words matter

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On Friday, Caleb had the opportunity to take part in the team competition

at the Oregon State Chess Tournament.

Before each round, once the players assume their position behind

white or black pieces, they allow parents to assume their own positions and

take pictures of their players.

With some coaxing, I was able to get Caleb to display a smile and

as I was snapping his photo

a coach from another team walked up,

looked from me to the two opponents

flanking the chess board and then his gaze returned to me.

While shaking his head he said,
“Oh, that’s going to be a tough one! But it will be alright.”

At first I didn’t process what he said or meant.

It happened so fast.

As he was patting his hand on my shoulder, I realized

what he was suggesting.

By then it was time to take our seats and let the chess play begin.

Thankfully this man’s comments were not heard by Caleb.

I sat in my chair a bit rattled and sent out a quick text message

to family telling them to pray because Caleb was going to have a tough match.

Why did I send up a smoke signal?

I took the words of a stranger who possessed zero knowledge about the match

in question only his assumptions.

I took his words and branded them to my mind, my heart and my son.

I took his words and made them factual.

Guess what?

Caleb won the match.

Of the two rounds he played on Friday,

he said his first match had been the easiest.

The second match, he found himself in trouble.

His opponent had him in check several times.

He recounted how he decided he was going to

turn the game around and he did.

He was patient and believed in himself.

I am not sharing the fact that Caleb won his first match

to prove the man wrong.

Or even to brag.

I share it because I want to illustrate how easily and quickly

stray and unfiltered words can penetrate my mind.

Has this ever happened to you?

I want to have a broader shield over my thoughts and heart.

In fact, I want to be more like Caleb.

As we were driving home from the tournament, I  reluctantly told him

the story of the man and his off-handed remark.

Caleb asked me if I went up to the coach later and told him

he had won.

I said no.

I wanted to tell him off but I didn’t.

He said,

“Mom, you should have told him who I was and

that I am a good chess player.”

He’s right.

Sometimes I forget.

I forget why we named him Caleb.

Caleb means faithful.

We named him Caleb because of  the Caleb in the Bible.

Caleb was one of a group of spies tasked to survey the land promised to

Israel.

The majority of the spies returned with reports of being terrified

because ‘there were giants in the land.”

But Caleb and Joshua believed God was giving them the land

no matter the obstacles placed before their eyes.

We wanted our Caleb to believe His God could

accomplish big things.

I shouldn’t be surprised that he believes big.

He has been faithful to work hard in chess and has

set goals for himself each year.

His faithfulness (and the faithfulness of his coach Richard) are

the reason he was able to stare down an opponent without fear.

Words matter.

The words we say.

The words we hear.

Let’s make it our aim to say words which bring

courage and don’t discourage.

Let’s determine today when we hear a word designed

to defeat, instead we will remember who we are and not

how someone desires to define us.

Otherwise we will always find ourselves in checkmate.

Remember who you are.

What I Learned in February

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February is nearly a memory. I am linking up again with Emily at chatting at the sky
to recount what we learned during this short month.
I have been quite absent from this space but perhaps after you meander
through this list you will understand why the shortage of written words.

