I 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!
Brian 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!
“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
Have 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?
As 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.
My 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
When 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
“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?
“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)
The music that is played during my exercise class fades into the back ground and I’m not consciously aware of it. Occasionally though, a few lyrics demand my attention.
Such was the case recently. Several lines from a song provoked deep thought.
The first words to reach through to me were, “Words are like weapons they wound sometimes.” This was followed by, “I didn’t really mean to hurt you.”
I was reminded how easy it is to use words as weapons. They cut deep and the wounds can last longer than physical ones. I know too well that certain situations can cause these wounds to spring to the surface even many years later. Emotions become raw once again.
Apologies can be made and accepted but the damage of careless words can last a lifetime. In the song Cher sings, “If I could turn back time ….I’d take back all the words that have hurt you.” She was lamenting someone who was no longer part of her life.
Unfortunately, words spoken in haste have the ability to alienate us. Harsh words are like fire; I can’t control or take back the damage they have done.
My intention is not to hurt anyone with my words. In my own strength I have difficulty in taming my tongue. That is why I rely on the Holy Spirit to help me learn self-control. The Spirit reminds me of God’s love so I don’t react in a hurtful manner.
He is the one who enables me to speak gracious words that are sweet to the soul for those hearing them.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24 NIV)
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8 NIV)
A favourite song of mine has the words, “There is a candle in every soul; some brightly burning, some dark and cold.” It goes on to tell us to take our candles and go light the world.
A recent experience illustrated this in a simple but powerful way.
I arrived for a scheduled a book reading at a senior’s residence to find only two people in attendance. The low number was unusual but the reason behind it soon became clear.
After I read a couple of short stories, one woman tentatively told me that she was a writer. She’d taken courses and written short stories but didn’t have the confidence to share them. The other person drifted out of the room and I had the privilege of giving my full attention to the one remaining.
She told me about the depression she suffered and that some days she couldn’t bring herself to get out of bed. Medical issues were part of this, but deeper were the feelings that she was not making a meaningful contribution to life.
I gave her the gifts of listening and encouragement. By the time I left she was excited about returning to the stories she’d started several years ago and promised to share some with me on my next visit. I gave her a hug and she told me it felt like she had a new friend.
My time had the effect of using my candle to ignite hers. Now she is able to shine. It wasn’t a momentous event and didn’t take much time. My candle is burning brighter as a result. Together our light will brighten the world.
How will you take your candle and go light the world? I’d love to hear your stories.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)