Recognizing Ordinary as Precious

At Thanksgiving, among all the crisp white platters and dishes, I chose to bring out a serving bowl & bread plate from my Great-Grandmother’s set.  I never knew Grandma Engstrom, a farm wife in rural Alberta, who immigrated in the early 1920’s from Wisconsin; Bohemian in descent, married to a Swedish immigrant baker that she met while working in a hotel. I do know that I’ve inherited some of her strong bone structure, but more than that, my mother has such a deep, deep love for her that I know I missed out by not knowing her personally, only knowing her by extension. Her daughter, my Grammy, was a beautiful, feisty, generous, creative soul, and I can only imagine that her mother taught her a lot about being just that way.

I only have a few of those dishes. Some were handed down, and others, like an art-deco gravy boat, I found at second-hand stores or antique markets. They’re not easy to find, it seems. Although lovely, they were normal dishes. Mom told me that one reason there are so few of them to be handed down, was that they were Great Grandma’s only set of dishes. They fed chickens and children, so didn’t necessarily last long enough to be gifted to future generations.

My dishes? In our culture of plenty, I’ve got four sets, some only used for very special occasions, mugs just for Christmas, bowls with snowflakes for winter, and then our everyday plates.

But my Great Grandmother? Hers were both ordinary and precious. They’ve been used up, worn out, with not a lot left to spare. I’m seeing something crazy beautiful in that, because I think I’ve lost a lot of the wonder that comes with the ordinary being precious.

Last month, I launched this thing we’re calling Ellen’s Picks. It was a risk for me (here’s the post I wrote on launch week!) but I’m so glad I did it. I have been remarkably blessed by connecting with new friends, old friends, and friends I never get to connect with otherwise. It’s been really good.

Every month I’m picking a book that we’re reading together, and it has to be something I truly love. This month’s book, Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman, has been doing a number on my heart, helping me see beauty in the ordinary, and I’m so glad to introduce it to you (along with a piece of Grandma Engstrom’s china).

Today, my own precious mug had a sad dishwasher exit injury. It’s the mug I use every day, other than Christmas time, and it probably looks perfectly ordinary to everyone else. I’m thinking that’s okay though, because ordinary special things are meant to be used, to be held, to be full of purpose, to be made vulnerable and breakable. And it broke. There are other mugs (oh, mercy, are there mugs in our cupboard). I’ll find another ordinary special mug, I’m sure of it.
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