  1. It is important to say out loud who you are.
    I am starting a new job on Monday :)
    Although writing my resume was a challenge,
    the interview process was also difficult because
    you must talk about yourself. That’s the point, right?
    When you take time to sit and think about yourself and
    your accomplishments, a powerful wave of
    acknowledgment takes place.
    It is not about becoming inflated with pride,
    instead it is a necessary reminder of identity
    and place in this world. It’s all about
    recognizing your gifts and giving thanks to the
    One who sprinkled them over your life.
    I was out of practice in speaking about myself.
    I had forgotten parts of my personal history.
    I am so glad to be reminded.
    This weekend, take a sheet of paper and start
    compiling your experiences, your accomplishments
    and what makes you who you are. It might take
    more than one attempt to let your mind expand
    and roam. Then here’s the challenge, find one
    person to share one detail unknown to them.
    Speak forth who you are.
  2. I need to make root beer floats more often.
    One way we celebrated this new job was to have
    root beer floats after our traditional Pizza Friday.
    I forget how much I enjoy this simply delicious treat.
  3. I love my Timehop app.
    If you aren’t familiar with this app, through the
    magic of technology, this app tracks any activity on social
    media over the last 5 years and reminds you what you posted.
    I knew I had given up coffee awhile ago but thanks to Timehop
    now I can remember the exact date.Screenshot_2015-02-27-09-25-49
  4. There is power in a smile.
    The photo at the top of the page was taken inside Salt & Straw.
    If you are familiar with Salt & Straw, you realize the joy of being
    inside the ice cream shop and not waiting outside in line. If you
    don’t know about S & S, they sell wonderful sweet and savory
    ice cream. They are local to the Portland area but now have a
    shop in Los Angeles.
    Carl and I spent Valentine’s Day poking our heads into shops
    and restaurants along streets we normally race past in our cars
    and don’t have time to stop and linger. We decided to embrace
    standing in line at Salt & Straw. We didn’t mind the 35-40 minute
    wait as the weather was perfect and we were not in any hurry.
    wpid-20150214_171913.jpg
    This is Paige, looking downcast as she hands a customer a sweet taste
    upon the cutest little metal spoon.
    We didn’t know this was her name until it was our turn.
    So let’s get to our turn.
    (Recall lesson #1, for the sake of imparting a lesson, I will share.)
    Carl and I walked up, smiled and said hello.
    Nothing unusual, really our normal style.
    Paige stopped and stared at us.
    Then to me, she said,
    “You have the warmest, most genuine smile.”
    Looking at Carl, she said,
    “You both do.”
    We gushed, thanked her and  quickly gave her our sample
    requests because you know, people are waiting for their turns.
    She handed us heaping spoons and continued chatting with us.
    She explained she had been having the worst day and her co-workers had been trying
    to cheer her up but nothing was working until we walked up.
    We spoke with her for a few moments between yummy bites and making our
    official flavor decisions. We exchanged names and she gave Carl the
    biggest two scoop waffle cone either of us had ever seen.
    Paige was so delighted she kept piling on the ice cream and was
    giving Carl a free waffle cone as well.
    She continued thanking us and expressing how we had lifted her day.
    But in reality, when she smiled back at us, it made our days as well
    and we were able to see how gorgeous she was. Truly.
    She dubbed us Sunshine & Sunshine as we made our way out to
    the crowd beyond ice cream heaven.
    As we left the line behind us, we were treated to this view:
    wpid-20150214_174450.jpgSmile at everyone you meet.
    You may be the key to elevating their day.
    Oh and yes, eat more ice cream too ;)

What did you learn during February?

 

 

resolving the unresolved

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Somewhere between the intersection of Sunday night and Monday dawn, I awoke on

the New England Patriot’s 1-yard line.

With my eyes closed, I rolled over and attempted to realign myself with my comforter

instead of the rough artificial grass.

Slowly I recalled the previous afternoon and how the game ended.

The game clock displayed side-by-side sets of zeros and it was over but in my

mind and apparently my dreams,

the outcome felt unresolved.

*****

There’s nothing like a good book

but lately I can’t seem to

bring myself to start or finish a book.

There are books I couldn’t wait to hold in my hands

and several received as gifts still wearing shiny book jackets.

Over the last few years, I have attempted to read more fiction as my default has

always been non-fiction.

Now I look forward to escaping into the pages of a well-crafted story and perhaps

my mind hasn’t been willing to release the characters, the story line or

even the ending.

Maybe I can’t resolve the final pages to move onto fresh beginnings.

*****

My journal is like a map of bullet points consisting of people

and things which concern me.

What’s not on the list?

Everything else in my head I don’t allow a pen and paper to document.

Whether written or unwritten, I am sure you have lists of your own.

There are a litany of areas in my life and maybe yours as well

which could be labeled unresolved.

I can’t help but think this is the appeal of making a resolution.

It is an opportunity to

dig in your heels,

state for the record,

draw a line in the sand,

declare right here and

right now your intention to resolve

“this thing” which thus far

has remained unresolved.

