If You Think Your Story is Too Ordinary

October 10, 2013 | 24 comments

She thought her story was too ordinary.

Especially compared to the others. Which is always the way we decide that our story, our dream, our accomplishment, our faith testimony, our ( _______ ) doesn’t amount to much. We set our own story — dreadfully dull — up next to the stories that shine. We compare to the ones that get the Facebook shares, the accolades, the standing ovation.

My big sister didn’t say those words exactly, but that’s what I heard her  saying when I held the telephone between my cheek and my shoulder over the noon hour.

We talked, and I made sandwiches on wheat bread to take to the farmers in the field. And I heard her telling me — in a way — that her story felt like white bread. Blah. Boring. Ordinary.

I heard her saying that she didn’t have a big story to tell. The others had  stories that wowed. And the story that she did have? Maybe parts of it didn’t feel safe to share in front of a live audience. I get that.

But you’ve got to know something about my big sister: She’s not ordinary. I would know. She’s been holding me close to her heart since she was eleven years old. That’s how old she was when Mom and Dad brought me home from the hospital; she scooped me up like I was her own.

She’s always been my hero. She was the first one to do all the things I wanted to do someday: drive a car, go to college, get married, diaper her own child, hold down a job that made a difference in the world.

She’s only, and always, been extraordinary to me — right there in the middle of her own ordinary life in the carpool lane, and her Cooking Light kitchen, in her international marketing work, her study of Chinese, her appreciation for the best wines. She’s shown me adventure. Together, we’ve taken crazy trips to Brazil and remote Canada fishing lakes and out to the empty middle of a snow-kissed canyon.

But sister, I know. I know.

Yeah. I get what it feels like to be ordinary, to feel like my story is doornail-dead. That someone has said it before, and has said it better. That my life isn’t worth a headline or a stage. So I ought to just snap my mouth and my laptop shut.

Except for the fact that most of us really are pretty … ordinary. We’re not the headline-makers, and the spotlight-takers, and the fame-rakers. We’re just a bunch of people moving from the diaper changing tables to the vegetable garden to the church nursery to the cubicle. And we need to tell each other the middle stories, the ordinary stories, the pots-and-pans stories where we find the little miracles of community and love and everlasting hope.

Look… Most of us don’t live on the extremes. Most of us are living in the ordinary middle. And while the power-stories have their place in this world, proving with awe and splendor that God can make pure gold from the rubbish of our lives, people need to hear the day-to-day stories, too.

And sister? We can call it humdrum, or a real snoozer. But this is where we’re making our lives — over the kitchen island where we stack sandwiches for hungry farmers, and over the dining room table where you’ve always kept a spot open, and hunched over the impossible math worksheets and vocabulary study guides until it finally clicked for your sweet child.

Not everyone can relate to the amazing story of a 150-pound weight loss, or surviving ten days in the woods with no food.

But everyone wants to hear the story about how some days? It was a miracle that we got out of bed.

God is making an extraordinary story, out of our ordinary moments. And the only one who can tell that story?

Is you.

by | October 10, 2013 | 24 comments


  1. Whitney Cornelison

    I LOVE this! Thank you so much. We all have a story to tell. A story to encourage, a story to relate to, a story to give God the glory. We just need to put aside our fears of what others think and tell our story the way God has written our lives.

  2. Mrs. H.

    Amazing. Needed to hear this.

  3. Mel

    It has taken me too long to get to the point where ordinary is ok…and where I’m content to be who He’s created me to be. He’s teaching me to embrace each blessing as extraordinary…what a gift. 🙂 Love your words tonight…blessings and happy Friday to you!

  4. stultsmamaof4

    I needed this reminder tonight. I’m ordinary, and that’s okay. I’m just learning to be who He created me to be – no more, no less. 🙂 Thanks for sharing with the FMF bunch!

  5. SB

    Sometimes the story, our story, is just too painfully ordinary.

    • dukeslee

      Hi SB … I hope you know how extraordinary you are.

  6. christywillard

    Thank you for your encouraging post. I was just thinking how aren’t we all sort of ordinary? This line was my favorite: “God is making an extraordinary story, out of our ordinary moments.” I need to remember that, because some days, it’s easy to forget.

    Christy @ A Heartening Life

  7. Crystal S.

    This is just beautiful. And I love walking in the ordinary and letting God take care of the extraordinary (there’s a lot less pressure that way!)

  8. Caryn Christensenn

    Oh.Yes. Jennifer yes. There are those WITH “power-stories, proving with awe and splendor that God can make pure gold from the rubbish of our lives” that would give almost anything to have walked in the every-day ordinary…”moving from the diaper changing tables to the vegetable garden to the church nursery to the cubicle.” God desires to use every story for His glory. It’s not up to us to judge our stories, but to share. Thank you for this. I love ordinary.

  9. Lynda

    This is perfect Jennifer! Thanks for creating such a story yourself. That Juliann Walter is pretty damn special! And so are you!

    • dukeslee

      You’re both amazing. I need to write a post about my other amazing sissy, Lynda! Love you both! xoxo (And brother John, of course…)

  10. Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    I actually think our ordinary lives, which we live with gratitude and joy, is quite extraordinary for creating beauty in the mundane everyday, year in and year out takes extraordinary courage!
    Blessings XX

    • dukeslee

      Exactly, Mia. That’s the message I was trying to communicate. I hope it came through. 🙂

  11. Alyssa Santos

    That was similar to advice I was given many years ago by a lovely lady, who happened to be a book author, too. It’s interesting how our common response to our own redemption stories waver between indifference and contempt — but God sees us differently and invites us to see our stories from his viewpoint, and then, as in Psalm 40, tell it to the congregation.

  12. Brock Henning

    Hey there, Jennifer. Great motivation, especially in those final two words. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. hollysbarrett

    It’s so true that God makes extraordinary out of our ordinary. Our thoughts ran on the same page this week, Jennifer!! Great post.

  14. Kelly Greer

    Jennifer…you bring the ordinary to life with you words…no white bread for sure! I am learning to write about the ordinary at my new blog…I hope you’ll visit me there since I won’t be climbing miubtains anymore!

  15. rickd3352013

    A line from an old Joni Mitchell song – “You know the times when you impress me the most are the times when you don’t try, when you don’t even try”.

    Your sister is far from “white bread,” and so are you, friend 🙂

  16. Debi Stangeland (@DebiStangeland)

    These words are such a wonderful reminder. Thank you for sharing them with us and helping us to see that we need ordinary sometimes, to relate and encourage what is real. See you in SC.

  17. Mindy

    “This is where we’re making our lives ” – so true. And in one fell swoop you have reminded us our ordinary is extraordinary indeed…

  18. Ashley Skillman

    This was so encouraging and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this and sharing your heart!

  19. monicasharman

    Interesting. You posted this on my birthday.

    Oh, and I always make whole-wheat bread around here, so my sons think white bread is fabulous. 🙂


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