A few weeks ago (Thanksgiving week, to be exact), I wrote a few thoughts on Instagram before heading to bed. I hit publish, sending it to Facebook too, plugged my phone in, and picked up my nightly crossword book. The next morning, I woke to those thoughts being shared thousands and thousands of times, messages pouring in, and comments flying into the threads.
In my fourteen years of online writing, I’ve never had a post take off like that.
Here’s what I said in that post:
Can we normalize things like builder grade oak cabinets? Kids wearing regular clothes that they half chose themselves? Leftover meat slapped on a hamburger bun because it’s Thanksgiving week and they’re not allowed to eat any of the food in the fridge? Fingerprints and dog nose smudges on the sliding door that’s been missing its handle since we moved in five years ago?
I’m team normalize dry shampoo a day too long. Team breath prayers of gratitude and not hour-long “quiet times.” Team paper plates. Team belly up at the island because the dining room table is covered in art projects and school papers and books and crusty Play-doh.
Let’s normalize un-curated anything except a fave Spotify playlist. Normalize crawling in bed at 8:30 to do crosswords for two hours. Normalize well intentioned and barely executed. Normalize four Target pickups in a week because the list keeps growing and something is always forgotten.
Let’s normalize the actual normal. That’s where all the good stuff lives anyway.
This is a pretty standard message for me. To be clear, I’m saying all of the above is normal, and yet it often isn’t normalized (shared, embraced, spoken about, etc.). I’ve never shied away from sharing real life lived and encouraging others to seek the extraordinary in their everyday. But something about this one hit just right, I guess. Maybe it was the mention of builder grade oak, the shade of honey yellow all too rarely showcased on Instagram feeds full of white cabinets. Maybe it was the timing right at the start of the holiday season, when everyone else’s perfection is on display and it’s all too tempting to jump in with our own unrealistic expectations. Maybe it was the “well intentioned and barely executed” line that seemed to resonate deeply with so many.
Whatever it was, it took off. Honestly, I got a little stage fright and didn’t pick up my phone for social media for several days. I made my husband look at the numbers whenever I got curious because I was sure there were going to be mean comments, and truly, despite the nature of an online platform, I don’t enjoy being the center of attention.
Of course not all of the hundreds and hundreds of comments were kind. It’s all too easy online to be unkind, quick to judge, and just plain rude. But the vast majority of comments and reactions were of the “me too” variety. So many others chimed in with their own stories of real-life living, of kids choosing their own clothes, of dry shampoo one day too long and paper plate suppers.
And while these are really small things, they add up to one richly lived life.
It made me think of Jesus, actually, as most things end up doing. It made me think of His real life, lived richly from its humble beginning. It made me think of the time His family left Him behind in the temple and how entirely relatable that story is. (Well, relatable to a point: They found Him teaching in the Temple, and His family didn’t miss Him for three days because they were traveling with so many relatives. They figured He was somewhere in their crew. But still! Pretty darn relatable!) It made me think of the meals Jesus shared with friends and how He got angry and sad and lonely. It reminded me that Jesus was a carpenter or stonemason, working with rough hands and carting around tools and materials and that I wish we knew more about His handcrafting. Did He enjoy His trade? Did He ever make small gift items for friends and family, or was He a big-projects-only kind of builder? What was His favorite meal at the end of the day?
It’s these human aspects of Jesus that my mind grapples with because the deity part of Him, though completely interwoven with His humanity, is overwhelming in its complexity. The human part, though, I can at least form reactions to and questions about.
Fully God. Fully man. The Holy Child we just celebrated at Christmas, mere weeks ago.
And maybe the point is that we can keep all the wonder, the celebration, the questions, and adoration going in our ordinary days, long after the cookies are gone and the tinsel tossed out.
Maybe we relate so deeply to posts like mine above because we do need to normalize feeling big feelings and sharing the everyday, ordinary aspects of our lives. Maybe grappling with the mundane, living life alongside beloved friends and family, going to work, and living for the will of our Father is more relatable than we think.
And what a gift that Jesus did the very same things. What a thoughtful and kind Creator God we have that He would send His Son here for us to know this — even now, thousands of years after His life, death, and resurrection.
As we keep stepping into a new year, let’s also keep telling the stories — stories of our normal, regular stuff. Stories of our extraordinary, holy, and human Jesus. And let’s especially keep telling the stories of where our everyday meets His glory.
