A Uniquely Ordinary Life

By: Marcy Barthelette

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I learned early in life that books could take me to places I could only dream of and introduce me to people who would become my heroes. I devoured stories about men and women who made great scientific discoveries or fought valiantly for our nation’s freedom and I feasted on tales of explorers setting foot on new ground. I dived into the Mayflower’s cruise across the Atlantic with gusto. I rode alongside Paul Revere to alert the countryside of eminent danger. I sat through long, restless nights with Abe Lincoln and best of all, I travelled the Missouri River and then the mighty Columbia with Lewis and Clark. More recently, I wondered how it would feel to be Thomas Edison and invent the light bulb or Jonas Salk and develop the vaccine for polio. And how about being the first man to step from a space ship down onto the moon?

As an adult, imagine my surprise at the reality that sailing on the Mayflower was certainly no party cruise. It involved tremendous sacrifice and a lot of plain old fortitude. The revolution meant grueling years of fighting and loneliness and being without food, clean water or even shoes. Freedom wasn’t and never will be free. Old Abe was a man revered by many but hated by many more. His desire to keep our country united cost him dearly. And as for Lewis and Clark, for every new wonder they beheld in this land of plenty, there was a danger that threatened to claim their lives. Mr. Edison endured numerous failures along the way to perfecting that light bulb and Mr. Salk spent countless years in the lab before a reliable vaccine finally made its way to the population. I can’t even imagine the rigorous training required to facilitate human space travel, but I assure you Neil Armstrong felt every moment of it. Have I lost my enthusiasm for their stories? Certainly not, but reality does illuminate them through a new lens.

As I muse over all the dreams I’ve dreamt about finding cures for disease or traveling the world to discover unknown islands or caverns, I have often felt my life has been very dull indeed. All that adventure fueled my rich imagination but it also left me wondering why my life seemed so ordinary. When we view life from the perspective of one event, we fail to see the cumulative depth of even our own stories. But as a whole book, they create an exciting story that is uniquely our own.

I’ve visited the re-created Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts and walked the soil that Pilgrims so diligently worked. I’ve strolled the Freedom Trail in Boston and seen the home that once belonged to Paul Revere. I’ve been to Gettysburg, where one can almost hear the cannons roar as President Lincoln prepares to deliver his Emancipation Proclamation. And, while I’ve never made it to the west coast, I have visited Missouri sites where Lewis and Clark passed through, and I still have hope of traveling their journey to that far shore. I’ve seen the tales of science and space travel in museums across our country. I have listened to the roar of the mighty Niagara as it tumbles over cliffs to pools below. I’ve stood atop Pike’s Peak and gazed at the other surrounding “fourteeners,” their name alluding to their height. I’ve watched snow form from the trees on one side of Clingman’s Dome and dump itself on the other side. I’ve dipped my toes into the Atlantic from Maine to Florida and marveled at the blue-green waters and white sugar sand beaches of the Gulf shore.

As a child, I was blessed by the love and protection of parents who had little materially, but were wealthy beyond measure in their dedication to showing me, by example, the way I should live. As I grew into adulthood and spread my wings, I wasn’t always the person they taught me to be and I certainly wasn’t always the person God created me to be. But life’s  events began to turn me around. As an expectant mom, I felt the sheer delight of new life stirring within me and I later laughed at a toothless little grin until I realized that adorable smiling little face was expressing the joy of downloading all that strained food I’d worked so hard to prepare into her diaper. How could I ever have thought that was cute? I’ve cheered toddlers through their first steps and sent kindergartners off into a big world of new beginnings. I’ve cried tears of joy at graduations, weddings, and births of another generation. I’ve been a working mom and a single mom. I’ve seen life from many angles.

For many, but not all, of my adventures and misadventures, I’ve had a wonderful husband at my side to share the experience. We became a blended family when our kids where thirteen, twelve, and ten. We’ve sat up many nights with a sick or anxious child but spent many more at programs and games and holidays with those same children. And in our older years, we’ve celebrated and agonized with our grandchildren through those same growth cycles. Life goes on.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the events in my life and, large or small, they create a composite that is uniquely me, a rich tapestry woven together with threads of all the people and experiences that have filled these years. Contrary to my earlier belief, there’s nothing ordinary about my story. It’s filled with twists and turns, successes and failures, good times and trying times. It’s the life God gave me and He’s traveled every road with me, even if I forgot momentarily that He was there. He’s never let me down and He never will. And I am absolutely certain He still has a few adventures ahead for me.  

Every book has its calm waters that set the stage for an exciting finish. Our lives are much like that. We don’t have to travel to find adventures. They’re all around us, on the other side of town, across the street, and in our own backyards, just waiting for us to open the cover of the book and turn the page. If you sometimes think your time on earth is or has been meaningless, take a closer look at all God has done for you, go out and write a new chapter, then repeat a much-used phrase from our beloved Pastor Phil, “It’s all good!” And it’s all uniquely YOU!


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