Six days ago I shared some thoughts about marking the big moments with our children. On this Feast of the Epiphany, a day marked by an exceptional act of adoration, I wonder how we mark our ordinary days together? What are our everyday habits? What lengths do we go to honor the ordinary goodness in our lives?
As the holidays have approached and rolled on through, I am struck by the word ‘meaningful.’ What is meaningful to each of us is not standard or normative. The reasons that moments, occasions, holidays, traditions, or daily habits are meaningful to us are myriad, too.
I have found myself struggling to enjoy joy this holiday season, to delight in my own meaningful moments. I feel constricted by my awareness of scarcity and abundance, authenticity and ‘Facebook perfect,’ and a desire to appreciate and enjoy the gifts of the world without being wasteful. The overthinking is paralyzing. There must be a simpler way to exist in the world.
As early as 6th grade, I had an awareness of some of the diversity of means and priorities in the world, but living at seminary for three years as an adult raised this anxious cognizance in me. My world was broken open beyond my childhood boundaries in the best of ways. I learned to listen to others’ experiences and better recognize the ways our personal histories shape our choices. I learned to give grace in greater abundance, too. Turns out we are all human. I am grateful for Brené Brown in the back recesses of my mind whispering, ‘Everyone is doing their best.’
What does our ordinary best look like? What do our little humans see when we identify what is meaningful? How do we guide them to live everyday, ordinary lives with confidence and a humble security in our path forward? To appreciate the (not-so) ordinary beauty of the music, creativity, and creation we encounter every day?
This is where I find defining ‘meaningful’ useful. Some things are meaningful because we cherish them. Some things are meaningful because they mask or bring joy to the harder parts of our lives—moments and habits that help us cope.
Steven Kotler is famous for saying, ‘Show me your calendar and your bank statement, and I’ll show you what you really value.’ Do we spend our time and money on things meaningful to us? Or have we, caught in the current of the world, succumbed to valuing what other people say we should? Are we caught in the undertow of others’ expectations and priorities?
A Rule of Life is handy in this ocean of input. It can be a boat that helps us rise above the tide of influence and hear the Holy Spirit in our minds, souls, and hearts. A Rule of Life offers consistency in a dynamic world. I once read on a Starbucks cup, ‘There is liberation in commitment.’ And a Rule of Life is a commitment to living one’s life in a particular way.
Here are some considerations:
- What are your commitments to yourself? For example, if I can’t find a ‘why,’ I don’t do it. Sometimes, my why is that it is important to someone I love (Helllooo, kid-pitch baseball games!), but if I don’t have a why, it’s not meaningful enough to make the schedule.
- What are your guiding lenses? For example, a friend approached all moments of down time by asking, ‘How can I be helpful?’ It took her some time to massage that attitude to include being attentive to her own needs in that broader question, but that’s how she prioritizes her down time.
- What wisdom leads your heart? Are you dependent on scripture or some wisdom from a grandparent to guide your actions on the daily? What does it tell you is meaningful?
- Maybe guidance to observe the holy in each moment? Words when we don’t have our own to develop a habit of discovering the beauty in the everyday?
I more easily forgive our boys’ forgetfulness or missteps thanks to the “This is how we learn,” prompt echoing in my mind (and an extra deep breath) because a commitment I have to myself is remembering my children are growing up and learning. If I need frequent reminders at 42, they will also as teenagers.
Perhaps the most important ordinary thing we can do is actually extraordinary: love.
A self-abandoning, others-focused, loving Holy Spirit reminds me that stepping in as a fixer for my boys isn’t the loving thing 99% of the time. It’s the easy and quick thing, sure. But not the loving thing. Our fruits of the spirit are back again: love, which leads to peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, is the ultimate rule of life. How we choose to share that love is left to the gifts God blessed us with.
Whatever your path to a rule of life, formal or informal, Jesus sets a very clear and narrow way for us through his own example: extraordinary, consistent, rule-breaking love. When we remember those around us are human, when we acknowledge everyone is doing their best, when we remember we are all learning, that’s love. A divine love inspired kings to visit on this day. And we get every ordinary day to adore and love those on our journeys, too.