I mentioned in a previous post how the book Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer started me on the road to recognizing the scared in the everyday. I thought it would be good to finally explain what I meant by that comment. I believe it was my mom who first introduced me to Edith Schaeffer, and my life has been so much richer as a result. Thanks, Mom!
I was in my 20s and recently married when I read Hidden Art for the first time. It is not an overstatement to say that this book changed my life. For me, my 20s were all about growing up and figuring out who I was, and this book provided a vocabulary with which to speak the many unarticulated thoughts that were percolating in my head. I think some of the significance of the book stems from the fact that I was married young (20!) and had Jacob when I was 25. While most of my friends were single or just married, and busy establishing careers, I was home caring for a baby and creating a home. Reading this book provided me with the significance I desperately needed as a young, stay-at-home mom. My life and all that it encompassed (changing diapers, shopping for groceries, spending my days with an infant) took on a new light when I realized that all I did, from the simple to the extravagant, was an act of worship and an opportunity to encounter God. Home-keeping was an art! Mind you, Edith wrote this book well before home-keeping was the buzz word it is today.
Chapters on music, gardening, food, and creative reflection inspired me in my own journey. I read and re-read many sections soaking up her words and thinking about ways to incorporate her ideas into my own life. It was also during this time that my fascination for L’Abri (the ministry she and her husband, the late Francis Schaeffer, began) started. I loved reading The Tapestry, the story of how Edith and Francis met and their early years of marriage, and then moving onto L’Abri, Dear Family, and With Love, Edith which are the stories about how L’Abri began and grew.
I met Edith while attending a L’Abri conference in Rochester, MN in early 1998. I had her autograph two of my copies of her books. Of course, she drew a beautiful illustration inside each of my books to go along with her signature. The only thing I can remember from our conversation was her comment that her back was hurting her, and that it must be time for tea! It was around 4 pm in the afternoon, and tea was a regular part of her routine.
This past Christmas I reread her books about the beginning days of L’Abri. I took comfort from the ways God provided for their family during those early years of uncertainty and financial struggle. The same God who was faithful to the Schaeffers in so many miraculous ways is the same God who remains faithful to our family today.
I am approaching the fifteen year mark since I first heard of Edith Schaeffer and read her books. There’s been a lot of growth in those years. An important discovery I have made in those years is that my life doesn’t have to look like Edith’s life, and I don’t have to agree with everything she says. Just like the rest of us, Edith is a broken person. She isn’t perfect, but she certainly taught me a lot about everyday living. In fact, when I need a shot in the arm to remind me that simple acts such as fresh flowers and a lit candle at the dinner table are important, I still reach for Edith.