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Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

Stirring Words

Something must be waking up inside of me.  I have actually felt like blogging a few times in recent weeks, after a long, long absence from this place.

Tonight I have an image of stirring in my head–of literal stirring.  Last week I made dozens and dozens of cut out cookies for Gabe and Rachel’s wedding–two connected hearts, frosted, decorated, and topped off with “G” and “R” monograms.

There was lots of stirring that went into those cookies.  First, blend the Crisco and the powdered sugar.  They come together quite easily when I use my big wooden spoon.  Then, the hard part:  stirring in the eggs and vanilla.  For awhile, it seems that I am just swishing the shortening/sugar mixture around in a sea of beaten egg.  Then, slowly, little by little, transformation comes as the eggs lose their separateness and become one with the already combined ingredients. Eventually, add some dry ingredients, and all those little bits become one good thing to share, embellished with some frosting and a few sprinkles.

The writing process is like that sometimes.  Blending words, some coming together more smoothly, more easily than others.  Finally, there is that point that the blending of the parts creates a single whole, creating one good thing to share, embellished with some frosting and a few sprinkles.

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Why I Don’t Have Words

The answer is simple:  I am using them elsewhere.

Over an impromptu supper with friends last Sunday night, the infrequency of blog posts came up.  I bemoaned the fact that I had not posted on either of my blogs since January.

“You’re using up your words with your students.”

That insightful statement was very freeing.  I have loved being part of the blogging world ever since I began out of a desire to stay connected with my daughter Ellen during her semester abroad in Spain in 2005.  I have loved the regular exercise of writing for someone else to read.  I have loved the process of taking advantage of midnight quiet or early morning musings to turn thoughts into words.  I have cherished the interaction between fellow bloggers and myself, and have met new friends along the way.  I have felt sad about not blogging…and sometimes a little guilty, although, really, that was not at all necessary.

But last fall I returned to teaching.  I had not been in a formal school classroom as the instructor for 25 years.  My lifestyle changed almost totally from being a stay-at-home mom and wife to being a working woman.  During the time I was not teaching, I was preparing to teach.  And all of that activity used up my words.

I still have ideas.  These days they are flowing out through words to students.

They also flow out in tinier chunks to friends on Facebook.  I am not a Facebook voyeur like some people I know.  There are those who say, “I read my friends’ posts, but never comment.”  I cannot listen to the conversation without being part of it.  So, there go some more words, everyday.  And it is okay.

Then, there are the people I love, the nears and dears.  There are words for them too. Lots of words these days, as life hustles by almost faster than we can turn our heads to catch a glimpse of where it’s going.  Children’s lives changing, our lives changing as a couple, questions being asked that we’ve never asked before.  And all of these circumstances take words.

So, tonight, it seems I have a few words for here, in the wee hours of the morning while I wait for the dryer buzzer to signal the last load of dry clothes before bedtime.  But, now the buzzer just buzzed…and, it is a good thing.

No    more    words   today…

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Maybe whoever said not to talk about politics or religion in social conversation was on to something.

Twice in as many days, I have read a string of comments and counter-comments on Facebook that have, in my estimation, amounted to a verbal spat. In both cases, the precipitating issue was political.   I must confess that I have, on occasion, “vented” in my own Facebook status or in this blog about things political.  I have also from time to time raised a question about someone’s strongly expressed opinion, just to pose another possibility. Mostly, though, I appreciate the uplifting and encouraging comments that I regularly read on Facebook–and I feel that a few minutes have been well-spent if I can be on the giving as well as receiving end of some each day.   So, I was quite surprised at the vehemence bordering on meanness that came through in the “conversations” I observed. And I was grieved.

In both cases, the “Facebook fights” I encountered appeared to have erupted over either a) a difference of opinion or b) a misunderstanding of what someone said.  What do we do in face-to-face conversations when either of those situations occurs?  If the goal is to be diplomatic or gracious or really to understand, we ask a question.  In the news feed eruptions, instead of being asked a question, the commenter was jumped on verbally, and, most surprisingly to me, was the object of name-calling.

I grieve because the “fights” were started and perpetuated by Christ-followers.  I have no way of knowing if those to whom the counter-comments were directed were also Christ followers.  But, I’m pretty sure Facebook fights are not an application of the Golden Rule or the command to love our neighbors.  And, if it matters if we are winsome in matters political, we will never get there by ugly argumentation with our fellow travelers.  Even in perilous times when the truth seems to be a rare commodity, we stand to gain more ground by speaking the truth in love to those who disagree with us than by screaming the truth at them in high-pitched voices.

We live in troubled and troubling times.  It’s putting people on edge.  It’s sending some people over the edge.  Some are lining up on the edge.  Many are lining up on opposing edges.  But, we need to seek not to let it make us edgy with each other.

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man….” (Colossians 4:6)

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In my quest to become a freelance professional book indexer, I registered for my next indexing class yesterday. At the USDA Graduate School site where I needed to sign up, things had changed since the last class I took. In fact, there was one of those “pardon our dust” kinds of notices there as the site was in the process of implementing a new registration account system that will enable students to track their courses and course work in what apparently is hoped to be a one-stop-shop.

The process did not go well. I have gotten pretty good at using online websites for ordering things. Most of the sites I’ve worked with have had logical, straightforward procedures for placing the order, giving the credit card payment info, and confirming the order and shipping details. Not this one, not this time. After muddling through the unclear steps and still not being 100% certain I was registered for the class and would be receiving the materials anytime soon–all I knew was that they took my money and let me print a (sort-of) receipt–I was frustrated and disappointed. I had looked forward to signing up for this next class, in part because I am eager to get at it, and in part because the process had been so simple the last time around.

So, I did what any good online shopper would do–I registered a query and a complaint with customer support. Only, when I got to the part of my email that came after my factual explanation of what I’d encountered, the part where I would be inclined to let my emotions take over and to let someone “have it”, something was checked in my thinking and my spirit, and I slowed down and toned it down to courteous words and an empathetic tone. After all, the person on the receiving end of my email would likely not be the person who had decided to change the registration procedure that had complicated and frazzled my previous morning hour. The only thing that would be accomplished by a mean rant would be the spoiling of someone else’s morning and possibly leaving a bad impression of the faceless but named student who is me. I would have sent the kind of crabby note that is easily deleted–click.

God helped me be clear and firm, but gracious too….thankfully. For, at about 6:45PM yesterday, the phone rang. It was Lynn from the USDA Graduate School. She was calling with a personal reply/apology/confirmation of my registration/answer to my question about when the materials would ship. Her words that have stuck in my brain since then were “I thought your email deserved a personal phone call.” When I reiterated to her the thinking noted above that had held back my rant, she went on to say that she understood entirely my frustration–the system does have some bugs, she acknowledged– and that the person to whom she would be passing on my note–the person who could actually do something about the problem– would give it more weighted consideration because of the way it was worded.

Whew! Thank you, God, for that check in my spirit and for helping me do the right thing. It made me think about other times that the temptation has come to rip and shred people when things didn’t go right. The “doors” my high school friend Ginny’s mom used to caution us to walk our words through come to mind: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” ….just thinkin’. Thanks to Lynn for reminding me that words matter, even ones to unseen strangers…maybe especially one to unseen strangers.

Let your speech be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

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