The Power of Words

Yesterday I spent some time talking with the Pursuit students about labels.

I’ve written about this before on my blog – it’s something that I think about often.

We use so many words in a day. We’re bombarded by so many words in a day. We speak, we think, we listen, we read – books, magazines, emails, texts, endless amounts of stuff on the internet. (Ha, as I write these words, both of my girls are talking, and we’ve got music playing. Words are coming at me from all directions!)

I feel that with all the communication going on around us, it is very easy to become desensitized to the power of words. But as I prepared for my class yesterday, I was struck once again by how important words are in the Bible.

If you flip your Bible open to the very beginning, it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” If you keep reading down to verse three, this is what we find:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

How amazing is it that the God who loves us, and hears every single word we say, and cares deeply about every aspect of our lives, has the power to simply speak, and create something from nothing.

Now I know there are many people who do not believe that Genesis is a literal account of Creation. To me, it doesn’t make much difference in this case – I believe that God has the power to do this, and His words carry so much power that Genesis chapter one goes on to say “And God said…” nine times.

I would say that’s fairly significant.

And God said, and God said, and God said…

I also find it really interesting that every time He spoke something into being, He called it good, and then He named it. If words carry significance in the Bible, then names even more so.

If you’ve ever named a child, you know what we’re talking about here. There are so many things to think about – this is for life, and it becomes such an important part of someone’s identity. And every time you stick your head out the door to call your child in for lunch, you are speaking that name over them, again and again and again.

To some people, a name might not mean anything beyond just being a name. I believe that my girls’ names are a chance for me to bless them and speak over them something important that was chosen just for them.

“Anika Elisabeth Joy” means beautiful¬† and woman of God (and the “Joy” is kinda self-explanatory!) “Kaylia Isabelle Hope” means purity and the fulfillment of God’s promise.

That’s a big deal to me. (That’s why if I had a son, I would not name him “Caleb”, because it means dog. For some people, that might be a great meaning, but I really, really don’t like dogs.)

Anyway. Names are a big deal. So God named everything after proclaiming it “good”. He named a lot of things in the beginning.

Until chapter 2. And then He stops naming things. The Bible says,

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. (Genesis 2: 19-20, emphasis mine)

After all of the speaking and naming God had done, He stepped back, and handed off the responsibility to Adam. And whatever Adam called each animal, that was its name.

God has given that responsibility to each of us as well, every single day. He gives us the gift of communication, which does so much good, but it can also do much harm.

We name things all the time, often without realizing it. More importantly, we name other people, and we name ourselves.

Have you ever said things like,

“I’m a perfectionist.”

“I’m not a patient person.”

Or thought things about frustrating people? “He’s such a jerk.” Or the one we’re personally hearing all the time right now: “Don’t worry about it – she’s just going through the Terrible Twos.”

Really? This entire year of Kaylia’s life will be labelled as terrible? I don’t think so. I think it’s pretty enchanting. I absolutely love seeing her toddling around, discovering the world and learning how to use words to communicate. And yes, there are some tantrums, and she screams and tries to figure out how to communicate that she’s angry beyond reason about having to wear runners outside instead of slippers.

And sometimes, my patience is struggling to rise to the occasion, but I absolutely refuse to use the term “Terrible Twos.” Her twos are wonderful and sometimes hard, but why would I choose to label them in a negative way, over and over and over again?

Think it doesn’t make a difference? You should try it out – there is a big difference in saying, “I’m such an impatient person!!” or saying, “I’m struggling with having enough patience right now.”

It becomes one situation, instead of a label that you stamp on your whole life, and keep using repeatedly.

Because guess what? The Holy Spirit is in each and every believer, and that means that we all have the Fruit of the Spirit. There are some pretty great things included in that Fruit. Like patience.

If I’m going to name myself, I would like it to go like this: “I am loving. I am joyful. I am peaceful….” Through the power of the Spirit, those words are absolutely true. Try saying them out loud sometime. It does very good things. And pray like crazy that God would make it so, in each and every moment.

If we’re going to name something, make it good. God declared over and over again that what He made was good.

Let’s agree with Him!

Learning

People often ask Anika what she’s learning in homeschool, and she doesn’t answer that question very well. I don’t know if it’s because she doesn’t like talking about school, or if it’s because she doesn’t remember anything she’s learned! With Kaylia around creating a small tornado, I sometimes wonder how good of a learning environment we’ve got going on. She gets into EVERYTHING. No, that’s not true – she has yet to climb the kitchen cupboards!

But she’s fun and cute, and I take pictures of the messes and keep the pages of her scribbles, because someday I’ll miss it!

So the things we’ve been learning? Here’s a list of my favorites, unrelated to school (You can ask Anika about school next time you see her, and see what she says!):

1) Sorting laundry! Dark, white, and pink. We have 3 baskets, and the girls think it’s a game to sort all the dirty clothes. Kaylia hands the clothes to Anika, and Anika throws them into the right basket:

2) Cooking Skills. We got out the play food today, and Anika was extremely creative in her creations. She announced that she was making “Roasted Monkey Biscuits.” I told her that no one would want to eat that, and she whispered, “Don’t tell anyone there’s monkey in them!” She informed me that “they help you get lots of protein!” She also said that they’re what everyone eats in Russia. When Ben told her that they don’t have monkeys in Russia, Anika said, “They get the monkeys from India.” And all of this is said with a straight face, and without missing a beat.

