When Your Right-Now Work Feels Extra Ordinary But Not Extraordinary {and something I made for you}

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The day began in the pre-dawn hours with black coffee. It’s a telltale sign I’m extra serious about the day.

By 7:30 I had cooked four hot breakfasts, packed two lunches, and made an unplanned trip to the middle school. I’d walked the dog and made a grocery list, even though I was just there yesterday. And probably the day before.

A friend asked me why I don’t just buy cereal. “It’ll change your life,” she said.

It’s true. Cereal is from the Lord and I promise you that we eat plenty of it because many of our mornings are just sheer survival. I’m often stumbling through the early moments of a new day in ways that feel less like June Cleaver and more like a hangover.

But when the stars align, when I’m up early and have the capacity to do All The Things, I try to nourish these people of mine before we all go our separate ways, hopeful that the warm food in their bellies feeds their souls and not just their bodies.

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It sounds idyllic but let’s be honest — it’s work. And it leaves the kitchen a disaster. I don’t feel naturally inclined toward any of it and yet I find myself, again and again, serving up oatmeal and stacking up laundry like it’s a normal thing. Because it totally is.

This is my right-now life.

My younger self found herself lost in thoughts about doing big, brave things in the world.

My right-now self finds herself lost in thoughts about work-life balance, ordering takeout, and being able to lie down.

I think hard about better ways to get everything done, wondering how I can best approach work life, family life, writing life, community life. I shift and re-shift these blocks of time around in my mind, working it like a puzzle that will forever have a missing piece or three.

On black coffee mornings, I wonder how I got here.

My small life in this big world feels both humble and humbling.

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College degrees and four years of graduate school provided not a single course that taught the skills I clumsily employ for the majority of my waking hours.

I am both overqualified and woefully unprepared.

This humble, ordinary life of mine is my greatest earthly treasure. Yet on a daily basis, I often consider the work required in maintaining this treasure as “beneath me.” I work tirelessly to make all the puzzle pieces fit into a vignette that is awe-inspiring. But the truth is, my everyday landscape looks mostly like unmatched socks, an embarrassingly full inbox, and making dinner again.

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I know I’m not alone when I often long for more than dishes and lunches and permission forms.

In a culture that confuses significance with visibility, our daily lives and ordinary work convince us that we’re coming up short.

In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, author Tish Harrison Warren says this:

We tend to want a Christian life with the dull bits cut out.

Yet God made us to spend our days in rest, work, and play, taking care of our bodies, our families, our neighborhoods, our homes. What if all these boring parts matter to God? What if days passed in ways that feel small and insignificant to us are weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life that God has for us?

I find myself praying for God’s strength and presence as I swipe the peanut butter and scramble the eggs because the honest truth is this: I’d rather do something more significant.

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Yet these are the daily rhythms that knead truth and humility into my forgetful, prideful soul. The dailyness that comprises my existence can either rob me of life or give me more of it. Fighting for the latter is always worth it.

This fight to find my life in the ordinary places always begins with humility, with smallness.

Time and tasks spent in the daily service of my own household has become the holy ground of spiritual formation and transformation, namely my own. As I die to my own grand notions of significance, I begin to find life. It has not gotten easier, only more normal.

This hard-fought, daily relent feels much like repentance. First the resistance, then the surrender, and finally — the life and the freedom.

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Coram Deo is a Latin phrase that Christians have used for centuries. It literally means before the face of God.

To live coram Deo is to live all of life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and to the glory of God.

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Presence. This is Emmanuel, God with us. A God who washed feet and cooked fish and fed people. He is with us as we do the same, not as a distant ruler but as a kind, here-and-now companion, keeping company with us at the sink, in the classroom, and during the dark nights of the soul.

Authority. Yet this humble baby was also a sovereign King. A King who rules our individual lives with love and defends us against our enemies. This sovereign, loving King uses our everyday, right-now lives as instruments of redemption. It makes no sense to me but it has been the theme of my own life.

Glory. The smallest task on earth is bursting with glory potential, from the selling of goods and services, to the wiping of bottoms. When I’m struggling with insignificance, when I’m bemoaning mundane work, it’s usually because there’s a glory I’m not getting for myself.

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Life coram Deo means to live a life that is small in the best ways. This maker of Heaven and Earth is not helped along by our pride, entitlement, and ambition.

And it means to live a life that is big in the best ways. This Creator God is with us and for us.

Perhaps this is the big, brave life I wanted all along. Who knew that I would find it among the breakfast dishes?

