Rediscovering the Extraordinary in an Ordinary Life
Letter from Allie Ives
For the first time in my 25 years of life, I’m living what I consider to be an ordinary life. I work Monday-Friday, eight-to-five, as a receptionist for a Catholic non-profit. Most of my days are spent answering phones, sorting mail, forwarding emails, unjamming printers, and standing at my desk (because they say sitting is the new smoking). When I go home, I either grab take-out or make dinner, and then I have free time that I can fill with whatever I want to do: reading, watching TV, painting, or hanging out with friends. I don’t have homework to do, papers to grade, nothing to take home with me from work.
As I’ve been driving my 15 minute commute to and from work every day, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how ordinary my life feels. My work and home life are completely separate. It’s a huge change for me. The past two years I lived in community as a missionary, where my life and my job were always connected. I lived with the people that I worked with, a block away from my office. By the end of the two years, I was ready to jump ship, I wanted my own space and my own time to do what I wanted to do. The funny thing is, now that I have that, I feel lost. Like I’ve lost my sense of purpose. Lost in the ordinary life that I live. A place of poverty. I’m living in the poverty of the ordinary.
When I took this to prayer, I thought of, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Yeah, I’ve heard that before. I get it. The Lord wants us to be poor in our spirit, blah, blah, blah. I want my life to have more purpose, beyond my monotonous eight-to-five job. And it's hard to feel like that when what I do with my time feels so plain. I don’t travel for my job anymore, I rarely work with other people for more than five minutes at a time, and my evenings seem to fly by with little accomplished at home. After a long, draining day at work, it's hard to desire to do much once I get off. Watching Netflix for hours seems much easier than starting a new hobby, cleaning my room, or exploring the city I live in. I have to motivate myself to do the things that I love, because I trick myself into thinking that I can just do it another day, but in reality weeks just pass by. The ordinariness of my day-to-day life becomes draining. It's like the Lord is slowly emptying my heart, and it has been a very painful process.
Recently, I was able to go home and spend some time with family in my hometown of Colorado Springs. When I was there, I took some time to pray in one of my favorite spots in the city. It's called The Overlook. You can park your car and have the most beautiful view of Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. My high school was down the street, so I used to go there all the time to think. I would just stare at the mountains and without fail, it would clear my mind. It was a place of peace and refuge for me. I lived in Colorado Springs until I was 18, so the view of Pikes Peak became ordinary to me. I saw it almost every day and it was like a security blanket. It told me which direction I was traveling, so I knew where I was. Whenever life felt like it was falling apart (because it often feels like that in high school), I could look to the mountains to give me peace, and remind me that life was much bigger than my problems. Now that I don’t live in Colorado, I’m lucky if I get to see the mountains twice a year, so I take advantage of them when I am there.
This year, I pulled into the parking lot, and backed my Dad’s SUV into a space at the edge of the lot, so that I could sit in the trunk with the perfect view. I opened the back door and crawled in with my backpack and a blanket to keep myself warm. Storm clouds were rolling in over the mountains causing the air to cool down significantly, and there were tourists taking pictures of each other with the view behind them. I settled in, put my journal and Bible on my lap, and took a deep breath of the crisp, fresh air. It has been so long since I had last prayed there and yet, while I was staring at the view, all I could think about was how ordinary it looked. Mountains are some of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen and at times, my heart aches to see them, but as I sat in the back of my Dad’s car looking at them, all I could think of was how often I looked at this view and how normal it felt to me. It was calming and scary at the same time. I had taken this view for granted for so many years. The mountains were always there for me, a place of comfort, and they pointed me toward God before I even knew that He existed. The extraordinary mountains had become an ordinary part of my life.
That was when it clicked. The poverty of heart I had been experiencing, the longing for my life to be something more than it was, all of it was reflected in my view of these mountains. My day-to-day life has become so ordinary that I’ve lost sight of how extraordinary it actually is.
I see it now in the the sunset on my drive home from work, in the worried mother of a missionary on the phone that I can speak peace into, in the 1,000th label that I’ve put on a postcard, or in conversations about life with my roommates and friends. I can start new hobbies, spend quality time with people I love, or volunteer at my parish. There are many opportunities available to me in this new season in my life that weren’t before, and I have been taking them for granted. I’ve lost sight of how extraordinary it actually is, and I am learning to recognize that all of these things are gifts from the Lord.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” I’m slowly understanding that the Lord wants to give us everything. He wants to give us His Kingdom, but we have to accept the paradox that to receive everything that He has for us, we have to give Him everything first. Instead of looking at all the things that I have to give up, I’m learning to look at the gifts that He has given me. And when I look at those gifts, my life looks a little less ordinary.
With all of my heart and prayers,
About the Writer: Allie Ives
Allie Ives is a Colorado Native who now lives in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. She misses the mountains and dry air, but loves the lakes and accepts humidity as a cross. She has worked for NET Ministries for the past 3 years and loves sharing how Jesus radically changed her life. In her down time you can find her outside, in a coffee shop, or at home enjoying a good book or a show on Netflix.