Tuesday, September 1, 2015

{Ten}

She's been grabbing pieces of paper for a year now. Scribbling out ideas, making lists, weighing the pros and cons. She's a planner. Kinda like her mama.



Her cousin would spend the night. There would be friends and cousins and games . . . and a hedgehog cake. The colors would be purple and green and everyone would play charades.






There would be doughnuts and bacon and fondue and strawberries on her "actual birthday." This girl knows what she wants in life. She's a visionary. Kinda like her daddy.




Her ears would be pierced and the celebration would last for the whole weekend.




There would be giggling and dancing and decorating. The theme would be: Small Animals. Especially Owls.









And she would be ten. This baby of mine, ten.




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Thursday, August 13, 2015

{Dreaming}

Tonight as I prepared for a meeting at a coffee shop, I had to resist the urge to don a petticoat and sweep up my hair in a large Gibson Girl knot. (I settled for a wrap-around skirt and casual updo.) This may sound strange. But not if you've been lost in Maud Hart Lovelace's endearing Betsy books as I have this past week.



You know how it is. (Or at least I hope you do. I dearly hope you do.) You get so lost in a story, the characters become so real, that before you know it, 1908 -- or wherever your book takes you -- becomes your reality. (1908 is a lovely reality, by the way. I've mentioned before how much I adore the Edwardian Era, have I not?)

One of the benefits of enjoying the Besty books in this day and age, I've realized, is that we now have access to the internet. When I come across an unfamiliar custom, costume, song or person as I read, I need only google the thing and voila, I've learned something!

This tool was especially helpful as I read Betsy in Spite of Herself, set in 1908 Minnesota and based on the author's actual high school experiences. The main characters (they call themselves The Crowd -- don't you love it?), often gather around the piano for entertainment. They pull out the latest sheet music and croon away.

The songs were new then, but they're over a hundred years old now. I don't know them. But I can look them up! I can even hear a recording. I've been "Dreaming" all week. My husband thinks I'm batty.



When I'm not dreaming, I'm thinking about Merry Widow Hats. (So, still kind of dreaming, I guess.) I learned that actress Lily Elsie, who played the lead in The Merry Widow operetta, was one of the most photographed women of the time. Isn't her hat to die for? It reminds me of Marian the Librarian's hat in The Music Man.


Speaking of which, my sister and I used to try to pull off the look when we were in high school. (Well, not literally in high school. We limited our theatrics to the home.) We were particularly smitten with the hats. Naturally we used black and white film to document with authenticity. 

The Music Man: Marian the Librarian
The Music Man: Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn

Eliza Dolittle (in her pre-Henry Higgins Days, of course)

But that was over 20 years ago. These days I force myself to remember that I'm a grown up and I try to do grown up things, like feed my children and fold the laundry. But lately, even as I'm doing these things, my mind wanders and I think about how lovely I'd be with a Gibson do. And the accompanying bored sigh. Surely this would be appropriate while folding laundry?


I snap to and realize I'm being ridiculous. But then I find myself in conversation with other women who "long for a ball" and giggle with delight over the thought of having tea parties and raspberry cordial. They love English Country dancing and the swish of petticoats. There are women who know that I will dress up at the drop of a hat and even join me in doing so. 

And then, on nights like tonight, I meet with dear-to-my-heart women who suggest, "We could dress up!" My heart skips a beat. Am I dreaming? No! There is hope. 

And I'll be working on that updo, just in case.   





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Saturday, July 25, 2015

{Known}


"You're a Stevens, aren't you?"

I don't hear it as often as I used to, but every once in a while I'll attend a wedding, memorial service or some sort of church related reunion, and someone will stop me. They'll see the Stevens in me and invariably the question will follow, "You're a Stevens, aren't you?"

I'm proud to say, "Yes!" Proud that this means they know my parents (and in many cases even my grandparents). But even more than that is the warm realization that I'm known. Known and accepted for who I am. No questions asked.



I recently attended a bridal shower for a dear family friend. What a joy it was to be among women who've known me for most of my life, who accept me for who I am, no questions asked. (Except for the inevitable question and follow-up exclamation: "So how old are your kids now??? I remember when you were that age!!!") We laughed and cried and remembered, and together we knew, together we were known.



It happened again last Sunday. I stopped between services to visit with a couple that I knew from childhood. They were passing through town for a wedding, and it was delightful to catch up. As we visited, another couple joined us. And then another . . . and another. We looked around and marveled. Many happened to be from out of town, visiting that day for one reason or another . . . and we all knew each other. Together we knew, together we were known.


