appreciate the beauty of that particular afternoon (and probably the only reason I remember it) was because it was a moment different from all the daily moments. And not because there was something extra special about that particular moment. On the contrary, I took an ordinary moment and made it extra-ordinary just by paying attention to all its details.
Sometimes we need to make our ordinary moments extra-ordinary to help us see the beauty of our everyday lives.
2017 has been a year filled with the ordinary moments: work, school lessons, family meals, laundry, ballet, piano and strings lessons, playtime, sibling rivalry, and all the joy of milestones in between like birthdays and lost teeth and learning to read and camping trips.
But 2017 has also had its share of noticed extra-ordinary moments which have helped us appreciate the beauty of our daily moments.
In the spring the kids and I spent a week homeschooling in the woods. It was a week to recapture some of the things we had lost in the busy shuffle of school lessons. We remembered how much we loved to read together and tell stories and watercolor paint in our nature notebooks. We spent the week uninterrupted by text messages, phone calls and Facebook notifications and we reveled in the small discoveries we made…a rock in the shape of a heart, the idea that we could hike over four miles with small children, the joy of singing folksongs over a campfire we had built ourselves. We came back with a new appreciation for our family culture and our ordinary homeschooling days.
In the fall we trekked out, as a family, to West Texas for ten days and developed a whole new appreciation for the suburbs and the convenience of civilization. But those ten days? Full of extra-ordinary moments. We rediscovered our joy at playing games together and conversations by the fire lit sparks in our souls as we connected and grew together. We spent hours hiking and exploring and reveling in the beautiful simplicity of nature. We delighted in the break from the ordinary and then we returned to the ordinary with eyes wide open.
But not all of our extra-ordinary moments were moments when we were away from the dailiness of life. Sometimes finding extra-ordinary moments meant stopping long enough to see the ordinary moments with new eyes. In a culture where everything is rushed, sometimes this takes major effort. But each ordinary moment deserves respect…after all, these ordinary moments add up to define us. I catch a glimpse of beautiful little Katie, who begged for a bike with a basket for her fourth birthday, and I watch her as she now goes up and down the sidewalk without her training wheels. It’s extra-ordinary: for her, it’s the joy of feeling the wind in her hair; for me it’s this realization that she’s growing up. SHE is extra-ordinary. All of my children are. I look over at long, lanky Joseph (who now has a preference to be called Joey) and I stop and listen to that beautiful melody that he’s tapping out on the piano. That’s a culmination of ordinary moments: piano lessons, hours of practice and a love for music. Or how about William? I sit at the top of the stairs in my parents’ house and I listen to him have a conversation with my dad. A conversation about engineering and chemistry and physics. And I realize that somehow this 8 year old has turned into a conversationalist, who asks wise questions and attempts to argue his way through life logically. And then sweet Andrew. Every day for the past five months, there has been an ordinary moment trying to teach him to read. And now he does it. I don’t even remember the day when he could do it, but as I listen, I hear his sweet voice sound out each blend, each consonant and I marvel that so many ordinary moments could add up to this extra-ordinary moment.
Unlike generations past, we don’t live in a period of time where survival is a constant threat. We don’t live on rationed food. When we worry about a loved one, they’re typically just a text away…we don’t have to wait weeks wondering whether everything is okay. We don’t live in a time where we are reminded daily of how precious this life is. But this life is precious and these moments, even the daily ones, are extra-ordinary. It’s up to us to stop long enough to breathe in the delight of our daily moments. Because while the extra-ordinary moments help us keep things in focus, the ordinary moments are the ones that define us. Which leaves me wondering…what do my ordinary moments say about me?
As a new year approaches, I am reminded that all of our lives are one year shorter as another year has passed us by. Our time is limited in this precious life, so I implore you to let 2018 be the year that your daily moments define you in the way you want to be remembered.