Messages from the Heart

If you haven’t heard, Daniel and I are nearing the peak of marathon training, which deserves a post unto itself. (Biker turned runner!?!?) I haven’t had much time to write since training has a way of sapping energy and devouring countless hours… running, showering, soaking, eating, sleeping, stretching, foam rolling, strengthening, eating (again), and sleeping (again).

But the number one way the hours slip away is by waiting for the weather to change because I hate running in the rain, wind, and under cloudy skies… and it’s still winter. So there’s that.

But several of you have been asking what I am writing. The truthful answer up until 8:30am on Monday was “nothing,” but then this happened.


Around Thanksgiving, Alice and I found ourselves in AC Moore searching for a birthday gift. While we shopped, we stumbled upon a display of letter boards. The moment I saw those letter boards, I knew one of them was coming home with me. (If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, think moveable plastic letters stuck into grooved plastic boards.)

I like words. Words are powerful. I like words so much I try not to overuse them. Daniel will tell you when I talk on a deeper level, you’d better listen. I don’t add fluff. I’ve thought through what I want to say, and I’m annoyed if I have to say it twice. (This is not true when I’m shooting the breeze, which doesn’t happen often.)

When I write, I am the same way. Each word is carefully chosen. I will re-read a post until every extraneous word has been eradicated. When I initially edit a post, I usually remove several entire paragraphs. Readers don’t want fluff. I have 1.37 minutes (if I’m lucky) to share my thoughts before the reader moves to the next facebook post or youtube video or has to rescue the toddler from playing in the toilet.

As a parent who loves written words and isn’t a huge verbal communicator, I’m always looking for ways to write encouraging messages to my kids – notes in lunchboxes and suitcases, words of affirmation on their doors, etc.. In that moment at AC Moore, I decided there was no better way to subtly communicate the succinct, positive messages I wanted my kids to hear than by having a letter board in our home, an ever-changing canvas where I could compose and influence.

Alice shares my love for words. She will read anything that is available and is usually writing at least two story-lines on any given day. I wasn’t one bit surprised when she immediately told me she wanted a letter board too. But alas, I gave her some lame excuse about not being prepared to buy it then, and we moved on… or so she thought.

Two days later, I was back at AC Moore picking out a letter board. The hardest part was not buying the largest size available which would have provided maximum realty space, but perhaps looked slightly obnoxious in our modest living room. The medium sized board was presented as a family Christmas gift with one rule – anyone could write anything on it as long as it was appropriate and kind.

Since then, Alice and I have faithfully rotated heart-felt messages – a birthday countdown, a quote from Henri Nouwen, a welcome sign for the weekend the kids and I spent scrapbooking our cross country trip. I was loving it.

Then this past Saturday, I couldn’t sleep. I was replaying some mistakes I had made during a concert earlier that night – both on and off stage. They weren’t show stoppers, but as is true for most of us, I am my toughest critic.

As I was belittling my musical and other abilities, I turned to Facebook in hopes of being lulled to sleep. No dice. Instead, my brain lit up when I read a lengthy! quote that I instantly knew had to go on our letter board. Pronto! (How I wished for that larger sized board!)

Over an hour later, I had covered the entire board with this condensed paraphrase…“Some kids are smarter than you. Some have coolers duds or are better at sports than you. It doesn’t matter. You have your thing too. Be the kid who gets along and is happy for others. You are the kid who does the right thing.”

I went to bed feeling satisfied to have shared such empowering words on the board but completely missing the point for myself… there will always be someone better than I am at music, at running, etc.. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how I treat others, not silly mistakes in a concert.

The next morning, Alice walked into the kitchen carrying the letter board and beaming from ear to ear. Bull’s-eye! She got it! That quote had resonated loudly and clearly. Later that day, she pointed it out to Grandma, and Ian also said something about it. It had happened! My letter board hopes were becoming reality.

After supper, I found Ian sitting on the floor with the board, haphazardly pulling off the letters. I was tired from lack of sleep, run down from two concerts and a long-ish run, and discouraged to see my late-night work being discarded so quickly. My anger flared, but I managed to walk away without erupting, remembering the letter board was for everyone, not just me… or maybe there were some extra people in the house, and I decided to try to be mature.

It wasn’t until the house was quiet that I saw it… the first message Ian has ever written on the board. The boy who hates to write and who will condense a five word sentence to four words if he can had replaced my quote with another powerful message.

Well said, my Ian-boy.

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