But when resolve feels

shaky and improbable,

one more item lands in

the pile of unmet resolutions.

*****

So my mind is littered with a fair amount of clutter.

Some resolved, I just would rather a different end result.

Some unresolved and may never venture close to  a finish line.

Still others I have absolutely no vote or control in their

resolution.

This is probably why I dream of a small bits of football

real estate or different ending to books.

When I pray this is why my mouth lingers open

to drink in just enough air to chat with the Father about

the unresolved.

*****

In the past, I would try harder when the pieces of my

life weren’t lining up.

Today I need a gentler approach.

When  the clutter of my life disrupts my sleep

and leisure life, structure steeped in kindness is necessary.

I want to keep or add  practices to days

strewn with unresolved matters:

  • Breathe deeply 
  • Get fresh air
  • Sip on water and not so much tea
  • Take a walk or even a stroll
  • Continue to keep company with God
  • Get plenty of rest and take naps on the weekend
  • Eat like an adult :)
  • Light candles not just at night
  • Stretch (I am loving this 7 minute yoga app)
  • Spend time with the people who live in and outside
    my four walls and reach out to the wise ones
    faraway

Could any of these ten practices help 

you wade through the land of unresolved things?

 

what i learned in january

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  1. Hugs from an 11 year-old boy are a gift.
    Of our three children, Caleb is the one who
    asks for hugs the most and without needing a reason.
    He loves having his head rubbed or neck
    massaged. Most mornings, I am greeted by his outstretched
    arms with increasing wingspan and given a hug.
    I have been looking at hugs from the standpoint
    of them one day flying away.
    I am determined to see each one as a gift received and
    not bemoan future days. I cannot stop the day when
    his chin rests upon my head nor can I stall
    his need for mama closeness to change its dimensions.
    I can only embrace and cherish each hug dearly.
    What if he is forever a hugger and I have been
    waiting for the way he has been carved to end?
  2. Speak less, write less and listen more.
    Recently I listened to a fragment of a teaching from
    Beth Moore. She was recounting being
    one of many speakers at a conference. She was following
    the activity on Twitter and was struck by all the tweets posted
    seconds after a speaker had uttered them. She expressed how
    easy it is to borrow what another person has learned. The people
    tweeting the excellent quotes had not done the work
    allowing the words to swim deeply into their souls.
    This is part of the reason I am posting less often. I want to have
    time for my words to marinate. I want them to have come forth
    tender after walking through the toughness
    of my spirit.
    I want to process before I proclaim.
  3. I have racial tension fatigue, is there such a thing?
    When I use the word fatigue, I don’t mean I am tired
    enough to sweep facts out of sight and mind.
    My mind, heart and soul are fatigued.
    The expanse of a day brings an unwelcome accumulation
    of  evidence supporting our tumultuous climate.
    It can be violent or a person of stature’s
    poor choice of words.
    I have felt disheartened when many are surprised
    racism remains.
    When making a cake,
    dry ingredients are added to wet ones and stirred
    until each ingredient is fully incorporated. One final
    scrap along a hidden section of your bowl reveals streaks
    of flour, catching you off guard.
    Where did that come from?
    I thought enough stirring had occurred for the ingredients
     in the batter to be come indistinguishable?
    The streak of racism has been uncovered and deserves
    conversation and action. It demands heart change.
    My soul’s permanent resident of optimism has
    vacated and needs time to move back in
    so I can respond in hope and energy.
    Our church just finished a 3 week series called
    Saving Justice reflecting on the gospel, injustice
    and the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and
    Coretta Scott King.
    I have listened to this talk twice and will again.
    I found it to be a very balanced and hopeful
    message.
    Have a listen here.
  4. I  am going to miss Parenthood.
    By the time this post is published, the sixth
    and final season of Parenthood will have aired.
    Carl and I watched this series with our girls.
    Not everything but so many themes intersected
    our lives. Each week, it was as if we set
    up a water cooler in our living room to discuss
    story lines real and on the screen.
    A fun side note: Craig T. Nelson (Zeek) was in the same
    graduation class as my father and attended
    their 50th class reunion a couple of summers ago.
    So that means I sort of know him ;)
    I will miss the Bravermans.
    Here are 10 ways Parenthood made us cry.
  5. I have given winter a bad rap.
    Although I have never lined up the seasons
    from favorite to least favorite, I have
    always known winter landed on the bottom.
    Living in Portland, Oregon, although many
    escape to the mountains for snow fun, I think
    the rest of us are always waiting for better weather
    and if that isn’t going to happen, let it snow.
    Not rumors of snow but bring on snow in abundance
    for a day or two. Most winters are grey,chilly and
    soggy. I feel badly writing the previous sentence
    because lately it has been quite wonderfully cool
    with fog in the mornings and late evenings and
    sunny blue sky afternoons but this isn’t normal.
    Mark Buchanan is one of my favorite authors.
    For the past several years,his book Spiritual Rhythm
    has been a needed companion for each season,
    especially in the midst of winter.
    Whenever I read about a particular season,
    I am reminded of vital sections
    within the year I am prone to discard.
    I am fervently trying to receive one of winter’s purposes
    as Mark Buchanan details:
Winter's not for adding things but for cutting things.
It's the best season, the safest one, actually, to look
closely at all the tangled branches of your life--the travel,
the committee work, the various projects, the hobbies that
have become burdens or obsessions, the trivial pursuits,
the diversions; or the ingrown snarl of things, the lists in 
your head of people and situations to worry about, the 
proliferation of responsibilities that aren't really yours--
and ask honestly if these are bearing fruit or just sapping
energy. And then, without apology or even caution, cut
to nothing all that which gives nothing. 

