Want to Be Awesome? It's Easier (and Harder) Than You Think

Blaise Pascal said, “Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.” 

I messaged my friend Brad to see what he thought, and Brad said, “You know… I think I agree with Pascal.” 

For years Brad’s been making stuff—writing musicals, creating camps and events and environments. He started a non-profit. He makes videos and gives talks and generally inspires people. He always has a new idea, and he almost never fails to make his ideas real. That’s the way I remember him back in college—always creative, always working.

I don’t know if Brad wanted to be “extraordinary.” I do know he wanted to make a difference. And I know he kept plugging along, every day, making stuff. A lot of it ordinary. Most of it small. He worked as a youth minister for a while, then He took a job in a tiny town at an oh-so-small college. 

This year one of his projects went viral. You probably know Brad. He’s the adult behind Kid President. His “Pep Talk” video has received more than 23 million views. He’s been on television. A few months ago, he met Barack Obama in the oval office. 

I asked Brad about being extraordinary and he said he really just feels ordinary. He said it “seems that God revels in the ordinary things because he doesn’t see them that way.”

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I’m a stay-at home mom. If you told high-school-senior Jennifer that—that her 32 year old self was a mom, basically unpublished and most certainly not famous—she’d need to sit down for a minute. She had BIG plans, and they did not include laundry.

But, alas, that’s what I do. Today, for example, I…

  • Cleaned coffee granules out of the seams in my sink
  • Peeled a sticker off the inside of the dryer
  • Made toast
  • Played phone tag with a realtor
  • Examined a mysterious sore on my kid’s pet rat (and)
  • Argued with my four year old about the necessity of underwear 

Mine is an ordinary life. 

Lately I’m realizing everybody’s is.

Katie Davis moved from Tennessee to Africa after high school and adopted fourteen girls in need of a home. Her example is undeniably extraordinary. She writes in her book Kisses from Katie:

"Sometimes it hits me like a brick to the head: My life is kind of insane. I am twenty-two years old; I have fourteen children, eleven of whom are currently being home-schooled… Most days, though, bumping along these red dirt roads in my sixteen-passenger van full of singing (or screaming) children, neighbors, and occasionally our pet monkey, seems completely normal—so much so that I have a hard time writing about it. To me, there is nothing very spectacular about this everyday craziness; it is just the result of following Jesus into the impossible, doing the little I can and trusting Him to do the rest."

Katie’s life looks a lot like mine. She does laundry and makes lunch and teaches her daughters to read. We like to picture extraordinary people as having glamorous, always-amazing lives.  But Katie’s isn’t. Brad’s isn’t either. Their lives, upon close inspection, look mostly ordinary.

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My friend Matthew was baptized last night. It was the celebration of the year at Round Rock. We were beside ourselves with joy. I actually laughed out loud when, after Justin asked “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God…” Matthew said, “I do.” Extraordinary.

This morning he and Justin sat across a table from one another and Matthew said, “So what now? What do I do?” And Justin said, “You show up.”

And that’s it, right?

Kid President exists because Brad Montague kept showing up. Because he kept making stuff, doing what he felt like God wanted him to do. One day, Brad made something “ordinary” and God did something extraordinary with it. 

Katie is in Africa today doing incredible work because she heard God call and she showed up, and now every morning she rolls out of bed, makes breakfast, and decides to show up again. And again. And again.

For the longest time I spent my days waiting for something big to happen (I was convinced I was going to win Pepsi’s “billion dollar summer”).

I spent my twenties dreaming of the glamorous life I’d live as a writer. I actually said out loud to another person, “All I have to do is write one book that sells a million copies.” 

Now-a-days I don’t think in terms of a million copies. I think about showing up. I think about writing one helpful post. I think about having one meaningful conversation with my daughter. I think about about making one healthy and delicious lunch. 

Every one of these acts seems so ordinary, but it’s in those sorts of everyday triumphs that God works. We show up and God does, too.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.” I read that and think, “Easy for you to say, Mr. Extraordinary.” But then I think longer, about how many nights Paul spent sleeping on a boat or days he spent walking—just walking—about how his life looked a lot like my preacher husband’s—listening to God, teaching stubborn people, resolving conflict, bearing the burdens of a community. Paul’s was a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other life, almost never glamorous, often monotonous. Day in and day out, he showed up, and God used him.

I heard Donald Miller say once that you never know when God is going to use you. He said all you can do is be awesome. 

Kid President says pretty much the same thing. 

But by “be awesome,” they don’t mean be famous or flashy or viral; they mean, “Be who God made you to be. Do what God made you to do. And do it as well as you’re able.”

Show up. And God’ll show up, too.

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Thank you to Jodi and Eric Posadas who showed up tonight to watch my kids so I could finish this post. And to new-christian Matthew who showed up with pulp-free orange juice because I’m sick and need vitamin C. Way to be awesome!