Friday, January 27, 2017

Anything but Ordinary

Written by  Sarah Pettipas

While I have to admit that putting up the Christmas decorations is more enjoyable and exciting than taking them down, there is also something satisfying about packing the decorations away and settling back into an ordinary routine.

Holidays and celebrations add a lot to life. They give us something to look forward to and lend themselves well to special family traditions or memories that we can look back on for years. Recently, I have been reminded that there is also something special and beautiful about the in-between time.

The reality is, as wonderful as holidays and special occasions can be, most of our life is spent in “ordinary time.” We get up, we work, we get the groceries, and do the laundry, and wash dishes, and clean toilets, and take care of the kids, and do countless other activities that fill our days and weeks.

While it may be easier to connect with God during the high points of the liturgical calendar, there is wisdom in learning how to invite God into our ordinary, everyday life. I recently heard that to pray unceasingly simply means to turn to God a hundred, or even a thousand, times per day. To say thank you, to ask for help, to praise God for who He is, or just to check in.

This winter, I have been reminded of two main ways we can invite God into the ordinary events that fill our day.

First, we can invite God into whatever tasks we have to do that day. One of the keys to turning any action or activity into a prayer, is to remember that Jesus himself lived an earthly life and experienced a wide-range of human activity. A spiritual writer named Catherine Doherty, said that Jesus sanctified the mundane. He added purpose and dignity to manual labour and monotonous tasks. That means that all of the ‘stuff’ that makes up our daily life: the laundry, the paperwork, the errands, the conversations, etc. are not foreign to God, but can be a means of connecting with God.

Whatever you do, can be done out of love or begrudgingly. For example, I enjoy baking, but there have been times when I have baked something while feeling stressed, rushed, and resentful and there are also times I have felt joy at the thought of loving others by creating something beautiful for them to enjoy. When we strive to make our work or daily tasks a prayer, we tend to be more peaceful, more loving, and more mindful of God and others.

A second way we can invite God into our ordinary life is by being open to receiving the countless gifts, or little miracles, that fill each day. Recognizing the gifts in our everyday life not only helps us to assume a posture of gratitude, it also helps us to live in the present moment. So much of life can be spent looking forward to what is to come or back on what has happened that we often miss what’s right in front of us.

One of my favourite quotes about gratitude is by Melody Beattie, who said: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” One way to foster gratitude is to start a list of things we are grateful for, or to thank God when we see or experience the ordinary miracles around us. A friend of my also started asking: “What has been bringing you joy lately?” which always helps me to pause and reflect back on what I am grateful for.

Perhaps it might be easier to connect with God during Advent and Christmas or during Lent and Easter. We have so many spiritual practices to turn to during those special seasons, but what about ordinary time? I know for myself, these are lessons that I need to be reminded of over and over again, but this winter, I can’t help but feel inspired to seek God and invite God into the little, ordinary things that fill my day. 

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