Tell me a story.
Nick and I dated long distance our whole relationship, all the way through our engagement, and then right up until our wedding day. Early on, we would watch Netflix together over skype to give us something more date-like to do. As time passed and we got to know each other better and built more memories in-person, I began asking him to tell me stories about us. To share the details of our journey from his point of view.
Now that we are married, from time to time, I still ask him to tell me a story. It’s an anchor, a reminder of who we are and how we got here. As he reminisces I return back to those moments and, in a way, even relive the feelings I had when all of this was new and every moment was unexpected.
Last Wednesday my friend had a doctor’s appointment. I packed a book in my bag since I usually sit in the waiting room while she and her six-year-old daughter go back together. But as we were checking in she instead asked me to watch her daughter. I got a little anxious. I’m not great with kids…I’ve always been a bit overwhelmed by them. I feel like I’m just grasping at straw trying to find things that will keep them entertained until our time together is up.
I was a nanny for at least a summer in high school. I was in charge of two young boys all day, almost every day and they were only allowed about an hour of screen time total – T.V., video games, computers – just one hour. That left me with a lot of hours to try and fill. One day they used up their allotted time first thing in the morning and they turned to acting out their favorite TV episodes instead. This would have been great, had they not expected me to play, too. The problem was, I didn’t know every piece of dialogue from Ninja Turtles episode number 142 (or whatever) and they refused to let me ad-lib. Finally, after a few frustrating minutes, I convinced them to make up their own story. The next two hours flew by as their imaginations engaged and they ran around the house and we built a world together. There were still elements of their favorite shows and games peppered in, but this was a creation of something totally new. Something that couldn’t exist again outside of that day with the three of us together.
So, last Wednesday, when I followed my new, youngest friend over to the play area, all of this was running through my head. I was expecting to find some toys that would occupy us for at least a few minutes. No such luck. There was a race track station with no cars. A kitchen station with no food. A mat with a zoo theme but no animals to handle. She was disappointed and so was I. Usually at the doctor my friend hands her daughter the iphone and she buries herself in youtube. I thought about handing mine over, but I hesitated. I’ve spent a lot of time with this family; they were the first people to invite me into their home when I moved to Charlottesville. I found myself, in the moment last week, wanting to know this little girl better. She was always jumping and singing around the house, showing off her new outfits and toys, but I didn’t feel like we had really connected the way I have with her mom.
So as we sat cross-legged on two squishy stools I asked…
Do you want to tell me a story?
She lit up. And jumped into all the details of her current favorite life experience: eating a hotdog and throwing it up in the sink. I smiled and asked her to tell me another. All of a sudden she pulled me into October with her. Where things were spooky and scary and where a witch captured a mummy and she gave him a potion and he threw up…a hotdog man. My eyes got big as I listened and when she was done I slowly pointed her attention to the little kitchen playset off to our right…look…on that microwave…there is a picture of…a hotdog!! She loved it and dove into even more details of her Halloween world.
Then it was my turn to tell a story. She requested something princess themed, but before I could begin she launched into a mashup retelling of all of her favorite Disney princess’s life stories. I listened and then made up my own with her as the hero.
We went back and forth like this all morning. Her mom came out and we made a stop at the pharmacy where they told us we would have to wait 45 minutes. Luckily our imaginations were already alive and we just jumped right back into our stories – with a brief break for about 30 rounds of rock-paper-scissor just for the fun of it.
As we made our way back to the car, my newest, littlest friend grabbed my hand. There was a new level of trust and affection to our friendship.
Do you want to tell me a story?
Stories anchor us. They tell us something about who we are. When we dig deep stories can bubble out of us in rambling, unexpected ways. Humans have known this since the beginning of our time. Our great-great-great-great-great-whatevers sat around campfires, around tables, around stoves and told stories of the day, but also stories of legends and history.
I started this blog as a place to collect stories, and a place to invite others to tell their stories, too. I chose the name lamplight because in scripture we are urged not to put our light – our soul, our witness to the way God has made and is continually making us – under a basket. Instead of hiding it from the world we are invited to set our light up on a lampstand. This blog is a sort of lampstand, a place to tell the story of the way God is moving in the world and in my life. Last Wednesday I met God in the excitement of a shared moment of imagination and wonder. Where have you noticed God in your story recently?