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On an everyday December morning, in the hustle and bustle of a chaotic kitchen, I am good to be reminded of life coram Deo.

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Ours is an integrated life. It means that all of our work is sacred because it is done in the presence of Christ Himself. All ground is holy ground. All work is pregnant with the potential for our own transformation and for the feeding of bodies and souls.

Scripture says we “have this treasure in jars of clay.” I smile as I consider that God uses a common household item, an everyday clay jar — the ancient world’s Tupperware — as a vessel for treasure. This verse goes on to tell us why: “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” {2 Corinthians 4:7}

Our clay selves, prone to cracking and breaking, have been chosen to carry the light and life of Christ into every nook and cranny of our lives. This is the light and life that allows us to suffer with grace, to surrender with trust, and to serve when it’s not part of our “skill set” or resume.

When we die to the glory-seeking agendas for our own lives, we make space to receive His life that moves in us and through us.

May we be humbled to realize that the light which shines from the face of God somehow shines within us too, lighting our path to the bedside, the boardroom, the kitchen.

The smallest work is heavy with significance when it’s weighted with the God of the universe.

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As you may have guessed, my own journey with this phrase has inspired a wearable offering for you.

Just as I wear “courage” on the days I need a tangible reminder that there is strength while I wait, I wear “coram Deo” on the days when the tasks of my right-now life feel extra heavy.

Here are the details:

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Each coram Deo necklace is $17 each and that includes shipping.

  • Hand-stamped with love : )
  • Aged-brass look
  • Added tassel. The tassels come in assorted colors so the actual color you receive will be a surprise. (Since I don’t have an endless supply of any one color.) They’re all lovely and can go with anything!
coram Deo collection
  • Gold cord with at least a 16-inch (plus) drop
  • The cord makes it light and casual, simple to wear with anything and to layer with other necklaces.
  • I will ship within 1 business day of purchase.

These make such meaningful gifts and, well, it’s the season for that. I include a little note that references coram Deo and what it means. Order as many as you like (until they run out) and the shipping is still free.

coram deo gift

I’m set up a bit differently this time and now have my very own Etsy shop. These necklaces will be on sale through Saturday (December 16th) or until I sell out. Last time, I sold all the courage necklaces in a little over 24 hours, so you may want to act sooner rather than later.

Click here to get yours. 

Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section or email me at marianvischer @ gmail dot com.

Thanks so much for your kind support of this little corner of the internet. Happy shopping and gifting!

—> coram Deo neckalces

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If this post resonated with you, you may also enjoy:

How to Wear Courage in Your Right-Now Life

How to Pursue Your Hoped-For Work in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life {a series}

How to Waste Your Life and Call It Beautiful

How a 92-Year-Old Woman Taught Me the Real Value of My Right-Now Work

New here?

I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life. Each post provides courage, companionship, and resources for life lived real.

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Finding the Unlikely Path to Gratitude

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I’m an Accidental Optimist.

Thankfulness and positivity are just not the natural ways of me. I’ve alway been a glass-half-empty girl who faked that I’m not unless I was around those safest and closest. Bless their hearts, they have long borne my frequent lament, my incessant pining, my uncanny ability to see all that I was missing instead of all that I had.

My journey from empty to full began about nine years ago when I began writing on the internet. Turning the everyday stories of my messy, post-career life as a mother of three littles began to reorient my perspective. I’d begin a post with some sort of frustration or less than ideal situation, and lo, by the time I was finished, lemonade had replaced the lemons. Gratitude had replaced complaint. Grace had replaced failure.

It was the most serendipitous thing of my life. My own words would show up, one at a time, and take me somewhere else, even though I still lived in the same life. That’s still the way it happens. I never know exactly where they’ll lead; I simply follow the letters like bread crumbs toward a destination.

Usually that destination is a hopeful one, but not always. Like the Psalm that ends in honest declaration instead of victory and refreshment,

Darkness is my closest friend. 

Even then, our souls can find consolation as striving and pretending come to a halt, giving way to the strange peace of acceptance.

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Through writing, I discovered that that even our messiest of days are tinged with possibility. Redemption awaits. We only need to find the smallest of pathways and choose to keep walking.

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The gateway to a life of gratitude looks different for each of us — nature, reflection, rest, stepping away from it all for a moment or a day, prayer and meditation, a needful anti-depressant, reading Scripture, helping someone else, counseling, books.

I’m not talking about escapism or running away; I’m talking about reorientation. We find a way to see the same situation with different eyes.

We do this in both everyday and epic ways. I’ll share a story for both.

