Ordinary Shells

Each summer when our family visits the beach, the most restorative activity I look forward to is a solitary early morning walk on the beach.  This year it wasn’t until our last day of vacation that I was able to enjoy that time.  It fills me up in a way that nothing else does.  I love the low tide, the sky, the color of the water.   My thoughts slow down and I always find myself being tutored by the sea.


Inevitably my eyes are drawn to the treasures near my feet as I make my way to the pier.  These shells aren’t unique or amazing yet I love them.  I’m drawn to their simplicity and their flaws.  I like the holes, the jagged edge, the discoloration.  I’m not bothered by their small size or the fact they’re so common.  A few of them are always tucked away in my pocket for safe-keeping, a reminder of all I learned on the walk.

I feel a kinship to the shells.  I, too, am common and flawed.  I have holes and jagged edges.  Like my shells, I bear the marks of my journey as I strive to fill my purpose in this life.   Surprisingly, it’s the imperfection in my shells that compels me to examine them so closely.  Their imperfections make them beautiful.


The shells in this second photo are tiny – not quite 1/2 inch in diameter.   Hardly worth mentioning – and yet… they make me stop and think.

Today I read the words, “We are going to do something extraordinary.”  Emma Smith declared them in 1842 at a gathering of women that could hardly be called extraordinary by most standards.  But I love that she said it.  And the women gathered with her believed it.  That group of women became the Relief Society organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a women’s organization that now has more than 5.5 million members worldwide, and which has accomplished far more good in the way of humanitarian aid, relief and charity than the original members could have imagined.

Can I do something extraordinary?

In my office hangs a quote by David A. Bednar.  It says, “Ordinary people who faithfully, diligently and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.”

It’s funny how often we trick ourselves into thinking that life is about to get easier – right after we clear the next hurdle in our path.  It makes me smile today to remember how sure I was of that “fact” when I sent the children back to school in August.  Surprisingly – or perhaps I should say, not surprisingly, instead of getting easier it has felt that more is required of me every day than was required yesterday.  The stakes seem to get higher as well.  I have looked at that quote many times in the past 6 weeks, taken a deep breath, and done my best to do recognize what is right and then do it.  I mess up often, and there aren’t any results to see.  But deep inside I feel different.

It’s a pretty common thing for me to feel completely out of emotional energy long before the day is done.  The demands of my family at this stage are exciting but taxing.  Yet it never fails that a simple prayer for strength is answered as I move to the next task and soon enough the day is over and I realize the strength came.

It always comes.

The grace and power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ get me through.

I am like my shells.  Common, ordinary, flawed.  I often feel small as well.  But I am learning that the Master isn’t so bothered by these things as I’m inclined to believe.  He finds beauty and value in me despite them.  He knows the journey that has left it’s marks on me.  He works with me and in behalf of me.  He asks me to be faithful, diligent and consistent in my efforts to do what is right.  It’s simple and hard and amazing all at once.

“We are going to do something extraordinary.”

Do you believe it?  I do.


  • I have been thinking so many of the same things lately and I love how you have written about it. I love you! I love being ordinary sometimes and other times I feel annoyed by it. Then I remember that I DO believe that we are going to do something extraordinary, but I may not know about it for hundreds of years! xo

  • Kat

    I truly needed these words today. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *