07 Mar 2016

I Want To Hear All Your Totally Ordinary Stories

Often in blogging, as in life, we tend to think that if we don’t have something profound to say then it isn’t worth saying anything. I don’t know about you, but I battle that thought constantly. As in all. the. time.

But my life isn’t constantly profound.

And when I pay attention I remember that I like it that way.

I like this quiet house tucked down a gravel road, surrounded by trees and three Koi ponds that have, miraculously, survived their first winter with us. The sun is coming up warmer each day and our bedroom curtains cast a shadow of slanted grey and white strips across the rug. Our weekends have paused just long enough to catch their breath in between basketball season and before baseball season starts so there’s been timing for dragging all the Polly Pockets and Army Trucks out onto the carpet again in between catching up on loads of laundry.

So on Saturday, I look out across the living room and I remember to actually see it. I remember that this is a room that’s supposed to be lived in.



Don’t despise the days of chaos.

They are the growth rings of motherhood.

Those days are milestones, memories in the making, reminders that these kids and their messes won’t always live at this house.

Sure, I like a tidy house as much as the next girl. But as the kids get bigger, the messes that marked them as children start to get smaller; you can literally feel them out growing everything they once were.

So on Saturday, I remembered to just be still and watch them play. And I took photos of the kind of chaos that used to give me a panic attack. Because I know the days are coming when I will miss this messy afternoon.

There were hair cuts and a special trip to buy hair gel and a comb. I have a boy who will be eleven this year but at night in between his bad dreams and Peter’s snoring, he’s still my first baby. Curled up with one hand under his cheek, I put my face up close enough to feel his puffs of exhaled breath. And I can hear echoes of that baby that made me a mother all those long nights in a thatch roof cottage in South Africa.

These are the days of new beginnings. The days of saying good bye to babyhood. When a friend asked the other day if I had a sippy cup her son could borrow I was astonished to discover that I did not. No sippy cups, no bottles, no diapers or teething toys. We are a household of kids who can walk and talk and help themselves to mac ‘n cheese and fold their own laundry.

Don’t despise the days of chaos because your children won’t leave their trail of childhood across your living room floor forever.

I find this easier to cherish when they’re tucked in bed, asleep, snoring with their puckered little baby lips. It’s harder when they’re making me lose my mind at 10pm because they’re still fighting and whining and griping and not sleeping. But I’ve found a solution to that. And it’s working. Brilliantly.

But some days, some days I pause long enough to notice how beautiful it all is. These boys growing into their man skin – so eager to understand how it all works. Their minds and their muscles and their hair gel and the world of girls. And my daughter with her strong opinions about how I do her hair and what colors of clothes work together. How strong her feelings are about my grey hair when it shows through the hair dye.

This is not a small life. This is a profound life.

All these whispered secrets of three separate childhoods entrusted into my safe keeping. Can my heart possibly hold it all?

At night I run the dishwasher and the garbage disposal and snap at the boy who somehow always manages to get traces of toothpaste on the microwave door handle. There are socks that aren’t matched but they’re all put away. And the baby Hyacinth blooms beside the sink. I ask Peter what the smell reminds him of and he smiles and doesn’t even have to say the words out loud. We both remember. How it smells like spring in South Africa and the sweet breeze that used to blow into our bedroom and across the baby crib when we had no idea what we were doing or how we were surviving.

It’s been a decade.

We have learned some since then.

More than anything I have learned that these messy afternoons and report cards and sports schedules, these whispered prayers and lisped, “I love yous,” are what make my life profound. Who am I to decide that isn’t worth writing down? Who am I to put all that wonder into a tiny box in my mind and label it, “too insignificant to write about.”

That is a lie.

We need your ordinary stories because they are the roots that anchor us in a life that can’t live only on the mountain tops.

We need the car pool. We need the diaper changes. We need the sinks full of dishes and lunches made times a hundred.

Go ahead, give me your beautiful, totally, ordinary stories. I want to hear them all so I can remember never to take mine for granted.

(You’re welcome to click here and share a glimpse into yours in the comments today).


{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    Thank you for the encouragement! I really needed that. Here are my ordinary stories: http://brokenisbeautiful.com

    • 2

      What a great blog name to keep all these beautiful stories – broken is beautiful – I love that!

  2. 3

    I loved seeing your IG post on Saturday and it helped turn around my attitude about a Zimbos world that my kids had built on our living room shelf, complete with potted plants, beads and every knick-knack they could get their hands on. How awesome is it that they are still creating and playing pretend! How wondrous to make a world out of what is around them!