3) Sharing! We’re making progress! Some of you will remember this post. Well, things are looking up! The girls still fight over toys, but there are beautiful moments of sharing, as well! (Thank goodness.) Anika is actually letting Kaylia play with her dolls:

4) Talking! Kaylia is saying more words all the time, but her most recent thing is saying names. This weekend, she finally started saying “Anka”, and her own name has somehow become “Tay-ta”.

She’s also finally started saying “Mommy” in the last few weeks, but it works for a lot of things besides me – “jammies” are “mammies” and “yummy” is “mummy”. You have to listen carefully for the vowels…

Been Thinking About Labels

Fair warning for everybody – when it’s going to be a serious day around here, the title will always include something that I’ve been thinking about…

There is this wonderful lady I know who made me wildly happy by agreeing to be my mentor, a few months ago.

She blesses my life, heaps love and encouragement on me, reminds me of what is truly important and worth striving for, and teaches me so much that I now spend a good portion of my life feeling challenged, uncomfortable, and humbled.

Learning is hard! But very good.

Anyway, she has this thing about labels. She’s made me realize how often people will make statements about themselves that are negative, and verbally strengthen things in their lives.

Stuff like, “I’m just not a patient person.” Or “I tend to be a perfectionist.”

That second one was mine. I was talking on the phone with her one day, and called myself a perfectionist. She reminded me gently, once again, that I had labelled myself.

So why are labels harmful?

Well, let’s say that I struggle with being patient. If I keep saying over and over again that I’m not a patient person, I’ll really have hammered it into my head that I’m not a patient person. And then, when I’m in a situation where patience is not the easiest thing to produce in the heat of the moment, I’ll already be thinking, “I’m not a patient person!” And I won’t try my absolute hardest to rely on the Holy Spirit to muster up just a little bit of patience from somewhere.

Which is kind of dumb when you think about it, because one of the fruit of the Spirit is patience. If I have the Holy Spirit in me, and if I am trying to live my life for Jesus every single day, then there should be the fruit of patience growing somewhere in some small corner. It needs a little more sun and a little more love, but logically, it should be there, waiting to be discovered.

But I won’t find it if I just say, “I’m not a patient person”, and use that as an excuse, as a “life pass” for being impatient.

This is a challenging one for me to think about, because I like to talk a lot. And even the Bible says that people who talk a lot have a higher chance of saying something foolish. I’m starting to learn about the power of words, and what happens when I toss them around carelessly.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

So I’m thinking about it more and more all the time. I’m starting to notice, not only when I do it, but when other people do it, too.

Poor Ben had no idea what was coming…

One night when we were talking, Ben was sharing some thoughts on a difficult situation that he needed to deal with, but was struggling to do so.

And he said, “I’m just not a confrontational type of person!”

And something suddenly clicked in my head. Ben has often said this about himself, and has often struggled with being direct enough in difficult situations. He wants to change, but he’s “just not a confrontational type of person!”

Suddenly I got mad. Not at Ben – but at the lies that he’s believed for so long. Without either of us realizing it, Ben’s weakness was labeled over and over again.

So I burst out with something that went kind of like this:

“You are labeling yourself!! I do NOT believe that you are a non-confrontational type of person! I believe that you are a person of honesty and integrity, and that you live in obedience to God. If He is laying it on your heart to address a situation, I believe that you will do so because you seek to do His will, to glorify Him in all that you do, and to have relationships with others that are open, honest, and pleasing to Him!!”

(I got a little carried away. But I believe it’s all true!)

And he kind of blinked and lay there quietly for a little while.

Then he said very cautiously, “Alright, well…I need prayer for…a situation…in which I am feeling…uncomfortable…about talking to someone…about some things which…I find…difficult…to share….” And then he peeked over at me to check if this was a safe statement to make, or if I would burst forth again.

I found his prayer request to be acceptable.

But it’s not like I’m the label police or anything. I’m still trying to figure this thing out myself. Still trying to choose words that bring truth and life, instead of claiming junk that I don’t actually want in my life.

I’m just thinking that if I’m going to eat fruit, I would like it to be the life-giving kind.


Things She Says

We’re having so much fun around here, listening to Kaylia’s first little words. She’s imitating a lot of sounds right now, in her soft little voice, and I wish I could videotape everything, so that I’ll always remember how it sounds. Since that’s kind of hard to do, I decided to at least make a list of what she says:

“Dare” (there), every time she puts something down, or points to something that she wants.

“Doe” (door), when she wants a door opened or closed, or when she wants the front of the piano lifted up so that she can see the hammers move inside when she plays the keys.

“Pa” (up), always accompanied by her little arms up in the air, used most often when she wants to get out of her highchair, or when she wants to be lifted up to the piano bench.

“Ba-pa” (Grandpa or Grandma)

“Pease” (please)

“Tang-to” (thank you), for just about everything, it’s become this game for her, so now we have the politest baby ever.

“Dah-ddy” very clearly, all the time – she even calls me Daddy. When she’s crying, she says, “Ma, ma, ma” but I’m still waiting for “Mommy”

And of course, “no”, which is always such a popular one. Right now she uses it when Anika does something that she doesn’t like, and then she says, “No, no, no, no” in this very sad, disturbed voice, looking back over her shoulder at me to see if I’ll do anything. The issue usually involves dolls.

She is also shaking her head wildly back and forth, which I thought at first meant “no”, but it seems like she means “yes” when she does it, so that one is a little confusing…