Adam and Christine Jeske love adventure. They sought it out while college students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and then, after getting married and graduating, their pursuit of adventure took them to inner city Atlanta, Nicaragua, South Africa, and China, all over the course of many years. And then one day they found themselves back in Wisconsin. And life suddenly felt terribly… well… ordinary.
I can relate to Adam and Christine’s story in many ways. My own adventures over the past decade have taken me to several continents for various lengths of time, from living with Buddhists in Cambodia to backpacking across Italy to an unnerving run-in with Somali camel herders to hitching rides across Guatemala to living in a formerly abandoned house in the jungle in Costa Rica (with vampire bats!). Each of these experiences has left an indelible mark on who I am and on how I see the world. But each time, sooner or later, I’ve returned to “normal” life at home. And each time I’ve wrestled with what that really means.
In their new book, This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling (IVP/Likewise), the Jeskes tell their story of seeking to hold onto their ideals while adjusting to a much more “ordinary” life in the United States. Using the “Amazing Days” mantra they touted throughout college and their years overseas, they settled into the spiritual discipline of celebrating the amazing in the midst of the ordinary.
Covering a variety of issues, including work, identity, suffering, money, marriage, fear, and community, they tell stories at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, the kinds of stories that emerge from those dedicated to lives fully lived. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I must say the final chapter’s account of La Celebración is my favorite story in the book, painting a beautiful picture of how rich and spontaneous everyday life can be when we cultivate the imagination in community.
Like me, both Adam and Christine studied international development at Eastern University, so our paths have continued to run parallel in certain ways, but like them, I’ve also settled into a more “ordinary” way of life — in Phoenix, in my case, where I live with my amazing wife of nearly a year. And I’m finding that ordinary adventures truly are available to us wherever we are.
Yesterday morning I set out for an early morning walk around the palm-tree-laden apartment complex where we live, to think and pray. On my iPod I was listening to a collection of songs and prayers from Taizé, which take simple phrases from the Psalms and other parts of scripture and put them to music. The temperature had gotten down to the upper 60s (frigid, I know!), providing perfect sweatshirt weather.
As I made my way around the perimeter of the complex, nodding at the occasional dog-walker, I was able to focus my attention on the good God who created palm trees and sunshine, the God who causes cold fronts (relatively speaking) to pass through, the God who gave us the gift of song. And I was reminded that these good and perfect gifts come to us from the same One who created humankind in his image — those men, women, and children who collectively comprise the cultures of Nicaragua, South Africa, and China, and of Italy, Guatemala, and Cambodia. I’m thankful for the chances I’ve had to see the world, for the people I’ve been privileged to know. Likewise, I give thanks now for a place to call home, and a woman to make that home with.
And finally, I’m grateful for the Jeskes’ new book, which reminds us that while there is a time to travel and a time to put down roots, ordinary adventures are possible anywhere for those who celebrate God’s goodness whenever and wherever it shines through.
To learn more about This Ordinary Adventure and to participate in (what’s left of) “31 Amazing Days” visit the book’s site. The Jeskes blog at Patheos and have created a budding Facebook community focused on the ideas of this book. They’re also good people to follow on Twitter, at @AdamJeske and @ChristineJeske, respectively.