Dear Kids…Fall 2018

Dear Dan, Andrew, Heidi, Joey, and Josh,

Here we are again, ready to launch into a brand new school year. Summer went by in a flash…actually, the last year went by in a flash, didn’t it? Eleventh, tenth, eighth, and sixth grades. WOW is all I can really say. Y’all are growing up way, way , WAY too fast for me.

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So, what do I want to tell you all before you head off on that exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking first day? First and foremost is that I love you like crazy and am so proud of each of you. Don’t you ever forget that. I’m not sure how this flawed, ordinary lady got blessed with such great kids, but hey, I’ll take it. No, I don’t think any of you are perfect (none of us are), but you do make me proud in so many ways that you probably don’t even realize. Keep on being great kids, whether that be with the big things in life or just the little everyday stuff.

Try your very best, whether it be in playing an instrument, learning new math skills, working in shop class, or writing an essay. I realize that not every subject will thrill you, but you are still to give it your best effort. No, I don’t expect anyone here to be perfect, but I do expect diligent work and not slacking off. Keep on reading and never be ashamed of your love for books.

I know I also say this every year, but be kind and respectful to each of your teachers, whether they are your favorite or not. Same goes for each of the staff members at your schools. And your classmates?? Yup, you are to show kindness to everyone, even the kids that get on your nerves (hint—they may be the ones who could use it the most).

Continue to be little lights for Jesus. We are now in the throes of middle and high school and though we try to protect you, I would be naïve to think you are not being exposed to at least some of the temptations and ugliness of this world. Please be extra strong in your faith and stand up for what you believe in. It just isn’t worth it to follow the crowd on so many things. I may be “old,” but I do know some things by this point, and that one I know for sure. You know what is worth it though? Having a firm foundation in the Lord and living for Him, not for the world. Believe me, people will notice and wonder what it is that makes you different. Hopefully you can tell them that it is Christ in you that makes a difference.

Well, that’s it for now. Know that I pray for each of you daily as you venture out and will continue to do so all of my days. Remember that Dad and I are rooting for you. We’re always here to listen, to help, and to love on you, no matter what. Good luck tomorrow. You’ll be just fine, even though you may be a little nervous. I’ll miss you, but am excited for a new year together!

Love, Mom

 

Our Western Adventure: The Hoover Dam

Today I am embarking on a mini-series based on our recent trip out west, an adventure that has actually been in the works for a number of years. It was one of those trips that we’ve talked about and wanted to do before the kids all grew up on us, so this year we decided to just go for it! I’m so glad we did, because it was awesome and we had many amazing adventures together.

The first day involved a flight from Baltimore to the Las Vegas airport. This was the first time our youngest three have flown in an airplane, and they did remarkably well. We definitely had a “you’re not in Pennsylvania anymore” moment right away as we immediately encountered rows upon rows of slot machines, literally upon stepping off of the airplane. They were everywhere!! We flew to save ourselves many days of driving and so we could use our vacation days to really focus on the things we most wanted to see. After picking up our rental car, we decided to take a little jaunt to the Hoover Dam before driving on to our house in southern Utah.

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I obviously knew the Hoover Dam was huge, but it’s really nothing like seeing it in person. It is enormous. We took what was called the Power Plant tour, which lasted about an hour.

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Some of my boys are very into engineering, so I thought this was a neat opportunity for them to learn about how it was built, the turbines, water flow, etc. The tour itself was pretty interesting overall, and you go underground quite a ways for part of it, so a bonus was that most of the inside tour was nice and cool! I was amazed that it was only built in less than 5 years, a really remarkable feat given that it happened in the 1930’s.

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The inside museum part also has some neat interactive things for kids to do. I was really taken with this series of sculptural panels.

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Seeing this clock outside should have prepared me for the different time zones. In Nevada we were 3 hours behind our norm. In Utah it was 2. In Arizona it should be 2, but they don’t observe daylight savings, so it was 3 hours behind when we were out there. Are you confused? Because I surely was for the first day or so, especially as the clocks in our rental were set to several different times as well and we traveled between those three states.

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We honestly did not spend a ton of time outside and walking along the whole thing. For one thing, it was very crowded. Number two, it was literally 111 degrees there when we visited. Number three, we had just traveled many hours with several hours to go, and were ready to be on our way at that point.

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With all that said, I really was glad we made this a stop. It was worth seeing, and I felt like the tour was worth doing as well. Below is a very large sculpture of one of the workers who helped build the dam.

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My next post will be on our experience at Zion, including our hike of The Narrows!

My Thoughts on Turning 40

I’m not 40 yet, but soon and very soon I will be! Oh yes, that milestone birthday has crept up and will be here in a few short weeks. How do I feel about it? Well, I’m really not quite sure. I don’t feel almost-40, whatever that is supposed to feel like. No mid-life crisis here yet or anything, but it does make me think about life and what I’ve learned in these almost 4 decades.

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So buckle up, here are my random streams of consciousness and things I’d tell those in their 20’s-30’s about life at 40:

Family is precious. They might drive you crazy at times, but they are such a wonderful gift. Don’t take a single one of them for granted because they might not always be around. That goes for your parents, spouse, kiddos, and so on.

You know who you are…for the most part at least. All the pretty sides of you and the not-so-pretty ones that surface sometimes (or often). By 40 you have a decent handle on what you’re good at, what you’re terrible at, what you will forever need to work on, spiritual gifts you have, sins that trip you up, etc. Things have come to my attention in my 30’s that I probably wouldn’t have been able to totally pinpoint 10 or 20 years ago.

You can’t eat just anything you want. Well, you can, but in your later 30’s there begin to be repercussions for eating whatever the heck you want, whether it be heartburn or digestive issues or jeans that suddenly seem smaller. I’m not sure about men, but for women (or at least ones I’ve talked to), the metabolism starts to not be quite so hot in the mid to later 30’s. (Unless you have a seriously active job or are a workout fiend.) Sad but true, my friends! Sad but true…

I value real, genuine people. I have developed a low tolerance for flakiness and fakey-ness. Instead I definitely take a shine to those who are just flat-out real and genuine with me and aren’t putting on a false front. I love down-to-earth folks and hope to heavens that I am that way. Feel free to slap me if I’m not! While I’m on the subject of personal pet peeves, I also can’t stand the whole entitlement mentality that seems rampant these days.

Experiences totally trump stuff. By this point I would much, much rather travel to somewhere new or experience something cool than buy a new wardrobe or drive a fancy car. I’d also rather my kids get experience gifts than junk. Things that we get to experience as a family are the very best of all.

Keep on learning new things. Just because you’re out of college or have a houseful of kids vying for your attention doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning. Check out things that interest you and go for it. I had a hankering to learn how to sew and bought myself a sewing machine for my 30th birthday. Since then I’ve learned how to use it, but I’ve also taught myself lots of other skills just in the past decade. I don’t plan on stopping either!

You hopefully have gained more wisdom by this point. By 40 most of us have had a whole host of ups and downs in every aspect of our lives–and hopefully we’ve learned a thing or two from those ups and downs that we can apply to future stuff! By the way, this is not to say that 20 or 30 year olds can’t be wise–I know plenty that are, I just believe it can increase with age and experiences.

Be content. Easy to say, sometimes hard to truly do.

You’re never going to please everyone. Trust me. I know this one well. Just do your absolute best and focus on pleasing the Lord, not so-and-so.

It’s okay to not check everything off your to-do list. I am an avid list person and make myself one of these pretty much every day. I have given myself permission to not complete the whole thing and leave one or two things undone. They usually get carried over until the next day.

Every day is a gift. Don’t squander it. It’s easy to take our health for granted when we’re young, but you never know when that could be taken away from you. My husband was a vibrant 37 year old when he had a stroke. I could have easily died from a rare and severe pregnancy complication when I was barely 23, fresh out of college, and delivering my firstborn child 6 weeks early. Praise God we are all healthy and fine, but it might have gone the other way. Those experiences definitely put things in perspective for me.

And the most important one I saved for last:

God is always faithful. Always. Don’t ever forget it, no matter what may be happening in your life. Trust Him. He loves you more than you could ever imagine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handmade Christmas 2016: Fingerless Gloves

Howdy, and welcome back. I hope you have a chance to enjoy this gorgeous fall weather!

Fall is definitely here, so I thought it would be a perfect time to share this wonderful crochet pattern. I have been cranking out different pairs of these cute fingerless gloves as of late.

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The pattern is not difficult, and I think that if you have a just a little bit of crochet experience, you could easily make these. It appealed to me because I am not an expert crocheter and am intimidated by making ones with fingers!

I found this pattern on Red Heart Yarn’s website, and it is free to access and print out.

They would make a super cute, stylish Christmas gift for a child, teen, or adult.

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This particular pair is modeled by my 11 year old daughter, who has been wearing a purply pair of these that I made almost every morning to school!

These beauties don’t use up a ton of yarn, and take maybe 1 1/2-2 hours to make (depending on how many interruptions you have!). Once you make one pair, it’s easy to crochet up some more.

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Great for chilly fall days and the approaching winter cold. The Red Heart website has tons of other cute glove patterns too!

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How We Do Life

I think it’s fascinating how so very different each family is. Their traditions, their way of operating, and just the way they roll. It really got me thinking about how our family does life, how WE roll. Our family is not perfect. No family is. We have numerous flaws, oddities, and times we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and vow to do better. We’re all different….and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

This is how we do life:

God is the center of our home. Everything revolves around that—our marriage, our parenting, everything else.

We say please and thank you. Even Mom and Dad do this, even with something as insignificant as passing the salt. Manners are important and show respect.

Family dinner is a high priority, and we always pray before we eat together. It’s just not the same when we all have to grab something and rush out the door, or when someone is missing. This is where we share about our day, the highs and lows, and just hang out for a time.

We expect good behavior. I am not a yeller–never have been, probably never will be. And no, I wasn’t really into “time outs” when the kids were little. There may have been an occasional swat on the backside when deliberate misbehavior happened. My kids aren’t angels, but they certainly aren’t brats either. I have no explanation for this, other than that they are just expected to behave!

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We love to read. Yes, all 7 of us. There is no secret technique or formula that we used when our kids were little, except that we read to them a lot and they saw us reading for pleasure. It caught on, and it warms my heart to see them all devouring books.

We try not to overschedule ourselves. This is such a balancing act once everyone gets to a certain age, and right now we’re in the thick of it. Each child is in at least one activity. However, we are deliberate about not being too busy and will say “no thanks” to things that will make for an overly hectic week.

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We have a minimum of technology in our house. Seven people, one laptop. No personal Ipads, Ipods, tablets or anything. (Our oldest did get a very basic cell phone for his 15th birthday.) They ask before they use the computer, and if playing games on it, a timer is usually set.

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We try not to be materialistic. We have learned to live on one income, and live well on it. Secondhand clothes are just fine by us, as well as older vehicles and a not-big house. Christmas and birthdays usually are simple. Things aren’t too important, but people are.

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We serve others as best as we can. My husband is the prime example for this and is literally one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. My parents are also great examples of this. I have become better at this as an adult (I think), but there’s always room for improvement. It is a joy to serve together, especially when it’s something the whole family can do.

Vacation and time away together is important to us. No, they are usually not fancy affairs, but that’s okay. We shoot for one week in the summer, just us, away from all of our usual stresses and things that pull for our attention. We’re not into overly crowded, “touristy” places. Give us a cabin in the middle of the woods somewhere and we are usually happy campers.

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We try to foster curiosity and a love for learning. I would label my husband and I as self-starters, or perhaps “self-motivated” people. We enjoy learning new things and encourage that in our kids. There is currently a continual pile of books on the couch, homemade contraptions or inventions in nearly every room, a plant cart in my living room, and a cricket farm and “lab” in my basement. No, our house is never picture perfect, but that’s okay with me. There’s a lot of love here and I’ll not squelch their innate curiosity. (Though too much clutter and mess does make me crazy.)

We are foodies. Kind of. My husband and I entered marriage in a unique situation—that is, we both knew how to cook. I do the majority of cooking during the week as I am the “at home” parent, and he does some meals on the weekends. We don’t eat out a whole lot as it gets wicked expensive for 7 people! Plus homemade is healthier. We have taught each kid various cooking skills, so hopefully they know how to fend for themselves once they grow up. As I’ve said before, to their future spouses: You’re Welcome.

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We try to be real. It’s interesting that my oldest, now in high school, is so very perceptive of “fake” people. I can’t stand it either, and hopefully I never come across that way. (You have permission to call me out on it if I do! Or slap me.) Like I said earlier, we are real. We are flawed. We are human.

Well folks, that’s how we do life around here. Each family has their own ways, and that’s cool. So now if you suspected that we were weird before, you got your confirmation by reading this!

Our Maine Adventure

This summer I fell in love.

Not with a person, but with a place.

Our family was finally able to visit Maine, and specifically Acadia National Park. It was something that had been on our bucket list for some time, but we decided to just go for it this year. I’m so glad we did!

Here are some of my photos taken while there:

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First up is the little property we rented. I have had tremendous luck with the VRBO website and found an absolute beauty of a cottage for us. We walked in, looked around, and declared it perfect for our family.  This is the pond in back of the cottage, where we could sit and read or just relax. I have to say that the location of this place was wonderful—well away from Bar Harbor and crowds, on the very quiet side of the island.

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Our first full day there we set out to see the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. To get a great view of it, you need to climb down some steps and make your way over on giant boulders that sit along the shore everywhere.

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This is a view looking out the other direction. This trip was my first experience with this type of coastline, and I loved it.

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Our favorite place to visit was a place called Wonderland. There is an easy trail that leads out to this coastal area that has lots of tide pools. We ended up visiting there a couple of times during our week at Maine.

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Lots of cool little discoveries at this place and we spent hours there. Truly it was a “Wonderland” for my kids.

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The next day we did a tour of the main part of Acadia. We drove the Park Loop road, which I highly recommend. There are many places to pull over and park along the way. We parked at the Otter Point area and hiked the Ocean Path a couple miles up to Thunder Hole.

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Along the way were the Otter Cliffs, as well as many other scenic views. At many points you could go out to the edge, whether it be high up or down along the water.

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We also drove up Cadillac Mountain, where you could see out far in all directions.

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That evening we attended a lumberjack show, which was both educational and entertaining!

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Our family usually enjoys the lesser-known spots and trails. Fortunately for us, we were on the side of the island away from the main crowded areas. It was still full of beautiful things to see and do! Above is a picture from serene Pretty Marsh Harbor.

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I regret that I have no decent pictures from our whale watching excursion.(Those whales are just too darn fast for me!) This was an incredible experience! We saw many different whales and were VERY fortunate to see them in various stages of feeding. Lots of tail flukes, some full rolls, and one that did about a full breach for its rapt audience! Upon pulling back into the harbor, our guide was wowed and said that was the best trip they had all summer! An unforgettable experience for all.

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One morning we visited the Oceanarium, which boasts a lobster hatchery and museum, among other things. At first glance it appears a little run down and ramshackle, but we had a good experience there and learned so much. The guides really took a lot of time to explain things to the kids.

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Another morning we took the gang and hiked up a mountain. Parkman Mountain was one of the neatest hikes I’ve ever done. Though it’s not as well known as Precipice or the Beehive, it was really cool and worth the climb. (And yes, now I can say that I’ve done one with rungs built into the rocks to actually help climb up…it was just in one spot, but whatever. Bragging rights, y’all.) My husband was taken with all of the old cairns that marked some of the original trails. We saw cairns just about everywhere.

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It was a great experience to conquer a mountain as a family. We had a picnic lunch at the summit to celebrate.

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On our very last full day in Maine we hiked around Jordan Pond (which to me was more like a lake…). Part of it was on little boardwalks, as seen above.

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The water that day was a gorgeous blue–my pictures do it no justice.

Some other places we visited were Echo Lake Beach, and my oldest and his Dad hiked Beech Mountain and the Beech Cliffs and said they were awesome.

Honestly, I think we could have stayed a couple of weeks there and still not have been able to do everything we wanted. That just means we have to go back one day…

Seriously, I very much fell in love with Maine and Acadia. It suited us so well and was one of our best vacations ever. If I didn’t love our little piece of Lancaster County so much, I would be very tempted to move!!

Hope you enjoyed my photos.