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Ruth Mills says
Seeing God in the details is such a blessing! He’s majestic even in the mundane!
Congrats on the audio! I may not be able to read one day so the audio will meet a need before it’s my reality even! Thank you for making a way.
Jennifer Blankenship says
I relate to the simple, mundane everyday activities we take for granted. Things that some of us see as “nothing special “ would seem so terrific to others. Jesus tells us not to take even the smallest thing as a mustard seed for granted. So Simple.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Hall says
I love it!!! I am a get real person!! I was raised in a Christian home and thankful for it!!! It was anything but perfection!! We had an old mess hall table form the Airforce base nearby–my dad had been in the Airforce for over 26 years—so he felt we needed a big table–they were getting rid of some and he brought one home–12 ft long–at least 1/2 was always covered with dog leashes, school assignments, half done activities—if we came in from school and it was cleared, we knew mom had invited some poor widow or someone in the town without family to dinner. We all groaned. Funny now–we all do the same thing—that is real.
Doing for the down and lonely. All of us kids have been there and we understand now. As we grew up we liked to see that long table cleared—it meant we could put a smile on someone’s face. Things don’t have to be picture perfect—far better to help someone put a smile and a warm meal in their bodies!!!!
Marianne Ray says
I wonder if it’s possible to have a copy of the In devotion regarding Hagar. It disappeared and I would really love to refer to it.
Thank you so much.
Such wise, to the point counsel each day. Thank you All for your transparency!
Anna, this is so lovely! Thank you. Life can get very messy. And messy is real and it can be very good indeed!
Oh wow, we grew up with discipline that after we ate breakfast, or lunch no one went to school or did their homeworks in the tiny study room without helping clear up the table. You didn’t want to be late the school or Sunday school, you better help or everyone got detained! The dining table was cleaned & no papers left there from days before. We certainly didn’t use paper plates. We were taught table etiquette using silverware & real dinner plates. We prayed before meals & mom cooked veggies with every meal.
We were given chores although we grew up with a maid, a laundry woman, an ironing lady & groceries were called in & delivered. I skipped washing the dishes after dinner one night by paying the maid with my allowance because I had so much homework in my AP classes, she told my dad & I got in trouble. I ended up doing extra chores!
My mom was a dentist had her practice in a tiny portion of the living room, my dad was an electrical engineer. We were taught humility, kindness & generosity by giving up our beds one day a week to an orphan we had for the Christmas holidays, so much so the orphan didn’t want to go back to the orphanage. . I disciplined my kids the same way- Time management, proper use of God’s gifts & tithing. I worked FT as a Critical Care Nurse but cooked everyday or every other day healthy meals. I didn’t take my kids to fast foods. I dragged them with me when I volunteered at church or did my deaconess duties.
I believe there’s less discipline in homes now, the parents just baby their kids too much. Or parents are too lax.
I love everything about today’s post, and would have been one of the people AMENing your original post. I believe in celebrating the everyday because even in every day imperfections, beauty can be found.
Thanks for sharing this! Life is real, messy and wonderful!
Peace and Blessings to you!!
Dianne P Preibisius says
Excellent post today. As of late I have often thought about taking the hand of Jesus once I reach Heaven and we shall “go away to a quiet place” and I will be able to ask him so many questions. Thank you for your sharing and God bless.
Beth Williams says
Yes yes yes to all of this. I, too, am a get real person. One thing I often say is “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here.” You won’t get fancy schmancy from me ever. You will get real life, good home cooking, lots of laughter & fun. Your post sort of reminds me of Mark Lowry’s “Mary Did You Know?” Where he asks a series of questions. Would love to sit with Jesus & ask some of those questions. Now that the holidays are over (yeah!!) Would love to keep the awe, questions & adoration going in simple ordinary days. Keep reminding ourselves of just what Christmas is about: The Cross!! Praying we can keep the Christmas celebration going long after December. Let’s not forget Jesus leaving Heaven to save humanity.
Whoot whoot to the original post!! Let’s get real!!
Lori Emerson says
This post reminds me of watching “The Chosen”. It shows how real Jesus was and is. It also reminded me of Mary’s feelings and emotions were as a MOM! If you haven’t watched the series, it is a must!