  3. 5

    Love your normal every day messy lives. Kids make messes. It goes with being a parent or grandparent. I love to have a clean home but I also enjoy the memory we made together as grandparents.

  4. 7
    Elizabeth Holt says:

    I’m a mom of 3 girls. My first baby just turned 21. I can’t imagine how that happened. I know I tucked her into her bed just last week sometime. #2 will be 17 soon, and #3 is more than halfway to 13, so she’s already 13 “really and truly, mom, ’cause we round up, right?”

    Saturday, we ate supper with this new adult and her husband. The girls started telling stories about when they all shared one room. There was a bunk bed and a toddler bed. One night, the ninja from the top bunk got up to go potty. Returning in the dark of just-a-tiny-night-light, she spied a small wooden chair. Climbing up on it, she decided she could silently leap to the bottom bunk and spin her legs up to the top bunk.

    She would have made it too, were it not for the fuzzy socks she had on. She slipped on the lower bed rail, feet flying sideways, and hit her back on the way to the ground. Laying there trying to catch her breath, she realized that she could not breathe and could not make a sound. Horrified, the first word that came to her mind was deaf! “Oh, no! I am deaf and will never be able to talk again!” She did know better, and she did survive.

    I will never, ever get over the sound of their laughter! We’ve got a lot to laugh about, and when we run out I feel certain that they can tell the old stories in a different accent and set us all off again! Beautiful, totally, ordinary stories of beautiful, totally, ordinary people saved by a beautiful, totally, extra-ordinary God. He is good!

  5. 9

    I needed to hear that today. I struggle with what is “important” enough to write, even though I firmly believe we need to share our stories, no matter how mundane we think they may be. I need to know that I’m not the only one struggling with a four year old who refuses to go potty and a dog who won’t stop barking at shadows while battling a migraine and trying to get ready for my work week. Okay, maybe not that specific. ;) Thanks for reminding me of that today!

  6. 10

    Hi! Thanks for this reminder that the totally ordinary can be the most important thing in front of us:)

    I had 30 minutes today, after lunchtime was cleaned up and before nap time, that I was trying to fill with something “productive” (should I try and make myself lunch? Should I put my toddler down for nap early? Should I clean the bathroom? Fold the load of laundry in the dryer?) Instead I wound up on the living room floor alongside my 6 month old and 3 year old and we spent that half hour Ina sing-a-long. My toddler played his ukelele and my baby giggled his face off. I’m so grateful I could be present enough to realize that was the most important thing!

  7. 11

    This morning I told 5 that he and his brother would be unloading the dishwasher after school. He said “ok” (not his normal go-to response. Never. NEVER.). Later, I told 10 the same thing and he whined. 5 said “That’s just life, [10]. But, if we work as a team we’ll get done faster and then we can do our fun things.” I’m so glad I got to hear this out of character note of positivity this morning.

  8. 12
    Danielle says:

    This is so incredibly beautiful and much needed for me today, on this Monday when there is dinner in the crockpot, dinosaurs and mega blocks and super hero costumes (so many costumes) sprawled across the living room, dining room and kitchen floors. Tears flow as I thought how my babies’ (3 year old and 20 month old little boys) childhoods have been entrusted to me. May I remember the sweetness of that when I wipe a bottom and wipe the tears, when I kiss their boo-boos and kiss them goodnight. Today is a day of catching up on dishes and a walk in the spring weather. Nothing profound. But beautiful. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. 13

    Oh, yes. Just yesterday I watched my two oldest playing basketball together in the backyard. When exactly did they move from my little kids to big guys? It is such a treasure to watch them grow, but brings tears to my eyes regardless.

    Thank you for the reminder that blogging isn’t always about the overtly profound. My blog centers around lessons learned in our everyday, and yet at times I’m held back by a “lack of significance” about the things I may share. I needed your reminder and gentle nudge.

  10. 14

    This: “More than anything I have learned that these messy afternoons and report cards and sports schedules, these whispered prayers and lisped, “I love yous,” are what make my life profound. Who am I to decide that isn’t worth writing down? Who am I to put all that wonder into a tiny box in my mind and label it, “too insignificant to write about.”

