When Written Words Are Not Enough

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I’m a writer. I love to write, but writing has its flaws. Every word, every phrase, every sentence that flows from my heart to my keyboard isn’t always interpreted in the way I mean it. The hardest thing about writing is knowing that, sometime…somehow…somewhere…someone may get hurt.

And I hate that.

I remember how much I enjoyed writing creative stories for my high school English classes. I didn’t always write well, though. Sometimes my teachers rewarded me with A‘s, but sometimes there were so many red marks all over the pages of all my hard work and there in the top right-hand corner for all the world to see would be a big-fat C. Instead of looking at the creative content, they looked at all the misplaced commas, misused adjectives, and misconstructed phrases. I was always deeply wounded by those C‘s, but I knew it was part of the learning process.

I’ve since learned that writers each have their individual styles. I can’t say I use every bit of information I’ve ever learned about proper grammar and the right way to construct sentences. I have my own style. My sentences are fragmented and when I want to convey certain tones of my voice or certain emotions of my heart, I do all kinds of unconventional things. Like this. (I don’t think that’s really a sentence.) And this. (I don’t think I’m suppose to start a sentence with a capital And.) And this….(I don’t think leaving my thoughts hanging with a bunch of dots is proper.)

Anyways, something happened to me yesterday that has caused me to sorrow in the written word. I sent an email to a friend and it hurt her feelings.

I didn’t mean for it to hurt. But, it did.

If you’ve been keeping up with me through my blog you know I’m hearing impaired. Severely hearing impaired. Hearing aids are my constant companions and they don’t work well with my cell phone or any phone at all, for that matter. I depend greatly on the written word…email, text, Facebook, and YES! Gasp. Seriously?! I still write notes the old-fashioned way…with ink on pretty notecards. But when I want to convey serious matters or things that are very important to me, I want to talk with someone. Face-To-Face. Because I don’t believe that an email or a letter or a Facebook message can truly convey what’s in my heart.

Alas. It grieves me that it can’t always be so. Busyness gets in the way. It’s not anyone’s fault that I’m hearing impaired. This is my life. I do as much as I can to keep myself out there…to make myself sociable…to get out of the house…to get involved in people’s lives…but I’ve learned that my hearing impairment leaves me at a disadvantage when it comes to matters of the heart. I try to be as patient as I can and as understanding as I can when it comes to busyness. If email is the only way someone can communicate when busyness intervenes then, believe me, I try very hard to place my commas and use my adjectives and construct my sentences in a way that others will truly hear my heart.

And yet….sometimes…no matter how hard I try or how much I pray or how long I think before I write, I am still misunderstood.

When it comes right down to it, as beautiful and timely as written words can be, sometimes the written word just isn’t enough. Nothing can take the place of sitting beside a friend and sharing the spoken word face to face.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Proverbs 25:11

The written word doesn’t allow someone to hear the tone in my voice, or see the compassion in my face or desperation in my eyes. I don’t care how busy I am these days, I’m still a meet-me-for-coffee-kinda-girl. Maybe it’s because I’m hearing impaired, but I still believe God wants us to be face-to-face-kinda-people ’cause He’s a face-to-face-kinda-Friend.

“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 33:11. 

There are just some things that need to be said, talked about, and shared face to face. They were never meant to be put to paper or typed on a keyboard. Some things are just too important. Like this. And this. And especially this…friendship. Because even though I didn’t intentionally hurt my friend with my words…heaven knows I thought too long and hard about what I wrote to even consider it!…my written words were still misunderstood. I knew in my heart I needed a face to face but busyness got in the way and I felt backed into a corner.

I’m so glad my Faithful Friend in heaven, who knows me so well, can interpret my heart when my friends on earth misinterpret my words.

If I’m completely honest, when I unintentionally hurt someone with written words, I consider giving up writing. Just canceling my WordPress account, deleting my Facebook, ignoring my email for the rest of my life, refusing to ever send another text, but I know I can’t. This is my lifeline. This, too, is my life. Without social media I would shrivel up and die. The truth is, I need the written word to survive because hearing impaired people risk shutting themselves off every day of their lives. Hiding themselves away. Becoming hermits. Losing themselves in a very lonely place. And now, as I write this, I find the tears just flowing down my cheeks and I can’t seem to stop them.

Because I hurt someone with my words in this very lonely place.

And I hate that.

And sometimes saying I’m sorry, please forgive me needs to be done in person but busyness gets in the way of that, too. So, I’ll say it here for now and pray for the day when my friend and I can meet face to face.

