Tag Archives: relationship

ONE letter matters

When I was in 6th grade, I competed in the district spelling bee and lost because I added one  letter to a word. My 6th-grade son recently competed in his school’s spelling bee and missed a word by forgetting one letter.spelling bee word list

One letter matters.

In the world of spelling, one letter means the difference of staying “in” the competition or being “out.”

For enthusiastic writers who are vulnerably casting out their manuscripts only to be met with a flood of rejection letters, ONE letter of acceptance matters. One letter shifts the novice writer from being an amateur to being “in” as a published author. This inclusion is savored.

encouragement cardsFor the widow that spends many hours and even days alone, receiving a single handwritten note makes a meaningful difference. One letter can change her perspective from feeling lonely to loved. She feels remembered.

When a spouse is deployed overseas and is feeling the weight of isolation and homesickness, one letter from a loved one back home draws him a little closer to family. A familiar scrawl or silly doodle on the envelope tugs those hearts together a little tighter. He feels connected.

In a world of digital pictures and casual greetings available through Facebook and texts, even one handwritten letter delivered by snail mail on your birthday can transform all those virtual well wishes into a tangible token of love. There’s something special about holding a letter in your own hand that was in your friend’s hand just a few days ago. One letter can ground you, reminding you of a precious friendship. You feel known.

So last week when I was fighting a head cold and clutching my kleenex box, I hunkered down and wrote some letters:

  • to my son traveling on an exchange trip to China, hiding one in his suitcase under a box of Thin Mints and giving another letter to a friend to deliver to him midway through their trip (the potential embarrassment, I think, is worth a little sneakiness!)
  • to a Chinese couple whom I may never meet, but I’m entrusting the care of my 16-year-old son to them for 3 weeks while they generously host him in their home (sigh)
  • to a nephew, apologizing for belated birthday wishes
  • to an aunt undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, offering hope and encouragement while also recognizing her strengthBaylor pillows
  • a “thank you” to a loved one who sewed some pillows for me that I’ve been “planning” for years. Confession: I cheated on this one. I took a picture of the pillows tucked into their new nook and a sent her a text of gratitude. (Go Bears!)
  • to a college friend, wishing her the joys of another birthday

Throughout the week as I wrote to each person, I focused on the recipient. I considered their particular situation, reflecting on the connection between us and conjuring up some words to send their way. Before long, I was no longer aware of my stuffy head and my pesky cough. My mood improved as I redirected my attention to a loved one or reminisced about a dear friend.

Aligning letters on paper to transform them into a message to someone else is a magical thing, something we often taken for granted.vocab

Words are used a lot of different ways in our home. We are seekers of knowlLatin conjugationsedge and explorers of the written word. Our bookshelves are weighed down with words.

The boys are always working on a vocabulary list or conjugating verbs in a language I don’t understand.

Words surround us.

Letters weave in and out of our home daily, an endless merry-go-round of giving and receiving. Some of them we glance over; some of them stop us in our tracks. One letter can shift the atmosphere around us, crackling with anticipation or casting a somber chill.

Which letter do you cling to most?
Bible - I Cor 13
The letter that I’m drawn back to again and again is the Word of God. Each time I read it, I gain a new perspective and gain a deeper understanding of something bigger than me. It stirs my soul.
I’m grateful for this ultimate gift. The holy Word is God’s letter to us.
It’s full of wisdom and adventure, heartbreak and triumph, joy and strength, loss and redemption, strife and struggle…but most of all,  its message is love. It offers us hope.

——->>>>>  THIS one letter makes all the difference to me

Phlox

“Every word of God is flawless.” Proverbs 30:5a

 

 

 

planting seeds

Tis the season of Girl Scout cookies and the first blossoms of spring.

Is it just me or does every home improvement store have an over-abundance of shiny lawn mowers on display and flocks of Girl Scouts grinning their gap-toothed smiles, asking if you’d like to buy some cookies?

Although I only had a brief venture into the world of Girl Scouts, I learned a couple important things I tucked into my bag of tricks:

Girl Scout thin mint cookies1) The first lesson, of course, was that Thin Mints cookies could pretty much sell themselves and that diehard fans put them in their freezers to “save them for later” (translation: hide them from the kids).

2) The other key thing I learned as a Brownie was the song “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” At the time I thought this meant I would have a treasure trove of sparkly friends to last me all my days. It took a few more years for me to understand that meeting new friends was fun, but maintaining friendships for the long haul was just as vital and full of its own sweet reward. What a great life lesson for a young pig-tailed girl to carry along with her even though her Girl Scout days were few!

