It was a million degrees below this weekend with a dump of snow. It was just enough winter to crush your soul if you let it. Here we were celebrating the end of January and winter reared its head to remind us that it was not quite done.
To avoid the cabin-fever feeling I chose a little painting project to tackle, one that I have thought about for years. I enjoy the rhythm of painting and the act of carefully giving new life to something old. And as I was painting, I realized that if it wasn't for snowy winter days I might never get any of these projects done. Somehow the restricting snow actually helps me to accomplish tasks that I wouldn't willingly put on the schedule if running outside in the sprinkler was the other option. Things like painting an old shelf, sorting through the storage room, doing extra baking or cooking for the freezer, sorting through toys or clothes or anything really - they all get done because, frankly, there is not much else going on.
The Church calendar has two periods in the year called Ordinary Time. They first Ordinary times comes right at the end of Christmas celebrations (Jan 7) and continues until Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent). The second Ordinary Time begins after Pentecost and stretches until the first Sunday of Advent. More than half the year is spent in Ordinary time. It is the time of year that we are neither fasting nor feasting, the time when we are just living regular, ordinary life.
I have always loved that the term "Ordinary Time" exists because that is what so much of what life is - regular, normal, neither high nor low ....ordinary. The time when people ask what is new and your answer is, "Oh nothing much."
And according to the church calendar Ordinary Time should be expected as part of the natural rhythm of life. It is part of the holy year and the holy life. It is on the schedule. Ordinary Times are not chunks of our lives to be forgotten or interruptions of the more important things. It is part of the important things. It's the time when you are just getting up, having breakfast, going to work, coming home, eating supper and going to sleep. It's going to church every week. It's doing dishes, changing diapers, driving kids to swimming lessons, grocery shopping and everything in between. And this, this normalness, has a place in the Holy life of the church. It is not separate from other spiritual things. Life is just life sometimes. Life can just be normal and it is still part of the spiritual rhythm and clockwork of God given life.
We have all had those times in our lives when something significant was happening in our spiritual walk - that six weeks we spent at camp one summer, the year at Bible School, the bible study we were apart of, that internship at a church or even just a time when you felt like you were learning so much in your bible reading or prayer life. Times when we felt like God was so close we could touch Him. Times when answers came easily and we found a lot of peace and joy in what we were doing. The times when good rich friendships flowed abundantly and nourished our souls and celebrations were at every turn.
And there are also times of fasting, of sorrows and loss, time of wandering and doubt, times of depression or anxiety. Times of sickness. Times of rejection of hurt. Times of darkness.
Both celebratory and fasting times are actually a small part of our life - no doubt impactful - but small percentage wise. Much of our life is spent in this time called Ordinary.
And Ordinary Time is for just that. The times when we get the little things done in our lives and our hearts and our minds. Where we chip away at projects. Where we clean and maintain, where we pratcise patience and self control as we wait. Where we practise faithfulness and trust that Celebrations will come again. Where we do the slow discipline of learning to listen to God's voice. Where we learn to recognize his goodness in every day little ways. Where we learn to be thankful for the ordinary, mundane times. Where we learn joy despite our circumstances. Where we learn how to pray and how to care for those around us in ordinary, normal ways.
I love that the Church calendar actually states that these non-feasting and non-fasting times will happen. Every year, for long stages. There will be ordinary times. So don't be discouraged. This is how life is.
I remember a wise man in my church talking about how much of life is spent "building forms". For those of you who are not carpenters, "forms" are temporary molds into which cement is poured. Every day faithfulness, every day ordinary following of Jesus is the process of building our forms and then waiting until God decides to fill them so that He can build something beautiful for his Kingdom in our lives.
And so what to do in ordinary times? Just keep building those forms. Every day. Keep doing the regular ordinary every day things that build faithfulness and endurance. Spend time remembering God's goodness in times of celebration and fasting. Embrace it as part of His rhythm for your life. Remember that it is truly holy. And above all, give thanks that God is just as present with us in ordinary times as in celebratory ones - all are part of His plan for our year and our lives.