Everlasting Words

This morning, I sat on my front porch in an unseasonably cool breeze and set myself to the task of continuing to read through books for our new curriculum adoption. One of said books is Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming. As I read her fluidly-beautiful narrative set in chronological poems, two in particular stood out to me: “The Beginning” and “Composition Notebook”. These chapters capture so beautifully exactly how I feel about words and writing. I do not recall the first notebook I received but I have a feeling that my reaction was much like hers, coupled with the desire to start writing right now!

My daughter has recently begun writing her first independent narrative story, appropriately a fan-fiction piece about one of her favorite cartoon shows. I cannot express my joy at watching her get excited to put her ideas down in writing. It is simply amazing to see her “creating art with words” as she put it today.

I have been writing for approximately 33 years — stories, poems, song lyrics, speeches, essays, and articles — and I hold it as one of my greatest talents and delights in life. Lately, however, writing has felt incredibly difficult. Not the words themselves, truly, but, as Rachel Macy Stafford so succinctly stated the other day, “it’s hard to publish words in the world right now”. I want to write to help and heal, to be authentic and open, to welcome those who might need something deeper in a world full of quick quips that lodge in our brains and hearts like darts. But I am unsure of how to do so or what to say when I am struggling so deeply with feeling existentially exhausted myself.

I am trying but so often feel as though my trying isn’t enough. These chapters of Woodson’s book, however, feel like a tug on my heart, reminding me of what I love (to write) and why I love to do it (because it might mean something, somewhere, to someone). I want to embrace the infinity of words, “how wonderfully on and on they go” (62). Even if it is not perfect (or what I think is perfect), even if it feels too open, too honest, it might be just what some other soul needs in that moment. If only I am but brave enough to set that offering of words down to be what it will be.

So today I share these words that gave life to me today with you, dear ones.


Words Upon Words

January 14, 2019 – Hope*Writers Prompts

 I love words. I think you have figured that out about me by now. But there is something that I deeply dislike: saying words without a point. I don’t like babbling, and I feel exceedingly embarrassed when I think I am babbling pointlessly. I don’t think that I have ever wanted to be famous for my words, but I do know–or rather, have come to realize–that I want my words to mean something. I want them to be meaningful to someone in some way for some reason, whether that reason is encouragement, an inspiration to be and/or make the world around them better, to see others in a dearer light, or to extend that dear light to themselves. All I know that I am desperate for my words to mean Something.

Josephine March is my favorite novel character, and, inLittle Women, Jo longed for a life beyond her beloved Orchard House, a life that was astonishing. I am not reaching for astonishing, honestly. I am not entirely sure I could handle astonishing. I am not reaching for the book deals, the speaking engagements, etc., though I dearly do love rejoicing in and with those who have flown to those amazing, inspiring heights. I just have this craving, deep down in the belly of my soul, for what I write and say to have meaning, to fall on hearts and minds and sink in somehow for the better.

BloPoMo Day 2: “Seasoned with Grace”

This morning, I woke in tears from the throes of a heartbreaking dream. No tragedy, no death, just words that robbed my soul of joy and stabbed my heart like darts.

I dreamed that I was performing a song for big event. Friends, family, everyone was there to celebrate this event. It was a song I was used to and usually sang beautifully. For the event, though, the musical director/pianist added strings to the arrangement. I wasn’t aware this would be happening and it threw me off so I missed my cue for the first verse and the first chorus was rough, too. I caught up, though, and ended the song beautifully and triumphantly with two high school choir and trio friends joining me at the end of it, just as we used to be. Everyone loved it. The joy was palpable, the applause thunderous. Afterward, though, the musical director (who looked and sounded suspiciously like Benedict Wong) had nothing but harsh words and disappointment for me over my mistakes. Someone came up to tell me how lovely it all was and how people would remember it. He replied that all they’d remember were my lazy mistakes and launched into a tirade of all I had done wrong. I walked away down the platform steps while he ranted to this person, trying not to cry as I passed my friends. I physically felt my shoulders hunch, though, as I broke down, even though I didn’t stop walking. All the joy was gone; the triumph was gone. I had just failed miserably. I woke up crying. I was still crying fifteen minutes later when I posted about it on this blog’s Facebook page with a message near and dear to my heart.

In this experience, I am reminded starkly of the immense and vast power of words. Gone are the days of the lie “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Complete and utter drivel. We are studying, researching, and realizing more and more the last effect of those words spoken over, about, and to us, both negative and positive.

Words have stopped passions in their tracks. Careless words meant as jests, “constructive criticism”, or even “brutal honesty” have strangled gifts, talents, and joys before they ever had a chance to develop and shine. Art has gone unmade, music unsung or unplayed, challenges unmet, all because of words spoken to these souls that attached there and called them less than. Words have also reached into lonely hearts and sparked hope and life again. Words have spoken love to the friendless, gentle comfort to the grieving, and strength to our weakened parts. Words are Powerful! Words can be wielded for good or for ill. They can be weapons to destroy or bandages to bind and heal. They can be a stumbling block or a stepping stone. What makes the difference is grace.