We hastily grabbed phones and friends and snapped away, capturing the uniqueness of the moment. I ran backstage to grab my mother. We smiled and posed, and then we'd see another "old" friend walk by . . . we'd shout and add to the ensemble. My favorite eruption was when we spied Jamie across the auditorium. There was much yelling and beckoning. It was anything but hushed and reverent, but there was a holiness just the same. It was a precious reminder that we all knew one another, that we were known.

We were getting rather loopy by this point. We were also getting a number of stares.

It's in moments like these that I catch a glimpse of heaven. I get a sense of what it will one day be like to be fully known, fully loved . . . to fully know and to fully love. What depths are in store for us!

As we wait for that day, we are given powerful reminders that the best is yet to come. But we are also given reminders that we have opportunities right here and now to seek to more fully know and be more fully known. To share our lives and hearts not only with old friends, but to open ourselves to new people and new experiences, too.


The other night I sat among a group of young women, Bibles on our laps. I've only recently met most of them, but as the evening wore on, it was evident that there was a growing desire to know, to be known. Stories were shared, hearts revealed, honesty welcomed, and the knowing grew. For it is in the sharing, in the honesty, in the openness that we know . . . that we are known.

I find that the biggest hurdle for me in knowing and being known is the belief that I need to have my act together first. Then I'll be ready. My house must be fully decorated a la Pinterest (and spotless, of course), my menu impressive, my hair arranged just so, my clothes stylish. Once I'm perfect, I'll be ready. Because surely that will put my guests at ease.



Several years ago I had a friend drop by unexpectedly. The house was crawling with children and toys, but I kicked aside the Thomas trains, tucked my wildly straying hair behind my ear, and invited her to come in. I was a bit embarrassed by the chaos, but she later said that that was one of the most freeing moments for her as a young mom. I was real. I had kids, and I had the mess that invariably went along with that. And because of that, we knew each other in a deeper, more real way from that day on.

It turned out to be a freeing moment for me, too -- a moment that I would do well to remember every now and then: I don't need to be perfect to be known, I just need to be willing to be known.




As we know one another and invite people into our space, we will notice our family growing. It might not be the family that asks, "You're a Stevens, aren't you?" But it will be an even greater, richer family. A family that beckons across the aisles, hooting and hollering, warm and welcoming. It will be anything but hushed and reverent, but it will represent a holiness, just the same.


And one day, it will be perfect. We will be with the perfectly known, perfectly knowing One, who has perfectly known and perfectly loved us all along.

What a day of rejoicing that will be.      

     
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

{Summer River}

We woke up yesterday with nothing on the agenda. At times this is a blessing. Other times it makes me fidgety and even guilty-feeling. Surely there's something I should be accomplishing. I should . . . clean! Bake! Paint! Organize! And then I'm worn out just thinking about the ominous, never-ending to-do list. There will always be something.


As I prayed through our morning and read, I was drawn to Judges 9:3, which says, "They were inclined to follow Abimelech."

We are inclined. Yes, we are inclined -- inclined to follow man, inclined to follow the guilt which says, "You should do this . . . be like this . . . follow this . . . ." When really, what we desperately want (without always acknowledging or even realizing it), is to incline our hearts toward Jesus. (Psalm 119:36)


Miraculously, mercifully, we don't have to incline our hearts on our own. The Lord delights in teaching our hearts to yearn for that which truly satisfies.

And my experience has been that, as our hearts accept this teaching, His blessings abound. I saw it abound yesterday as I closed my journal with a prayer that the Lord would show me how to seek and find the joy He had in store for us that day.


No sooner had I swallowed my last drop of Earl Grey than I had an irresistible desire to take the kids to The River. It didn't matter which river it was, we just needed to go. The kids were getting fidgety and bickery as the week wore on, and I felt the need to remove distractions and enjoy some carefree yet intentional time together. (I'm sure the numerous references to The Wind in the Willows in my current read, Pilgrim's Inn, were also influential.)



I put out a little facebook plea to see if anyone had suggestions as to where we might go. Now, when I think "river," I think of the rivers that meandered through the campgrounds we haunted when I was growing up. I wanted my kids to swim and splash and throw rocks. I wanted to bring a picnic lunch and not worry about crowds or parking. I wanted to read and rest under a canopy of trees and maybe even throw some rocks myself.




My dear friend knew my heart, understood my desire, and responded, "Ummm, please use our river. . . . I'm in Kenya." And so we went.









It was glorious. It was a gift. A gift wrapped with river-colored ribbon, dotted with verdant tones, and generously splashed into our grateful, outstretched hands.


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