Yes, I’m a writer. I may get discouraged sometimes, but I was born to write. Even as I pour out my heart writing this post I’m experiencing the healing that can only come from The One who heals. God is my Teacher. He’s forever instructing me. My Faithful Friend. For every C I find in the top right-hand corner of my paper, there are a dozen A‘s waiting around the corner, given to me by the One who upholds me by His righteous right hand.

And I love that.

“A man’s steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am that God will always be the Holder Of My Hand and when He speaks to me, His words will always be enough.

The Gift-Giver

17b0966a6ad218d3919a64df48c47e5bWho of us doesn’t like to receive a gift? Not just for a birthday or special occasion, but a gift that comes to us out-of-the-blue. For no reason. A friend sends a care package and a rotten day suddenly becomes the best day of the week. A neighbor shares a plate of cookies. A student brings a card of thanks. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. I love gifts. When a gift is given out of love or deep appreciation I can’t tell you the joy it stirs in my heart. I don’t always want to be on the receiving end, though. I want to be a gift-giver, too…the one who makes someone else’s day…the one who makes someone else smile.

God loves to lavish good gifts on His children and He never expects anything in return, but I believe He loves receiving gifts, too. Gifts that express our love. Gifts that come from a heart of  gratitude for all He’s done for us. My gifts may seem small in comparison, but I believe God is pleased with the sincerity from which my gifts are given.

I learned to play the piano as a child. I took lessons from the time I was six years old through my first year of college. I can’t say I play extremely well. I’ve never claimed perfection. I never really disciplined myself. I despised memorization and I didn’t always pay attention to things like “key signature,” “time signature,” and I still don’t know the names of all the different types of “rests.” During my weekly piano lessons I would shamefully sit at the beautiful black grande piano in Mrs. Anderson’s music studio and begin to play a piece I’d practiced half-heartedly. Part-way through she would stop me and say, “Nina, you still aren’t looking at your key signature.” I’d completely disregarded all sharps and flats and played as if I didn’t have a care in the world.

Shameful. ‘Tis true.

Given the fact that I was born with degenerative hearing loss I can’t say I heard myself playing all those wrong notes. Sounded normal to me. Probably because I’d practiced the wrong way all week. I do know that when I put forth my best effort and practiced every day I could play fairly well. God, bless Mrs. Anderson, please…she was so patient with me. I think she saw something in me I never saw in myself. Being hearing impaired and blind in one eye left me with enough insecurities to fill the luggage compartment of a Grey Hound bus. I don’t think I’ve ever really heard music the way a person with normal hearing does. All I know is, I did learn to play the piano and somehow God has used this small gift in ways I never expected.

Back in the eighties I was the church pianist. I was present every time the doors opened, banging away on the keyboard to my heart’s content. I played hymns for congregational singing, the preludes and the offertories, and occasionally for choir anthems. I’m proud to say I practiced, practiced, practiced during those few years. More than I ever had in my life, but I can’t truly say I was giving God a gift. My heart was missing something. That season was short-lived and God moved me on to the ministry of teaching His Word and speaking in His name. I quickly pushed my musical gift aside.

When God gives the gift of a talent to His child, though, I don’t think He ever intends for it to be cast aside completely. In the past couple of months He has dug deep into the storehouse of my being and brought to the surface this insignificant little talent He gave me. My church’s minister of music recently retired and I’ve made myself available to help. Although I haven’t truly played the piano or practiced in many years I’ve been comforted by this one truth:

“A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.” Proverbs 18:16

My talent to play the piano may seem very small. I’m still not claiming perfection, but I’m older and wiser now than I was thirty years ago. I want to give God a true gift. When I give Him what I have in my hands and say, “Take it, Lord, it’s all I’ve got, but it’s Yours,” I believe it becomes an act of worship. My arthritic hands aren’t as strong as they use to be, but they’re willing. When I practice, practice, practice I’m not just giving God my talent, I’m giving Him my time. When I look long and hard at my “time signature” and my “key signature” I’m not just giving God my knowledge, I’m giving Him my mind. I’m desiring to give Him my best.

The funny thing is, I hear even less now than I did as a teenager. When I play for congregational singing I no longer hear any voices. I read the lips of the men and women in the choir with my one good eye ever watchful so I don’t speed ahead or fall behind. I realize just what an act of grace it is that God would use me in such a role, even if it is temporary. When I sit down at the piano on Sunday morning and give Him the gift of my hands, He ushers me into His presence. He opens the door to His heart when I give Him from the gratitude of mine.

Hummmmmm…I wonder if God sings along when I play. That’s a very interesting thought. I believe it’s possible to make God’s day. I know He smiles because when no one else knows what’s in my heart He does and my heart is saying, “Thank You, God, for showing me how to be a gift-giver.”