When Your Words Match Your Life

The origin of the word ‘journal’ is from Old French–“jornel” meaning ‘daily.’ In Latin the word is ‘diurnalis’, prompting our English word ‘diary.’ A journal is “a record of daily events, a day book, a ship’s log.” People, myself included, used to ‘keep’ a journal, a place to collect important events, timely thoughts, the occasional prayer, challenges and triumphs. The word, like so many once-nouns, has turned into a verb; now people talk about ‘journaling.’ This action word, a practice of daily writing, is a tool that helps us find out what we think when we put pen or pencil to paper.

When I began journaling about 20 years ago I noticed each year there was a theme to my work. In the last 5-8 years God has dropped a word into my spirit in the last days of the year as a frame for the year ahead. Not an audible voice of course, but sort of a whisper, “this will be the word that centers you.”

I didn’t know people chose a word for the year until I began blogging. Then I thought, “So that’s what God’s been up to.”  I noticed the sticky notes adorning the inside leaf of each one. I’d written words like, “fit” and “anchor”, “abide” or “dwell”. Those were the easy words. Then there was “surrender” (for two years), then “stretch” (which seems a lot like ‘surrender’ by the way).

The last week of 2016 I heard “adjust” one Sunday morning in church. Just like that. Again, not an audible voice, but inside in my knower. “Adjust.” After two years of ‘surrender’, this felt a little more gentle.

When I thought the word over, I sensed God saying, “I’m leading you in a particular direction with your work and your words and your reach, but stay close to me, because I’m going to help you adjust as you go.”

In that same message our pastor reminded us, “God only steers cars that are moving.” In other words, if you’re not sure about a direction or an idea or a plan, just start going. If you need a course-correction, God will gently help you adjust.

I looked up the word when I got home. “Adjust”–from the Latin, ‘ad’ to and ‘juxta’ near. Keeping moving more near where you’re supposed to be going. In other words, “As you’re heading in the right direction, I’ll help you get closer to what you’re called to be, to who I’ve made you.” God is a gentle speaker and for that I am grateful.

This is undoubtedly a year of adjustment. Fresh on the heals of the recent inauguration, I have some huge adjustments to make. On a large, national scale I have to move closer to a new way of looking at the office of the President, at the person of the President, at the performance of the President. I’m praying that things work out for all of us, but only time will tell.

Much closer to home I have to adjust to a no less earth-shattering adjustment–my oldest grandson will be 14 years old on January 24th. That seems impossible because, of course, he was just born the other day. You know what I mean.

I have a poem in my journal from the day Hanan was born, about the unfolding of his life from a neat little package. His life as a child was just beginning, my new identity as a Nana had also just begun.

Five years ago this week my blog was ‘born’; Hanan turned nine the same week. In the summer months preceding that we’d gone on a hike up to Multnomah Falls outside Portland, OR. It was grueling, long climb up one switchback after another in the hot July sun. I wanted to give up our walk many times and muttered my misgivings.

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Small footbridge on hike up to Multnomah Falls

The 8 1/2 year old Hanan said, “But Nana, if you want to see something awesome, you have to never give up.” I’m reminded of that often when I think about my daily ‘hikes’ through this thing we call life.

So we end where we began. The word “journey” is closely related to “journal”. Middle English, “journeia day’s travel, Latin “diurnus”, of a day, i.e. to travel from one place to another in the span of a day. Where I go each day always ends up on the pages of my journals as I’ve journeyed through this life, adjusting as I go. Always welcoming my Heavenly Father’s course-correction. (Well maybe not always.) 

Nevertheless, I want to keep moving like the water in that rushing stream, directed by God-dug channels, held in by banks of God’s choosing along the way.

Psalm 45:1 says in The Message Bible,

My heart bursts its banks,
    spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
    shaping the river into words:

As I journey through this life, adjusted by my Father, my journals will continue to be a place to pour out my poems to the king, “shaping the river into words.”

What about you?

How Books Saved Me

Today I am guest posting at Literacy Musing Mondays Linkup with Mary Hill and Ashley Hales.  Literacy Musing Mondays  is for all bloggers who love to write anything literacy related such as essays about the love of reading and/or writing, book reviews, or posts about fun literacy activities. All family-friendly posts are welcome.

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         Some of the most delicious morsels we consume are not  the meals we partake of, but rather the nourishment of words which speak to our souls. When you are the oldest of five children with alcoholic parents, life is tenuous and uncertain, rocky around the edges and loosely glued together by basic threads of food, shelter and clothing. I could always count on those basics while growing up.  Although my father was often either unemployed (“I’m just in between jobs”) or underemployed, we did not go hungry.  God, via neighbors and friends throughout my young life, saw to it that we had enough to eat.

