A Wonderful, Ordinary Place

By on April 1, 2014

By Nancie Carmichael –

These days everyone can be their own reality star through YouTube, FaceBook, Pinterest, or Instagram. We read books on how to maximize our potential, to be more, live more. I’ve done my share of teaching on the subject. But I’m realizing something new: In my quest for a special, extra-ordinary life, I can lose sight of how wonderful Ordinary is.

Back when I was young, it seemed my whole life was ahead of me with a journey that would take me somewhere wonderful. A few days after I graduated from high school, I walked along the graveled country road in front of our Montana farm, which is where my brother Dan now lives with his wife Nancy and their family. I remember looking at the landmarks of home, the wheat fields  broken by clumps of trees that marked our neighbors’ houses, thinking, “I love this place, but I’m going to leave it.”

Deep within me was a restless sense of wanting a better place, a better situation. I kept that longing for years, even in the midst of marriage, five children, writing and work. It wasn’t just seeking the place; it was a sense of wanting to be more, do more. I suppose it’s the American dream that is distilled in many of us.

Our home with rustic log accents is in a tiny mountain community in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. It takes us nearly an hour to get to a city of any size where our church, some of our children and many of our friends live, as well as shopping. While I love our wonderful gathering family place that really feels like a retreat—at times I want to escape it, driven by that same restless longing of looking for that better place.

Restless souls that we are—we are constantly in the pursuit of the best place. That pursuit changes through the years, but always, the underlying quest is to find a place out of which we can live with meaning, purpose and peace. A good place.

Physical places are hugely important. They are the base out of which we live our lives. However, I’ve begun to see it’s not the actual physical place so much as it is the place within us. When our children were small, older women would whisper to me, as if to share a secret, “These are the best times. . .”  I would usually smile and nod, but often thought with consternation as I scrambled to care for little wiggly bodies, “This is it?”  I remember being consumed by our children’s needs when they were small, and my world felt so defined. And then children grow, leave. Life changes. The place changes, and still we look for an actual, physical place—Where shall we live? What shall we do?

We are constantly in the pursuit of happiness in one way or another. Frederick Buechner observed, “We search for a self to be. We search for other selves to love. We search for work to do. And since even when to one degree or another we find these things, we find also that there is still something crucial missing which we have not found; we search for that unfound thing too, even though we do not know its name or where it is to be found or even if it is to be found at all.”[1]

One sun-drenched spring afternoon I walked along the Metolius River, a beautiful river near our home. There is a wooden walkway for a small stretch of the trail, room for just one. I stood by to allow a woman with a cane who was walking slowly across the walkway. She smiled apologetically, “I’m sorry I’m so slow.”

“No,” I assured her. “It’s good to be slow. We can see more.” And while I said it, inside I thought, “Hurry, lady,” immediately feeling ashamed of my impatience. I like to make good time. I like to get there.

But there’s something about this place where I am now, living in this beautiful mountain retreat that carries with it the paradox of peace and turmoil that is calling to me: “Slow down. Pay attention. Be where you are.” I have often been surprised by what I learn as I stop to consider where I am. I’m learning that the Big Deal, or Success, or Life isn’t out there—it’s the ordinary place right in front of me. And it’s quite wonderful.

God always starts with where we are, with what we have. With being faithful and true with the gifts that we are given. It means loving the people who are nearest to us. It means, more than anything, giving thanks for where we are—now.

And so on this lovely (cool!) spring day, I give thanks…Oh, for so much! First of all, for a new grandson, born a couple of days ago: Conrad James Carmichael. I give thanks for all 5lb 4 oz’s of him! I give thanks for his parents, Roo and Michelle, and I give thanks that we will see them soon. I give thanks for every one of my children and in-law children, my grandchildren, for my husband, Bill. For his faithful love, support and care through the years. I give thanks for dear, cherished friends. Each person is a miracle—and loving and affirming the people in our lives is a holy privilege.

God told Moses, “Take off your shoes. The ground before you is holy.”[2] And so I will take off my shoes, too (that is, after my lovely afternoon walk), in awe of my ordinary, miraculous life.

I love this prayer by St. Augustine, our early church father:

Father, You are full of compassion, I commit and commend myself unto you, in whom I am, and live, and know. Be the Goal of my pilgrimage, and my Rest by the way. Let my soul take refuge from the crowding turmoil of worldly thoughts beneath the shadow of your wings; let my heart, this sea of restless waves, find peace in you, O God. Amen.

 

Nancie Carmichael is a speaker and author of several books, including, “Lord, Bless My Child” (with her husband, Bill)

“Selah—Time to Stop, Think, and Step into Your Future”
“Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning”
Contact her at [email protected], her blog, http://nanciecarmichael.wordpress.com/ or visit her website, nanciecarmichael.com


[1] Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey (San Francisco:  Harper & Row Publishers, 1982), p. 58
[2] genesis? exodus?

Nancie Carmichael

About Nancie Carmichael

Nancie Carmichael and her husband Bill have been involved with the writing and publishing field for many years as they published Virtue Magazine and Christian Parenting Magazine. They now own a book publishing company, Deep River Books. Nancie and Bill have written several books together including: Lord, Bless My Child; and Seven Habits of a Healthy Home. Nancie has written: Your life, God’s Home; Desperate for God: How He Meet Us When We Pray; The Comforting Presence of God; Selah: Time to Stop, Think, and Step into your Future; and her latest book, Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning. Bill and Nancie make their home in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and are parents to five married children and grandparents to ten. Nancie received her Master’s of Spiritual Formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2012, and in 2005, received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Western Baptist College. Website: nanciecarmichael.com

2 Comments

  1. Poppy Smith

    April 8, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Nancy: I am tracking with you–quietly, prayerfully, listening and watching for where God is leading, and where He is and wants me to be in Him. Sensing a letting go of what even the Christian world says matters for those of us who are called to teach, inspire, and comfort through our writing/speaking platforms. My whispered prayer: “Lord, what matters most to YOU in these present days? How can I bless others in Your Name?” I’m seeing His answers in a twice monthly group for young moms focusing on their life in Christ, as well as other fresh leadings. Thanks for your words and reflections. Poppy

    • nanciecarmichael

      April 8, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      Oh Poppy,
      Yes, YES. My prayer echoes yours. I’m finding great satisfaction teaching a class on Prayer at my church right now. I so resonate with standing back, waiting to see where/what next. I don’t want to do “same-old, same-old” just for the sake of some unwritten rule somewhere for Christian writers and speakers. If God leads, good. If not, wait. As Catherine Booth said, “It doesn’t matter who frowns if God smiles.” In love and friendship, Nancie

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A Wonderful, Ordinary Place