Being over 50, my ears have heard many words. Some words I wish I could recall. Some words I would like to forget. But there are three things people once said to me that I believe I will remember forever.
1. “You will always have beauty in your life.”
I took biology my sophomore year at Edina High School. Mr. Ehlert was my teacher: a quirky older man who sported bow ties, tweed jackets, and a grizzled beard. He would lecture every day, and our task was to take attentive notes in our all-important notebooks. Our grade depended heavily on these notebooks, which we offered for grading every few weeks.
It was — and is still — my habit to doodle in notebooks, so mine was filled alternately with words, pictures and word-pictures. I might have written out the process of metamorphosis in words, with arrows, or doodled a whimsical caterpillar~butterfly combo as my pencil flew across the pages.
We handed in our notebooks one Friday and got them back the next week. In my notebook, he made comments and asked occasional questions. He did not scowl at my doodling — instead, he approvingly referred to my artsy note- taking when he wrote:
“You will always have beauty in your life.”
I have never forgotten that little comment — the memory of it has grown over the years and made me feel richer.
2. “You smell like Jesus, Lisa.”
I remember the day I walked to my p.o. box at college, opened it and found a simple note, that began with a Bible passage:
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us reveals the fragrance of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
You smell like Jesus, Lisa!
I looked around the mailroom. Who had sent me this encouraging, anonymous message? Who thinks I *smell* like Jesus?!
Looking back, this period of my life was sometimes more selfish and stinky than spiritually fragrant! Although the message could have been the result of someone’s Bible class assignment, or sent in bulk to several people, my spirit soared and I have pondered over and cherished this verse ever since. It’s also good to remember that if we ever eke out a Jesus fragrance, it is only because we have His power to do it. The rest of the verse says: “And who is adequate for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:16.
3. “You never complain!”
Betsy was a beautiful southern lady, twenty years my senior. She hosted a small group at her home, simply to build God-focused encouragement into the lives of women.
I remember the time she looked me in the eye and told me:
“Ly-suh…I never hear you complain! You never complain, do you?”
Betsy didn’t live with me, and my husband certainly could have told her the real truth, but as I reflect on her words, I realize that the moment she said that, she pronounced upon me something to live up to; something like a prophecy:
I am someone who doesn’t complain. I will be someone who doesn’t complain.
Her words have diffused power over the years, and have caused me to hold my tongue or think of my blessings instead of my lack. I only hope that I will be a “Betsy” to others who need one throughout their journey.
The value of looking back at these three comments is to cause me to be inspired to do the same for others. Our words are powerful. These three people probably had no idea of the impact of their short messages. They didn’t preach a sermon at me, or lecture, or use fancy words; but the effort they took to speak something kind ended up being as valuable to me as gold.
any more than The Christian Life is all about YOU.
Marriage is one big school to make you more like Jesus.
Someday, you will look back and see
the big picture
and the footprints of God
who effortlessly carried you through every joy and trial.
Keep that fresh, dewy, idealistic smile on your face.
You got this.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – from 1 Corinthians 13
My mom always told me things like, “Put yourself in their shoes.” She helped me see value in people that others would ignore, and to reach out to them.
We hosted a family with eight children for a few weeks, because they didn’t have a place to stay. At the time, I just thought it was fun to have friends staying with us, but I didn’t think about the challenge it must have been for my parents.
Many of my mom’s friends had hard backgrounds or difficult life problems. People like Norma, Gwen and Sandy needed rides, or encouragement, or babysitters, or a perm, or they needed my mom to help them do a garage sale. We saw her reaching out and didn’t know that we were absorbing it.
Because of my mom’s influence, I went on to attract individuals all my life who had a unique story and special need for a friend.
My dad had a quote that he kept in his desk drawer, in the county budget office, on the 21st floor of the government center in Minneapolis:
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau
My dad was kind and respectful in the way he talked to everyone — never talking down to people.
He gave people a chance. He sold our station wagon to a rough new kid who visited our youth group, allowing him to pay him in installments. After one or two payments, Wally Johnson had the car and my dad never saw him again. Once or twice my dad asked me, with a twinkle in his eye, but with no malice, “Do you ever see that Wally Johnson?”
I learned to create art.
My mom and dad were both creative — each in their own way. They liked to garden. Mom liked to make ethnic meals and crafts, like stained glass and decoupage. Dad worked with wood, making my dollhouse, inlaid parquet projects, furniture, climbing bears and many other toys.
My mom and dad encouraged me to use my talents. Whenever my mom needed a card, she would ask me to write calligraphy on it, and when my dad made something out of wood, he asked me to paint something on it. They treated my art like it was real art, and because of this, it became real art. They valued homemade things, from Dad’s handmade antique-turned-lamps all over the house, to my mom’s oil paintings, to our elementary school art projects that hung on the walls. To them, the best art was meaningful art, made by people they loved.
I learned to seek God.