Now as an adult, I have the opportunity to gather up boxes of Thin Mints from bright-eyed eager girls as easy as a brief stop while running errands. The friendship piece, though…that’s even trickier now than it was when I was the new student almost every year in grade school. Then I had the structure of school activities and the dubious recognition of always being the last person in every line since my last name started with a Z.

As busy mommas it’s hard to cultivate friendships anew and hold on to the wisps of friendships past. At the same time we’re trying to build our own network of relationships, we’re also nurturing our children’s friendships, helping negotiate playdates and shepherding our kiddos to make good choices in their interactions with others. Their world is so much different than our school days in which “social media” was passing notes without getting caught by the teacher.childhood notes

Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone and plant a seed of friendship, then patiently wait while the hectic pace of daily life churns on around us. It may take weeks or even months to get a glimpse of that friendship blossoming a little more. We may have to keep being the one to introduce ourselves at parent meetings, join a new Bible study, or volunteer for something that puts us closer to the action. In these awkward situations, I remind myself  “baby steps, Dianna” and take encouragement from the fact that my boys have been steadily surging forward in their new relationships, too.

We discovered that little gestures can go a long way. A few months ago, we put a bike rack by our garage and invited boys that lived farther from the bus stop to park their bikes there. My son is now having more contact with neighborhood kids because we made ourselves just a little more accessible — a little more transparent to those around us.

Adults (or at least us introverted ones) seem to have a harder time showing this transparency. It takes courage for us to show our vulnerability, having outgrown that marvelous age where we could simply ask, “Will you be my friend?

Bible Quilt friendship page
Bible Quilt friendship page

Friendship is a lovely gift from God. Many verses reflect this truth of connectedness.

Are you missing a friend connection? Would you like to have some more friends in your inner circle? Hang tough. There’s more to your friendship song and to mine:

“Silver is precious, Gold is too. I am precious, and so are you. You help me, and I’ll help you and together we will see it through…” 

Since I’ve experienced the heartfelt joys of long-term friendships and have been fortunate to have seen best friends from high school and college in the last month, I know it’s worth it to invest in these friends of silver and of gold…and whatever lies between. I cling to the  threads of my dear close friends through texts, phone calls, emails and Voxer to hold me over until our next face-to-face gatherings.

blossoming pear treeIn the meantime, I’m tentatively testing the soil of potential friendships in my new surroundings. We just have to keep planting seeds in our interactions and step out of our comfort zones…who knows, we might bump into someone who is seeking the same sweet connection. And, if we get to share Thin Mints in the process?? That’s a win-win in my book!

 

Walls

History is filled with walls being built to define and protect country borders. History is also punctuated by walls crumbling or actively being torn down to bring people back together.

This post is not about politics. This is about the human condition.

wallIn our vulnerability as humans, we erect walls between one another, too. Just like the stones and mortar stacked layer upon layer to build a sturdy wall, we also build one divisive layer at a time until an almost tangible barrier lies between us. Friendships halt; relationships wither.

brick wall, adding layersAt first this barrier may have seemed self-protective in nature. We erect a buffer between us and someone else to gain a little personal space.

We retreat to ourselves to ponder a change in our relationship – perhaps we even give in to a good pout while we’re at it.

If we don’t sift through our thoughts and feelings in a way that’s objective and balanced, however, we soon find ourselves casting everything about this relationship into a negative jumble. We lose perspective and discover we’re in a deeper mess than we intended.

Slowly and somewhat sheepishly, we realize we’re more than a little skittish about how to seek our way out from this dark wall we’ve hidden behind.


We…..are….STUCK.

brick wall with holeBeing in a standstill in a relationship is no fun. Hurt feelings get piled up on both sides of the wall. Heavy hearts weigh down our ability to cope with one another in a reasonable way.

It’s so hard to make the first effort to knock a chink in that wall…yet so worth it.


“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32


I think forgiveness may be an underrated superhero skill. It has such a powerful impact once we have the humility to employ it. Forgiveness can squash those barriers between us so quickly that we wonder how we had built these walls so clumsily to start with.

Saying “sorry” is not just for kindergarteners to practice their social skills on the playground. It’s for ALL of us.

Extending forgiveness to a friend or loved one is not easy, but often is the first step in healing a relationship. It allows the light to break through that murky veil that has clouded our communication. With gentle strength, forgiveness collapses the selfish defenses between us. Our footsteps become lighter and we see the hope of moving forward together again.brick wall crumbled


Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8


Love well during this season, friends. May we each have grace with one another, especially during those tender moments when we may need to exchange forgiveness rather than a Hallmark valentine. ❤️

New Beginnings

Spring is my fave.
It’s like a good friend returning for a much anticipated visit. 

welcome springSpring brings many gifts: budding trees, gentle rain, blossoming flowers.

budding weeping willow

early tulipsSpring is a time of new growth. It’s a chance for a fresh start.hosta shootsSpring is like a seasonal “do-over.” Let’s try this again…bulb flowersAs things once dormant awaken, we can begin anew as well.turtle emerging

We can release old grudges.

We can commit to a new gameplan.

We can refocus our attitudes.

We can choose a new route of personal growth.

We can have new beginnings in our relationships.

It’s not easy breaking through the muck, but the awakening in our souls is worth it.

tulip tree blossoming

spring trees


“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

violasSpring reminds us we have so many opportunities for renewal. Where do you want a fresh start today?

Remembrance

We celebrate many anniversary events in our lives. Often what is unspoken are our anniversaries of loss. We all have them, yet we typically don’t collectively mark the occasion. Sometimes the emotional attachments are so poignant and intense it seems too difficult. Yet if we share just a bit, even a funny story…perhaps our grief feels a little lighter and our loved one is tucked into our heart memory just a little more snugly.

RemembranceToday we take a moment to remember our mother-in-law, Kitty. It’s been six years — a speck of time in the grand scheme of things yet so long in a family’s history.

Rather than dwell on all that she’s missed, we remember her spirit at family events. She was ALL IN. She loved the chaos of little boys running all over, digging in sandpiles and leaving their handprints all over her windows. She relished those grubby little bodies crawling into her lap and reading with her. She instilled a love of reading into all of her grandboys. I have fond memories of our firstborn backing up with an armload of books, landing topsy-turvy upon her and being caught with love. She’d exclaim, “Whew!” and they were off, diving into reading adventures together.

She loved well. We strive to pass on her legacy well.

We pray and hope that each of you are able to reflect and share special moments of your loved ones with those around you. Relive a funny story together. Look through old vacation albums or family reunion pictures. Remembrance is an honor and weaves a deeper texture to your family tapestry.

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” — remember that moment in Steel Magnolias? It’s such a great example of the tenacity of the human spirit.

When we come together, we are stronger.

(…and surely that increases the odds someone has Kleenex!)Kitty's beloved dogs


“a time to weep and a time to laugh…” Ecclesiastes 3:4



 

Thresholds

“…for such a time as this…” Esther 4:14



When presented with a new opportunity, we stand on the threshold of something new. We can cross over or stay where we are. Crossing over creates a sense of anticipation; remaining in place feels familiar and comfortable. A threshold seems like a place of limbo. We stand between two options, looking ahead to whatever is on the other side while retaining a sense of where we’ve just been.

bridge

A threshold gives us a chance to pause, to take a breath and consider our next action. We may linger here a bit, needing to observe the traffic flow and consider who is passing through. Are these footsteps here some that we can follow? Is this the time to pursue this particular path? How will this change of course affect our perspective? How could it impact our family?

rock art

Some thresholds are fairly easy to cross. There aren’t big differences in the landscape. The footing is similar from one side to another, inviting a gentle transition. We can ease our way through at a natural pace. Some thresholds are expected transitions and we are part of a group that is facing the same changes (passing from one grade to another or starting a new semester of classes). We feel comfort in the shared process.

Other opportunities may generate a keen sense of excitement – a new adventure, a risk. These thresholds are more intimidating. You naturally hesitate, feeling the need for more preparation to cross over. Sometimes rushing through may cause you to stumble. You may need a tug from someone ahead of you to steady you, or perhaps a gentle nudge from someone behind you to encourage you forward.

As a parent  it’s extremely helpful to have a mentor a step or two ahead of you, encouraging you to step across the threshold into the next season of parenting. This can provide a sounding board for setting realistic curfews, handling emotional outbursts, or figuring out how to manage playdates when you may not feel a connection with the other parent even though your child is begging to spend time with a new friend.

So, we take a step or two into this new phase, consulting our mentor and getting our feet wet…

pathThese last few days of December seem like a threshold to new beginnings and opportunities, offering us a chance to make some adjustments in different areas of our lives. As the New Year beckons us with a fresh start and many open doors, may you be able to discern which thresholds to step boldly across and may you have a steadfast companion to accompany you on your journey!holding hands


“Commit your way to the lord; trust in Him.”  Psalm 37:5