4.22.2014

Going for Gold

I grew up eating normal family meals with gold plated flatware. While researching Mother's set for this post, I discovered (much to my dismay) that it is now considered "vintage" and her particular set is rather difficult to find; something that I found humorous since all I wanted as a child was a "normal" set of silver, silverware, like all my friends had.

Mother still pulls it out whenever there is company - like this past Easter - or on the rare occasions when she uses my grandmother's china. However, outside of the floral-handled gold-ware, our family dinners were usually eaten on blue speckled plates that she purchased at a local discount pottery store, or a farm scene set found on clearance at Hill's - in other words, nothing too fancy. But there were always matching place mats and napkins, and Mom was always generous in allowing me to set our table for family meals with whatever accouterments my little heart desired - even if that meant the occasional hamburger on Grandma's china.

As an adult, I grew out of the habit of setting the table for meals. After all, it was just the two of us. Dinner was typically a quick affair, thrown onto a plastic plate, eaten at the kitchen counter, taken downstairs to scarf while watching a movie, or tossed into a bag for tomorrow's lunch. We often laughed that our dining room was only used on the rare occasions that we entertained. And then, in the span of a month, our mindset was made over.

A cross-cultural experience reminded us that every meal, even a simple salad at home, can be an event. We began to understand that the goal of dinner wasn't just to nourish our bodies, but to feed our souls through conversation and connection after a day at work. It was an opportunity to unwind and listen to one another, casually nibbling on bread and sipping the last drops of our after-dinner coffee or tea. It was something to be savored, not rushed.

Although we have no children, I began reading French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon, and our table started to look sad. The next night, I climbed up on a stool and pulled our lightly used place mats and cloth napkins (thoughtfully purchased for us as wedding gifts almost 14 years ago) down from their box on the top shelf. While Peter (who is the gourmet cook in our family) worked on the meal, I went about the task of "dressing" the table.

In the weeks that followed this change, my grandmother's china has stopped collecting dust in my hutch and has been put to work. I've assessed each plate, bowl, cup, and serving piece in my kitchen and cupboards, looking for items with meaning and discarding the ones that were purchased because they had a red clearance sticker on them. A good five nights out of seven, we can now be found sitting at our dining room table, savoring a "leisurely" meal of 30 minutes or more.

I knew real change had come, however, when I grew tired of seeing my everyday silverware with my gold-rimed china. I knew I didn't want the fru-fru gold-ware of my childhood, but being a plain-Jane person, I wasn't sure I would find anything that wasn't scrolled and flowered to death. Not willing to give up the "quest for gold", I was recently taking a virtual stroll around Potterybarn.com and came across a set on clearance that I knew I would be proud to see surrounding my grandparent's plates. With a few clicks of a button, and a nod of approval from the hubby, a third (updated) generation of gold flatware will soon settle in next to our 60+ year old china.

Which also means that if there happen to be any future kiddos setting the table in our home, they will be able to roll their eyes and say, "Mom, why can't we just have plain ol' silverware?" The circle is complete. Somewhere in Heaven, I'm pretty sure my grandmother is laughing.

What about you? Is dinner an event or a survival technique?
Any traditions carried over from childhood?

4.17.2014

Life

Sometimes there just are no words to explain the things that God walks you through. Right now, He's tightly holding our hands even as He pushes us far beyond the boundary of our comfort zone. So many days, I look at my husband and say, "What are we doing? Are we nuts?" 

To the world looking in, we probably do look like we've lost our senses. But each and every day I chose to trust that the God who is writing this crazy chapter of our life knows -- far better than we do -- exactly what we need, and what we need to learn. Most of the time I walk around in a state of silent, continual prayer. When the future gets too overwhelming, I take a deep breath and remember: He is writing our story

In many ways, it feel as though we're at a crossroads, much like the early Church on Good Friday. On Friday evening, Jesus was dead, His mother was weeping, and His disciples scattered. Fear and uncertainly were rampant among those who had followed Him, and I'm sure there were many who were wondering how they could have been so misled. But Friday is not the end of the story

The world of the Apostles was turned upside down in a matter of hours. Although they spent three years with Jesus, they still did not know Him. They were blind to the wisdom He shared in parables, missing the point and focusing on the kingdoms of earth. You know what? I can identify with them. Sometimes I am so focused on the uncertainties and the what ifs that I overlook the big picture. I can only see the "Friday" of my story. 

When my world is shaky, I cling to one truth above all else: that the God who gave His Son, the Son who died for my sins, and the Holy Spirit who provides conviction and guidance in this earthly sojourn - this God will never leave me. He will never abandon me on this road, nor forget me in this story He is writing. 

Do you want to know something exciting? God is writing your story too. And it's not going to look anything like mine, but it will be beautiful, if only you will trust Him, obeying when He calls you, following where He leads. It may feel like Friday... but praise the Lord, Sunday is coming!


He has Risen, Indeed!

4.11.2014

Dear Fellow #Bookworms...

