Finding the Divine in the Ordinary


Sometimes it’s hard to know if someone takes their job a little too seriously or if their disposition is just generally disgruntled.

In the middle of a skinny street in Rome I encountered a woman who I think could have been a member of the pasta patrol. Or perhaps she was part of the national noodle guard.

Whatever her culinary affiliation might be, her demeanor made it quite clear that purchasing pasta was no laughing matter.




The guide of my foodie tour group had told us we’d embark on an excursion to a shop in the neighborhood to buy fresh-made pasta for our lunch.

She made it sound like fun as we walked along Rome's streets to the pasta store, discussing the delicious meal we’d soon be cooking back in her kitchen. But as our group crowded inside the tiny storefront, we grew quiet.

Presiding over the pasta counter was an imposing lady with a stern expression, wearing an official-looking white lab coat.

I wasn't sure if she owned the store, made the pasta or just sold it, as she stared unsmilingly off into the distance as our guide talked about homemade noodles and how this store was one of the few in Rome that still carries on the tradition of making and selling fresh pasta.


Our guide placed her order in Italian and the pasta-lady weighed and wrapped it.

I stood off to the side and snapped a few photos as unobtrusively as I could with my big-girl camera {instead of my iPhone} and managed to capture the lady as she handed over the pasta.

She looked directly at me and my camera for a minute, then said something to our guide in Italian.

I expected to be told to destroy the photos immediately of this super-secretive mission to purchase a pound of pasta.

Who knew Italians were really this passionate about their pasta?


But instead the pasta lady walked behind the counter and motioned to us.

Not sure what she meant, none of us dared to move until our guide said she was inviting us to step closer to the pasta machines so we could take better photos.

As I carefully stayed behind the doorway where signs were posted prohibiting entrance, the pasta lady pulled out fresh paper then grabbed a handful of spaghetti noodles and posed for us in front of the pasta-cutting machine.

As we snapped photos, I might have imagined it but it seemed as if she cracked the slightest hint of a smile.

Or at least tried to look a little pleasant.



I didn’t know her story but I imagined that her job might get a little monotonous. I'm sure standing on her feet all day, measuring out pasta and wrapping it for customer after customer can get a little tedious and have its mundane moments.

I didn’t know anything about her except that she showed up at her job that day to operate the noodle-slicing machine.

And then she decided to help a few tourists take some photos so they’d remember their trip to a pasta store in Rome.





In author and speaker Holley Gerth’s new book Fiercehearted, she invites us to enjoy the treasure of our authentic selves as we experience the momentous along with the mundane, finding joy and purpose in our lives.

Sprinkled with personal illustrations of her own journey through successes and failures, the book shares her heartaches and challenges as she yearns to live a fiercehearted full and brave life, as so many of us also hope to do.

She spends an ordinary day in her kitchen cooking and ponders the loveliness of small things, like the sizzle of vegetables in a pan and the aroma of garlic filling her kitchen.


She remembers that God can still be enjoyed, still be seen, still be experienced, as we prepare meals and go about the millions of ordinary moments that make up our days.

When we lose sight of ourselves and focus on these seemingly small gifts, we follow the way that leads us to God, who has been there all along, just waiting for us to find him.

"Let's see the divine in the ordinary, the big in the small, the meaningful in the mundane, and holy in all things humble." - Holley Gerth, Fiercehearted


Back at the kitchen in Rome, I cooked with my foodie tour group as we sliced puntarelle {chicory}, peeled artichokes and sizzled meat on the stove.

We boiled hot water and cooked up the noodles we purchased earlier that morning from the pasta lady.

Everything we did that day was rather ordinary. We shopped for ingredients. We prepared food. We gathered around the table to eat.

But hidden within all that's so very ordinary, I think I can catch a glimpse of something divine.


I was provided a complimentary copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for a review, but the opinions are all my own.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart.