 

Dear Kids…

Today I am re-posting something that I wrote around this time last summer. My kids start school in just a week and I got to thinking about this little letter again. Reading it a year later, I echo every word of it once more.

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Dear Daniel, Andrew, Heidi, Joey, and Josh,

Tomorrow you all will be heading off once again for a brand new school year!  I know you are ready to start back up, but may have some butterflies about it too. I know that I always did when I was your age.

As your dear old Mom, here are some things I’d like to tell you before I send you off to start your new grade. I know I’ve said lately that I’m excited for you all to get on that bus so I can have a little time by myself, and that is true. I do like a little time alone here at our house when it’s nice and quiet and everyone is at school. However, know that I do miss you all and am praying for you every time that bus picks you up. It’s like 5 pieces of my heart leave me and then return in the afternoon.

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Guys, I encourage you to do your absolute best while you’re at school. Each of you has been very blessed with the ability to learn things pretty easily and to usually do well on tests. Not every kid has that advantage, so don’t take it for granted. Help other kids as you are able and while it’s okay to be proud of a good grade (and you should be!), no one likes a bragger. Also, just because learning may come easier for you than some other kids, it is not an excuse to slack off. You are still called to do your best at whatever job you’ve been given, and right now that job is schoolwork.

Now, this is what I want you to know about your teachers. They are there to help you learn and be the best person you can be. Teaching is NOT an easy job, and you are to be kind and respectful to each teacher you have, even if they are not your favorite. From what I’ve seen, they really do want what’s best for their students and love all of the kids in their care. All teachers have tough days sometimes and I want you to help make their days a little brighter by being in their class.

With that being said, let’s talk about the other kids in your classes. Every kid is different, and I think you all already know that. Some kids are ones that are easy to be friends with. I used to gravitate towards those types of kids and stick with them. Other kids are not so easy to be friends with, or maybe they are difficult for the teachers and other grown-ups in the school.  Perhaps they are mean or rude or maybe even cry over silly things. Maybe it’s a kid that is dirty a lot or smells, or has other issues. Here’s the thing, guys—you just never know what that kid is dealing with at home. You all come from a pretty good household (I think!) and have two parents that dearly love you, take care of you, discipline you, and teach you about Jesus. Maybe you think every kid comes from a house like that, but they don’t.  Anymore a house like ours is a little rare. I just think that it’s important to remember that when a kid is maybe acting out or different in some way.  Please, please, be kind and show love to everyone, even if they are not especially likeable. Remember how much Jesus loves each of us, and maybe YOU are the person he is using to show that love to another kid.

Here’s another thing that ties in with what I just said: I want you guys to be a “little light” to everyone you meet at school. Dad and I think that you already have been, and we are so proud of you for that! Keep it up. I really do believe that God uses people in certain places and at certain times. For the last years and even now we think that we’ve been called to have our family be a part of the public school here. As I said before, not everyone comes from a family that believes like we do, but I want you to show them love as Jesus has commanded us to do. Maybe that means being a friend to someone who is shy, or holding a door for others, sharing a book, or inviting a kid that’s alone to play with you on the playground. You just never know what impact you’ll have on someone else.

Also, stand up for what you believe in. Our world is a little crazy right now, and sadly, it’s just going to get worse. That makes me worried for you as you grow up. This is part of what I pray about for you all the time. However, you have been taught what is right and what is wrong, and don’t be afraid to say and act on what you believe. I know you can do it!

I love you guys like crazy and will miss you. Have a great first day in your new grade!

Love, Mom

 

Creation Jar Terrarium

Today I am sharing an idea that I just pulled off this past weekend for our church VBS.

The theme was “Walk Thru the Old Testament,” which begins with Creation!

As usual, I was the craft lady, so I wanted everyone to take home something neat that would last. As my second-oldest has been enthralled with making terrariums, I had a light bulb moment one day that a “Creation Terrarium” would be cool.

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It turned out to be a huge hit! As we had a different format this year and families did VBS together, both adults and kids had the opportunity to make one.

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I incorporated different elements of Creation–animals, rocks, plants, soil…

Some kids placed little frogs in theirs and others put in small animals that I had available.

