Monday, June 25, 2018

Talking About Truth

Most of you will remember we have seven grandchildren and one more on the way this summer.  Five of these children have incredible verbal skills already.  What they come up with keeps us in stitches. 

Most recently, it was the Smith family providing entertainment.

Madi and Noah were having a small altercation as siblings often do.  Dad (Nathan) stepped in to dispense discipline.  Based on what he had seen, he told Noah to apologize for hitting his sister.
        Noah:  "Sorry,  Madi for hitting you."
        Madi:  "I forgive you budher.  I sawy for pulling you hair.  I tink you hair iz bootiful!"

(Brings to mind a great line from the old TV show, Perry Mason.  "Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?")

Ms. Madi also just celebrated her third birthday.  A lady from our church bent down yesterday and said to her, "Happy Birthday, Madi.  I hope you had a nice birthday."  Madi sighed, propped her hand on her hip and responded, "Tank you.  It was ovuhr in four minutes!"  Can't make this up!

Abby (Joy and John's oldest daughter) will turn six later this week.  She read a Bible story for bedtime last night that is written on a second grade level and she just graduated from K-5.  Spencer (7) is reading even farther ahead and can answer just about any question I have about my phone.

Please pardon the unbridled Noni enthusiasm.  Every grandmother reading this understands completely.

But smiling about the command these little people have over language reminded me of a story from my upcoming book.  In a chapter on Words, I write about the importance of choosing our words wisely.  Solomon said, "The power of life and death are in the tongue." (Proverbs 18:21) 

Such an incredible truth!

I've included an excerpt that tells of a friend who was unaware of how her words were impacting others.

I had a dear friend once who struggled in this area.  Her words were almost always negative.  Ali could paint incredibly vivid pictures of failure for anyone who dared to attempt something new.  She was a realist who pointed out shortcomings of all those around her.  If someone dropped the ball or made a mistake, Ali made certain the proper people were notified.

Conversations with Ali sapped me of energy.  I dreaded getting together with her for coffee or a meal. I sometimes avoided answering her phone calls.  A quote by C.S. Lewis perfectly describes the feelings I had but in a humorous way.  “It’s so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see them.”

 When I finally worked up courage to share my concerns with my friend, she was shocked.  “Well I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I’m the most positive person I know.”  It was my turn to be shocked. 

Ali literally had no idea the impact her words were having on others.  Fortunately, our talk ripped off a scab she had allowed to form over an old wound.  Ali began engaging in honest conversations with family and other friends.  One by one she discovered they felt the same way I did.

At a lunch meeting we had weeks later, Ali thanked me for being brave enough to share my concerns with her.  The solution for her problem wasn’t easy but it was so obviously simple.  My friend had to begin choosing life! 

Ali had to recognize the power of her words.  She had to measure their impact and change the way she talked.  She had to stop bringing death to each conversation and bring life instead.

The transformation took time but Ali eventually became an avid contributor to others.  People began seeking her out for counsel and encouragement.  Her choice to invest in them became a rich harvest of joy and fulfillment in her own life.

Let's all remember the admonishment given by the wisest man who ever lived.  "The power of life and death are in the tongue!" 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mrs. Woodham

With schools closing for summer, I thought this excerpt from my latest project would be timely.  Thank you to all those teachers taking a much deserved break for the next few weeks!

We all have stories of how the words or comments of a teacher, a close relative or a friend have impacted us during our early years.  That impact often follows us through our lifetime.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Woodham, was a kind, tenderhearted lady.  I can still see her slightly frazzled hairstyle and that broad, welcoming smile that she seemed to flash so often.  

She was no push over!  We all understood that when Mrs. Woodham said, “Quiet!” she meant now.  But we also felt her joy and sensed her love for us as students.  She was glad to be a professional teacher.

If someone struggled, she knelt beside their desk and worked more closely with them a while.  I remember feeling her soft touch on my head or shoulder as a point of encouragement.  You see, I was one of those students who struggled.  Math was my nemesis.  But I came out of second grade feeling that I could conquer the struggle. 

In fact, it was Mrs. Woodham who first put the dream in my heart for becoming a teacher.  Her words of encouragement made me believe I could not only learn to add and subtract, I could one day teach others to do the same. 

Many times she would have me sit at her desk with a notepad if she stepped out for some reason.  As a class, we would each be doing our seat work.  It was my job to write down the name of any student who talked or got out of line in any way.

I’ll never forget the day I was the one who stepped out of line.  

Mrs. Woodham had put me at her desk with the notepad and whispered to me that she had to go to the office.  “I’ll be right back, Sheri.  Keep an eye on things.”

Apparently, I had become too comfortable in my role as classroom monitor.  A couple of students raised their hands to indicate they needed to use the pencil sharpener.  I nodded giving them permission to move from their desks.   A few began to whisper.  A couple more began giggling about something. 

In my most serious seven year old voice I called out, “Quiet, everyone!”  My imitation of Mrs. Woodham fell short and resulted in a ripple of laughter.  I had to laugh myself, it sounded so funny. 

I must have been a ham early in life because in a flash I found myself standing beside the desk of a friend doing my best to imitate Mrs. Woodham.  “The next student to speak is going to be disciplined, do you hear me?!”  I mimicked her scowl and wagged my tiny finger at the class in warning.  

We all burst out in loud laughter.

But the laughing halted immediately when we heard the original, “Quiet!” resounding from the back of the room.  Mrs. Woodham had walked in on my little show and she was not happy.  I don’t remember my exact punishment but writing about that moment still causes me to cringe a bit.

How did I have such a disappointing experience with her and still come out of that year believing Mrs. Woodham loved me?   It’s because she spoke words of affirmation daily.  Not just to me but to everyone in our class. 

“You CAN do this, Jeffery.  Don’t let it beat you.”

“I see how hard you’re trying, Marcia.  That’s important.”

“Judy, I’m proud of your effort on that homework.  Good job!”

I don’t know about any of those other second graders but her words were life to one little girl with brunette hair and slightly crooked teeth.  She enriched my life and used her words to paint a picture of possibility for me.  

I’ll forever be grateful.

What was the name of your favorite teacher?  What grade were you in when you encountered them?