My newborn granddaughter loves being swaddled snugly. Wound correctly, a swaddle blanket will cocoon Emma Cate’s newborn form tightly into the familiar shape of the womb, her first home. She knows the feel of that place. She trusts it … she calms … she sleeps.
Birth is a launch from home into a new place. Countless studies have revealed the shocking conditions newborns experience in the first minutes of life: air on their skin and in their lungs, temperature changes, bright lights, strange voices and the sudden flailing of their legs and arms and grasping of hands and feet as they lie unbound, lost and alone outside the only place they know—their first home in the womb.
God, our Parent, launches His children into new places of life just as we nudge ours out of our nests and into schools, activities, jobs, adulthood. Each destination brings jarring adjustments. Every new place kindles a longing for home, for the familiar, for what we know and love and now miss. Until the new place feels like home.
Something is hardwired in every human for home. Even the homeless create homes. We’ve all seen the tent cities erected along freeways and amidst the concrete downtown areas of big cities.
Four decades have passed since Dennis and I first called Little Rock home. My affectionate nickname is The Rock, because it reminds me of my Savior, the Rock. God brought us here as surely as He called Abraham to a land that was not his birthplace.
This place is home.
In many ways, Little Rock is an ordinary city, not known for greatness in any remarkable way, yet the ordinariness of this place has become endearing; we love it here because it is what He has given us. This plot of earth, our state, displays His genius no less than other places on the globe.
This place is our home.
Ordinary is a word that well describes my husband and me and our respective backgrounds. It also is a synonym for the foolish things, the weak and the low that Paul says God chooses to shame the wise and strong and so bring glory to Himself (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
In his book, Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir, author D.J. Waldie writes, “I’ve tried to understand how paying attention to ordinariness—ordinary things, ordinary places, everydayness—is an enriching encounter.” He calls this paying attention to the discovery of “paradise in the ordinary.”
Both noun and verb, the concept of place is so ordinary as to escape our notice in the Scriptures. But the very frequent presence of this word is replete with meaning.
- God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden. It was their home.
- He called Abraham to leave Ur and travel to a place he had never seen to grow a nation. If Abe’s friends had come to visit they would surely have mocked the primitive place and therefore by association the God who called Abraham there.
- The Sent One was placed in a dark messy home within Mary’s womb. Then in another beneath His dignity place called Nazareth. Ultimately, He was placed on a God-forsaken piece of wood. Finally, at peace, He was placed on a cold stone slab in a pitch-black tomb.
- But before He left this place called earth, He told us a truth linked with an amazing promise: “Behold I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also.”
This place is not our home. Like Jesus we too have dual citizenship.
Every spot on this spinning orb is part of God’s wondrous very good creation. From pole to pole, from desert to lush forest, from sea to shining sea, each place on earth is brimming with wonder and beauty, the artistry of God’s hand, if we take the time to look, to notice.
This place is a gift to us.
Many inhabitants of this earth don’t care for it, treasure it, or treat it as holy. Instead, we declare some places better than others as if God somehow made mistakes. But He is an artist, and every painter knows that color needs both balance and contrast, that light areas shine brightest near dark, and that every mountain appears taller when surrounded by valleys. God is always intentional.
Waldie says, “the sense of place is part of the equipment of a whole person as much as a sense of self. Not having a sense of place is a handicap. Those who don’t have a place-bound loyalty are quite willing to permit all sorts of evils to rise up.”
Jeremiah 29:7 tells us, “Seek the welfare of the city” … the place … “where I have sent you … and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” The people didn’t want to be in that place, Babylon, to which they’d been sent by God in exile. They ached for home, for Jerusalem. But God wanted to strip away all that had come between their individual hearts and Him. He knew in this place He could get their attention again.
Jesus lived for 30 years in one place. Then for the next three years He traveled but was often in the region of his family home for long stretches of time. Knowing the smells, the sound of the local dialect, the feel of the familiar footpaths of home was a comfort and security to Him as much as it is to us.
But Jesus also had another Homeplace which He knew even more intimately yet was willing to leave for us. How grateful I am for that choice.
As I sit at my desk writing on my laptop in this place God has given us to live, I see out my window another familiar yet wholly unique glowing sunset over the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. The color God has washed across the sky is a repeated gift He didn’t have to share for the millionth time. But every time I choose to pay attention I’m thankful for the ordinariness of this hidden place of God’s creation.
