Michele Minehart

writing & yoga

Ordinary Magic

When I was growing up, our friend Erica had one of those big backyard trampolines. Because her parents and my parents were beyond  BFF, we spent many hours trying to conquer the butt-knees-back-up and playing add-a-trick.  It was magical.

It wasn’t until late elementary that my dad decided to get us a trampoline for our own backyard. We loved it. This set of springs got plenty of wear. Then we reached a point when the only time we played Popcorn was when our friends were over. We didn’t dislike it nor were we bored with it; the trampoline simply lost its magic. It became ordinary.

Watching my own children jump with glee the other day, I reflected on how frequently this happens. We allow the magic to dust off when we make it commonplace, which I believe to be the real reason God tells us to “be holy.”

Much of the first testament gives instruction about how to keep certain things separate: men from women, wheat from beans, cotton from polyester.* Often we read this with a cultural lens that one of those things is less than the other. Not good enough. Even, dangerous. We approach the idea of holiness as if the ordinary makes the holy dirty; hence “unclean” (literally, “polluted” in the Hebrew).

I see this change through the words of Jesus. He tells people, often through parable, to let the weeds grow among the wheat. He says God will sort the sheep and goats. This makes sense, coming from a ridiculously terrible farmer who believes good things can grow in hard places.

The common, the seemingly less-than, can do nothing to change the nature of the holy. Like a life-long islander, we get used to the scenery and forget its magic. The mountains aren’t less majestic or the waves less soothing. We’ve simply made the holy, ordinary.

The good news: we can reverse this. Actually, when you read many of God’s commands and you find this great reversal at work.

Three meals a day, every day, often made from the same thing? The people could complain of another bowl of lentils but God says to bless them. Give thanks for the rain and the sunshine, miracles outside of your own control, required to make them grow. Did you know that the most devout Jews pray a toilet prayer (my term, not theirs), thanking God that all systems work like they’re supposed to? If ever there was a place to mix the ordinary and the divine, the bathroom is a good starting point.

My cousin works in the bridal industry. Every day, she sees young women on the cusp of what they imagine to be the most amazing day of their lives. Each and every one of them are special and unique; yet she can see 5 of them in a day. The 300 dresses hang on the rack as inventory. They’re numbered.

But when a bride walks out of the dressing room, sometimes with happy tears, it’s no longer a pile of satin or lace – it’s the dress. At least, to this bride, it is. Laura’s job is no longer to take measurements and find a matching veil; it’s to honor the magic amid one of her most ordinary days.

And this is the work for most of us. Teachers may tie shoes or plan lessons on long division or recount the events of the first world war. Ordinary, everyday stuff. Or, they’re inspiring children to ask questions, to follow their curiosity and find solutions to problems. Inspiration. Literally: to breathe into. (You know who did that first, don’t you? That first, holy work of making things come to life? Oh, yes, I just compared teachers to Genesis 1.)

A dentist or a doctor might feel as if they’re diagnosing or prescribing, but to the person who finally feels relief, they’re doing the holy work of healing.

We tend to make the magical into the monotonous. It’s just another day, another school year, another student/customer/patient/client. But we can seek the divine spark in the most ordinary of all things. By the nature of creation, God’s fingerprints cling to every day, person and place. The work of holiness is to see it and honor it as such.

 

 

*I’m being funny. I know the cotton/poly blend was not an ancient stumbling block. But something was, because Deuteronomy 22:11 exists.

The final days of summer

Just in case anyone out there has lost track of time, I want to remind you that we’re on the homestretch of summer. Not that I’m excited or anything.

(Clock courtesy of Counting Down To)

Because, why would I be thrilled that school will be in session? What would want to make me trade in our long summer days of children making constant messes with all 3,652 toys we own and the 5 things that their parents have asked them not to play with? Sure, I slightly detest the Lunchbox Rush at 7:14 am. Yet it seems my children eat 562 times more food while not in the school building.

Because I want this to be a happy post, I’m not going to mention the constant costume changes and the mounds for laundry. I gave up on beach towels a month ago. I’m counting on the chlorine to disinfect while it dries in the sun before I fold them up and return them to the closet.

Also, please sit with me in my grief. My dishwasher broke. THREE WEEKS AGO. Lowe’s promised me a new one but now they’re not answering their phone, like a soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.

It’s not that I’m excited to have summer over (okay, maybe I am a little) nor am I ungrateful for the summer life we create. I recognize that having all of my people under my roof during the brightest days of the year has many benefits.  I have help. Also, I’m not scrounging for childcare. I recognize many working parents come to the point when children outgrow early childhood daycare but yet aren’t quite ready to roam the streets stay home alone. So in all my crabbyness, please also hear me say out loud: I’m lucky – privileged – and I know it. I also know that I won’t be “helping” to pick up my basement again until those little messmakers are under the care and responsibility of trained professionals.

So maybe, just maybe, when the school supply list arrived, I immediately hopped online to fill my virtual cart with crayolas. Note: Target will only let you have 30 items in your cart. Note: the approximate size of cart filled only with items for 2 children to go back to school is 31 items.  (As a born and bred nerd, the school supply aisle is my absolute favorite, so it pains me to forego the in-person trip. I’m actually plotting to spend the first day of school among the paper and pens, alone. Heaven.)

Did I mention that the baby (of the 3-year-old variant) will also be spending some time with a teacher this year? Yes, my friends. I’m going to get (up to) a solid 5 hours per week with no one declaring they don’t like the song on the radio, lamenting that his banana broke while peeling it, or insisting that I watch how they can touch their toes to their ears while I try to pee in peace. Most real adults get these peaceful hours just on their commute to work, but I’ll gladly pay a local church to give me such freedoms.

So, while I will soak up the final days of afternoon swims and baseball fights games in the yard, I will endure as I do with all things: with a deep sense of hope. The season of crisp, clean notebook pages and sharpened crayons are upon us. The rhythm and regularity of an actual schedule will soon guide us.

Teacher friends, I hand the torch to you. Godspeed.

Two Windows

Every morning, I rise and prepare the coffee grinds. I sit in the same brown leather chair with my steamy mug and I awaken to the day. To my right is our front window, facing the west. This morning it was dark and gray, fooling me into believing that nothing but rainstorms lie ahead.

To my left, I look out our eastern-side sliding doors. This morning’s sunrise painted the undersides of the clouds in varying shades of pinks and oranges. The light was so bright when it reflected into the house, I needed to shift my gaze.

Find a seat to look out both windows. Notice the space where the sunrise has not yet reached. At the same time, adore the beauty of light edging out darkness.  Because this is life; your life and my life. Through both windows you can acknowledge both darkness and there is dawn. Both. And.

From here, I can see the work of the sun twice a day.

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