Recognizing Beauty in the Routine

Oct 31, 2017

Steph Duff

If you’ve ever traveled with Back2Back Ministries, you know the daily practice of sharing your “picture of the day.” It’s one way team participants are challenged to remember a significant moment that impacted them.

My first trip with Back2Back was in 2015. Debriefing each night was intensely emotional; I was rarely able to fully explain my picture before breaking down. I’ve now traveled to many different sites, and since shared lots of pictures of the day.  I’ve come to see it as a practice in savoring the small things.

I am currently in India for a two-month stay, and while here, I am considering these small things. I was challenged by my creative director to write 100 words a day on something. A color I saw frequently, smells that inundated my senses, a conversation, it was all up for grabs, but it had a maximum word count. While the project was a creative writing exercise, I realized it was, in its own way, a picture-of-the-day challenge with words.

I’ve written those 100 words every day in a specific journal, looking forward each night to recalling something that effected me viscerally. In some ways, the 100 words catalogued larger concepts –  sunsets that painted the sky blood orange, the marketplace with fresh vegetables ripe for choosing, the jeweled colors of saris in the city. But there have been smaller moments, ones unable to be captured with a photograph, that have left me learning a lesson I wasn’t anticipating.

Our lives are riddled with “pictures of the day.”

Miniscule moments of eye contact, a shared smile, an intentional conversation with a little boy who speaks broken English, the high melodic notes of laughter during play, are all worthy of memorizing.

What if I lived each day of my life looking to capture emotional pictures? Would I live more intentionally? Would I live with heart wider open in the midst of conversations? If I lived my life looking for moments to secure in the memory bank, would I slow down and look up from my handheld screen? Would I recognize there’s much more going on outside of whatever I’m walking through? Would I begin to think outwardly first, instead of inwardly?

As I’ve written my 100 words over the course of this trip, I’ve thought about continuing the practice once I’m back home. I’d like to think I will, but life gets busy, and we stop looking for extraordinary in our ordinary. But maybe we can hold each other accountable? Maybe, instead of only asking for a picture of the day when we’re sitting in a circle in humid, foreign air, we can ask each other “what moment do you never want to forget from today?” everyday. Might we cultivate a practice of perpetually looking for the lovely, regardless of where we are?

It has felt natural to capture moments in a foreign land. But will I miss something key if, even in the everyday, I’m not in pursuit of moments to steal my breath?

There are unique moments here I never want to forget. Sathwik’s high-pitched laughter, Shirisha’s raspy voice, Goutham’s heart-stopping smile, each of them unique to India. They cannot be replicated back home. But I’m finding I would likely be better off if I daily recognized beauty, even in the routine.

What’s your picture of the day? Maybe the sunlight warming your face on your morning drive to the office. Perhaps it’s the conversation you had at the conference room table long after the meeting ended. It could be you’re waking up rested for the first time in months. I don’t know. But I think if we’re actively in the pursuit of beauty, maybe we’ll start recognizing each day for what it actually is: a gift from the Father, worthy of worship.

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Steph Duff is a writer, daughter, sister, and really loud laugher. By day she lends her voice on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children with Back2Back Ministries. By night she is readily found with her nose in a book and spending time with her dachshund, Addy. At all hours, she can be found consuming copious amounts of coffee. She feels most herself in the heat of India and prefers her mugs big, her books long, and her words intentional.

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