For years now, my vehicle has felt like a second home. With three kids in three different schools, with sports and youth group and all the things, I became downright bitter about the constant running around. Sadly, my martyrdom wasn’t a silent one.

And then I began doing the math, realizing that my days in the minivan with these kids were numbered.

Picking my daughter up from cheerleading practice every day felt like an inconvenience and an interruption until I began to see it as an opportunity for connection. Sometimes that connection looked like listening and biting my tongue as she vented her anger. Sometimes the connection looked like swinging by Sonic on the way home and laughing together as we listened to the Popcast. Sometimes it looked like arguing and steely silence. But always, it was an opportunity to water the soil of relationship.

And then there are the “epic” reorientations.

This usually requires divine intervention because it means life has so completely gone off the rails, all we can feel and see is that last line of Psalm 88: Darkness is my closest friend.

In 2011, I had just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s modern classic, One Thousand Gifts. It was providential to say the least, though I had no way of knowing it at the time.

Life did go off the rails.

And through the most unexplainable yet clearly divine power, I dropped to my knees, face to floor and gave thanks. I remember exactly where I was in my house. I remember the time of day.

I had never done that before and I haven’t done it since. But the message of that book had prepared my soul for the uninvited story I was just beginning to live.

Though I didn’t stay in that posture of gratitude moment by moment and day by day, I believe that experience shot a sacred arrow into an unseen battle. I knew my circumstances weren’t a cruel cosmic joke. This was all out war. And the battle was for my family. I resolved that day to fight for what was mine and for what was God’s.

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It’s the strangest, most counterintuitive thing to say but it’s true: the grief and the fight began with thankfulness.

Whether it’s something as inconsequential as a disappointing grade or something as devastating as family fracture, redemption begins when we dare to look Devastation in the face and call it Possibility.

Ann Voskamp says this,

That which we refuse to thank Christ for — we refuse to believe Christ can redeem.

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It’s the season of thanks but that doesn’t mean it’s all holiday drinks from Starbucks and happy Thanksgiving anticipation. I’ve learned that giving thanks isn’t a list or conjured up sentimentalism or an obligatory thing we do around the family table.

The deepest gratitude often looks like surrender.

It looks like humility as I relinquish my rights and expectations to receive what life is instead of what I want life to be. 

It looks like a discipline that doesn’t get easier but comes to me more quickly over time.

It looks like fighting the emotion of resentment with the counter emotion of thankfulness. 

It looks like choosing to see the good that’s there instead of the good that’s missing. 

It looks like receiving the everyday and epic moments with a heart of faith and trust in the One who lived and died and lived again — teaching us that every death actually holds the potential for new life. 

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Resources and Inspiration

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are :: This modern classic is one to return to over and over again.

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love :: The real life story of Katherine and Jay Wolf. Their lives point others to choose hope and gratitude, no matter the circumstances. I love following them on Instagram too!

The Lazy Genius Practices Thankfulness {short podcast} :: “It feels right to give thanks in November, but it also feels forced and annoying sometimes. Let’s get back to the basics of gratitude and actually enjoy a season of giving thanks. No daily journals necessary.” Yes and Amen.

How to Give Thanks for Your REAL {messy * beautiful * laughable * sorrowful * honest * hopeful} LIFE :: a November post by yours truly : )

Follow me on Instagram for 30 days of thanks!

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My friend Kimberly invited me to join her in this endeavor. It’s something she’s done the last few years and she said it’s helped to prepare her heart for Advent. I need that. My hope is to inspire all of us to give thanks for the ordinary gifts of our real lives. 

“30 Days of Actual Gratitude” :: Because we should never take ourselves too seriously. : ) You guys, Knox and Jamie from the Popcast are doing #30daysofactualgratude on Twitter. It’s the best.

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New here?

I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life. Each post provides courage, companionship, and resources for life lived real.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox.

Remember Who the Real Enemy Is

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Two weeks ago, I slipped away for 48 hours to the beautiful North Carolina mountains to speak for a women’s retreat. The theme for our time together was “Receiving Your Own Life: How Your Story Can Shine with the Beauty of Redemption.”

It’s the theme of my own life. And as I learned after two days with about 30 new friends, it’s not an unfamiliar theme. Live any length of time and you will find yourself with a story you probably would have written differently, even if it’s just an unwanted chapter or two.

Pinterest tells you to receive a curated life.

Experts tell you to receive only your best life.

American culture tells you to receive a prosperous life.

And I gulp it all down. I do. I want a life that’s lovely and charming, one in which I never feel any real lack or desperation. I want a life filled with beauty, adventure, abundance and peace.