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To pull this off for a group, I set it up like an assembly line. Here is the order in which I placed things:

  • plastic quart jar
  • gravel
  • potting soil
  • small fern (we used leather wood ferns)
  • moss (some foraged from our area and reindeer moss)
  • small animal
  • small rock
  • lid
  • twine or yarn, already cut
  • tag with markers to write their name on

I also put down brown roll paper on the tables to make for easy clean-up, which worked quite nicely!

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Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. Unfortunately I didn’t get good pics with my camera while this was going down:( The kids made some really neat ones, and they were all just a little different!

If you’re looking for a cool, non-junky VBS craft, this is a great option. A little more involved than what I usually have, but well worth it!!

The Weight of Words

I should’ve seen the comment coming, but I didn’t.
Usually it happens that way. Sometimes there’s the usual suspects that you can brace yourself for and know something not-uplifting will likely come out of their mouth upon seeing you.
Then there’s the ones that take you by surprise.
Surprise or not a surprise, those words sting. A lot. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 years old or pushing 40, they still hurt. If you’re anything like me, though they may have been forgiven decades ago, those words can still smart at the oddest times many years later.
I’ve been wanting to write about the weight of our words for a long time now, but something happened last night that prompted my heart to write about it in a vulnerable way this morning.

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You see, it started like this….
We were up at my parents’ house last evening for a Memorial Day picnic. Things were going fine and we had the surprise of an older gentleman who worked with Jeff and I  years ago showing up to eat dessert and visit with my husband and I and generally catch up with everyone. When he had his visit in, he got up to leave and shook Jeff’s hand, then came over to me for a hug. This older man gave me a long, heartfelt squeeze, then loudly proclaimed, “Boy, I’ve always loved big women.” Everyone laughed. I could feel my cheeks starting to redden, and he went to joke about how my husband must like them too and made a joke about big barns or barn doors or some such nonsense. Everyone seemed amused at his antics. Everyone except me. I think I was a little flabbergasted and most definitely embarrassed. I saved my tears for later on when everyone was in bed and then broke down in front of my poor neighbor at the bus stop this morning.
Why oh why did this affect me so dearly? Especially as a supposedly confident, grown woman now pushing forty? I know I’m not alone. I have tons of sisters out there who have had to deal with similar things throughout their life and I’m sure can testify to how much it hurts.
I’ve never been petite, or svelte and willowy, or lots of the other things our culture reveres as a standard of beauty. Growing up as a tall, big kid, I have always had to field similar comments here and there. I have heard a whole litany of them. I can remember almost every one too. Even if 10 people could tell me they think I’m smart or kind or beautiful, that one comment about my weight or whatever else can easily drag me down in a tailspin and make me stew and generally feel terrible about myself. I could write a whole article (or series) about the topic of weight/size/etc, but I’ll save that for another time.
Here’s what I have to say to everyone—watch your words. Words hurt, even if they weren’t meant in a mean-spirited way. And I’m not just referring to weight, though that is a majorly sensitive one, especially for women. If I’ve gained weight, you really don’t need to tell me. I can assure you that I realize it already and am probably trying to quietly work on it. Though weight is a main one, it can really be anything. Maybe it’s parenting. Or your job status. Or your house. Or name-a-subject. Words are powerful, especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with them. Whether spoken or written, let’s use them wisely.
If you’ve used your words in a way that hurt someone, whether intentionally or no, please consider apologizing to that person. I am far, far from perfect, so I’m sure that I’ve said (or written) my share of hurtful words in the past. I know I have. I apologize to anyone that I may have hurt in this way, truly I do.
Parents, we especially need to watch what we say directly to, or in front of, our kids. You never know what they will hold onto, whether it be good or bad. We have a responsibility to build our kids up, not tear them down. I’m amazed at what my kids remember me saying to them or just in earshot of them. Usually it’s a very humbling experience to hear back what they remember me saying. Though I’m generally one to speak love and encouragement to my kids, I’m far from a perfect parent.

Lord help us all, right?
Lastly, I’m going to address those of us who have been hurt by words from someone else. They may sting for a long time, but let’s try to forgive. We live in a fallen world and these things are going to happen. What’s most important for me to remember is how much God loves me and treasures me. He thinks I’m awesome, no matter how imperfect I may be. And he thinks you are too!
Let’s use our words wisely this week.