    So as my oldest can’t fall asleep, I’m headed to write about it. But this is one of my favorite ordinary moments: http://www.restlessarrow.com/2015/02/05/rescued-hands-re-post/

  11. 15
    Sheree G. says:

    My oldest made Varisty cheerleader over the weekend. She started public school only a month ago and seems excited to jump in with both feet and revel in all the things high school has to offer. I am proud, excited, nervous, and anxious. Not exactly “note-worthy”, but for this single momma, we are treading out into uncharted waters. Trying desperately to enjoy and own all the emotions with my girl :)

  12. 16

    I needed this today Lisa Jo. I struggle with clearing the mind hurdle of having nothing “sexy” enough to write about as well. Lately, here, we’re navigating some middle-school drama related texting boundaries. When I’m not wanting to punch a particular little middle-school pot-stirrer in the face I think I’m giving my daughter some half-way decent advice and having to pray. a lot. Especially for my attitude.

  13. 17
    Elaine Pool says:

    Old ordinary story: my kids used to build their Hot Wheels tracks down the bannister of the staircase, so the cars would fly anywhere! (I let them – it might have been my idea, even)

    New ordinary story: my new grandson will be born next Monday, and my “old” grandson will instantly become a “big brother.” I, of course, am cooking pot roast, and spaghetti & meatballs for this, my oldest son’s family, because some things never change. Babies born? I cook. Someone dies? I cook. It’s a sunny day? I cook. (btw, I LOVE to cook!)

  14. 18

    Dear Lisa,
    This is my ordinary story:
    We listen to books on CD as we drive 45 minutes one way to what is my four daughters’ school and my and my husband’s job. Six of us all going to the same place, all in one banged up, slowly rusting Honda Odyssey, that I smashed up almost immediately after purchasing. The sliding doors only work sometimes. All four are mortified to get out of our vehicle. Audio books help our commute be more sane. My big girls always balk: “this is so kiddish” {with eye roll}. My little girls always rejoice: “a new book”{ with happy grin}. This, insists the big girls, is further proof of how ridiculously beneath them these kids books are. Like good parents we tell them to shut up and listen. Starting with Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord, we have listened to six books since September. Every time I bring home a CD set from the library the big girls balk, the little ones rejoice, and I constantly have library fines. We all love it. Very soon we will be moving and our commute will be 5 minutes not 45 and the audio books will come to an end, and I have a feeling we will all miss it, including my balking big girls.

  15. 19

    “Don’t despise the days of chaos. They are the growth rings of motherhood.” Best 2 sentences on motherhood ever.

  16. 20

    Hi Lisa,
    Well this is me. I am the Mom to 5 children-as of Saturday 4 are teenagers. I find that I long for those days where they were younger, but I am learning to embrace this new journey of mothering. I am learning that in between the activities, homework, and general chaos of life they still need me-in a deeper way than they did even last year. My 12 passenger van no longer has any car seats, but instead my front seat has become a seat where quiet conversations about the day, or hurts that cut so deep into my daughters and my son are whispered. My messy house that now smells like feet and air freshener (because we all know there is truly no scent that covers up that locker room smell) is still full of noise-there is still laughter, running around, and no one ever wants to go to bed. But now I have become so aware that in a very few short years my house will be silent. My kids are so close together that they will rapidly fly the coop for college in the next 6 years. SIX YEARS!! So I try (and often times fail) to hold tight to the moments-all of them-the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly-and love our life as it unfolds each day❤️

  17. 21

    I was so glad to catch that glimpse of the ‘lived in chaos’ of your living room. All too often I am harping on the kids to tidy up their stuff… and then I am reminded that one day I will miss the noise, the chaos, the half-finished art projects, the messy science “experiments”, the lego underfoot (ouch… maybe I won’t miss that!). Right now my daughter is watering the trees outside with the spring puddle water, one plays piano, the other is distracted by his lego when he is supposed to be helping me set the table. There is laundry to be folded and put away. There are schoolbags, tossed on the floor. There is a quietness to this moment. I want to revel in this moment, in each moment. My eldest just turned 11 and the things that I thought would be battles in teenhood are revealed to be struggles in tween-hood. They are growing tall, all of them. My eldest and I can share running shoes. One wise parent, as I expressed some sadness at my kids growing up, told me that I just need to enjoy the *now*. I hope that I can fully do that. I realize that I have had my kids longer than they will likely be at home. What a crazy thought.

  18. 22

    I dropped my kids off at before-school club this morning. It was the first morning of using childcare (they’ve been for a couple of weeks in the afternoon) but I’m now wading into this working mum thing, no longer just dipping my toes in the water. My girl was a bit nervous, thankfully it turned out her friend was there so all was well!