Grace allows us to taste our words before we speak them. Grace encourages us to temper emotion in our listener’s heart and soul’s best interest. Even if what we have to say is hard or difficult to express, grace tempers the words with love and compassion and keeps us from being cruel. Grace allow us to speak from a place of help and care and can keep us from inadvertently treading on dreams.

In the book of Colossians, the Bible says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, season with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Chapter 4, verse 7, NIV)” In this chapter, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Colossian Church and encouraging them in the sharing of their faith. However, I think this verse stands well on its own and is massively relevant to the everyday, secular as well as spiritual.

Salt is a preservative, not just a seasoning. It keeps meat from corrupting and allows it to be stored up. If we season our words with grace, we keep them from–as best we can–corrupting and destroying the souls and hearts of those to whom we speak them. If we but take a moment to taste our words before we let them loose upon others and the world, who knows what good can come of it? What hurt we might avoid?

So today, dear friends. Let us use our words well, to give life and hope rather than destroy it. One of my life mottos comes from Jennifer Dukes Lee. She wrote, “Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. And that is no small thing.” Let us leave a legacy of kind and graceful words. Let’s keep seasoning our conversation so that we may give answers that build up hearts instead of tearing them down.

A Long Way from Home – Day 1: Bumping My Happy

Back again in my childhood home. Haven’t even been here 24 hours and already someone in my family has commented that I look like I’ve gained weight. Not “You look nice” or “It’s good to see your face”. Heck, I would have even taken a “You look absolutely exhausted”  after twelve hours of traveling today. But, no, I get “But it looks like you’ve put on some weight.” Thanks. Really, thanks a lot. Sufficed it to say, coming back to my childhood home is almost never good for my self-esteem and, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s ever going to change. It’s always been this way. It doesn’t make it kind or right but it’s been happening for as long as I can remember. People who really have no business  commenting on others’ bodies (and often no leg to stand on) make snide comments that are really expected to be taken as a joke when, at best, they are assuming and dismissive and, at worst, can be emotionally devastating.

I have told the story of how a favorite dress (a gorgeous maroon and black cheongsam) was left to fade away into obscurity in my closet because someone thought it was their place and job to thoughtlessly inform me that I looked fat in it. What I will never forget is how confused he seemed when I told him not to speak to me anymore and to go away. As if he just couldn’t grasp why I was so upset. I know I spoke to that young man briefly at least one other time after that, when I was in grad school. This time, he expressed his surprise that I had a boyfriend but wouldn’t explain just why it was surprising. I will admit that I most definitely unfriended, deleted, and/or blocked him on all levels and platforms after that. That was an energy and presence that I just didn’t need.
Energy. I hadn’t thought of it that way but it’s an almost perfect example. It’s very, very hard when you expend such energy on your life, on doing what’s good for your family, for your child, for your friends, and for yourself, only to have the only thing remarked on to be your physical weight. Your particular form’s relationships with gravity. Just as you pour your energy out, others pour their energy into you, and deciding what to do with it–to use it to make bricks to add to my path or to sit in it and let it suck me down further–is really hard sometimes. The struggle is so very real when my happy-with-myself gets bumped. I do my best to either reply nicely or not reply at all. This seems like a prime opportunity to practice grace, as well as salting my words and reminding myself of my glorious.

Words, Folding and Piercing


This is true not only of the words we read but definitely also of the words that we say.

“The world out there? It’s a tough place right now, you know? Sometimes, it feels like people are more interested in being right than being kind. Some want to have the last word, the final say, and the smug comeback. I see it too often: how people choose vitriol over virtue.

And that’s just the public word exchanges.

Some of us know painfully well how words behind closed doors can cut the deepest.

I have both loved and hated words. They have been used to heal me, and to hurt me.

You too?

We are all shaped by the words spoken over us. The names we’ve been called on the playground. The inspiring pep talks our parents gave us. The words the counselor spoke over us. The insults from the boss. The gentle affirmation from the kind lady who always sat in the last pew.

Behold the power of the spoken word:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” {Proverbs 18:21}.

Words start wars, and they spark peace.

They are shadows, and they are chains. But they are also wings and freshest air.

Words can take you prisoner, or they can set you free.

Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. That’s no small thing.Jennifer Dukes Lee

No Words

A full heart but an empty mouth.

Thoughts swirl and build and fill, but the words necessary to express them just aren’t there.

Maybe they do not exist yet, words with the exact meaning to convey such thought.

Maybe they do exist but in a language I do not know.

Would I understand them if I heard them? Would I take them to heart and make them mine?