Word Pictures

#inspiration, words, mental imagesDo certain names bring images to mind? Can a few words or a name produce a story in your imagination?

I found this happening on our travels as we encountered many interesting road signs. Some names not only brought pictures to mind but also had me wondering about the stories behind them. In most cases, I didn’t know the history and my mind created possible scenarios.

We passed through Kinloss and I envisioned an epidemic in the area resulting in the death of many family members. The next town was Lucknow and I thought of better days ahead.

The town of Chatsworth had me creating a more elaborate story. Maybe it was because so many places in this area had British names. In my mind’s eye I pictured Lord and Lady Chatsworth at their summer estate in this area. It was the early 1900’s and their grand balls brought aristocracy from afar to this little village.

With the absence of facts, my imagination took over with these and many other places with names that piqued my interest. Don’t even get me started on business names like Black Market Produce!

The point is how often do I hear a few words and jump to conclusions without getting all the information? Do I believe everything I hear from others or do I seek the truth?

That took me to my next thought. When others hear my name, what picture comes to mind? Have they heard a negative word or two that has them imagining the worst or do positive images take over?

The way I live my life will impact how people perceive me. If I’m not open and honest you can’t really know me and that is where the misconceptions and inaccurate stories come into play.  The question is, am I willing to drop the mask and be honest?

Swatting Mosquitoes

#inspiration, negative thoughts, affirmations, positive wordsWe spent the long weekend in our RV. Despite summer-like temperatures and a peaceful, beautiful setting, our enjoyment was hampered by mosquitoes.

Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me but I don’t remember these annoying insects being as troublesome in previous years.

Let me paint you a picture. I sat at a picnic table under a bright blue sky; pen in hand ready to do some writing. Slightly behind me, a bug zapper was plugged in. A citronella candle burned within an arm’s length. And yet, mosquitoes continued to land on me.

I would swat them away and return to my writing, determined not to let these pests cause me to retreat indoors. Moments later, they would be back again. Sometimes I wasn’t aware of one landing until it had already done its damage. These tiny insects were destroying my peace of mind. The only solution was to go back inside and apply the insect repellent I should have used before coming outside.

I wonder if these pesky, blood-sucking insects are like the negative thoughts that swarm in my mind. I swat just as ineffectively at them. These thoughts keep coming back, sucking away my confidence. Soon they have me convinced I shouldn’t be out among all you ‘perfect’ people and I retreat into myself. My time becomes spent looking out longingly, wishing I could join in with everyone else.

Instead of living like this, there is a powerful repellent I can use. Repeating affirmations such as, I am strong, I am confident, I am valuable, I am worthy, I am loved have proven to be effective in fighting off negative thoughts. The more often I say these words with conviction, the more powerful they become.

When I believe the positive words, I am free to step out into a world of possibilities.

What Label Do I Wear?

#inspiration, name tag, beliefI was a participant in a project that had its unveiling at a recent community event. Twelve artists and twelve writers were paired up several months ago. Each pairing was given a sample of their partner’s work. We then created a piece inspired by that of our partner.

During the event, the work was displayed and the public was invited to mingle and talk to us about our creative process. The participants were each given a name tag identifying who we were and what our role was. Mine said, “Tandy Balson, Writer.”

Anyone approaching me knew immediately what my part was. I told my husband, “I must be a writer because my label says so.”

I took a picture of the tag and wondered what other labels I also wear. Although they may not be on a printed tag, I’m sure I have others that are every bit as visible to those who see me.

If I am smiling and happy, you will know I’m approachable. When you see a scowl or overhear harsh words, my attitude will label me as someone you don’t want to be near.

My actions can also give me the labels of trustworthy, helpful and compassionate rather than dishonest, uncooperative and judgmental.

Not all labels others give me are accurate. Some can limit my belief in myself. I read a quote from Act Accordingly by Colin Wright that said, “Labels help define you, but they are not you.” To that I say, AMEN!

Reflections of the Sun

#inspiration, reflections,lake, sunsetBrian and I walked to the lakeshore to watch the sun set. Its bright light reflected on the surface of the water as it slowly moved toward the horizon.

