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Anything but Ordinary

by Roger Villeneuve

By Jan Woltmann

It is anything but “Ordinary Time” – these 23 weeks between Pentecost and Advent that my calendar titles “Season After Pentecost.”

We are in the ninth week on this August day and the plates in my world have cataclysmically shifted. A shocking diagnosis reveals that our beautiful, healthy, 21-year-old son has a tumour. An earthquake of words erupts in my mind as information unfolds: brainstem, inoperable, marble-size, non-aggressive. Shockwaves of emotion course through my body as panic, confusion, fear and despair threaten to overwhelm me. In a moment, our lives are overturned and we sit amidst the rubble. It is anything but ordinary.

But “ordinary” time, as it is often referred to in the Christian calendar, does not mean “mundane” or “commonplace.” Rather, the term is used to offset “extraordinary” time – the seasons in the story that mark the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. The purpose of extraordinary time, says Robert Webber, is “to celebrate the specific historic, supernatural acts of God in history that result in the salvation of creatures and creation.” Ordinary time, by contrast gives us a collective moment to catch our breath, or as Joan Chittister writes, “to pause awhile, take it all in, and contemplate the intersection between the life of Jesus and our own.”

I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS illumination of text from Exodus, chapter 3

That is why the liturgical color for this season is a deep green, symbolizing a deep maturing in the faith that we are called to now.

Such a shade paints my soul these days as I struggle to make sense of my story and to surrender it to the One who was and is and is to come. It is difficult and often painful work, this holy relinquishment. But I’m not alone in the task. When suffering threatens to suffocate hope, a fierce grace wraps its arms around me and gently pulls me forward. It is a mystery that knows no words but arrives daily. It is anything but ordinary.

The deep green of this season also symbolizes hope. And interestingly, hope lands at the edge of our pool shortly after our son’s diagnosis…in the form of a monarch butterfly.

A few days before his biopsy surgery, my son and his dad float hand in hand on pool chairs, contemplating the difficult moments ahead. They speak of the shelter of God’s wings and His protection in times of trouble. The rare appearance of the monarch captures their attention.

With a faint whistle, my husband beckons the butterfly saying, “Come here and join our conversation.” To their astonishment, the monarch takes flight and settles on their hands. Minutes pass and the creature just sits there, fixing its gaze on our son. All the while, its wings gracefully rise and fall to the rhythm of its divine choreographer. In that moment, hope brightens our broken hearts, transformation becomes a palpable promise, and a young man’s strength is renewed. It is anything but ordinary.


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Michelle P September 7, 2011 - 3:05 pm

Beautiful writing… thanks for sharing your journey! You and your family have occupied my thoughts and I trust that Jesus will turn every thought into the prayer you need for each moment of this journey. Courage to you all!

mary reimer September 7, 2011 - 9:35 pm

Our mutual mentor, Joan Chittister, also wrote, “Life is an exercise in twists and turns of the unpredictable and the unsought.” She says this in the context of Hope (p. 110, “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope”). Nothing is more unsought than the illness of a son or daughter. The words on that calendar page reverberate – “I am the One who always is.” Sometimes in the form of a butterfly or the prayers of friends. You have deepened my understanding of Ordinary Time. Thank you.

Chris N September 7, 2011 - 10:56 pm

Jan, thankyou for sharing your journey and illuminating the intrinsic beauty of the Ordinary. Once your eyes and heart have been opened to this portal, things never appear quite the same.
May the Peace of Christ dwell with you and your family.

jane martens September 8, 2011 - 5:26 am

Thanks, Jan, for your inspiring writing. A reminder that God breathes through every ordinary moment and every ordinary creature, and that we are not alone and never forgotten. We are praying for you and thinking of you often.

Jeannette September 8, 2011 - 8:04 am

Wow – thank you God for gift of the butterfly. Thank you for the gift of your words, Jan, in the midst of your incredibly challenging journey. Continuing to pray.

Vicki September 9, 2011 - 7:55 am

I read this today & thought of you & your family. It is my prayer for you:

We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. Colossians 1: 11-12 (The Message)


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