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  • Writer's picture Bethany McMillon

Ordinary Time


I walk through the house gathering items and settling them into a plastic tub. From our fireplace mantle, I pick up a red-heart-holding gnome, whose long white beard peeks from under a tall pink cap. I grab the red throw pillow scrawled with “love” in scripted letters and fuzzy red blanket. A few more little knick-knacks and finally two ceramic fairy sized baskets of pink roses that had been nestled in a pot of succulents are packed away. Valentine’s Day has now come and gone.

In January, I walked a similar, but much more time intensive path as I packed up Christmas decorations; I’d enjoyed the red and silvers and sparkles past Epiphany. Instead of one plastic tub, that endeavor took several. Nativity scenes, tree trimmings, and stockings all fit like a puzzle into boxes and tubs. The house always feels somehow both more tidy and more empty after the Christmas holidays. To combat those feelings, I placed a few snowmen figurines in strategic places, and kept both the winter vanilla scented hand soap in the guest bathroom and the buffalo plaid placemats on the table


A few weeks later, in February, I repeated the process and at the end, I closed the lid on the tub of snowmen, hand towels with embroidered snowflakes and buffalo plaid. That’s when the reds and pinks of Valentine’s Day made their appearance.


This week as I {finally} flip the page to March, sighing at how long this short month felt, but also in another breath I wonder, “How is it already March?”


I now stack the tub of reds, pinks, and hearts in a storage closet and pull out a few green and gold trinkets for St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll replace those in mid-March, just a few weeks from now, with Easter’s pastels, crosses and eggs and symbols of Christ’s Resurrection. The timing of the calendar works like that this year. Rhythms and holidays. Routines and daily practices.

***

It is in the last decade I’ve come to learn more about the liturgical calendar followed by many church denominations. While Advent and Lent were ideas with which I was somewhat familiar, I wasn’t aware of the depth of meaning within these rhythms. And I had no knowledge of the time between, “Ordinary Time” – the weeks between Epiphany and Lent, then between Easter and Advent.


Ordinary Time seems, to me, like a fitting name for time passing in January and February. Morning drives to school and work in the inky darkness stretch into dark evenings that extend well past sunset. Days can drag on as we’re stuck inside during ice storms or attend meetings or parent little people who seem just as stuck as we are. Some call it winter blues, others note the change in their bodies and minds without daily doses of vitamin D, and still others power their way through with renewed commitments to resolutions.


But, Ordinary Time, as it’s defined by the church calendar is based not actually in ‘ordinary’ as in normal circumstances, but ‘ordinary’ as in ordinal numbers – the ordered and numbered Sundays that anchor our usual lives, that is our lives outside of a focus on Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. It is often set aside as a time to learn more about Jesus’ life between the visit of the Magi and the Triumphal Entry. His ordinary, yet free of sin, life before He was seen as a Teacher, a Rabbi, the Son of God, our Savior. These weeks are set aside as an anchor for our typical lives.


Ordinary Time in an ordinary time.

***

I settle into my green paisley chair on an everyday kind of week day. The morning light hasn’t yet topped over the horizon, and my beagle has quickly snuggled in next to my feet. I open my Bible to the book of John. These weeks of Ordinary Time have slipped past Ash Wednesday. And now on this ordinary morning, in the first week of Lent, I reread the truths of an extraordinary Savior.

The people in the familiar stories jump out at me – fishermen, mothers and brothers, a Samaritan woman, an invalid, a woman caught in sin, and crowds. And, in the center of each truth – Jesus. He is calling disciples, turning water to wine, speaking truth in love, healing, forgiving, reviving, and making his way around, through and ultimately to Jerusalem.


John focuses his stories on Jesus’ path to the cross, to the empty tomb and to the stories of after the resurrection. But woven within His extraordinary path are encounters and relationships with ordinary people on their ordinary days. Fishermen along the Sea of Galilee, a woman drawing water at a well, a man begging as he had for decades, crowds celebrating Passover as they had for generations.


And I wonder, as I read of the Pharisees plots and mourners at Lazarus’ tomb, if they knew this wasn’t a typical time. And I know, as I imagine Jesus lifting the sinful woman from the ground to say, “Go and sin no more,” that she knew. I long to know more, too. So, on these ordinary days, just past Ordinary Time, I settle into these truths to know my Savior even more.


I stand up from my chair that morning and something settles into my soul – a realization that this year Lent won’t be about giving something up to feel closer to Jesus, it will be about seeing His extraordinary presence in my ordinary days.


Lord, you created me to revel in the rhythms of each season as they come and go. As you wove me together, you planted a love of celebrations – even for “made-up holidays” like Pi/pie day, Donut Day and Pencil Day. But within the dreariness of January and February, and the routines of ordinary days, I sometimes settle into doldrums. But now turn my face and heart again to you so I notice, like John wrote, the many other things you do, too many to be contained in the books written about you. Thank you for your extraordinary love and sacrifice. - Amen


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