Friday, February 1, 2013

If you're feeling ordinary...

 Back in the day, Danniebelle Hall wrote a song,"Just Ordinary People," about how God uses average folks to do His work. 

Yet, in so many ways, we often try to distance ourselves from that word—ordinary.

A few days ago, I opened an email from my agent. My eyes skimmed the words--turned out to be one of those wonderful rejection letters from a publisher. As I read the editors comments, the only thing I seemed to notice was the word—ordinary. Now the editor didn’t use the word to describe my writing, but used it in reference to one of the characters and the plot development.


I know, just one person’s opinion. But , still.

Licking my wounds, and looking for some kind of encouragement, I clicked over to Jan Karon’s website. I’ve written about her influence in my life before, so I won’t cover it again, but you may read it here, if you missed it.

I found a radio interview in which she speaks of writing about ordinary people. No mayhem, no catastrophic events, just mundane folks going about their business.

Eventually twenty-four million readers claimed the Mitford series for their own.

Seems many folks may have had enough calamity in their own reality and wanted a little ordinary.

At least, that’s what kept me reading. When a friend gave me the first in the Mitford series, I was suffering from post- traumatic stress and found the books a respite from a tragedy that replayed in my mind. Just a few short years later, the cherished friend who gave me the book died suddenly in her sleep the day after Christmas while just in her forties. That, my dear readers, is just one more reason I love Jan Karon’s writing. I need it. I’ve had way too much heartache in my life and long for a bit of Mitford.

So, due to Karon’s inspiration, I guess I’ll just keep writing about those ordinary folks, and pray an editor more like me gets hold of my work.

Back to God using ordinary people--early in my walk with the Lord, God etched a few verses from I Corinthians 1:26-28 in my heart. Here from the Message, “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’?”

From these verses and others in I Corinthians, I penned a song:

It’s You I Lean Upon
With weakness and with trembling,
I stand before you now
And ask why I should be the one to go,           
Because surely there are others who are stronger than I
And surely, there are those who never ever ask you why.
And I hear you say:
I haven’t chosen many noble ones;
I haven’t chosen many wise.
I haven’t chosen many ones the world called strong,
But I’ve chosen weak and foolish ones even some that are despised
To show the world that their ideas are wrong.
 Your strength comes from me alone;
All glory to me give,
Because through my son your victory is won.
Now I praise you, yes I praise you Lord,
Because in my weakness, you are made strong.
And in my trembling,  it’s you I lean upon.
Beverly Chitwood Varnado ©1984
Yes, when you look at that copyright date, remember, I did say early in my walk. But the song and the verses from which they came have become a theme for me.

I am ordinary, but God looked on me with my brokenness, failures, and lackluster life and chose me anyway.

Perhaps, that’s why I, too, write about ordinary people. I think about the character to which the editor referred—she’s a college freshman in 1951 named Amelia Mae Dewland. And to me, she’s one of the most extraordinary ordinary characters God has ever given me…just like a lot of real people I know.

So, here’s to ordinary people with praise to our mighty God who delights in using them.

 Below, listen to a recording of Danniebelle Hall singing "Just Ordinary People."

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