These deep-seated longings are not wrong; they’ve been inside us all along, caged in our hearts and passed down throughout the ages. Man woke to life in a perfect garden, a place of unimaginable beauty, abundance, fellowship, and perfection. A place where work was delight instead of drudgery. A place where relationships were free from pain and complication. A place where shame and anxiety were not even words.

We’re all trying to get back to that place, aren’t we?

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On my way home from a literal mountaintop, I drove through the worst rain I’ve ever experienced. And then, forty-five minutes from home, I was warned of tornado sightings and took shelter at my sister’s house.

Two days after I returned, a hectic morning resulted in a driveway accident that left two cars {one of them purchased only weeks before} dented and damaged. Just a couple of months prior, I backed my own vehicle into a mailbox. We still need to replace the entire back door. So now all of our vehicles need repair. It’s frustratingly symbolic.

We are not in Eden anymore.

On the mountain, I told the women to expect these sorts of “enemies.” We’d spent some time talking about truths we have to remember if we’re going to “receive our own lives” and reflect redemption on a daily basis.

We have to remember who the real enemy is.

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Sometimes I re-watch The Hunger Games movies when they’re on TV. Just last night I tuned in at the part of Catching Fire when Katniss has her arrow pointed at Finnick, one of the other tributes in the Game. He says to her, “Katniss, remember who the real enemy is.”

{Spoiler alert.}

Once Katniss remembers the real enemy {the Capitol}, she redirects her arrow away from Finnick, her supposed enemy and rival tribute, and instead shoots into the forcefield of the Game itself.

In doing so, she shatters a false world and everything the real enemy had so carefully crafted to distract and deceive everyone.

And so it is with us. There are actual enemies at work: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

I know, I know. That sounds fine and normal if we’re talking about a movie or a dystopian book series. But when we’re applying these concepts to our real lives? Well, it sounds like crazy talk. Surely we are too rational for this.

Even if we acknowledge the broken world as an enemy —

Even if we acknowledge our own flesh or ego as an enemy —

We often fail to acknowledge that there is real darkness waging war against real light. And so, like Katniss in the Game, we instinctively choose counterfeit enemies instead of the real ones. In the heat of our emotion and in the trenches of our mess, we simply forget.

Functional amnesia causes us to disregard the unseen enemy and to aim our arrow at the lesser foe right in front of us.

Our spouses

Our kids

Their decisions

Our co-workers

Our jobs

Church and its leaders

Elected officials

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If we can direct our anger, our energy, and our words toward a counterfeit enemy, the real enemy can prowl around unnoticed, growing all the more powerful as we become all the more blind. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have antagonistic people, legitimate conflict, and tangible forces working against us. We do. But consider the real enemy before you waste all your energy going to battle against a puppet or a distraction.

My enemy can look like a million different things, depending on the day:

It looks like 3 dented cars in my driveway.

It looks like someone I’m angry with.

It looks like the cancer that’s making my friend sick.

It looks like certain circumstances that will never change.

It looks like a nation viciously divided.

It looks like abuses of power and heartbreaking victimization.

It looks like poverty.

It looks like wealth.

It looks like the internet.

It looks like rejection of truth and beauty and peace.

I don’t know what enemies you face today. But my prayer in writing this post is that you may have the pause, the grace, and the wisdom to discern how to approach your own enemies.

My husband and I are no strangers to conflict, but several years ago we began reminding ourselves of this truth: We are on the same team. In a way, it’s just another way of saying, “Remember who the real enemy is.”

It doesn’t always solve the problem, but it does remind us to stand beside one another in solidarity against the actual enemy of our marriage, instead of facing off against one another as counterfeit enemies.

Real life is full of enough threats to our security, our peace, and our perspective. Let’s not make our own team members part of the opposing side.

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I was reminded a few days ago that God doesn’t tell us to wait for the enemies to be vanquished before we receive our own lives with trust and gratitude.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies. {Psalm 23:5}

I’d honestly never noticed this before. This is a Psalm about being led by still waters and having a Shepherd who quiets our souls. It’s a song about goodness and love and being anointed with oil and having a cup that overflows.

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All while enemies are still present.

As we remember who the real enemy is, may we also remember who the real Savior is. {Hint: It’s not us.} Jesus is both a warrior and a shepherd, a king and a servant.

He deals powerfully with our real enemies even as He cares for our wounded and weary souls.

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For further reading, Psalm 23

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New here?

I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life. Each post provides courage, companionship, and resources for life lived real.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox.