Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writing with Permanent Marker

Today was one of those days. Two sick kids and our air-conditioning upstairs decided to take a vacation. It is roughly the temp of the surface of the sun. Thus we are "camping" in our family room tonight. Nothing like the great indoors.

An AC angel will be coming between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. tomorrow to fix it. He will be getting a group hug from one very sweaty family--that is if we haven't melted.

Anyway, we stayed close to home because Ava and Brady felt so crummy and I took the opportunity to catch up around the house. I was picking up the sofa pillows that had been tossed on the floor when I made a horrifying discovery.

I found this.
(Exhibit A.)

That, ladies and the one gentleman who reads my blog, is the cap off of a permanent marker. I knew that somewhere around my house was a Sharpie without it's hat!

(Exhibit B.)

I knew it was quite possibly in the hands of a child who was feeling creative (and immortal) or in the back pocket of a child who was practicing her somersaults. I envisioned carpeting and upholstery, bedspreads and baseboards, getting the business end of this marker on the loose.

Most of the time my Sharpie is my friend. I label things like a rancher brands cattle. Many germs have been contained by the labeling of water bottles. Many wars have been avoided at the community pool simply because our diving toys and floats were autographed by Mom.

Still, I have flashbacks to the time that Olivia (about 3 years old at the time), got hold of a Sharpie and gave herself a Hitler moustache. I scrubbed till her lip was raw, but it just wouldn't come off. I got a lot of nasty looks at the grocery store till it finally disappeared.

I did find the marker before too much damage was done. It was in Brady's hands and he was challenging his brother to a sword fight with writing implements. I handled the situation like an undercover cop and commanded, "Put down the marker and nobody gets hurt!"

Once the marker was safely out of reach and my blood pressure had returned to normal, I shared a little analogy with my kiddos relating to the marker. We've recently had some kidding and sarcasm that I felt was going over the line. Nothing intentionally hurtful, but I have four very sensitive children who wound easily so we have a zero tolerance for things that "do not build up."

I explained that our words to each other aren't written with washable/non-toxic Crayola markers. (Can you tell I've been buying school supplies lately?) They mark our hearts and our spirits with permanence.

You can spot a child who has been told they are stupid or slow or worthless. You might as well have written the words on their faces because the hurt is so evident in their expressions. You can also recognize a child who has been told he is loved and special and a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. There is usually a light about them that says, "I'm cherished."

I still remember things that were said to me--good and bad--as a child and as an adult. Some of those things shaped who I am today.

I'll never forget a Sharpie moment with my high school guidance counselor. I remember having my turn to go into his office and discuss what subjects to take for my junior year. Although he seemed like a nice man, I was very nervous. He looked just like Kenny Rogers and I kept expecting him to burst into song with "The Gambler."

As he looked over my records I could hear the tune playing--"You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run."

And I wanted to run. I knew I didn't look like much on paper. My grades were good, but nothing on a valedictorian level. I don't have a clue what my standardized testing showed, but knowing my weakness in math my score would probably have been higher by penciling in the circles in a pretty pattern.

He looked up at me and asked, "What do you want to do when you grow up?"

I wasn't expecting that question and didn't know what to say. I could have talked for hours about my hopes and dreams but like a ding-a-ling responded with, "I don't know."

The ball was back in his court and I was hoping he would live up to his title as "guidance counselor" and tell me what I was good at, what made me special, and what wonderful options I had to prepare me for the future.

And this was his advice: "I recommend that you take typing next year because you will most likely spend your life typing someone else's letters."


I know he didn't mean it the way it came out. It was actually wonderful advice that I take typing, yet I felt that he had written "worthless" across my forehead. As his instructions echoed, I realized that he envisioned my highest achievement to be recording someone else's words.

But this story does have a happy ending. His words were the kick in the rear that I needed. For the first time in my life I was absolutely determined to do my best. I'm still living out Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

So each day I try to write blessings on my children's hearts--knowing it's so easy to write the encouraging words on, but so difficult to take the hurtful words off.

And guess what? My guidance counselor was absolutely right. Every time I sit down to write, I ask God to give me the words He wants me to share. What a privilege to spend my life seeking to "type Someone Else's words."

More Than Lots,


trustandobey said...

Write a book, my friend!:)
You have been given a gift of words and insightful wisdom. Good lesson for us all!!!
ps-As soon as I saw that pen top, my heart sank. Their certainly exists an unspoken ,universal language of mothers.

Shanny said...

Just when I think I have read my most favorite post, you write another one that touches my heart!!!

Shanny said...

Just when I think I have read my most favorite post, you write another one that touches my heart!

Dusti said...

Your writing style is beautiful.
We are starting down this road of adopting, as we feel God has called us to grow our family through adoption. I haven't posted about it yet but will soon.
Thank you for sharing your heart. It's an encouragement.

Kristin Ferguson said...

I always enjoy reading your blog and I'm GLAD that you took that counselor's advice (sort of) and are writing what God tells you to write to bless and encourage those of us who have the privilege of reading those words!!!

Thanks also for the reminder of writing blessings on my children's hearts--especially my eldest who seems to be the recipient of more negative than positive remarks from Mom lately. :(

Leah W said...

you had me cracking up at the beginning of this post, you are pretty good with words :)

also, rubbing alcohol takes permanent marker off skin like a dream.

it is crazy how a word of encouragement or a word of non-encouragement can kick us into gear.

Sean and Lisa said...

This was an awesome post and one I desperately need to hear again and again....sigh..
Much love!

Cari said...

Thank you so much Kathie for your prayers and encouragement. I just loved reading this post. I am going to re-read it tonight when I have more time to process it without interruption {hopefully}. This is definitely a trying time for our family. I pray for wisdom, knowledge and understanding everyday. I certainly cannot to this on my own. You're a blessing!

Mamita J said...


This is really beautiful!