I challenge you to a dare

Trees, grass, water, rocks; all ordinary, extraordinarily beautiful. A garden in Bar Harbor, Maine, June 2012

Trees, grass, water, rocks; all ordinary, extraordinarily beautiful.
A garden in Bar Harbor, Maine, June 2012

“Can I challenge you to a dare?  Today, stop praying for anything other than the life you have!…before we begin the year, with a sense of adventure, give thanks for your most “ordinary” life.  This is how the miracle begins, as we embark with a sense of adventure seeking the splendid in the simple gift of the everyday.”
Sarah Ban Breathnach

One of my two all-time favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz, which I’ve always thought of (sometimes over the teasing of friends) as a story with many profound lessons.  Through dazzling but difficult adventures, Dorothy learns that what she has been seeking has been hers all along.  It’s a discovery I imagine that many of us need to make.

If the past 14 months have done nothing else for me (although they have done much), they have taught me the unsurpassed blessings that go with each moment of ordinary life.  It’s something I knew intellectually for years, but recently I have been rather hit over the head with it, again and again.  While these poundings have left me more than a little bewildered at times, they have provided a sort of clarity through which I am able to see things I didn’t see very well before.

What do you love most about your everyday life?  Feel free to share these graces with us here.  Reading of your joys, we will doubtless recognize common threads in our own amazing tapestries.  Let’s keep weaving!

One year ago today

Endlessly fascinated


  1. You are so right Julia. I too learned that lesson. I am thankful that I open my eyes every morning. Having had cancer three times since 1983 has been an eye opener for me. I am here, I was able to raise my children. I have the pleasure of loving my grandchildren, loving them to pieces, and just being alive. I always focus on the positive, and trust in the Lord to get me through any rough times.
    Seeing little smiling faces, giving hugs, getting hugs. Helping someone in need. Being able to listen when someone needs to vent. Keeping my shoulder available if someone is crying. I have learned what is really important to me, and I am happy. :o)

    • Thank you Patricia – you have given us such wonderful images to remember when we feel blue. Your experiences have given you a kind of wisdom that enables you to help others. I have found that people who have been through TRULY difficult circumstances (as opposed to what many of us consider difficult in good times) are the best help and solace when things get really grim. Thanks for being here and sharing the joy of surviving and thriving!

  2. Jim Beavers

    Julia, your writing today blessed my heart. You caused me to reflect on the ordinary things in my life and see how “extraordinarily beautiful” they really are. Thank you for your extraordinary talent of providing rays of sunshine in an often dark and gloomy world.

    • Thank you Jim, I am so happy you like the post today. I’m sure there are those who will read it and roll their eyes or think it’s a bunch of cliches, but to those who understand, no explanation is really needed. I once told a friend “I learned that boring is beautiful” but of course I’m never truly bored. The times of quiet and normalcy are when we rest up so we can ride the next big wave. I hope you have a wonderful weekend – thanks for being here!

  3. Linda Blackford

    Having one of my grandsons here to spend the night is one of the things I love the most about my “ordinary” life! As they get older (13 and 8!), I realize how precious these times are, and I treasure them even more. I realize how fortunate I am that they live close to me and that they still have time to spare for our one-on-one visits. Soon, the 8 year old will be waking up, and my day will be busier! Last night, he went to sleep excited that this is the month he turns 9! If time could slow down a bit, that would be fine with me!

    • Linda, I’m so happy you have your grandsons nearby! Not only is it a blessing to you, but also to them, one they will be remembering and talking about many years from now. It’s funny you mentioned your grandson being excited about turning 9 – I can remember the day before my 9th birthday, I did NOT want to be 9 because I liked being 8! I told my Mama and she said “Well, then just enjoy being 8 today!” 🙂 I’m not sure why I felt that way – I can’t remember having such an idea any other year – but it’s good if your grandson can get excited about what lies ahead! He is lucky to have you there to share it with him! Thanks for being here today.

  4. I hope to dare to love my ordinary life.

    • Cherie, it is something of a dare, isn’t it? Especially when we are surrounded by messages, commercial and otherwise, that tell us we should do more, have more and be more. It’s great to improve our minds and lives and circumstances, but things will be so much happier if we learn to be content along the way. More easily said than done, but it’s certainly a goal of mine this year too. Thanks for being with us!

  5. Rene

    How beautiful, what a contrast to Jenelle’s photo from yesterday. The Emerald City indeed!

    Right now, I enjoy coffee and my morning devotional, especially in front of the colorful lights of the Christmas tree. I love how excited the dogs get when I put on my running clothes. I love my job.

    • Rene, you just mentioned some of my favorite things. I do love sitting and sipping with the Christmas tree lights on. And I used to love it how Pasha would get so excited when he saw me putting on my walking shoes. You are blessed to have a job you love – I know from experience what a difference that can make in life. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy most all the jobs I’ve held, and it’s so much easier to get up in the morning and face another day when you have work you can look forward to. Thanks for sharing these sunny thoughts with us today!

