There is something extraordinary waiting to be discovered in every ordinary moment if only we will have eyes to see.
I believe in being inspired to live each day fully alive. I believe in inspiring others to do the same. How does inspiration shift from the concept of a mythical muse to the reality of being a gift to others?
I’ve been blessed to discover that firsthand. Let me share a few stories.
It was days before Christmas 2020. Michigan was in COVID lockdown — all restaurants closed, no large gatherings. Six months before our wedding, my fiancé (now husband) told me to gather with my immediate family on Sunday night and be prepared for a little surprise. He proceeded to concoct a homemade Christmas concert, replete with a pizza dinner, trifold program, hand-selected Youtube video playlist, sing-alongs and candle mood lighting. I snagged my cajon (box drum) to play along with “The Little Drummer Boy,” and there was even an intermission of fresh baked Christmas cookies and hot cocoa accompanied by a spontaneous swing dance to country-great George Strait’s silly song “Christmas Cookies.” Hours of preparation, one hour of Christmas concert fun, inspiration to last me for days — all because a man took the time to make the ordinary extraordinary.
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My adult brother, who certainly appreciated the event, later remarked, “It was just a string of YouTube videos.” How right he was! And how profoundly that illustrates my point. Let’s be real. We were going to eat Christmas cookies and listen to Christmas music this year. That was nothing extraordinary. Yet what my husband did was inspired: He chose to seize the ordinary and reveal the extraordinary.
One staff member at the school where I teach took responsibility for uniting the faculty: Christina designed what she dubbed “funitiatives” or fun initiatives to lead us in moments of festivity all throughout the year. It kicked off with a mural painting project led by the art teacher, which developed into monthly work potluck meals that were the highlights of everybody’s week, and continued with door decorating contests, annual fall gatherings and musical mixtape playlists. We are now years into some of these traditions.
We like to think we are a fun-loving, tight-knit staff. We were going to share meals and conversations all year round. But this was a whole new level. This was extraordinary.
I was on my regular jogging route through the neighborhood when something caught my eye. It was a massive spiderweb stretching from a tree — ornate, beautifully crafted, perfectly rounded, dangling with all the magic and the wonder of a fairy tale, the sun streaming through its fibers. I stopped in wonder and snapped a cell-phone picture, only to be dismayed that the web vanished into the background, refusing to show itself on camera.
Stubbornly insistent on capturing the moment, I walked to the other side of the web and clicked again. Ever since, I’ve wondered at the result; that gorgeous spiderweb, now radiant in the sunlight, still teaches me. Sometimes wonder is about perspective, our angle of viewing, our willingness to be still and be caught by the marvel of the moment. It reminds me that God wants to show himself to us no matter where we are or what we are doing. It’s not a matter of doing anything extraordinary. It is a matter of being with him, looking from his perspective, and choosing to find and recognize God’s extraordinary presence in the little moments of every day. Ultimately, wonder is the choice to rejoice in the gift of the moment.
Inspired to wonder
This is precisely the time of year when we most need new eyes and new inspiration. Our eyes have been glazed over with holiday excesses and then dulled by winter drudgery. We are worn, exhausted, and our level of excitement lacks all luster. Probably we have just given all of ourselves in making the holidays something extraordinary, in making every moment as special as it can be.
And yes, sometimes we need to put forth conscious effort to make the ordinary extraordinary. Yet most of the time, I think it is already there. Fun and adventurous and inspiring as festivities are, we don’t always need extraordinary activities. We more often need to pause, shift our position, and open our eyes to the extraordinary gift that is waiting to be discovered in each apparently ordinary moment.
Why did everyone else passing on the street that day drive by the spiderweb wonder unseen? Why did it refuse to show itself except from the perfect angle? Because it is a hidden thing. It is waiting to be discovered. Every moment presents us with both the gift of the ordinary and the opportunity to discover the ordinary as extraordinary. We need only say yes to the opportunity that awaits. Here are my four simple ways to choose wonder this week:
- Pray for new eyes to discover God’s wonder and inspiration all around you. Remember that beauty and inspiration come from God and he can give you fresh eyes to see them. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator” (No. 341).
- Each day this week, find something in your ordinary routine or daily experience to wonder at. Write down that thing and take a moment to marvel at the extraordinary gift of the moment. When my husband reaches out to hold my hand, I can squeeze back with the same wonder I felt when he held it for the first time. When my baby cries, I can recall the awe I had when I first saw his face. When I wash our dinner dishes, I can rejoice in the beautiful pattern on the plates.
- Find one way to share that wonder with others. It may mean sparking a conversation about daily wonder with your family. It may mean sending a note to thank someone you typically take for granted for the ways in which she makes the everyday extraordinary. It may mean simply calling or texting a friend to share your wonder at the things you have noticed this week.
- Choose to be a child. In his book “Orthodoxy,” G.K. Chesterton reflected on how children have the ability to exult in monotony — a trait which comes from God but which we too frequently lose as adults. He writes: “For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” Believing our everyday existence is mundane, routine and uninspired is a choice; believing our daily life is invigorating, inspired, and gifted is also a choice. Living a radiant life doesn’t ultimately come down to the extravagance of the things that we do but to the extravagant love and wonder with which we live our daily moments — a love and wonder inspired by God himself.
My sisters, take some time to appreciate the wonder that is all around you. Take the time to embrace the ordinary with new eyes, knowing that it is inspired by the God of the universe. Marvel at the extraordinary.