To many Little Rock is a no-name place.
To us it is nothing less than the wondrous gift of God.
This place is home as we wait for His timing to take us to our eternal Home!
May we remember His divine placement of our lives for the good of our city, our neighborhood and our own lives. May you be alert to the “paradise of the ordinary” all around you.
If you enjoyed this article, check out this additional content on the importance of the home God has given you:
“40 Reasons Your Home Matters”
5 thoughts on “Finding God in the Ordinary”
Hi Barbara and Fellow Readers,
I too am living in a place of ‘ordinary’. A beautiful setting of rolling hills covered with sparse oak and redwood trees. We are very near an open space, we pay dearly for with our property taxes in Northern California, the Bay Area to be specific. We have endured the smoke from the surrounding forest fires, but have seen the answer to prayers in the change in wind and dedicated work of our firefighters.
God has placed us here for a reason and certainly in our church family. We see it everyday how we are being used to the Glory of God to do His work. We know this is not our world at the present, but we look forward to the time we can all be together to enjoy the feast and the rooms our Lord is preparing for us.
Our prayers continue to be for our country, you, Dennis and your beautiful family. We hope and pray our legacy will include our children in the Heavenly realm.
Becky Praun/a grateful subscriber
Thank you for writing and we pray God’s protection on you as you trust Him through another fire season, one that seems worse than all others. Grateful to hear too how you know you are in His place for a reason! What a comfort to know and experience His watchful nearness.
These words from Barbara moved me to write about “my new place” which is now “our place”. I may have “borrowed” a few thoughts and phrases from you as I wrote this. I do not plan to make this available to anyone other than you and my husband! But please let me know if I have overstepped my bounds.
I failed to include my words…
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” This has been a very comforting scripture to me in recent years.
I was widowed in 2013 after 45 years of marriage, 3 children and 6 grandchildren. I had never lived by myself but now I did. My “place” was with my husband and now he was gone. We lived in an ordinary town and had been there longer than any of the other 21 places we had lived. Our place was wherever we were with those we loved. Now I was alone in this place. I had no idea what my future would or could look like but I trusted God to be with me, strengthening and comforting me on the journey and eventually leading me to the next place in my life.
In His infinite love, mercy and wisdom, God brought a godly man, who had been widowed in 2013 as well, into my life in 2015. This widowed man had also held Jeremiah 29:11 close to his heart. Trusting that God had a plan and a place for him. He lived in an ordinary town 2000 miles away from my place. He didn’t see how a relationship with someone who lived so far away could ever be possible. I believed it was possible because I was willing to spend the rest of my life in a new place with this man. So he prayed and earnestly sought God to help him know if this relationship/marriage was the place God wanted him to be. After about a week he received the peace in his heart and mind that he prayed for. He proposed and a few weeks later we were married in a very special place – a tour boat on Lake Coeur d’Alene. This all took place two months after our initial, virtual meeting followed by an in person meeting in a special place by the ocean, a 4 day in person meeting in his special place, as well as many virtual meetings in between.
My new place is now our place, where together we marvel at God’s love for us and goodness to us. Life with this wonderful man God brought into my life 5 years ago, is ordinary at times but is extraordinary because of God and His place in our lives as individuals and as a couple. My new place is in an ordinary town 2000 miles from where I had lived for 26 years. Our place is a gift to us, full of the hope and future God promised and has provided. This place – our earthly place, was his home, which together, we have made our home. It sits in an absolutely beautiful setting, created by God, where we have built 2 memorials for our late spouses in honor of God and his love for all of us.
As I sit writing on my iPad, in this place God has given us together, I see out the window the iron cross we had built in honor of my late husband and in honor of God with the words, “It is finished”. These are the last words of our Savior as he gave His life and each of us the gift of eternal life. Every time I read those words I’m once again, reminded and grateful for his gift of life now and for eternity.
To many this place is ordinary. To us it is nothing less than extraordinary – a wondrous gift of God. For now, this place is our temporary home as we wait, together, for His timing to take us to our eternal Home – with Him!
Thanks so much for writing Phyllis! I enjoyed both your comment and your story very much and I hope others took the time to read it too. It is a sweet God story in every way.
Blessings to you in your new place!