  19. 23

    Wow! I love this post! Despite the fact that my eyes are leaking :(. Such a great reminder of how the little things that we as moms can get worked up about…..
    I am a mother of 4, one now married with 3 children of her own. She is facing her maternity leave ending and placing her sweet baby girl in daycare. I will forward this post to her as sometimes she has those overwhelming days with a 5 year old, a 2 year old and a 2 month old.
    Our youngest daughter is in her last semester of Nursing school, she had somewhat of a meltdown facing the challenges of interviews, internships and the what-ifs of being a grown up. What I saw was that little girl that would run to her Mommy or Daddy when she was scared or sad. As her Mom, of course I want to fix it and make it all better, but I know that this is something she has to do, and I need to remind her that no matter what she faces, how much anxiety she has, that the Lord will lead and guide her to where He wants her to be, and will be with her every step of the way.
    Then we have our oldest son, the most strong-willed intelligent young man that can push Momma buttons in an instant. He is a freshman in college, and the new waters that he is wading through can be very tough. There are those moments with him that I know he needs his Momma, and other times he is so grown up, I tend to wonder when that light switch flipped. This year is so new for us because he was so involved in the band, and in baseball, and this year, things are very different. This is the first year in 8 years we haven’t been Band Parents (our youngest daughter was in 4 years and he followed the next 4) and this is the first baseball season in over 15 years that we won’t be watching and cheering on our favorite player. I find this season as a Mom so different than having the young children that are saying your name 59 times every hour. As much as those days can be overwhelming, this season can be overwhelming in an entirely different way.
    Last, and certainly not least, we have our youngest son. He is 11 going on 20. He is smart, funny, and yet so serious. One moment he is the annoying little brother, and the other he is the sweet, sensitive pre-teen boy that is wise beyond his years. I know that the challenges increase as he gets older, and we are older too, so this should be very interesting!!
    Yes, our oldest is 31 and our youngest is 11. And yes, WE. ARE. CRAZY. Well, I am anyway. My husband, not so much. He is laid back, and believes there is good in everything and everyone. He is rarely rattled, and I on the other hand can be rattled numerous times a day. :)
    What a crazy wonderful life we have. And through all the dirt on the floor, the squabbles, the tears, the laughter, the love, the loads and loads of laundry, here we are taking this journey that God has blessed us with. Thank you for the reminder today, that even what may seem stressful, mundane and somewhat ordinary is a blessing. Days are fleeting, and our children are almost grown, so we need to sit back and soak it all in, because one day the house will be quieter, the laundry will be less, and the house will stay cleaner. May I make the most of each and every day!

  20. 24
    Shirley says:

    I turned 60 this past week, and as a gift, my grown children and their spouses put together a dvd montage of my life in pictures set to music. It was the most amazing gift I’ve ever had other than the fact that I lived it. When all is said and done, our life’s moments, especially with our children, and now my grand children are threads that have woven a beautiful tapestry of love. Ironically, the messy pictures which at the time made me cringe, became my most favorite! I know from reading your blog, Lisa, that you will have a beautiful amazing montage to see one day too.

  21. 25

    2015 was filled with loss and many many blessings!! We had a beautiful grandson born and a new daughter in law and my heart has exploded with joy from Gods blessings in our life. My heart has also shattered to little bitty pieces after i had to make the decision to turn my dads ventilator off and let him go. He suffered a stroke during a surgery. I held on for 3 weeks at his bedside and trusted God for complete healing, either by him waking up or for him to go on to heaven. Either way I would have joy in my savior for never leaving me nor forsaking me :)) He held me up by my right hand, as I held my dads warm, soft hand in my left, until he slipped away. I was filled with this joyful pain in my heart! How thankful and blessed I was to be his daughter, for the time we had together! To be there at his side and trust God with my dads life and know without a doubt, he would work it all out for my dads good. For God could see his future if he had stayed here on this earth and he knew what was best for him. Gods in control and he has a perfect plan for us! My ordinary days are filled with unspeakable joy in the small things, the way the sunlight filters in on my wood floors, the birds chirping outside in the trees, the warmth of the sun on my face, the raging storms that just passed through, chasing down my 14yr old son and tickling him, cause he’s just way to cool for his momma to do that any more :)) This life is filled with joy and pain, but I count it all as joy♥

  22. 26

    The glory and beauty of a wet and messy rain shower coating my boys with droplets on their slickers, and splashing off their rain boots like fountains springing up suddenly with a stomp, and then returning to the stillness of a puddle. Chalk drawings disappear as the rain washes them, and quickly are drawn again with eager hands, only to watch them be washed away again. Long trudges through the drainage ditch leave brown leaves in the wake of blue boots. My toddlers love anything related to water.

