Last Words

It was a cold winter morning, and the stars were making their final plea to be seen. Dawn soon would come and the sun would chase away the brilliance of the stars. In that moment, I felt inspired. These lights will shine until the sunlight spreads the expanse of the sky, and in that, there is a beautiful lesson to be learned: We must shine as bright as we can until light begins to take over. 

In a previous post, I wrote about the first words we speak each day; and the impact those words can have on the trajectory of our thought process, as well as the thought processes of those we speak to. The comparison was made to the sun rising each day with a continual promise of hope. In this post, I would like to take that same look into the last words we speak in a day.

We can enter the day well, yet find ourselves feeling worse by the night. Likewise, we can greet the day with discontent, yet find our minds moved toward contentment by the day’s end. The same goes for the words we speak. The last words will remain after we have left or moved on. They will ruminate, be evaluated, and after they have settled in; we may not be available for a response.

I would like t share what I’ve been learning about this idea of last words from my experiences at home, in texting, and in the workplace.

At home. I think about the words I speak to my wife and kids before we go to sleep; I wish them a good night sleep or sweet dreams, and these words serve as a final send off as they drift away into dreamland. The hope is that in saying these words, they will somehow sleep easier and feel a sense of peace. Sometimes, these words are spoken to bring peace to myself, because I may have not brought my best self to my family that day, but I hope that those last words can still redeem.

I drop my daughter off at the bus stop every morning before I head to work. Sometimes there are not many words spoken because it is very early and we are still settling into the day. Most of the time, those last words before she leaves closes the door are “I love you”, “I’m proud of you”, or “have a good day”. But once in a while, whether it is exhaustion or just plain old grumpiness, those last words may be less encouraging or less inspiring; and in those times, in takes only but a second for my heart to break as I watch her get on that bus. Thankfully, due to the age with live in, I can try to change the trajectory that has just been set by engaging in a text conversation with her. We can usually make things right again in just a few texts with a little bit of humbleness and forgiveness.

This brings me to my next learning.

In texting. The words we choose to type hold so much weight. When you text someone, there is not any voice inflection or body language to assist the words; the words are alone, and they can be read in many different ways. It is in these times that the words we choose must be thoughtful and intentional. In this media of communication, we must be careful to write clear and succinct; because every text is left hanging. We cannot read the other persons facial reactions, we are not even sure if the message has been read. I have had many talks with my daughter about the responsibility that comes along with texting. To utilize this tool of communication properly, you must be patient, straight forward, non-passive, and it must not replace a phone call or face to face conversations.

Because of the nature of this style of communication, I worldly strongly urge anyone to begin viewing texting as an opportunity to encourage the recipient instead of trying to make a case for ourselves. I do believe that in an existing healthy relationship where there is already an established groundwork of effective communication skills that texting can be used for deeper discussions that require a lot of back and forth.

From my experience as 1. Being someone who uses texts, 2. Experiencing people who don’t always utilize best practices when texting, and 3. Seeing the effects of passive aggressive or self-seeking texts; I believe that this is a topic that deserves an entire book. Being that this is only a blog, I would just encourage all of us to be extremely mindful and intentional of the words we choose, and realize that each text left hanging on that screen and could be the last words of that conversation.

In the workplace. I have many conversations throughout the day. Some are simple greetings and catching up on what the past days have brought us, yet most are focused on goals and tasks that need to be completed. In these conversations, it is important that the last words leave direction and gratefulness. No matter how many tangents we end up talking about, it is important to bring it back to the common goal. I feel the most confident and energized if at the end of the chat I am left with a clear expectation and an endearing statement of gratefulness. Clear goals and gratitude.

At the core of making beneficial decisions in life, it is essential that we put in the work to establish the core of who we are. It’s easy to lose our way from time to time on the path towards mindfulness and intentionality; Whether it’s stress, anxiety, fatigue, or just an off day. This will happen because being intentional and mindful takes hard work and commitment. Here are two learnings on intentionality before we wrap this up.

Meditation. I’m pretty sure if you are reading this, then you have read some of the same research or listened to some of the same Ted Talks that I have. We know what we need to do, but getting started is the hardest part. For example: we know that meditation is key to a more balanced mind and greater self-control, but the kick is that making yourself do a 5 – 10 minute meditation is harder to commit to than you’d think. There are immediate benefits once a meditation has ended, such as a sense of calm; but the sustaining benefits like self control, patience, and the like are achieved by the continual practice of meditation.

Exercise. Exercise is another arena of life that has immediate payoff mentally, as there is a surge of endorphins that we get from a workout. If we want to lose weight though, get stronger, run farther, look different; then we must stay committed to consistent exercise. Both of these are examples of ways to improve our state of mental well-being. Now, let’s see if there is a way to bring all of this back to the stars.

