HomedotMagisReflectionsThe Gift of the Ordinary

The Gift of the Ordinary

ordinary gifts

Last week my 84-year-old mother was in the hospital. For days on end doctors tried this and that to stabilize her heart. What struck me was not the desire for some great miracle in which, beyond the capacities of medicine and the doctors, her heart would suddenly be strong again, but instead a desire shared by so many people I talked to in the hospital—to be able to do the most ordinary of things. The patients wanted to cuddle up and get a good night’s sleep in their own beds, take a shower, cook themselves breakfast, go to the grocery store, and walk the dog. “Oh, that would be heaven,” one patient dreamed. Heaven? When faced with not being able to do these supposedly mundane tasks, they suddenly become the greatest desires of our hearts.

So often people look for miracles as proof of their belief (or hope) that there is a God. It seems the more outrageous or beyond the bounds of science, the more we are apt to believe there is something greater than ourselves at work. Unfortunately, a faith that is based on the scientifically unexplainable is all too often lost in challenging times when the miracle is debunked or when the prayed-for miracle doesn’t happen. One of the greatest gifts of practicing Ignatian spirituality is coming to recognize the utterly miraculous gifts in the most ordinary aspects of life.

When we get in the habit of regularly asking, “Where is God in all this?” or looking back over the day and identifying, “Where was I fully present? Where did my heart soar?” we get in the habit of recognizing with gratitude and awe the most seemingly benign things—the smell of the flowers, the laughter shared with a teenager, holding hands with another, and, when we really take the time the taste it, the most delicious pizza ever!

Can you look out your window right now, at this very moment, and identify a miracle? A wonder? A marvel? Can you recognize with every breath the thousands of processes taking place perfectly in sync within your own body? The everyday, completely ordinary act of living is truly a gift.

In these often dreary, cold days of winter, when it seems there is nothing special to motivate our faith, in this Ordinary Time of the Church year and life, could it be that we actually are given the greatest gifts of all?

Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful reflection. This is a reminder for me that indeed being able to do things i want and love to do is truly God’s gift to me. More than being sad of not finding a job, there is more to be thankful for, for the gift of life and love God has given me. There is the longing in my heart to know God more and to feel His presence in my heart and in everything that I do. Thank you for teaching us the Ignatian Spirituality, and praying the contemplative way.

  2. This is the beauty of St. Ignatius’ Examen Prayer; it helps us slow down and see God’s hands at work all around us, for us, and in us.

  3. Just got back from camping in the Eastern Sierras near Bridgeport,Ca.. God sure created some beauty for us to enjoy. Even though there was lighting,thunder,and plenty of rain I thought I really don’t get this in San Jose,Ca.(we are in a serious drought). At mass at a small church the main window looks out at the Sierras mountain peaks. When it was time for prayers for petition mine was Thank you God for this wonderful place here in the Sierras. Then at night just looking up at all the stars.

  4. I remember when I was a child, in hospital for two weeks with bronchitis. The sun never shown so bright or the grass so green or the air so fresh on the day I was released. Yes! “Ordinary” life is so wonderful when we stop and reflect on the gifts we have.


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