      But the meals that really saved me, body and soul, were the feasts I found in glorious stories, words that took me away from a chaotic and crowded household to a world of people and places that shone with beauty, peace and plenty.

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I am lending a hand to my son as he and his family move house (for the 3rd time.) My grandson Hanan, the oldest of 5, is hiding in his room reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”  As a teacher and a grown up I am loathe to call the Wimpy Kid books ‘literature’ but I will say this—those books have got my grandson reading.

Books were my solace when I was growing up, too. I remember hiding away in my room, shutting out the noise and the too-muchness of my four siblings. As early as the age of 12 or 13, whether I wanted to or not, I was often left to babysit my brothers and sisters while my parents stepped out for the evening.

When I was in charge I just let my brothers and sister play on their own (those were simpler times) while I escaped into the pages of a good book.  I found beauty and gentleness, people who were just like me, getting by on little, yet living with happy hearts. A big family was a plus in hard times; I could definitely relate.

One of those books I carry in my heart is Louisa May Alcott’s “Rose in Bloom” (c. 1876), a sequel to Alcott’s ‘Eight Cousins.’  It was a very old-fashioned coming of age story “with absolutely no moral” as the author stated in the preface.  The lines read like a fairy tale; splendor and parties, fancy dresses, adoring young men—all a young pre-teen girl could want.  I got lost for hours. 

I also fell in love with Alcott’s “Little Women” and gravitated to the lead character of Jo (my mother’s nickname for me).  The heroine and I had much in common: both of us the oldest, bossy to a fault, and enamored of our absent fathers—Jo’s was off fighting the war, mine – a stepfather-was away somewhere drinking or gambling. 

Jo often dreamed at her mother’s feet of her father’s homecoming; perhaps the story resonated so with my young girls’ heart because I longed for that to be true as well—that my father would be present in my life.

Gene Stratton Porter’s classic “Freckles” also became a sacred text to me; I have the volume I read as a 12 year old on my bookshelf today. Dreaming as I read, I envisioned Freckles’ cathedral in the swamp forest as a place of solace.  Freckles created  a place of beauty from the forest at his feet, designed by God, where he was heard and understood.  Between those pages I found an escape to quiet like I’d never known, a place where silence spoke volumes. 

I also found a kindred spirit with Freckles— a father who’d abandoned him, no one but he and God and the stunning beauty of the Limberlost. Although Porter’s story never directly mentioned the Divine, His existence palpated between the lines.  I could sense a Presence in her words, the light glimpsing its way into the Cathedral in the woods, the chapters like a song calling me to a Somewhere Else far away.

There are many other volumes that struck a chord as well—stories like “The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew”, Margaret Sidney, 1881. (from the book jacket),

“Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie, and their widowed mother are a loving family, full of spirit and adventure. Ben and Polly do what they can to support the family, but a bout with measles threatens the well being of the entire Pepper clan, especially Joel and Polly.”

Five children, an absent father and the measles, a threat to our family I remember very well.  The book had been written for me, I was sure.

Another classic was “The Boxcar Children”, Gertrude Chandler Warner, 1942, first book. A tale of four orphaned children living in—imagine!—an abandoned boxcar, making do with little or nothing.  The common thread of happy children scraping by with little, making the best of what they had; the parallels rang true as a bell.

Through all those ringing bells, the resonating tune was God’s song calling me through the pages of these books. I was being drawn  to beauty, peace and provision, while He prepared my heart and soul to hear His voice.

I didn’t listen until many years later, heeding God’s call to come, a lost and lonely little big girl with an empty heart. 

I am still drawn to the classics, the song and rhythm, the beauty of the language a magnifier of the beauty in that other world where I will live some day, with my God who will never leave, who is the resource of all I will ever need.

Books brought me a sort of salvation, carrying me to my Savior; 

they carry me still to this day.

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Now back to the LMM linkup.What have you read this week?
What literacy activities have you participated in with your family and loved ones?
All family-friendly posts are welcome. 😉
You will have until Saturdays at 12 p.m. now to link up!  
Literacy Musing Mondays
Ashley from www.circlingthestory.com
Ashley @Circling the Story: Blog/Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram
Mary @Maryandering Creatively: Blog/Facebook/Twitter/PinterestInstagram

Last Week’s Top Clicked Post!

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