After some months of an intensely hectic schedule, it appears that life is finally creeping back to what’s “normal.”
‘Normal’… Oh, how I love that word!
As usual, it seems we just don’t appreciate a treasure until it’s gone for awhile. These days, I’m feeling the amazement and awesome pleasure of appreciating what a treasure ‘normal’ life is. Not only that, but I’m fully appreciating the definition by which ‘normal’ is defined in my own life.
My appreciation has been hard-earned, really. With vivid acuteness, I remember the inner struggle I had for so many years when my husband and I were freshly married and starting our own family. For whatever reasons, I struggled with feeling constantly inferior to others– always feeling like my life was just not hitting the mark as compared with other families. Never as accomplished; never as attractive; never as seemingly happy; never as apparently fulfilled; never as “together” as other families seemed to be. It seemed I could never be happy until I “exceeded” what I perceived as just normal!
And likewise, I remember with vivid acuteness the moment when all that changed.
It wasn’t any great revelation or incredible insight that anybody shared with me. It was very simple. I remember the moment, merely driving in the car with my husband and three small children, when I was flooded with contentment. Imperfections notwithstanding, I just knew that there was no other family in the world that I would have preferred above this one. There were others that may have been more talented, more attractive, more skilled, more brilliant… But this was my blessed ‘normal.’ This family was the greatest blessing God had ever given me. HE defined my purpose and HE defined what was ‘normal’ for me– no one else, no other family did. God did.
I don’t believe I’ve ever lost that contentment for a single moment ever since. This is my ‘normal.’ This is my gift.
Every once in a while, it’s good to be reminded about what a treasure our ‘normal’ is. As I’ve written before, my younger sister Dale Nikkanen has been battling lymphoma this past year. Life for her has been badly abnormal in this past year as she struggled, unable to experience even the very basic patterns of a normal day. She hit a crisis this summer, and we all– Dale herself included– grieved over what we thought was the end of her life here on this earth. I cannot adequately describe how we cried out to God– and amazingly, He heard us! As I write this, Dale is well on her road to recovery, at home again experiencing the ‘normal’ rhythms and patterns of her life again. She doesn’t need to supercede– she doesn’t need to “rise above” in order to find her incredible contentment. When I talk to her, or when she emails me, she is almost giddy with happiness over the very simplest pleasures of normal life like sleeping well, breathing well, eating well… She ends her emails with, “I sure hope everyone is having as wonderful day as I am. I am so thankful to breath, walk, run, sing, and do all the ordinary chores!” Without a doubt, she’s found a treasure.
Can anything be as wonderful as a ‘normal’ day? When Dale lost the very simplest, most basic patterns of her life, I learned all over again what a great, great treasure ‘normal’ is. Why oh why are we always reaching for something more– constantly striving for fulfillment that we think can only be found in surpassing what’s normal?
Joni Eareckson Tada has impacted me more than most. After decades in a wheelchair, she has made peace with her new ‘normal.’ Life as a quadraplegic has become God’s definition of her ‘normal,’ and she accepts it as such. She does not, and cannot, find her norm by comparing herself to others who can get themselves out of bed and walk to the kitchen. She understands that God has defined her normal differently than others, and even Joni herself has stopped her pursuit of pleading with God to make her like others. In her book, “A Place of Healing– Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty,” Joni quotes Mary Jane Iron writing, “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are… Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.” Joni has embraced the value of contentment over who she is and the normalcy as God has defined it for her life on earth.
These days, I look at others, and at other families, so differently. Instead of comparing myself with others to find my standard of measurement, I value the individuality of what God defines as normal for each of us– you and me. Likewise, none of us can boast about the raw material God has given us to work with! Every individual expression of God’s definition of ‘normal’ is a treasure of His grace. When others find such happiness in their own expression of what’s normal, it gives me happiness too. When other grandmas boast of their grandkids, I’m genuinely happy for them, though I don’t experience the same euphoric joy at seeing their grandkids as I do my own. It isn’t because my grandkids are superior– it’s because they’re blessedly ‘normal.’ It’s my gift from God.
Some time ahead, I will have to adjust to a new normal– perhaps like Joni has, or more likely like my sister Connie who, just older than I am, is adjusting to her difficult new normal after her husband died suddenly last summer. My daughter’s girlfriend has had to live a whole new definition of ‘normal’ since the birth of her beautiful son who struggles with the symptoms of a chromosomal disorder. My son’s pastor’s wife was injured when she fell from a horse seven years ago and now lives the new ‘normal’ from her wheelchair. We have no idea what’s ahead– even in the normalcy of living life in America. We could be in for some big changes in normal life as we know it.
But for today– I’m grateful for the very simplest blessings God has given.
This afternoon, I stood at my kitchen sink coring apples to make sauce as I looked out at the wind blowing fall leaves across the driveway. A beautiful fall rain wet the landscape. I can work. I can breathe. I can walk. I can hug my imperfect-but-oh-so-beautiful-to-me grandkids. And I never want to take for granted the treasure of what’s ‘merely normal’. It’s one of our greatest gifts! It truly is.
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