The glory of the middle parts

Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week.

I realize that, when asked, most people would say Friday, because it’s on the cusp of the weekend, or maybe even Monday, because it smells like opportunity, and setting lofty goals for the week. I used to be like that, too. But now, every Sunday evening, when I pull out the calendar and map out our family’s meetings and appointments and church services and scheduling needs, I always find myself looking forward to Wednesday.

It might seem a bit silly, I suppose. There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about Wednesday; in fact, it all seems quite…normal, doesn’t it? The middle of the week. Hump Day, as it’s been fondly named. Ordinary. A bit hum-drum, like a waiting room in your dentist’s office, or the color beige. But see, I’ve been finding lately that there is quite a lot of beauty to be found in the ordinary. In the middle parts of our week, or even our lives. We always want to skip over them to get to something more sensational, but if we’d pause, even for only a moment, we might be surprised at what we find there.

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Our two-year old started preschool this year–part time, of course, but it gives him an opportunity to learn things like socialization and structure. We started him off going two days a week; Tuesdays and Thursdays, as those are the days I leave for work by 7:30 and return nearly twelve hours later.

And then, a couple weeks in, once we realized he was thriving and doing better than we ever could have anticipated, we decided to add another day to his schedule. Even though I work for just a few hours in the afternoon, we enrolled him for Wednesdays as well. We figured the extra time in the mornings would be helpful for things like running errands. Grocery shopping. Cleaning the house without a toddler tornado underfoot. And they are; helpful, that is. Enormously so.

But then there are Wednesdays when I don’t have much to do. The floors are vacuumed, the dishes put away. I get to sit in my favorite arm chair, and drink my coffee while it’s still hot, and maybe read a little bit, or respond to a few emails. It’s a brief part of my day–the middle part, funny enough–that I have for just me, and it’s delicious, and I feel the pleasure of God in it.

Today I’m folding dish towels while worship music streams over my phone. The air outside is brisk, and snow is falling lightly, swirling in the wind a bit, like ballerinas on a stage. Our seasons are in the in-between space, as well. We’re on the tail’s end of autumn, where most of the trees are bare and preparing for our long winter, but there are still a few branches of burnt orange and singed honey yellow. Everywhere I turn these days, I see the glory of the middle places. The next big thing is always coming, of course. Winter will arrive and blanket it all in dazzling white. The dish towels will be placed in a drawer, the music silenced, and I will drive to work and immerse myself in the delightful chaos of childcare. Wednesday will give way to Thursday with its long hours and frenzied pace.

But not yet.

For now, I will root myself in this middle place, plant my feet here, seek the gifts here. My eyes will see beauty, my heart will feel God’s smile. I believe we can find him just as much in the ordinary and hum-drum as we can in the remarkable. These days I’m learning how blurred the lines between sacred and secular really are, how God in all things isn’t just an empty phrase but that he inhabits every moment, and it’s all so rich and pregnant with meaning.

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I use the word pregnant because motherhood, more than anything else in my life, has taught me the beauty of the life between. A few months ago, I wrote about the metaphorical altars I would build in my son’s life, the moments in time I could mark and breathe a prayer and say, “The Lord was in this place”. I confess I struggled to see him most days. I was lost in a sea of dirty diapers and dirty dishes, in hours spent in the rocking chair holding my babe, in marveling over each new skill he acquired. There were late nights, early mornings, and after-midnight wakeups that left us all feeling a little worn and frayed at the edges. It didn’t feel very holy most of the time, if I’m being honest. It felt messy, or uncomfortable, even ordinary.

But those are the moments I’ll remember most. The glory of the middle parts.
These are the days I’ll remember most. Folding dishtowels and watching the snow fall.

The glory of the middle parts.

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We’re designed to constantly be on the look-out for what’s next, what’s around the bend, the next big thing, if you will. (Well, maybe not designed that way, but definitely conditioned.) And in a sense, it is good and right and helpful to be able to look ahead. But what might happen if we learn to embrace the pause? If we look for the middle places in our lives and choose to stay there a little while longer? What would we learn about ourselves? About others? About a society that tells us our worth is wrapped up in what we do, how much we produce, what we’ve accomplished?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and it’s a holiday that doesn’t often get its fair dues. We’re eager to skip over it and get into the Christmas season, with the sensationalism of lights and glitter and color and a million things competing for our attention. Thanksgiving is kind of our afterthought, the proverbial middle child.

But my prayer for you is that you are present, fully & completely, at your tables tomorrow. Whoever you are with, however you celebrate, my hope is that your eyes will be open to see both the glory and the mess. These are the days you’ll remember, I promise you.

So lean in and embrace it.

1 Comment
  • Michelle
    November 21, 2018

    This. As I strive to walk through the liturgical calendar, I realize that “Ordinary Time” is so aptly named. The most substantial part of our long obedience in the same direction is made up of living in the in-between moments. Not wishing them away brings great blessing. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend. May you indeed see God in both the glory amd the mess.❤️

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