Will and I condensed 4.5 dates of conversations into our first date in 2012. We sidestepped small talk and went straight to things like beliefs about God, personality types, bucket lists, and childhood memories.
After attending a basketball game and shutting down a restaurant for dinner, we decided we still didn’t know enough about each other. At my apartment, we picked up the conversation where we’d left it.
Will is an artist, and as he told me about the pieces he’d created in college, I remembered my own childhood art collection under my bed.
“I’ll be right back,” I told him. I returned with a burgundy scrapbook at least five inches thick and at maximum capacity with extra papers peaking past its edges.
Upon opening the front cover, Will and I traveled back in time together. I showed him drawings from first grade of Easter eggs colored with Crayolas and writing worksheets from second grade for practicing cursive.
We read my reflection at eight years old on my great aunt’s death from cancer, which I’d typed on an IBM computer in the elementary school computer lab before font names and flat screens existed.
We laughed at third-grade Lanie with her puppy, Spanky, at show-and-tell and fourth-grade Lanie posed with hips popped to the right as Shania Twain with a tasseled-and-bedazzled dress, reminiscent of the Grand Ole Opry’s glory days.
Looking back, I’m surprised Will stuck around after going through my first eighteen years of life in one sitting.
But I’m so thankful I had that scrapbook for showing because it contained what seemed like souvenirs of all the places I’d traveled to become the woman he was getting to know that night.
Even though they seemed trivial to me, they were treasures my mom felt were worthy of saving and stitching together to tell a story.
When I was growing up in our small family of three, my mother was the collector of our stories.
She always showed up with a camera in hand, and she saved the smallest milestones like middle school report cards to the biggest ones like high school academic awards.
She was the curator of our memories, too.
Mom was not just the mom who bought me two concert tickets for my tenth birthday. No, she was the mom who, for the concert, bought gel with pink glitter for my hair.
When my dad and I showed up to shoot a catfishing television show together and the microphone clipped to my waist was tugging too much at my pants, my mom took off her belt and looped it around me to avoid a falling-pants crisis during the shoot. (That’s the picture on the left.)
No memory or milestone was ever too insignificant for my mom to curate and keep.
In this way, my mom reminds me of Jesus’ mom.
The Bible hints to us in Luke 2 at two different moments that Mary was the keeper and curator of her family’s memories, too.
Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart,” referring to the shepherds and others’ visits to see the newborn Jesus, who they’d heard would grow up to be the Savior of the world.
Luke 2:51 says that Mary “treasured up all these things in her heart” some years later when she found her Son conversing with those in the temple and talking about God at such a young age.
Even if Mary didn’t yet understand God’s purpose for her Son, she stilled treasured up those memories in her heart.
This is purely speculation, but I even wonder if she helped the gospel writers recount Jesus’ life. After all, God chose her not only to be Jesus’ mother, but to be the treasurer, keeper, and curator of his childhood.
Ann Voskamp is another mother who knows this secret to a life fully lived:
“The whole of the life – even the hard – is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments add up.” -One Thousand Gifts
The moments add up – stack up quickly like five-inch scrapbooks filled with eighteen years of family photos, report cards, and coloring pages.
At twenty-five-years old, I realize this Mother’s Day that I have a choice.
I can hustle and hurt from the hurry, or I can keep and curate with care.
This is the mother I want to be one day, and this is the woman I want to be today.
I want to make time.
Time for pondering both ordinary and extraordinary moments in my heart and writing them down on paper.
Time for curating memories with Will, our children, and our children’s children.
Time for archiving victories and defeats and thanking God for his presence amidst both.
Time for drinking coffee and sharing stories with friends and family.
Time for making scrapbooks and photos without Instagram filters.
Time even for reminding others of their own journeys – that God’s never finished with their scrapbooks, never done with their stories.
Yes, this is the woman I want to be: a keeper and curator of memories to love well and live full.
This is what my mother taught me.
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I am late in learning the news that one of my favorite authors is “controversial.” But, then again, what author who entrusts her words to the world isn’t controversial at some point?
While listening to a podcast a couple of weeks ago featuring Ann Voskamp, she spoke about the pain from misunderstandings, accusations, and dismissals of her book as less than orthodox. I’d read her book under scrutiny—One Thousand Gifts—myself and closed its back cover with no qualms or critiques. Even if I would’ve had disagreements, I probably would’ve still finished the book. After all, there are almost always points of intersection or takeaways from reading anything.
After finishing Voskamp’s interview, I started digging and found the less-than-gracious book review from 2012 that stirred further praises and criticisms from both camps.
I learned something truly beautiful about Voskamp along the way: she emailed the man who reviewed her book–with all of his assumptions and interpretations, published for the world to read–and invited him to dinner at her home.
Then the book reviewer apologized:
“As a writer myself, I ought to remember that words are meaningful and revealing and in some way a part of the person who writes them. Every word comes from somewhere deep inside. Every word of One Thousand Gifts is a part of Voskamp just like every word I write is a part of me.
“I did poorly here and I can see that I need to grow in my ability to critique the ideas in a book even while being kind and loving to its author. There was reason for the shame I felt when I saw [her] name in my inbox. I had put effort into reading the book and understanding and critiquing it, but no real effort into showing love and respect for the author. I had assumed poor motives and, in arrogance and thoughtlessness, had squelched useful discussion of the book’s strengths and weaknesses.”
What an example of reconciliation this was in blogosphere. Rather than returning his hurtful criticisms with more blows, the author welcomed the critic to the table, and the critic asked for forgiveness, humbled his posture, and reoriented his perspective.
Although she didn’t specifically mention the book reviewer by name, Voskamp did publicly respond on her blog and reiterated her tightly held (and orthodox) convictions, all the while privately inviting him to the table.
One writer said Voskamp had exercised “the spiritual discipline of earnestness.”
Earnestness. I look up the word’s definition, and it’s “sincere and intense conviction.” Beyond the art forms of a well-written book, blog, or even Facebook post, this is the art form that’s often missing today around our dinner tables: the centerpiece of earnestness embellished with respect.
I ask myself this question: “How often do I invite those with whom I disagree to my table?” and I’m afraid this is why we often don’t have the chance to practice the spiritual discipline of earnestness–of holding sincere and intense convictions–because our circles are busting at their circumferences with homogeneity: with people who think and believe like us, look like us, act like us, create like us, vote like us, and spend like us.
Will and I visited a church in New Orleans last weekend where the pastor read this short poem:
He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
-“Outwitted” by Edwin Markham
The pastor continued and explained that the church strives to be one that is welcoming but not necessarily affirming, meaning that its people will always uphold the respect and dignity of others, even amidst earnestness and even disagreement.
We often buy one of two lies: either we believe we must agree in order to gather around dinner tables, or we believe we must sacrifice either love or conviction in the presence of disagreement.
But what if you and I drew a bigger circle? What if we pulled up more seats to our tables? What if the earnestness of others didn’t threaten our own? What if we invited the book critics of our own stories to dinner? Even more daring, what if we asked those Facebook friends with whom we disagree if we could meet for coffee rather than un-friending them? What if we remembered that our neighbor is, first and foremost, an image bearer of the invisible God, and our love and respect preceded our knowledge and convictions?
The Enemy of our souls and our Savior celebrates every time we draw small circles; but what if we find the wit to win–to make more room and take people in?
“When we practice the discipline of finding, making and cultivating beauty, God allows us to see people and creation as holding higher value than our likeminded circle, our tight grip on political or theological stances.” –Micha Boyett
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