Ordinary Holiness

I had so many plans for this Holy Week.  Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services with my church family; an Easter Egg hunt with my biggest little and her preschool class.  I had a full calendar partially because my husband is in an incredibly busy (and what I think is insane) season of work – he leaves every day before dawn and comes home well after the girls are in bed… 7 days a week for the last two weeks and possibly for the next six.  (I can’t think about those weeks stretching ahead of me too much or I start prepping for a spectacularly big Pity Party.)  So I had my plans – plans to keep us moving and busy and passing the time, plans to dig in deep into all the beauty and ugliness, light and darkness that is Holy Week. 

Instead, the week found me holding my biggest girl’s hair back while she rode waves of nausea and kept reassuring me that she’d “feel better tomorrow.”  We spent the week visiting the doctor daily as they tried to get strep, an ear infection and bronchitis under control.  Two shots and lots of anti-nausea medicine later, and I’m finally starting to see my little girl come back to me. 

And just like that, Holy Week is almost over and I haven’t showered today and my house is in an upheaval.  I’m not sure I even cracked the cover of my Bible this week.  I certainly didn’t get to do a single thing I planned, but I did change the sheets on Cora’s bed three times.  I’m looking forward to watching my girls hunt Easter Eggs and celebrating the Resurrection tomorrow, but that’s the first and last of my Official Easter Plans that look like they might work out.  This happened last year – my Easter plans got thrown out the window because our family was in a time of needing to huddle close.  And I can’t help but think about how there is an Easter lesson in this for me.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)

When Jesus was having his last meal with his beloved brothers and friends, he washed their feet and served them.  He told them the secret to life… the secret to kingdom building and world changing.  And it wasn’t in swords or strong words or power.  It was and it is in love.  In that moment, he didn’t let his eyes wander to the world outside that upper room.  He was fully present with the people who God had given him to pour himself into, and he washed their feet and broke their bread and poured their cup.  He served them with love and whole-heartedness, even as his eyes were set on the path to the cross.  And he told them the secret to life; the secret to kingdom building and world changing. The secret is quiet and subversive and doesn’t often have the appearance of power… the secret is love. 

I’ve often wondered, especially as a child, how the cries of “Hosanna” could change so quickly to angry shouts of “Crucify Him.”  But the older I get, and the more I find myself in a position of unglamorous service to these little ones God has given me, I think I understand a bit more.  It’s easy to shout Hosanna when you think your savior is going to ride into town and turn the world upside down, breaking down unjust political systems and upending unfair social practices.   He will be powerful and prevail!  You will be a victim no more!! And when he takes his position of power, maybe you’ll get your status in life promoted, too.  “Allow us to sit at Your right and at Your left in Your glory.”(Mark 10:37) It’s easy for me to shout Hosanna when I see God giving me opportunities for influence and impact.  But when he rides into town and whispers words about love and peace and self-sacrifice and service, it seems to be human nature to feel at least a little bitterness and resentment rise up.  Or maybe a lot… maybe enough to change our Hosannas to Crucify Him. 

The girls’ NaiNai sent them some Easter books, and I found myself laughing out loud at the first few pages of the book as we read it yesterday.  Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday, by Carol Heyer.

Cora kept looking at me like I’d lost my mind because there was nothing funny about it to a 4-year-old.  And I kept laughing so hard I cried, because none of us want to be the camel bringing up the rear.    

If I look at the work of my days and all I see is piles of laundry and dirty dishes, weeks upon weeks of managing bedtime by myself and grocery-store trips and meal-planning ad nauseam, I begin to feel as irritable as Humphrey.  “I’m capable of more than this, God!”  I grumble, like Humphrey, as I pull the load of clothes from the washer to the dryer.  “I can be of greater service if I could just have the chance!” I gripe, as I change yet another dirty diaper.  “I’m sick of watching other people change the world from the sidelines!”I complain, as if the only thing in my field of vision is another camel’s rump. 

“Managing a house and raising children and dealing with sickness by myself while my husband works 90 hours a week… This isn’t what I signed up for!”  The bitterness and resentment turns quickly to anger, and just like that, my Hosanna disappears and I join the ugly chorus of those shouting Crucify Him.

But His whisper doesn’t change… He breaks bread and pours out cup and washes the feet of those he loves on the last night he walks this earth, showing us that service is at the heart of his way.  He demonstrates peace as he tells his friends to put away swords and heals the ear of the enemy who has come to kill him.  He walks out self-sacrifice as he puts one step in front of the other and carries his cross to the hill on Good Friday.  And love?  From the very cross where he is giving his life, he asks the Father to forgive the ones who put him there.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  (John 15:13)

And so I’m finding that maybe I didn’t miss Holy Week at all.  Maybe these everyday acts of love and self-sacrifice and service are bringing me closer to the heart of what it means to be a Jesus follower than any grandiose act could ever do. 

Right now my life doesn’t look extraordinary, but I see his example to follow.  I hear him whispering to keep my eyes focused on the children at my feet in this moment, not letting my eyes wander to the world outside my living room when they need me here.  I hear him asking me to be fully present with the people who God has given me to pour myself into, washing their feet and breaking their bread and pouring their cup.  Serving them with love and whole-heartedness, even if it feels like sometimes it requires sacrificing all that I want to do. 

This is the secret to life; the secret to kingdom building and world changing. The secret is quiet and subversive and doesn’t often have the appearance of power… the secret is love.  It may look more ordinary than extraordinary, but in this ordinary holiness I will find Him.


This post is dedicated to my friend Lori, who not only took my girls on a fun date this morning giving me some truly child-free time for the first time in over two weeks, but also fixed them lunch so I could finish writing this.  She’s a beautiful example of his love and service in action.

3 thoughts on “Ordinary Holiness

  1. Wow Carrie. You spoke right to my heart. I needed this reminder myself!!!! Actually I need this reminder about 17 million times a day. I love you! You're so evidently right where God wants you to be!!! Hugs, good mama!!!


  2. Absolutely the core of what motherhood teaches you, and why being a mother is something I'd wish for all of my daughters. It is a way of getting outside of yourself and learning to dedicate your whole self to service, and when you've really learned to do that there is no looking back, no regrets and nothing but 100% for Jesus.
    Virginia Kearney


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