We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers
Well lucky for me the people here in Ecuador are anything but mean. The streets, though? They’re pretty mean. Steve and I have learned that even though we have a stroller, it’s actually easier to put the third born in the baby backpack (I swear by the Tula; Steve’s preference is the Ergo Sport). Why? The “sidewalks” here are TREACHEROUS! Huge cracks, broken grates, cliffs-for-curbs — yeah, it’s an adventure every time we go for a walk.
So I’m reading through my mom’s copy of My Utmost for His Highest this year, and I’ll tell ya: this edition is OLD. A couple of days ago it said — and I quote — “ejaculate to Him all the time.” I’m sorry, what? Thank goodness for newer editions.
But this particular quote about being exceptional? Gold. Take even the ordinary things and make them exceptional. I think of my bread baking as pretty ordinary, and yet I am constantly trying to perfect it. At the moment, I’m struggling with a 20-year-old gas stove that doesn’t retain heat well and at the highest gets up to only 450 degrees Fahrenheit. If ever there was an “ordinary” stove, it’s mine.
(I’ve named her Beulah.)
She gets the job done baking my bread, and she’s better than the teeny electric oven in my kitchen. I keep an iron skillet in the bottom to retain the heat a little better, and things are baking along. Even with ordinary Beulah, I try to make exceptional bread. And exceptional bread makes life a whole lot better.
This thing called life certainly forces the issue of the ordinary — have you noticed? We’re always trying to avoid the ordinary, to escape it, to deny it. We want the excitement! The adrenaline! The new shiny thing!
But here’s the gold nugget: even without the new oven and the expensive bread pan and the fancy lame, my bread is exceptionally yummy — it just may not consistently look exceptionally good. From the ordinary, the exceptional(ly-tasting bread) comes. That’s life, isn’t it.
But I don’t let it, let it get me downThat’s Life, Frank Sinatra
’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around
A fine world, indeed, when we get to eat delicious bread.
Before we moved to Quito, I often thought about how life would be in a new country around new people learning a new language. So much newness and adventure and excitement! And I think that was part of the allure of moving.
I got more views on my Instagram stories than ever when we started our journey — from pulling out of our driveway in Florida to dumping our stuff and collapsing in our new apartment in Quito. The first morning we were here, I documented our apartment, our view, and my taste-testing of all the weird fruits that had been bought for our arrival. I received lots of comments about how people were so excited to follow our adventures in Ecuador.
We felt like we were inside a snow globe that had just been shaken up. We left our comfortable, familiar life behind to start a new life in a different country — with three young kids.
We didn’t know what we were doing.
And that was exciting. And a rush. And a frenzy of whatever the little white pieces inside a snow globe are.
But as life has a habit of doing, it settled.
So here we are living life: baking bread, going on walks, buying groceries, playing Mario Uno, catching the Zoomy Gloomies, and doing otherwise inane activities.
And yet, there’s something very exceptional about this ordinary life of ours. What love we have inside this apartment compound that is surrounded by an electric fence (because let’s face it we live in a dangerous area). What laughs we have together when we breakdance on the floor to the soundtrack of Trolls (because I don’t deny it we bought a smart TV almost as soon as we got here). What embarrassment we have when Quito Pizza Company calls us on the phone to confirm our address (because we definitely don’t know Spanish well enough to understand someone speaking 5000 miles per hour over the phone).
It’s a good, ordinary life.
And you know what? As I live and love and get embarrassed, I realize that sometimes the ordinary remains ordinary and that’s OK.
It’s exceptional even.
I’d like to leave you now with a picture of something very ordinary. But I hope you can see that something we consider ordinary is anything but.
Enjoy your life, people. Make ordinary things exceptional when you can, yes. But remember to embrace the ordinary, too. And remember that sometimes, the ordinary becomes exceptional only with a shift in perspective. Like fruit.
(Mostly I just wanted to show you my fruit haul.)