Comments

  1. Valerie,
    I love pasta and I'm really hungry now :) I love your stories from Italy. They're so rich, like the food in the pictures. How you wove Holley's book into the post was brilliant. I loved her book too. Just as you share parts of your life with us on your blog, Holley does in this book. Thanks for inviting us in! Praying you have an awesome week!
    ~Sherry
    xoxo

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    1. Hi Sherry,
      Can you imagine living so close to great pasta like that every day?! It would be so amazing! Thanks so much for reading along on my little noodle expedition. Always love to see and read the little peeks into your life too! xoxo

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  2. What a beautiful way to illustrate the truths in Holley's book! And I'm with Sherry ... I never met a pasta I didn't like and this made me hungry. Can you eat pasta for breakfast?

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    1. Hi Donna,
      Thanks so much for stopping by! And I think pasta for breakfast is an absolutely fabulous idea -- I can only imagine what great options there would be if we dined on noodles instead of oatmeal! :)

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  3. Hello dear Valerie! I think your group's interest in her trade was the divine in her ordinary day of schlepping pasta...♥ I had to smile too as I noticed her demeanor change through the pictures... Sometimes just taking notice of someone's mundane task makes all the difference! The quote you shared from Holley's book is beautiful especially the part about seeing the "holy in the humble..." There's a new book out by Melanie Shenkle {I think..} called "Church of the Small Things" and from reading a couple excerpts it sounds like a nice addition to this theme of "doing small things with great love" that we seem to have going this month. :) Happy to read your sweet words here today friend and I don't know what was in the finished pasta picture but it sure looked amazing! XOXO

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    1. Hi Heather,
      I've been hearing about Melanie Shenkle's book lately and I thought it sounded very interesting, along this train of thought we've been on recently! :) The pasta lady was truly intimidating but I would have loved to know if a tender heart was under that crusty exterior -- maybe that's why she let us take the photos?! I was glad to read a post from you today! xoxo

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  4. Once again I am hungry after reading about your foodie adventures. I love the idea of finding something divine in day-to-day activities, it reminds me that I should always stay grateful, and take advantage of the many wonderful things I may not typically pay attention to in life! Thanks for inspiring my Wednesday morning!

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    1. Hi Brittany,
      There's plenty of ordinary in our days that's for sure :) but maybe we need some pasta for dinner now, right?

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  5. Hi Valerie! Taking a picture of that pasta lady may have been exactly what she needed. It sounds like it made her feel like her work was important. You made her day less ordinary. :) Yes, I do see the hint of a smile in that one picture. :) You always make your story so interesting. :) I love this - "When we lose sight of ourselves and focus on these seemingly small gifts, we follow the way that leads us to God, who has been there all along, just waiting for us to find him." Thank you for encouraging us to find the divine in the ordinary! Love and hugs!

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    1. Hi Trudy,
      Maybe you're right and she did really enjoy having her photo taken but we just couldn't tell from her expression! :) But eating homemade pasta was a little bit of extraordinary within the ordinary of cooking it, but then again, cooking is always an adventure for me! :) xoxo

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  6. Fiercehearted is at the top of my stack! Loved the way you wove the pasta lady story in with the book review. Well done, friend.

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    1. Susan,
      Oh you will love it! It's my favorite of Holley's books of all she's written -- so real and personal! xoxo

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  7. I love the story of the pasta lady! It must have brightened her day and made it a little different to have you and your group show such interest and take photos! It's definitely important to keep our eyes open to what God is doing even in the seemingly mundane parts of life. Holley's book sounds great too!

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    1. Hi Lesley,
      It does make a difference, doesn't it, when we refocus our perspective to see what's happening in the hidden corners and areas we overlook? Sometimes that's where a real gem is sitting, waiting to be noticed! xoxo

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  8. Oh, wow! The story of that stern-looking "pasta lady" brought a smile to my face! I thought of how the routine things we do each day can become a source of worship to God when we do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men. Such a sweet illustration you have presented to us, sweet friend. Thank you for encouraging us to seek the Divine in the ordinary...I needed this sweet reminder today. And, thank you for caring and for always reaching out and being such a dear encouragement to me. Your words, thoughts, prayers, and friendship are invaluable gifts to me. I am praying for you, too, and looking forward to the great things God has in store for you!

