I Gave People an Excuse to be Amazing (and Here’s Yours)

I Gave People an Excuse to be Amazing (and Here’s Yours) September 24, 2012

My birthday was Friday. I didn’t just want dozens (or hundreds) of people posting “Happy Birthday” on my Facebook timeline. I wanted to do something for them. (And I’m going to do something for them, and you, for the whole month of October—more on that below.) In our book we tell of trying to live Amazing Days…

So I posted this picture, which reads: “For my birthday, please don’t just write ‘Happy birthday!’ Instead, do something amazing (fun, weird, faith-filled, good…) and post about that! Thanks for joining me on This Ordinary Adventure!”

I wrote about excuses on Friday. I wrote that we’re all intended for greatness. We just need excuses to exercise that, to step into that, to have faith in a faithless world, to take risks when others are addicted to fear. On my birthday…

I gave people an excuse, and they took it.

I heard from people in 26 states: Wisconsin, New Jersey, Minnesota, Washington, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, Illinois, Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona, Kentucky, Indiana, Vermont, Arkansas, New York, Texas, Tennessee, Connecticut, and Kansas!

That’s not all. Friends chimed in from 19 countries around the world: Australia, South Africa, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Ethiopia, New Zealand, China, England, Thailand, Switzerland, Spain, Canada, Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Korea, Venezuela, Israel, and Brazil!

People did amazing things:

We all eat everyday, so making the ordinary into an adventure often involves food. Claire made the world’s best rice pudding. Jess ate lots of cookies (we’re adults now, so we can do that sort of thing). Natasha went out to a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant. How cool is that!

People used the excuse to enjoy all kids of experiences. Three separate friends watched the space shuttle Endeavor fly for the last time in California. Helen climbed Pikes Peak. One friend took parents who are lifelong Giants fans to their first game! Another climbed a cliff, leading a bunch of sixth graders.

Other folks did some work and recognized that it was amazing. Matt installed a dishwasher. Chris and Kat plumbed their whole kitchen. Tina set off an alarm at work. And Dan taught mentally impaired kids at a Special Ed school, making an especially strong connection with one boy, including one particularly amazing moment was singing old rock ‘n’ roll songs with him (which he was a big fan of) like Tutti Frutti and Pretty Woman.

Sometimes silly things were the most amazing parts of the day. Coworkers sang to me while all hepped up on helium. Jen wore purple pants for first time to appease her cool students. Hannah wrote, “Today I held a chicken! At the TV station we did a story about “sentinel chickens” getting West Nile Virus and thus alerting the county of the disease. Happy Amazing Birthday!” And Carrie took ridiculous photos in Spain. 

A few people found animals in their amazing days. Angela cared for animals at the Humane Society. Rose said hello to some Swiss horses. Joselyn shared her burrito with her dog. Rosie rescued a snake. And I chased some turkeys.

Multiple people spent quality time with friends and family and really appreciated it. There was at least one family movie night, a couple people catching up with old friends over coffee, a mom of three with some alone time, and a mom of four having some girl time with a friend at night. Jess walked around her neighborhood and appreciating being there. Carrie had lunch with her parents. Vivian helped her daughter with Spanish and listed to her son play piano. Andy had a lovely coffee date with his wife and new baby.

Some friends took the Amazing Days challenge and tried to do a bit of ministry. One shared a video of Chrissy speaking with a group of students. Kyle shared about his faith and the good news of Jesus with an old friend that he’d never really talked to. Brian “planted a gospel seed” and had a hard conversation with good friend. Esther, an InterVarsity coworker prepped for New Student Outreach. And Katie and her little daughter met a sweet old french woman named Terese. They baked some cookies and took them over to her!

Cory got this tattoo. (Just kidding.) (I think.)

A couple people took my birthday excuse and made plans for future amazing days. Marcia arranged to have a children’s musician perform a concert at her house. And Meghan is running half marathon to prep for first marathon, to raise money for Abolition International.

Sometimes noticing things about our life is amazing, like Bob getting a chest x-ray and noticing the healthcare he can get. (It seems like it came out fine.)

And kids are an eloquent excuse for parents willing to rise to the occasion. Sally picked up her sick kid from school, waited a long time at the pharmacy but got great care from a kind pharmacist. Christi taught her daughter and enjoyed listening to her recite ancient wisdom from the Bible. The loveliest description of an amazing day came from Ruthie and her 18-month-old daughter:

We are bringing our standard amount of awesomeness to everything we do:  a maraca dance party, potty training, an extremely loud verse of Hallelujah’s in any public or private place, followed by cheering arms raised with a “hooray!” We have simple celebrations all day long.

This is our ordinary day: loud, brilliant, tearful, sincere, emotional, raw, instructional, forgiving, full of personality…packing every second with something more to do or take care of even during the restful times, not because we are trying to be packed to the brim with activity because that is our reality…it’s just the way it is.

If I try to make it something different than it is, I risk discontentment with the phase of life I am in, where God has me today…I am at risk of missing the “amazing”. My Amazing thing today, and hopefully everyday: I am settling into gratitude, not stress or worry over my to-do’s and all the unknowns in our life.


And amazing days often mean you must be open to anything. Erin really blessed me:

Okay… I saw the Endeavour shuttle up close with my own eyes. That was amazing. But what was even more amazing was the conversation I had on the plane with a WWII vet who continued to insist on calling Japanese people “Japs”.

He asked if I was a “Jap” and when I said, “yes”, he kinda closed off. We got to have a pretty intense conversation on how WWII affected me growing up even though I was born a few decades after the end of WWII.

I pray it left an impression and maybe even healing, knowing that we’re both believers. It’s the kind of conversation I’m going to have to continue thinking about and reflecting on over the next few days. That was pretty amazing… then the space shuttle as we landed.

Oh, and then there was the international fugitive who was arrested on our plane as we landed.

Yup. Today was pretty amazing.

And Rachel delivered three babies! We have the same Amazing (birth)Day!

Some friends would have done these things anyway, but I helped them notice it.

Some of them did these things because I gave the challenge.

I’ve had so much fun living Amazing Days that few things give me more joy than inviting others into them. Now, we’re doing just that for the whole month of October. Watch our Facebook page for the details this week.

Living amazing days around the world has kept us young and happy, and there’s a grace all the way through that. Join us.

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