They took us to church every week. They took us to camp and youth group and confirmation class and Bible studies and reminded us to read our devotions. My mom, Sara and I memorized James 1 together. Mom gave me many Christian books (which I sometimes read and sometimes didn’t.) She passed on her love for Corrie Ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada, and we gobbled up The Hiding Place and Joni’s autobiography. Mom loved the Psalms, Christian books and showed her love for God by serving her family, other people and also becoming involved in the growing pro-life efforts of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Dad read his Bible, too, but never marked it up. (I get that from him.) He was in Bible studies, but I never heard him talk about them much. He was a quiet believer who acted like a Christian more than he talked about being one.
** This was the question I got today from Storyworth. Storyworth was a unique gift I received from my children on Mother’s Day. I receive a weekly email question to answer, and it usually brings forth a flood of memories. It’s a good exercise for any blogger and the plan is for all of these excerpts to turn into a lovely book, full of a lifetime of memories. This gift of a Storyworth book is the kind of thing that is perfect to give to an aging parent who might be in danger of losing her full brain functionality soon…hehe…probably why I received it 🙂
This spring, some berserk birds are inhabiting our rural property. Their quirky obsessions are both driving me nuts and teaching me things about life, business and family.
Birds rise early.
The sky is still gray and dusky when the wild birds start chattering. I cannot imagine what is going on in their minds, but kudos for their predictably cheerful morning attitude. Although scientists don’t have a complete understanding of why birds make so much noise (how could they?) there are occasional clues. We know that Mama Robin’s chastising screech means that she is livid when we get too close to her nest, which she built in a highly trafficked position next to the front door.
Birds get to work.
One spring morning, I clipped the jeans, shirts and hoodies to the clothesline. Later that day, I noticed the beginnings of a nest being built in the hood of the hoodie. Birds do not mess around. They do not procrastinate and they let nothing stand in their way. They do not always choose the wisest places to work, but when they act, it is swift and confident.
Birds are relentless.
That irritating redwing blackbird swoops down and scolds us when we circle the pond on our regular walks around the property. Feverishly protecting his nesting territory, he continues his officious circuit until we are completely out of sight.
Then, there are the barn swallows. We left our garage door open last week, and now they consider it fair game for new construction. Every time we open the garage door, we are in danger of a swooping bird, although their timing seems to be impeccable — they have never made impact with the slamming door.
Birds sing often.
Our resident Baltimore Oriole is a lovely vocalist, and he sings a memorable tune. While weeding the garden, I repeated his singsong pattern several times to myself. Why not sing? Reports confirm that there are scientific reasons to start singing:
Singing releases endorphins, a hormone that is associated with feelings of pleasure.
The hormone oxytocin is also released while singing; this body chemical enhances feelings of bonding and trust.
While singing, individuals sustain lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Studies repeatedly find that singing relieves anxiety.
Heart rates sync up during group singing.
Since most diurnal birds cannot see in the dark, birds sleep when the daylight fades. I can tell when things are winding down, because the singing and chatter becomes sporadic, slow and calming. Once to bed, birds don’t wake up until morning.
Birds do take naps, so I will take that as a confirmation of what I was hoping:
short power naps increase the chances that we may rise early to sing cheerfully, work confidently, and protect our loved ones vigorously.
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.
I have decided to jump in a start a new business, writing website and blog content, creating professional bios and more. The name of my business and website is: Eleven Star Content (inspired by the number of children God gave me!)
For four years, I have been freelancing through Upwork, a global marketplace that has enabled me to write for a diverse assortment of clients, such as:
real estate agents
These varied projects have acted like on-the-job-training, taking me from minimal writing background to a versatile and growing collection of writing experience.
This blog, My Word Soup, has helped too, and I hope to still be here writing out my personal musings, poetry, homeschooling thoughts, humble Bible commentary, family foibles and more.
for your comments, encouragement, inspiration and love
that has also been a big part of launching me into this new endeavor!
I hauled two busy boys along on a walk last Monday.
I warned them in my best tough-mom voice:
“We will walk ten miles today, boys. If you want your water bottle, carry it yourself. If you grumble and whine, you will not get a treat at the end. You can do this. We can do this. Let’s go build some muscle, guys!”
So we started off on a well known path.
They were trailing behind me.
Perfect time for me to whip out my earbuds and listen to my own audiobook.
Peace and quiet and lovely time to myself.
Nah, I will wait a little.
That throaty, burping frog pond.
That airy, whistling, bird choir.
The rustles in the dry leaves of tiny who-knows-whats.
I couldn’t miss this.
Spring was waking up here.
The sun was melting my winter slouch.
My ears were being treated to a magnificent, miraculous, musical racket.
“Make a joyful noise,” said the psalmist.
Maybe this is what he meant.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
This is my Father’s world: The birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, Declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.
–from the 1901 hymn “This is My Father’s World” / lyrics by Maltbie D. Babcock
The beach is mesmerizing, and I could sit and watch the translucent-teal waves foam up on the sand all day long.