  6. raynard

    Julia, this is the second time i’ve read this.( wifey dragged me out of the house to go to”Old Navy).The only 2 parts of “The Wizard of Oz that I got anything out of was 1 Ignore that man behind the curtain and 2 when they arrived @ oz and the sign said “be back in 5 minutes.. I always wondered on the last part when I get to”the front of the line for heaven”… Yesterday it was so cold, both my dogs”rolled their eyes about going outside”..Spoke to my oldest cousin just a few moments ago about the passing of my oldest sister. Tell me if this makes any sense to you. Life to me is 1 Precious, 2 A gift and 3 “Short”..make the best of it with, the talents and gifts God gave you to share with others.. Oh, I finally got ‘Google to backup all my pictures, so the next few weeks, remind me “what cake and what flowers I will be sharing with you. It’s the least I can do to brighten up both you and Jeff’s day.( tired of looking at snow year?. be blessed

    • Raynard, yes to 1, 2 and 3…I am working on backing up my photos too, but it’s a huge task! I will look forward to seeing some of yours cakes and flowers. Go back and watch The Wizard of Oz again sometime and focus on the part at the very end where it’s all black and white again. But aside from that, surely you at least remember the flying monkeys?!! When I was a kid I thought they were so terrifying. I have a note on my fridge that says “Don’t make me call out the flying monkeys!” 🙂 That made me smile about your dogs rolling their eyes from the cold. I remember Pasha (who always wanted to go outside) would sometimes walk out on a very hot day and turn right around and try to go back in the house. Dogs that live in the south have to deal with heat more than cold but I guess life is rough all over (except maybe in California or Hawaii).

  7. Sheila

    Julia, I suppose appreciation of what we have really can come suddenly, if we have a life-threatening experience. I think my fall, down a flight of stairs in our home, almost three years ago, took our family by surprise and gave us renewed faith. I am starting my mornings with the daily readings of “Simple Abundance” and also “Romancing The Ordinary”, both written by Sarah Ban Breathnach.I have read them before but decided to read them again, together, starting January 1st. 🙂 I’m so glad we share a unique friendship across the miles. Sheila

    • Sheila, I have both of those books too. You will probably recognize several quotes from them that I used here on the blog somewhere, both from the author and from others she quoted. I’m agree with you about the unique friendship. I was telling Drew a few minutes ago, there are very few people I hear from as regularly as I hear from some of my blogging friends. Face-to-face life is typically not structured to allow very brief, regular exchanges with those we do not live or work with daily. It’s nice to be able to connect briefly on a regular basis. Thanks so much for staying in touch here!

  8. Jack

    A poem my mother made me memorize as a child by Robert Louis Stevenson:

    Happy Thought

    The world is so full of a number of things,
    I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

    But I never mastered the art of happiness, a dreadful malady of the soul. I’m very proficient in hiding my tendency to despair, but I’m very certain that you are right about the sacredness of the ordinary. In my best moments, I’m overcome with joy for the blessings good health, a loving and delightful family, talent and intelligence of the average variety, a love for some healthy and healing things. But my default is not, unfortunately, contentedness. Developing a heart of gratitude is work, exercise, like learning to speak another language. Thanks for being one of my teachers!

    • Jack, that poem has been a favorite of mine for as far back as I can remember, since I used to read it in my family’s old Childcraft volumes. It may sound contradictory, but I think a lot of us who relish life and love many things still suffer from the tendency toward melancholia. I think it’s partly genetic, but also I think our society (fueled largely by the media) is feeding and perpetuating and creating it, to the point that anxiety, depression, frustration and other forms of mental anguish are seemingly more widespread than the physical ailments which I believe often result from them. It was this dawning awareness, based on what I saw happening in so many lives around me, that prompted me to start this blog. I realized that we live in a world where people have more to feel thankful about than ever before, yet we feel increasingly angry, discontented, despairing and ungrateful. I totally agree that developing gratitude is a form of discipline and exercise, and it disturbs me to see so many people who seem determined to think themselves disadvantaged or helpless or past due for a break. Often, I must confess, I can count myself in that number. It’s not lost on me that many of the most grateful and contented people I have ever known have been those who would never be seen by others as having lives to be envied. These humble people — because I think, in the end, gratitude is impossible without true humility — have been and continue to be my teachers, and if I am a teacher to you, it is only insofar as I have been a student of theirs. It’s not hard to find such people; they are all around us, in schools and churches and businesses, working cheerfully at jobs many of us would refuse to hold. I highly recommend watching for them. Without even trying, they teach us some of the best lessons. Thanks for being here and sharing your struggles and aspirations with us!