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    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I appreciate your prayers and encouragement, too! And what you say is so true -- the most ordinary things can become worship if done as unto God -- it's something we so often forget and need reminded of! xoxo

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  9. Dear Valerie,
    Oh I love your closing statement! "But hidden within all that's so very ordinary, I think I can catch a glimpse of something divine." I can definitely see those small smiles in the face of your server. I wonder if something sparked in her when she sensed that your group valued her work? You caught a glimpse of the divine inside of her heart, as she shared her passion with those who appreciated it! I want to look for that hidden beauty in those who are around me also! Thank you for such beautiful encouragement today my friend! Love and Hugs to you!

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    1. Hi Bettie.
      I'm with you - -I often forget to look for the hidden beauty -- especially in others and wish I could remember to do this more often! I think we miss much when we look at things only through our own lens or with a perspective that's so earth-bound. When we change our view and see what's unseen, then we discovers something truly extraordinary! xoxo

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  10. Well the end result looks divine. I love how you captured the noodle slicing lady. Her expression is priceless!

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    1. Hi Sarah,
      Yes, the pasta dish we ate was quite delicious! xo

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  11. As usual your writer's eye and insight noticed and recorded things that passed me right by on the same trip at the same time, that's why you are the writer in the family.

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    1. Maybe -- but you take better pictures!

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  12. How brave you were to snap pictures! That poor soul would have intimidated me ... although maybe I would have tried to somehow nonchalantly snap some shots while discretely looking elsewhere.

    How beautiful that you were able to recognize and capture her talent.

    Makes me wonder how unpleasant / bored / unapproachable I must often look.

    Mmmm ... I'll think more about this tonight when I'm eating my Trader Joe's Spinach Tortellini. With homemade sauce ...

    ;-}

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    1. Hi Linda,
      I was intimidated! That's why my photos weren't the best - -I snapped before I was ready and kept putting my camera back in its bag! And oh -- your Trader Joe's pasta sounds divine and I doubt that you could ever look unpleasant or unapproachable, friend! xoxo

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  13. Just the other day my hairdresser mentioned that she makes her own pasta, the flour needing just the right balance of gluten in the semolina, I think it was? Anyhow, when I read your last line I thought how she is doing the divine in her kitchen in a Canadian province in an ordinary city that is rarely a destination for travellers and far from Rome! I'm sure this lady in Rome who showed you pasta making may never ever hear the name Edmonton! Yet, both my hair dresser and the pasta lady of Rome are creating their own masterpieces from global ingredients. Ha...yes! You've reminded me that what each of us has in our own kitchen is everything- present, perfect, and ordinary.

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    1. Hi Lynn,
      I love that your friend makes her own pasta -- how industrious of her and you're right, so far from Rome! And how right you are that both of them in their own way are creating artful beauty. Hoping your cake decorating class was inspiring! xoxo

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  14. Hi Valerie - :) Love being at your blog- always refreshing and nice to read your thoughts on God and life and travel and food! This was interesting- I enjoyed meeting the pasta lady and imagining her expressions- though the ones you caught with the camera were perfect! I am excited to read Holley’s new book! It sounds really good.Oh how I need to find the divine in my mundane! -- stuck in it deep lately - Thank you for the encouragement to look for it! and to read this book! (and go to Italy for fresh pasta! ) Thanks for faithfully writing your blog, It is such a blessing to me! xoxo susie

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    1. Hi Susie,
      I am so glad to hear from you and I do hope you are able to find a few sprinkles of divine in whatever mundane things are filling your life at the moment! I think of you often and hope your art and creativity will inspire a new word from you soon! xoxo

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  15. Dear Valerie, you have such a deft touch with storytelling and a wonderful way of weaving personal anecdotes (and book reviews) into your accounts as a traveller and taster of life. I love how the pasta-making woman warmed to the attention she was receiving, melting into softness before your very eyes! Definitely a mundane moment marvel and a holy-ordinary occurrence made extraordinary by God's grace, and by your beautiful gift of capturing and expressing what is happening around you via photographs and words. This ties in so well with the way God has been leading me over several months to see glory in the ordinary and awaken to wonder in the everyday. Thank you for a lovely reminder to keep my eyes peeled and heart open to these things. Blessings and love to you, sweet friend! xo <3

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