I decided to post a second time this week to join
Emily and her community at chatting at the sky
to share what we learned in January.

You can read more here.

What did you learn in January?

the crisis of the ellipsis

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During the first years of this blog,

I learned how important it was to develop my voice and style.

If you read any of the early years of posts,

my voice and style were essentially an overuse of the ellipsis.

Do you know what I mean?

An ellipsis is the series of three dots at the end

of an incomplete sentence.

I am sure I thought it was cute at the time.

Now I know it was a flashing arrow pointing

towards my incomplete thoughts or fear

of full disclosure.

Perhaps a feeble attempt to allow any reader to

finish the sentence to their liking.

Over the years, I have had occasions when

my resumé needed updating.

This exercise has proven to be an excruciating one.

No matter the accomplishments,

I only see the 10-year gap in my

work history.

It feels like an ellipsis,

(not a cute one),

an incomplete

thought and sometimes

in the midst of winter when my

spirit shrivels and sags,

it’s a persistent whisper begging

me to believe it signals

an incomplete life.

Yet I know this is far from

the truth.

The space between those dots appears

minuscule on paper,

as if nothing happened,

but in the real life of putting foot to concrete,

the expanse extends miles

past the written page.

Those little dots don’t reveal or describe

the time of sacred mothering for which

I am immensely grateful.

They don’t display the years of healing

from the toll of physically demanding

work.

So whenever a  reflexive shudder travels

from my head to spine as I survey the

gaps,

the pauses,

the sense of incompleteness,

I remember,

I am not the one who completes

my life sentence.

I am not even the author of those sentences.

I am to live fully awake in the sentence,

no matter when a comma or an ellipsis

seems to be an interruption.

Does your life consist of 

ellipsis overabundance?

Do those tiny dots seem to cast a 

large shadow over your days?

What friendship seemed close and now it is…?

Did you think you would occupy a certain role

by now?

Were you always intending to go back to school?

Do you equate incomplete with inadequate?

Could we pause for a moment today and

embrace the ellipsis in our lives?

Would we allow our minds to roam over those areas

which seem incomplete and accept them

in all their “as is” glory.

If it is a friendship,

how can we move toward it

or was it only meant for a particular season?

If it is a dream,

how can we realign it or practice

patience while we wait?

For each dot of the ellipsis,

find one reason to be grateful

for the pause.

Our lives are full of gaps

and interruptions,

embrace them as teachers

and not as harsh taskmasters.

The ellipsis simply means

your life isn’t finished yet,

and this my friends,

is a marvelous reality.