When Ordinary is Extraordinary

Vacuums, Sponges and Mops, Oh My.

We’re all women here.  More than likely, we are well-acquainted with these tools (of torture).  In fact, while in China, the brand of cleaning supplies in our grocery store was “Good Wife” which, while it may be true, is not exactly an ego boosting sentiment…

On a side note, one of my favorite parts of China was the product names they came up with. Another hilarious brand name was “White Men” toothpaste.  I don’t even know what that means but it made me smile every morning.


Each of my “Good Wife” products worked on different parts of the house, but all had the same purpose: to clean.

Mops are not meant to wipe counters.  Dish sponges are not for toilets. Toilet bowl brushes are certainly not meant to clean anything other than toilets.

I have a special place in my heart for that last sentence.  While in China, we discovered an elderly woman who needed money to pay for her daughter’s medical treatments.  She wanted to clean our house weekly and so she did.  It felt very strange to me to have a maid but it was helping her and the going rate at the time was the equivalent of $5 so we “splurged.”

The darling woman (who insisted we call her grandma) would not be persuaded to stop cleaning our ENTIRE bathroom with the toilet bowl brush.  She did the toilet first (of course) then the shower, the white tile walls, then the sink.  Every week after she left I would re-clean and de-poo the bathroom.

I tried everything I could to communicate that she needed to stop.  I performed gestures that would have won me any game of charades, I looked up words in my Chinese/English dictionary,  I asked my language teacher to help me say it correctly.  Still, the feces-laden brush would “clean” the bathroom each Monday morning.

“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” 1 Cor. 12:7

In the same way as the Good Wife tools our spiritual gifts are very different.  Some of us (myself included) look around at other people’s shiny gifts and then back down to our own toilet bowl brush with very little enthusiasm.

They are gifted for important feats that seem so important to so many, mine just seems just so…ordinary.   

The truth, friend, is that all of our gifts are still that: gifts.  You are unique.  Your gifts might not seem as sparkly as someone else’s but the God of the universe wanted YOU to have it and it’s all yours.  So rock it!

Want to know mine?  It’s organizing.  I know.  Try not to be jealous.  Really though, it’s not my favorite on the gift list and wouldn’t have been my first choice. Consequently, I’ve tried to fight it and deny it but the reality: I get giddy in office supply stores.  I’m owning it.  A second reality: when I’ve tried my hand at gifts I’ve deemed more exciting, it hasn’t gone too well.

Annoying as it is, I’ve seen my (nerdy) gifts bless other people.  Apparently not everyone is as OCD as I am.  Apparently others can benefit from my attention to detail.  Seeing other people benefit time and again makes me embrace my pocket protecter and hole punch with increasing gratitude.

What is your gift?  Is it what you would have chosen?  Are you rocking it?


  1. morielle March 24, 2014

    Oh man, I LOVE that story about your dear grandma cleaning the bathroom with the toilet scrubber. I’ve never had anyone clean my house, but have heard so many stories about toilet bowl water being used to scrub down the whole house.

    Gifts, gifts, yeah. I heard an excellent sermon about that last week. I was agonizing over questions like, “What are my gifts? How do I use them for the kingdom?” The sermon was on 1 Corinthians 12, and Paul basically called out the Corinthians for doing what I was doing: obsessing about spiritual gifts in a very SELF-CENTERED way. Punch in the gut for me. If we’re thinking of ourselves in organic terms, then yes, “the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable”.

    So, now I’m trying to think of gifts in terms of the definition from that sermon: anything that builds others up. Period. (Anything which builds myself up is OUT, no matter how good I want it to make me look in God’s eyes). For me, this usually means feeding people and listening to them tell me about their problems. I dunno what it is about the way God made me, but people just see me as a good person to tell about their stuff — this includes lots and lots of strangers. I often wish this gift came along with the gift of being  a good counselor, but it doesn’t. I’m no good at helping people work through their stuff. I’m only good at bearing a bit of the burden by listening. But right now God is teaching me that sharing more of my own stuff with others (I have such a “oh, I’m ok, let’s talk about you!” tendency, no matter what I’m going through) does LOTS of building up. I guess being vulnerable is a gift He’s cultivating in me right now.

