Last year, I was in Iraq. Living and working; hoping and dreaming in a place that challenged me. Inspired me. Scared me. Encouraged me.
Each morning was a chance for new adventures; unknown experiences just waiting to be discovered. Exotic smells, vibrant colors, melodic languages swirling around me, sweeping me along in the excitement. Deciphering cultures; learning relationships. Working with passion; with people yearning to make a difference in this world. Knowing they could make a difference in this world, at least for some.
New. Different. Anything but ordinary. At least at first.
Today, I’m in Tulsa. Living and working; hoping and dreaming in a place that is familiar. A place that is known. A place that has always felt like home.
A place where life is chaotic and always crazy, but there are no surprises. There are no bazaars to navigate. No need to hope and pray for the best when trying to get to a friend’s home or the store, just not really knowing if this unmarked public bus will take me where I need to go, or if this particular adventure will end in a surprise trip to Baghdad. No need to carefully check the way I’m dressed, artfully arranging scarves and sleeves just so to avoid any shameful skin peeking through. No customs to struggle to remember; no daily embarrassing cultural faux pas to add to the ever-growing list.
Comfortable. Easy. Absolutely ordinary. At least at first.
It’s easy for me to get lost in the ordinary. It’s even easier for me to put my worth in living the extraordinary. Always daring one step further; always jumping one foot farther. To feel that my “success” is determined by the where’s, the what’s, the who’s of life. That living in the “ordinaries” of day-to-day life is somehow worth less than living in the exciting; the unknown.
But you know, I’m learning as soon as you step into that unknown, after a time, it becomes known. The longer you do those exciting, extraordinary things, the more they become your “normal”. You acclimate. You adjust. You find that life again feels ordinary, even in the most extraordinary of times.
I’m discovering that this so-called “ordinary” is beautiful. The ordinary gives us the chance to search, lean in, establish community, to truly love others well. When our eyes are opened beyond the flashy “extraordinaries”, that wear off almost before they’ve begun, when we find ourselves finally living in this new ordinary, we realize that it’s not really that ordinary after all.
Moments that are far from unusual, yet everything but ordinary.
They’re all around us. I find them in Iraq, sitting cross-legged on the floor of a friends house, sipping sugary sweet tea and sharing stories. Climbing to the rooftops and enjoying the cool that night brings to the desert. A moment. A friendship. A laugh. Ordinary. But oh, so extraordinary.
I find them in Tulsa, sitting cross-legged on the floor, playing Barbies or puzzles or stories with the littles. Flipping a rental home with lifelong friends. A moment. A sisterhood. A laugh. Ordinary. But oh, so extraordinary.
Every moment we have has meaning. How we choose to use it determines its worth. Every minute presents with a new opportunity. Will I get lost in the ordinary, or choose instead to find the extraordinary within? We have the chance to take each moment, grasp it tightly with both hands, and dare to make something extraordinary of it. Teachers enlightening; artists creating. Engineers developing; mothers and fathers parenting. You are extraordinary. These moments are extraordinary.
Life doesn’t have to be flashy. It doesn’t have to be in an “extraordinary” place. I want to be present. I want to be invested. I want to be daring, no matter where I am. In Iraq. In China. In Afghanistan. In Rwanda. Or even right here in America. I want to truly realize the everyday extraordinaries that fill our moments and days, instead of wishing them away for the next new adventure.
Because when that adventure day comes, and yes, its coming soon, I want to know to jump right in and quickly find the ordinary; to settle down, to become at home. To invest, to commit, to love. Because then, only then, we can truly live in the extraordinary.
I recently found out that I have the chance to join an incredible team of women on a lifechanging trip to Rwanda with a team of storytellers. Hundreds of incredible women have entered, and somehow I have been chosen as one of the top three. I need your help, however…will you help me find the ordinary within this extraordinary trip? Please vote here, friends, just scroll down until you see my photo and the big blue “Vote” button. It would truly mean so much.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”