The picture below is of my stack of books that are either currently in process or waiting to be read. They are sitting atop my nightstand which is filled with more books in waiting. Don't preach to me about the beauty of using the library - books are my Achilles heel. Someone, please tell me I am not alone! Why only yesterday I had to tell myself NO! when I went to Amazon in search of this book, because enough is enough... for now.


Happy Friday!

3.25.2014

Things That Make Me Smile

Even though you don't know details (I explained that yesterday), let's just say that for the last few weeks, I would rather have been somewhere else. But I'm not there... I'm here. And life must go on, and bills must be paid, and work must be done, and all in all there are greater things in life to worry about. But even in the midst of all the distractions and family upheaval and shock over me "unplugging" for so long from Facebook (who knew THAT could cause issues?), I've found things to make me smile. Want to know what they are?

Yesterday, I sliced open a digit with a very sharp bread knife... but even as I was compressing my finger with a paper towel and hurrying from the kitchen, I felt a smile spread across my face as I remembered that I now had Jane Austen band-aids. And that made everything better. (Psst... jealous? They're available at Amazon.)


And then there was the fact that my husband pointed me towards TuneIn, which I've been playing the life out of Paris CafĂ© on JazzRadio.com. It's not all accordion playing (though the rendition of "I Did It My Way" on accordion made me snort), it's just nice coffee-house music, occasionally with people singing songs in French (which I can't understand, but it doesn't mean I don't like them). Oh, and it's FREE. {Happy Dance

And my blog post was shared yesterday. And kind words were said. And at the end of the day, let's just be honest, it's really nice when other people promote your stuff instead of you saying over and over, "read my post, visit my blog, I'm not crazy!" What? You don't do that? Oh, never mind. Well, because I'm grateful for those who promoted me, let me encourage you to follow The Strategic Learner on Facebook (especially if you are interested in leadership blogs and articles), and add @CBechervaise to your Twitter lists.

I started reading a book back in February and finally finished it earlier this month. It didn't take that long because it failed to hold my attention, rather that I kept getting busy with other things. Anyway, if you're interested in art or history or art history, The Monuments Men is a MUST READ, and is a definite page turner. I haven't seen the movie (when it comes to Redbox and I can rent it for $1, I might consider it), but you'll want to buy the book before they change the cover to some image of George Clooney rather than the real Monuments Men heros of WWII. 

And... snails. They make me happy. Even happier? Snails in mushroom caps, slathered in melted butter and garlic. Happiest? A husband who loves to cook and isn't afraid of trying more exotic cooking in our very own little kitchen. Now that's a continual staycation with style! 

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What's making YOU happy?

3.24.2014

The #Introvert Shell

Most people who know me offline scoff when I describe myself as an introvert. I can be jovial and outgoing, speaking in front of an audience (which has gotten easier, but is not easy), not caring what people think about my clothes or if I look foolish singing "In Your Easter Bonnet" for the amusement of my co-workers. I am me, and I am an introvert.

Accepting who I am involves knowing my own limitations. I know that being with people wears me out and causes stress. I know that after I have been with people, I like to spend time alone or with my husband - a fellow introvert - to recharge. I know that I am happiest on days when the phone never rings and I don't have to leave the house. I know that if called upon to be outgoing, I have the capacity to do so, but not for an extended period of time.

When people get to know you online, they see one side of you - the side that you allow them to see. Your Facebook "friends" and Twitter followers see the happy pictures, family updates, political rants, and relationship changes. Although I do my best to be authentic online, it's just not possible for you to genuinely know me because, as an introvert, I value privacy and there is much that I don't tell you.

Genuine friendship, no matter what others may say, is pretty rare, and there are very few people in my "Inklings" circle. One of the reasons I married my husband is because he saw me - not the me of his own creation, but the me of reality. Our relationship is best summed up by this quote from The Four Loves: "Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: 'What! You too? I thought that no one but myself...'" Together, we have broken most of the molds that our families, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and complete strangers have attempted to smash us into.

One of the myriad of reasons I unplug is because I become overwhelmed by the over-sharing that takes place on blogs and social media (says the hypocrite who is blogging about this). There are areas of my life that are just too important and personal to share. A like, a retweet, a +1 - those do not fill the inherent need for genuine philia love - caring enough about the person to invest real time offline.

Over the last year, I have attempted to broaden my circle by opening up to others - sharing concerns and personal battles. It hasn't been easy, but I thought it was important. As it turns out, I share just enough to appear flippant, when in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. I'm an INTJ who is married to an INTJ. We reason and think (possibly over-think) through everything; no decision made lightly or without a lot of discussion, planning, and prayer. Ironically, those who only hear part of the story (and have not been privy to our process of getting there) quite often mistake our "quick" choices as thoughtless ones.

Each time a concerned individual reaches out to make sure we've considered all the angles (no matter what the decision), I am reminded of why, for more than 31 years of my life, I chose to keep my circle small. Even though I appreciate those who express concern because they want the best for us, filling in all the details can be very draining for an introvert, and I shut down again. If you need me, I'll be in my shell. It's nice and quiet in here.


Ever wondered how to deal with an introvert? Read this. My husband says they nailed me.

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