We wondered if the sun has its own thoughts, or reflections at the end of the day. Did it warm people as it shone on them? Did moods brighten at the sight of it? Did its heat cause some to seek shelter?

Maybe I should have the same kind of reflections as my day draws to a close. Would I be more aware of my attitude and activities if I asked myself a few simple questions every night?

Did I shine light and happiness on anyone today? Did my smile brighten a life? Were my words enough to warm a heart?

On the opposite side to this, was I harsh and unforgiving, causing those in my path to seek shelter rather than get burned?

I don’t expect each day to have clear, blue skies and no problems. That would be unrealistic. Clouds appear in everyone’s life. But, as most of us have observed, the most beautiful sunsets come when there are some clouds in the sky!sunset, lake, clouds

“Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal.” – Elbert Hubbard

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” – Robindranath Tagore

Hidden Gifts

#inspiration, mementos, bookmark, dreamsHave you ever tucked away mementos for safe-keeping and then forgotten about them? I have. Recently I opened a drawer to place something else inside and knew it was time to sort through the over-stuffed contents.

Everything was removed as I considered whether to keep or discard the items. A large stack of cards from a milestone birthday took up half the drawer. I enjoyed reading them before they went to recycling. Assorted family photos brought back many happy memories. Those went back in the drawer.

Photo ID cards for my husband and me from Expo 86 in Vancouver showed that time hasn’t been standing still. In my mind, I look the same, but the mirror tells a different story!

Most of the items were familiar but one caught me by surprise. I don’t remember it and have no idea who gave it to me. Since it was with items more than ten years old, I’m assuming this bookmark has been tucked away quite some time.

The words You Are a Lover of Words . . . One Day, You Will Write a Book” are printed at the top. A lovely sentiment is below. Today you know me as a writer, but what you may not know, is I only started writing five years ago. Three years ago, my first book was released.

Someone saw a gift in me many years before I had the confidence to believe in myself. Now, reading this bookmark brings tears to my eyes. I was meant to be a writer. Pretending it wasn’t possible didn’t stop the process, only delayed it. The voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough was lying.

I’m telling you this because I believe many of you have also let this critical voice stop you from going after your dreams. Don’t believe the lies. Tell it to STOP and then go and do what you were born to do.

I’m living my dream. What’s yours?

O Canada

#inspiration, meaning, wordsAs we approach Canada Day and the 150th birthday of our country, I decided to take a closer look at our national anthem and how it applies to my life.

“O Canada, our home and native land.” Canada is home to over thirty-six million people. More than 20% of these were not born in this country. Ours is a nation known for welcoming people from other lands.

In my everyday life, I can learn from this example and be warm and welcoming to everyone, not just those with common experiences. Diversity makes life more interesting.

“True patriot love.” This applies to love for our country. To me, this means to be proud of Canada and all it has to offer. Our standard of living is one many areas of the world would love to experience. I am grateful to live here.

Do I appreciate the opportunities that are present in my life or do I grumble and complain about little things that inconvenience me? The many positives far outweigh the few negatives.

“True north strong and free.” Our country offers us freedom of speech, freedom of religion and many other freedoms that are denied in other parts of the world. I never want to take these for granted.

Do I appreciate the freedoms in my life or just think of them as my right? Maybe I deny myself freedom. When I look at mistakes I’ve made in the past and decide not to risk loving others, believing in myself or having dreams for the future, I am locking myself in a self-imposed prison. This denies me the life that true freedom offers.

The word freedom also reminds me to be open and accepting of positions that are different from my own. It’s not up to me to judge anyone else based on their beliefs

“We stand on guard for thee.” As Canadians, we may be called upon to defend our country and all it stands for. I don’t have to be in the military or law enforcement to do this. I can guard its reputation by the words I speak.

O Canada was written over one hundred years ago, but its message is still relevant to my life today.

The 7% Rule

#inspiration, communication, non-verbalMy back went up immediately when I read the email. Here was the judgment I’d been expecting since being vulnerable and admitting my problem.

I’d been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support and encouragement I’d received. Now, this one negative came along and was having a much bigger effect on me than it should. I was upset with myself and the person who sent the message.

Upon reading the email again, I discovered the comment made was neither negative nor positive. It was simply a neutral statement. Since this was a sensitive topic for me my interpretation was negative and I took offense.

The fact is only 7% of communication is the words. I was not getting the 38% that is made up of the tone of voice, inflection and volume. Also missing was the 55% that facial expression and body language represent.

When I read something I need to take into consideration how I’m feeling at the time. My emotions can change the tone of what I read and turn an innocent statement into something offensive.

The same hold true with my communication with others. Sometimes, even with more than the 7%, my intentions are misunderstood. I need to take responsibility for my words and also for how I react to those directed to me.

How about you? Do you also get caught up in the words and your emotions and forget the 7% rule?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

A Mother’s Wisdom

#inspiration, letter, wisdomWhen I was a teenager, my mother wrote me a letter. I was confused. Why would she hand me written words instead of just talking to me? She smiled and said it was some thoughts she wanted to share and this way I could go back and reread them at any time.

I honoured her by taking and reading the letter but didn’t think the contents were valid. To my credit, I didn’t share those thoughts with her!

Looking back, I see the wisdom in her plan. I was nineteen, ready to leave home and thought I knew everything about life I needed to. Spoken words wouldn’t have been as effective as I probably would have disregarded them.

Basically, my mom told me that I was the only one responsible for me. People would come and go in my life and my self-worth couldn’t be based on the opinions of others. I was the only one who would always be with me. The lesson was to follow my conscience and do what I knew was right.

Sadly, I haven’t always followed this advice. There have been times I’ve tried to make someone else responsible for my happiness. I soon learned that is an unreasonable burden to place on anyone.

Blaming others for leading me astray was easy. Far more difficult was to admit, even to myself, that I had a choice as to my actions. When I chose poorly, it was my fault, not that of anyone else.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple wisdom of a mother who only wanted the best for me. I have learned over the years that I am responsible for my own experience. Thanks, mom.

“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up”. John C. Maxwell

Speaking Without Words

words, non-verbal“Am I being mean?” I asked. The response I received was, “No, it’s just another form of communication.”

You see, the woman in front of me in the aquafit class kept backing up. There was no room for me to move without crowding someone else. I was sure it wasn’t intentional and knew I’d been guilty of the same thing on occasion.

Two of us had gently pointed out her roaming and it seemed rude to keep asking her to move. Instead, I chose a non-verbal method of communication. I splashed more as she got too close! This proved to be effective at moving her forward again.

It is said that only 7% of our communication is verbal. I started looking for other examples of this.

On the far side of the pool, two young children danced with abandon to the music playing in the facility. It was easy to tell they were happy and carefree.

Have you ever taken one look at a friend and known there was something wrong? I’d just experienced that. I looked at someone, saw great sadness and gave him a hug. Non-verbally he had let me know he was hurting and I let him know I cared.

We speak with our eyes, our facial expressions and our body movements. My tone of voice can also convey a meaning quite opposite to my words.

If I can read this in others, they must be able to do the same when looking at me. Knowing this, I wonder; is my non-verbal communication keeping people from getting too close or drawing them near?

Awards and Obedience

Jesus, inspiration, gift, words“Congratulations,” the email began. It went on to say that my book Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake had been short listed for a national award. The press release said The Word Awards honour the best of Canadian Christian writing. I was in awe to learn my book is a finalist in the Inspirational/Devotional category.

Immediately tears sprang to my eyes as I thanked Jesus for what he has done in my life. You see, it was only a few short years ago that I was persuaded not only to start writing but to share that writing with others.

Looking back I can see the gentle nudges Jesus had given me for many years. I resisted because I didn’t feel I had the ability to be a writer. When I realized that I just had to be willing to let him work through me, things changed.

I took my little gift of obedience to him and he has magnified it in ways I never could have imagined. Inspiration and the words to express it do not come naturally for me. Jesus has given me the desire to write and placed me with those who have mentored and encouraged. When I share the words he gives me, I honour him.

Finding my name on this short list has confirmed that I am being obedient to the calling that he has for my life. It is an amazing feeling to know I’m running the race that he has set before me. When my race is completed I will receive the joy of spending eternity with Jesus. There is no greater award.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT)