How I Learned to Value the Simple Things in Life
Life is what is happening all around us while we wait for the thing we hope will give us some sort of inner peace, contentment or joy. The problem is that when and if that thing happens, we usually enjoy it for all of 3 ½ minutes before realizing nothing in us has fundamentally changed. Our hair still doesn’t look like Connie Britton’s and we’re still not as funny as Tina Fey. So we decide that maybe it’s the next big moment that will finally make us truly happy. Meanwhile, we’re ignoring the fact that we woke up that morning with air in our lungs, a cup of hot coffee in our hands and laughed on the phone with a friend. I once heard a teenage boy say as he worked at the concession stand at our neighborhood pool, “It’s Saturday night and I’ve got a new pair of shoes—the possibilities are endless.” I thought, Yes! Let’s embrace the wonder hidden in the ordinary—whatever the new pair of shoes might be—because these are the moments that are full of possibility and promise.
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Sometimes it happens when we’re in the middle of the daily grind: driving carpool, going to the grocery store, attending class, working in a cubicle, wiping sticky jelly fingerprints off our countertops, tucking in the kids or packing lunches. One of those normally ungrateful children will hug us extra-tight and whisper, “You’re the best mom ever.” Or a friend texts to say, “I’ve been thinking of you.” Or we crack up because our insane dog is jumping on the other side of the kitchen window. When we start to pay attention, we realize life is full of small wonders that can make all of the difference in a day, hour or lifetime. Those small moments are no less holy than the big ones. In fact, maybe they are more holy because it is the million little pieces of our lives that really shape the people we become.
When we look back on our days, we realize such moments are the very threads that make up the tapestry of a life.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf says, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I’ve found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.” The true joy of life is found in the everyday. It’s the moments that don’t necessarily take our breath away that often become the ones that matter most. When we look back on our days, we realize such moments are the very threads that make up the tapestry of a life. Taken together, these seemingly ordinary threads of joy, sadness, conflict and laughter make something extraordinary. With every small thread, God is carefully and thoughtfully weaving a masterpiece.
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We live in a culture that celebrates the big accomplishment: the touchdown, the Nobel Peace Prize, the student body president and the homecoming queen. But what if we made it a habit to embrace and celebrate the small? The meal delivered to a sick friend, our kids being kind to the new kid at school, volunteering a few hours a week at a nursing home or helping someone in need? Savoring a lazy Saturday morning in pajamas, listening to the sound of your children actually getting along, piña coladas and getting caught in the rain?
These are the stories that, on the surface, might seem like nothing big; some are silly and some less so, but they are all about the little moments that together leave a legacy
I’ve lived long enough to know that, often, the most memorable moments in life are the ones that sneak up on you because they weren’t planned or orchestrated, but are just the simple moments we’ll eventually look back on and think of as golden. They are the things of love and parenting and laundry and marriage and what to cook for dinner—life in all of its messy, magical, mundane and marvelous glory. These are the holy moments that are Exhibit A in why I’m a believer in the church of the small things.
These are the stories that, on the surface, might seem like nothing big; some are silly and some less so, but they are all about the little moments that together leave a legacy and light the way to show us what really matters. A life isn’t made from one thing, one big moment or one huge success. It’s created moment by moment, often with pieces that don’t look like anything beautiful on their own, but are the very fabric of whom God meant for us to become as we pack lunches, raise kids, love our neighbors and simply be who he created us to be; nothing more, nothing less.
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Taken from Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle. Copyright © 2017 by Melanie Shankle. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.
Melanie Shankle is a New York Times best-selling author, podcaster, wife and mother. The Texas A&M graduate is also a guest blogger for high-profile outlets and an in-demand speaker for events across the country. Her next book, Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life, is out October 3. Melanie lives with her husband Perry and their daughter Caroline in San Antonio, Texas. For more information, please visit melanieshankle.com.
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