    1. Elizabeth March 24, 2014

      This idea about using your gifts to build others up, I just love it. I read somewhere recently that if you aren’t using your gifts to build up the (global) church, then you are robbing the church, because God gave you your gifts to help others. I love that, because sometimes I am afraid to use my gifts for fear of rejection, but that was an empowering idea, that God WANTS me to use them for his Bride. It makes it less about me, and more about laying my life down in worship of the King. And by the way, I think your gift is wonderful, and so glad you listen to people’s stories! And that you tell your own. 🙂

      1. morielle March 24, 2014

        Oh, I really like that thought about robbing the church too. Yeah, your idea of thinking about God WANTS us to use our gifts for His bride is so similar to what really hit me from 1 Cor. 12: the fact that we’re a body means we’re organically connected. In order to thrive, I need others to be thriving. For things to work, I must focus on others’ needs, not how I’m special. “Less about me, more about laying my life down for the King” Yes, yes, yes!

    2. emily thomas March 24, 2014

      I think it’s so great that people feel able to tell you things.  I have always marveled at how some people just (accidentally) draw that out of others!  I’m thankful you’re willing to bear their burden for a time.  And I’m so glad you’re learning to let others hear yours as well!!

  2. Elizabeth March 24, 2014

    I love this! Occasionally I long for more “ostentatious” gifts, but I usually find a lot of fulfillment and purpose when I am working in the gifts I actually do have (mine being one-on-one encouragement and writing). But gifts are exactly what they are. I didn’t earn them, they were given to me, and I should be (and am) thankful for them.

    1. emily thomas March 24, 2014

      There truly is deep fulfillment to be found working within our giftings to bless the Body.  Love that!

  3. Brittany March 25, 2014

    Honestly, I’m not sure what my gifts are.  They seem oh-so different now than when I was in high school and college.  Or, at least, pre-kids.  For example, I used to be super organized and able to run projects and clubs.  Now, I can’t seem to organize anything.  I love cooking and opening my home to people, but I’m afraid to do that because I’m not very good at fostering conversation.  So I’m afraid that people will come, but that it will be awkward and boring!  So…I need to work on that.

    1. Jennifer March 25, 2014

      Sometimes the most ordinary things can be the greatest gift we can give to someone else. Sometimes working with someone else who is strong where we are weaker, can enable both of us to be a greater blessing, and do what we each do better. That was the first though that came into my mind when I read this.  It made me think beyond what you said, to the wider application. I would like to simply use what you said as an example if I may.  From what Brittany said I can recognize that she both sees strengths in cooking and in hospitality but not in conversation. The first thought that came to me was that of working together with someone who is strong and who really enjoys the conversation side of it, and learn from each other. The other thing was that not everyone who might enjoy sharing the hospitality may really enjoy conversation either. I know the greatest gift that anyone can give me right now, not that I get it very often, is simply to be allowed to spend time with them in their home, simply being there, not necessarily talking lots, at least not with a strong focus on conversation, but simply being there and doing whatever is happening. Being with people does not always need to be full of talking.

      1. Emily Thomas March 25, 2014

        Such a wonderful point! Sometimes just being there is the perfect gift.

  4. Malia April 2, 2014

    What a perfect illustration! Brand names abroad are so funny! There’s a toothpaste in Bangkok called “Black Man.” Yeah, I don’t get it either.

    As a mom of three young kids, I’ve seen how the ways we serve others changes. In the BC times (Before Children), I could visit people (with stairs and breakable items in their homes), write more, lead small groups,  etc. Now, I’m finding that I do more online services like running the organizational side of our international playgroup or facilitating online Bible studies. It works so I can be home with my babies and still bless others. While it’s certainly valuable to recognize what you’re good at, I think it’s also important to realize that you might have to tweak those services when your hands fill with different gifts (i.e. a family) that require more of your energy and time and sanity.

    1. emily thomas April 3, 2014

      “you might have to tweak those services when your hands fill with different gifts”

      I love that, Malia.  It’s a beautiful way to put that.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.