The way God fashioned waves is a repeating design pattern in life…but that is another blog post in itself.
Patterns & People
Last night, after the beach, after makeup removal, after getting cozy on my chair, Gino asked me to go for a walk around the colorful 4 x 4 block radius that we have called “home” this past week, where he has explored so much more than I.
How could I say no?
The air was balmy on our last night, as he led me through the upscale design district in my pre-bedtime state of appearance. We pranced right through a busy, outdoor bar where fancy people chatted in a courtyard. We weaved through a maze of colors and patterns, past designer shops with their sparsely-chic shelves and products. Everywhere we went, it smelled like someone wearing high-end perfume had just recently sailed through.
All good things must come to an end.
When I start calling our place “home”…
When I start thinking about a Starbucks run every day at 3 p.m. just because it is within walking distance…
When I start swaying to Latino rap like it’s normal (all those Uber rides)…
Then I know it is time to hightail my homeschool-mom-self back to the Midwest.
You might think it is strange for a mother to accompany her son to Miami for Spring Break, but here is how it happened…
My 20-year-old son Gino, who is taking online college classes, announced that he wanted to take a trip to Florida for spring break. After considering this, I mused aloud…
“It would be fun to go with you.
I wonder if I could swing it.
Would you hate that?”
Then, I let it rest.
A few days later, he said, “That would actually be nice — you going with me.”
“REALLY??!!!!?” I asked.
My husband agreed, home duties were delegated, and so it was planned. Gino reserved our flights and our spot at a spacious 2 bedroom Airbnb.
Arriving in Miami
We landed at 11:00 a.m. and basked in the 35 degree temperature change. We rode to our neighborhood, but the place wouldn’t be ready until 3:00 p.m. Gino stopped at Target and met me later, where I was lounging outside under the palm trees at a Starbucks. We hung out there before walking a few short blocks to our lovely little duplex in the Miami Design District.
First Meal, Best Meal
Since Gino and I had been up at 4:00 a.m. for our 6:30 flight, and we hadn’t eaten a solid meal all day, we decided to go to Versailles Restaurant, whose tagline is: “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” My Cuban-born husband and I discovered it when we went to Miami years ago, and its mouthwatering fare has haunted us ever since. Gino and I both ordered the Classic Cuban Sampler Platter. He polished it off, and I brought home half to enjoy tomorrow.
Frank from Instacart left two grocery bags on our doorstep at 7:55 a.m. Gino went walking. I wrote out my own paraphrase of Psalm 9 and pasted it up on our refrigerator. The morning was leisurely, but our goal today was to hit the beach!
Gino takes care of (and pays for) our Uber rides and I am grateful, since I am quite unfamiliar with all that. Today, Gino asked, “Should I call for an UBER?”
I started thinking about what to pack for a day at the beach, such as my:
…and suddenly Gino announced:
“Okay, he will be here in one minute.”
I rushed to cram everything into my backpack, and bumbled awkwardly into the car as I simultaneously strapped on a mask. I looked at Gino, who was calmly sitting there with absolutely nothing in his hands.
“Do you have everything?” I asked.
“Yep.” he said.
Once we arrived at Miami Beach it was breezy and around 70 degrees, but the sun peeked out from time to time, which gave stunning photos!
We split up when we reached the sand: I walked north and Gino walked south. I trudged happily six miles along the windy, lapping shore, searching in vain for large shells, but finding bouquets of sea vegetation and washed-up iridescent jellyfish.
After a few hours of walking, I headed west to the paved pathway that runs parallel to the beach. I found a bike rental kiosk and on a whim, rented a Citibike for two hours.
After 20 minutes, I met up with Gino on the path (where I shared some of my snacks with him, since he had come without any…hehe) and after an hour and a half, we met up again at the kiosk and planned to get a ride home.
Once again, I had barely untangled myself from the bike and gathered up my bulky wares, when Gino said, “Okay, our ride is almost here.”
After getting home, he showered off all of the sand, came out of the bathroom and said:
You know you can go places without me, right?
This struck me as a strange juxtaposition of the parent-child relationship, but maybe this is the emerging story of aging and could I possibly be on the brink already?
To reassure him that I was capable, I took off for a walk to Target when he wasn’t looking, and I forced myself to take extra time browsing so I wouldn’t get home too soon.
As I was heading home, whom do I see on the sidewalk, but my own son, giving me a minimalist smile in exchange for my motherly wave hello?
I got home and boldly drank strawberry kombucha out of a wine glass.
Gino moves in and out of this place like a Ninja. One minute, I hear him exiting the bathroom, and the next minute I walk out to the living room and notice that his shoes and keys are gone.
So, to prevent myself from calling out his name just to see if he is still here (I think this annoys him) I have resorted to checking his Google location (a temporary, trip-only concession).
This morning, I told him that I’m going to stick around home and relax.
“I will probably walk over to Starbucks later this afternoon,” I said, hoping this would impress him.
But tomorrow — our last full day — I definitely want to go back to THE BEACH!