  9. Loving others, sharing smiles, helping others by going that extra mile, taking time to smell the roses, giving God much more time in my day, going for walks talking to God, enjoying nature more, spending time with my family, and always making sure they know they are important and how much I truly love and value each of them. Praying always that God will bless me each and everyday to share a message that moves another brother or sisters heart and spirit! Making every moment in a day to be meaningful! Making sure I pray for others first before I pray for myself…I know I am in good hands! I want others to know and understand those feelings too! Wonderful message and challenge Julia! God bless you!

    • Wendell, thanks for sharing these thoughts and goals with us. I say amen to all of them. Some of them I’m doing better with than others, but I know that all of them will bring blessings! Thanks for being here.

  10. Julia, you words are always inspiring, they touch the spirit and soul within, and cause thoughts to blossom into words! You are genuinely a beautiful soul within, that makes you a treasure to your family and the rest of us, as that blessing comes from God alone. He will be with you always!

    • Thank you Wendell, that is a lovely compliment. One of the best things to come out of the trials we have faced in the past years, is that I learned from experience that God never, ever leaves us, no matter what. Even when we are in a dark tunnel and can’t see him, we find out at the end of the tunnel that he was there all along. Then the next time we remember that and know, and it’s not as frightening.

  11. Things almost always turn out better than you anticipated I find. It’s hard to remember this when things seem to be completely off the rails. To some extend I think ‘we are the masters of our universe’. You set the stage, develop a wonderful team, attended hard working rehearsals and reap the rewards of the performances. I actually am learning that a gracious life, to a large extent, happens by design. Of course we are not in charge of the universe, but how we react to adversity, dictates part of the story too. I saw this on another blog yesterday, pinned it and think it’s fab. Have a wonderful day (I’m catching up big time today)

    • I love it and just pinned it to my quotes board! Such a beautiful design, too. YES a gracious life happens by design. Some of the most gracious people I have ever known were people of modest means and humble station. They had little wealth, but being in their homes was/is a calming and refreshing experience. You are also right that it can be hard to remember the good times when immersed in bad ones. When I’m outside on a very, very hot day, I cannot imagine ever being cold, and the same is true in reverse on a cold day. It’s funny how the mind is so easily ensnared by some types of sensory input. Anxiety, sorrow or fear can be just as pervasive, coloring everything and giving a false sense of reality to the gloom. Knowing that can help us ride the waves of emotion.

      • Isn’t that cute artwork, I thought so too.

        You are always so smart and articulate about things 😀 I love chatting with you my dear 😀 Going back to another message (ha), yes yes to co-ordinating a meet up in California sometimes. I think our next plan is for Alys to swing by here, but it’s far easier for me to be flexible with no job or kids, so who knows. Have an awesome day. xoK

        • Just remember, the east coast is way overstocked with stuff to see too! We may not have the weather or airfares that California has to offer, but we make up for it with attitude 🙂 and the occasional red-eye special to NYC.

  12. My husband was in NYC for work this fall but I’d just got back from California and was ready to stay home. Someday, we’ll make it a destination. I love to see all the sights there. One reason we hang out west is because going east takes pretty much a whole day with the time difference. There is a direct flight now from Edmonton to NYC, so that’s a big plus.

    • Yes, flying very far east is basically one day for just travel, given the jet lag. You get a bit of it back when you go home, though. Still, you do need to plan for it and realize that first day won’t be good for much. As with NorCal, the great thing about NYC is there are wonderful things to see in every direction you go. And very quick/inexpensive “shuttle” flights to Boston, from where it’s an easy, easy drive to New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, all well worth exploring. But maybe not all that different from Canada, come to think of it…

      • It all sounds fantastic 😀 I was at a conference once and asked a travel agent also attending with her husband where her favourite American destination was and she said Boston. I don’t know why I was surprised, because I’ve never been there. It just took me by surprise 😀

        • Boston is a very cool city in itself, small enough to be easily navigated, with much to see. But to me its real charm is in its location so close to many other wonderful places. Cape Cod alone would be worth the trip to Boston. Martha’s Vineyard is wonderful to visit, and I hope to make it to Nantucket sometime. Plus all the other places previously mentioned, and more.

  13. I copy the following synopsis, word for word, from a newspaper:

    The Wizard of Oz (8 – 10 p.m., TCM
    — Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl
    kills the first person she meets and then teams up
    with three strangers to kill again.

    (I’m not making this up.)

    • That must have been composed by the same copywriters who re-worked the publicity for the film formerly titled “Whispering Branches.” Bonus points if you remember what the new title was.

      • Of course I remember – Mad Magazine being a staple of our youth (Even fit well in our mother’s grocery cart “35 cents Cheap”)
        The answer, for bonus points:
        The Hell Raisers

        • Correct! You win a year’s subscription to MAD Magazine, if it still exists. The “Whispering Branches” article may have been one of their all-time funniest, and that’s saying something. “Meet the whole dirty gang– as…”

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