  23. 27
    Elizabeth Stein says:

    I’m sitting here swaying as my baby girl nurses to sleep. My son is in the next room, posibly out of his bed again, when he should be napping. Many thoughts run through my head of the possibilities of things I could get done while they are both in bed at the same time. The appliance guy will be here soon to look at the dishwasher because it hasn’t been cleaning dishes properly, but I really need the plumber to come because the kitchen sink is backed up and I can’t wash dishes or do laundry because it all drains into the same line. With all this going on I have to thank the Lord I can be home with my children to do these things. It is a great privalidge. I peek in on my son, he’s asleep. I’m gonna sneek some sewing in before I have to start the chili for tonight’s Bible study at our house. 💖

  24. 28

    Thank you for this post – I love the idea of cherishing the ordinary, mundane moments of our lives. Glimpse into mine: Right now, both my toddler and my newborn are napping, at.the.same.time, which is a miracle. Both had a rough night; my big girl is fighting bedtime these days, and the baby has suddenly forgotten how to fall back to sleep after nursing during the night. There was a lot of pacing and rocking and shushing. So I’m going to try to rest while the getting’ good, and will myself not to be sick (my body thinks it’s getting sick, but there’s no time for that haha!). Keep reminding us that these days don’t last forever, sometimes I forget that motherhood/life is not a race.

  25. 29

    Yes. This is the struggle in my current season where motherhood no longer defines my “daily do” and I’m trying to remember who I was B.C. (before children) and what I wanted to be when I grow up (if I ever do!) I’m writing it out. Fighting it out. Praying it out and discovering that saying it all out loud brings clarity. Thanks Lisa-Jo for being a safe place for so many of us for so long.

  26. 30

    Hi, thank you for your posts. They have been timely in encouraging me many days. Below is a link to my blog. I’m new to blogging but enjoy it. Don’t know how to share it as well as you do yours yet. I’m south African living in the UK with a crew of 5. My youngest new life is 5 mths. Eldest is 10. She’s my girl and then 4 boys. Thank you for sharing. Heidri

  27. 31

    In our rush to get it all done each day, it takes deliberate thought to just let all the rush go right by you, and curl up in bed with a 4 year old who is going through a phase of just crying hard over “nothing”. Maybe it is growing up – so fun, but SO overwhelming, when you are constantly trying to keep up with a big sister =(
    It was SO good to lie beside him last night and just chat about everything and nothing – definitely moments to cherish in the hustle and bustle of life… Even though I am educating the kids at home, so see them all the time (which I love), it still takes you by surprise when you see them growing up right under your nose!

  28. 32
    Paige Estes says:

    Oh I love this, Lisa-Jo. Another reason for me to start writing again. At 10 and 6, we no longer have sippy cups either. They can go upstairs and get ready for bed without me (except for the wrestle mania on my bed and the toothpaste on the toilet seat?!? Please keep sharing your proud ordinary. It is such an encouragement to me. My favorite thing to read that hits my inbox.

    Paige E (virginia)

    Isn’t this 70+degree weather amazing?????

  29. 33

    LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this!! Thank you for these encouraging, beautiful words!

  30. 34

    It’s startling to realize that the few diapers left in the closet would never be used again. There are times my three kids (ages 8, 5 and 4) would play LPS and LEGO together for hours without needing me to play with them. Only to stop when they get into squabbles. I should remind myself not to get annoyed when there are times my youngest, 4, would holler, “Mama! Mama!” They still need me to referee them. But next time, I would be left out of their bubbles. These ordinary moments need to be cherished.
    I love this post! It reminds me of my ministry as a mom and the blog direction I started with, “to find symphonies in the simplicity of everyday life.”

  31. 35
    Marinalva Sickler says:

    Yesterday, I left home with my grands that I raise to a worship and a Bible study. I love to be there. But for my disolution I left the home because I was dominated for my fears. I had afterwards many reasons to justify my acting. Oliver, my one year baby needed to be in bed. Wesley was enjoying TV. The boys love music and I could have a great time. My motivation got entangled with my fears and I was unable to let my negative feelings about myself to go. On the contrary, I denied myself of a pleasant ti me with friends.

    What could I do?

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