Is An Ordinary Life Enough?

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Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen -Ordinary Time3

I realized with a start today that we’re already a week into Ordinary Time, that big empty space on the Christian calendar that falls between Pentecost and Advent. I’m not sure I like ordinary time. I don’t know what to do with this uninterrupted expanse.

I’m used to the gentle spiritual practices of Advent and Lent as we wait and prepare, the constant awareness of those seasons. I love the celebration of Christmas and Easter, with their colourful decorations and joyous feasting and loud singing. Pentecost is one big party and the Baptisms always make me cry. And if I’m allowed a favourite, mine might just be the mystery and magic of Epiphany.

These seasons and days are a loved and needed pattern to my year. Until we get to this week and there are just months of lazy summer and busy autumn until Advent Sunday finally rolls around again. I worry that without the structure and instruction of the calendar, I’ll drift away into the same emptiness that engulfs my planner, forget to keep my eyes and heart turned to the One who showed me what love looks like.

Maybe the deeper truth is that the idea of Ordinary scares me a bit. I don’t want ordinary–I want extraordinary. I want a life bursting into fireworks, days that light up like mountain-top beacons. I grew up singing anthems at massive Christian youth rallies that proclaimed I’m going to be a historymaker in this land. Ordinary is not what I was promised; not what I promised to become.

And yet my life looks so very ordinary. I live in a remarkably unremarkable suburb of London at the end of the Tube line. I stay home with my one-year-old and nearly three-year-old. Our days are filled with park trips and supermarket runs and me desperately praying they will nap at the same time, so I get at least one hot cup of coffee.

Maybe this is why I don’t enjoy realizing I am entering this season of Ordinary Time, because it reminds me just how ordinary all my time is, and I don’t like it. It gently asks me to notice the pride behind my frustration, the self-absorption behind my thwarted desire to do “great things for God.” And I don’t like that either. Because if I can’t be doing something extraordinary, I at least want to be able to wallow in my supposed martyrdom and holy self-pity.

With nothing to do—no feasts to celebrate, no fasts to observe—I have nowhere to left to hide. The truth is, I am really good at talking about finding the sacred in the ordinary, and really bad at actually doing it. This post has been written two lines at a time, interrupted by toddlers who wouldn’t nap, a little girl who wanted me to try her sand cupcake (sand and laptops don’t mix), siblings who inexplicably always want to play with exactly the same toy at the same time … and there may have been a moment I slammed my hand down on the table in angry frustration and yelled one of the “bad words” my daughter is not supposed to repeat in polite company.

I’m unlearning a lifetime of false expectations about the life God promises me. I’m desperately seeking out the writers–my claimed patron saints and midwives—who managed to find God amongst the mundane and the average and the unremarkable.

It feels like a loss, this letting go of the life I thought I was promised, to take up the life I have here and now. And like any other loss, one of my greatest temptations is denial. I tell myself it will change any moment now and I’ll be catapulted into the extraordinary chapter of my life. I find endless ways to distract myself from my present reality, not wanting to lean into the pain of that loss. Because it feels wrong to even feel it as painful. This is a good life, with so many gifts; I should be grateful, right?

My life—like yours, too, probably—is a jumble of seeming contradictions, and so I am grateful even in my ingratitude, I experience joy even as I experience loss. I spend many days struggling to see any of this as holy, and then I sit down once a month with my Spiritual Director and she holds up the mirror to my own life and suddenly it is beautiful and sacred and right. Nothing changed. I am still changing the same nappies, still vacuuming the same crumbs under seats, still trying to get up the courage to talk to my neighbours.

What changes is the perspective. I need help in this. I find it so hard to see the holy in my own life (in everyone else’s—sure) until someone reflects my own words back to me, my own ordinary actions and thoughts. I keep waking up again and again, shaken gently to consciousness by my fellow pilgrims in this ordinary world.

The Earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness. May I learn to let myself be filled up with all this ordinary holiness.

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Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona lives in London with her Danish husband and her two young children. She is determinedly seeking the sacred in the ordinary, learning to see that even the most mundane moments of her day can be spiritual if she wakes up to the Divine in those places. She is in training to become a Spiritual Director, and baking is her favourite spiritual practice. You can follow her through her blog at fionalynne.com.
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen

Latest posts by Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen (see all)

Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen
  • It’s so funny, I was only thinking the opposite – I love this concept of Ordinary Time 🙂 High days and holidays are all well and good, but I so love to be reminded Ordinary is where it’s at… each and every day… The truth being, of course, just being alive is extra-ordinary 😀 Great post!

  • I love this and I resonate with so, so much of it. I, too, grew up singing that I was going to be a history maker. Being outstanding is extremely appealing. Every once in a while, though, it’s like the veil is lifted and I catch a glimpse of how breathtakingly remarkable it is that we are alive at all. That the ordinary already is a miracle. But I’m totally with you that I’m a lot better at talking about this than living it. 😉 Here’s to unlearning together. Xoxo

  • Amy Hunt

    “It gently asks me to notice the pride behind my frustration, the self-absorption behind my thwarted desire to do “great things for God.” And I don’t like that either.” <– it's a gift to see this and we cease to suffer when we surrender to the process. but noticing our discomfort is huge. (you're not alone.)

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about Ordinary Time because I’m in the same spot…. Talking a good talk about saying “yes” and living in the moment and enjoying these precious years. Yet my heart itches for something bigger – a feast or even an anticipation. Living in these small moments is tough. And yet…. I can’t imaging only feasting, only celebrating. I’m (slowly) learning to recognize and breathe in this ordinary time. Thanks for a “me too!!” post, Fiona!

  • Megan Gahan

    I can’t put words to how much this piece meant to me. It got me right in the feels this morning, as I prepared for yet another day with my two littles. My husband is away and I’m feeling so very ordinary as just another stay-at-home mom in a suburban neighborhood. Wanting to do shiny, extraordinary things but having no energy to give those things. Your words have given me hope, perspective and a few tears today. Thank you, my friend. I’ll be sitting with this one for awhile. Much, much love Mama. You’ve got this. xx

  • You’ve described so well the tension between the vocation of mothering and the other callings that we know God has whispered into our deepest machinery. And then this scriptural reminder: the Earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness.
    This post is a gift, Fiona. Blessings to you as you savor life in Ordinary Time.

  • Sandy Hay

    As new friends over the past several years have asked me questions about my ordinary life, I’ve watched their eyes get big an they say things life “really?” and “that’s fascinating” with exclamation marks. And I wonder what they see is so fascinating with it. My days were ones that definitely seemed ordinary to me and yet as I look back on them I’m trying to see with their eyes, with God’s eyes, with new eyes.

  • Lisa Sands Scandrette

    I have been wondering if perhaps one of the most subversive, dangerous things we can do is to find sacredness in the Ordinary. It’s courageous to see the holy in your everyday life and to love well the little ones and the neighbors. Thanks, Fiona.

  • Jo Cameron Duguid

    I don’t know the source of this quote, but it seems to fit the bill: “The kingdom of God is built from small pebbles more often than large boulders.” Blessings on you and your ordinary life, Fiona.

  • Staci

    Beautiful Fiona! I too am studying to become a Spiritual Director! Awesome to see someone else doing the same thing over in London. Blessings to you as you pursue SD!

  • I can so relate to this. Beauty in the mundane, in the ordinary. xox

  • JillPole

    Oh man, this hits me right in the feels. I struggle so much with feeling like my ordinary life is enough, or if I’m missing something God wants me to do because of my job, my house, my hobbies…and not having or wanting kids adds to that, actually, since motherhood requires so much self-sacrifice and patience. I would love someone to hold that mirror up to my life so I can see clearly…