When it comes to starlight, did you know that the light we are seeing is from the past? Besides the sun, the closest start to us is Alpha Centauri; and the light from that star takes approximately four years to reach us. That means that the light of stars breaking through the blanket of midnight to reach us is an ancient light, and those stars will someday die; but the light will continue to reach us.

This speaks to the longer lasting impact of our actions, our words, our love, and our intentions. We are writing a story each day. The words we leave with others, and leave with ourselves, are setting the course of that story. As the light of the stars last long after they are gone, so our words will outlast us. Together, may we write stories that leave a lasting impact for goodness and inspiration.

Cover photo credit: Daniel Grayum (find him on instagram @dan_grayum)

Books

Books have power.

When you enter into a book, you are beginning a journey. Perhaps this journey will take you to far away lands where tales of honor, valor, and treachery reign. You may find yourself standing in the shoes of a hero, a villain, or the oppressed; feeling what they feel, and almost seeing what they can see.

Some books take you on a journey of the mind. Topics of science, faith, history, parenting, writing, economy, biographies, diet, you name it; we can feed our minds with knowledge. It is knowledge that you have to work for, as you have to be committed and intentional about taking this journey. 

Other books may take you on a journey of the soul, the deeper layers of what this life is about. The words may jump off of the page and into your heart, creating inspiration or longing for something you cannot describe at times. Meaning, purpose, hope, and love are weaved throughout the pages, making their way into our very thread of our being; aspects of our character are molded as we read of perseverance, compassion, and empathy. These are the kinds of books that I have connected with most in my life, and most in the last couple of years.

I have not always been a reader. I actually had read very few books before I got into my thirties. My world was opened though as I finally began to put in the work to get through a book and apply myself to understand the themes. In all honesty, it was very hard as it would take me a long time to get through a book, and I had to reframe my mindset to embrace the time spent reading as an investment into not only my personal life, but the lives connected to me.

I would like to share some the books that have impacted my life in the last couple of years, with a brief overview of the theme. 

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

  • The title says it all. Dr. Frankl’s logotherapy guides the narrative of this book. The first half of the book is his experience being taken into, enduring, and coming out of the Nazi concentration camps. He shares stories of how men stripped of their humanity, managed to endure each day with the hope that they would some day be free. The second half of the book takes a deeper look at logotherapy.

Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen

  • This book is summed up in the journey of moving from Loneliness, Hostility, and Illusion to Solitude, Hospitality, and Prayer. One of the most impactful books I have read.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

  • This is a series that currently has three books; The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer. These are long epic books. The first book sets the stage and takes you through the back story of each of the main characters. This is a great story because it takes you through themes of courage, perseverance, anger, dealing with revenge, bravery, faith, family, and loyalty. These are very long books, but great reads if you enjoy the fantasy realm of writing. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway

  • A short story that is just a good read. This book makes you want to be a little tougher, as it is a story of a fisherman. It also contains the theme of endurance and commitment. Bonus, you can say you’ve read Hemingway.

The Emigrant Edge by Brian Buffini

  • Buffini is a motivational speaker/real estate trainer. He is an Irishman who has no shortage of passion, motivation, dedication, drive, and love. This books takes you through his journey as an Emigrant (one who leaves their country to permanently live in another). He challenges us to have a strong work ethic as well as recognize the abundance of opportunity we have in this life, and specifically, America. He writes very accessibly, he is funny, and does not pull punches as he challenges us to live and love fiercely.

Soul Cravings by Erwin Mcmannus

  • I have read this book a few times since it was released in 2006. Erwin jumps off the page and into the chair across from you as he engages the reader in a conversation about faith, love, creativity, and hope. This book also has one of the coolest book covers. 

How To Be Here by Rob Bell

  • Mindfulness, contentment, kindness to self, and finding your passion are all themes covered in this book. Rob is one of the best writers of personal development, faith, and Christianity that I have read. No mater how deep he takes you, he writes in laymen’s terms, so that anyone can engage. He also has many other books I would recommend, but this is the most recent that I had read.

This is not a complete list, but these have impacted me in a positive way. I would recommend all of these to any one (exception The Stormlight Archive, due to it’s fantasy style and length of books). Books are a gift, and there is much to be gained by sitting down and working your mind through the words on the pages. We are writing our story every day, so take some time to read a story; and in doing so, you add to your own. 

 

The Story We Write

If you know me, you are part of my story.

Our lives are not lived independent of the world around us; rather, they are connected and strung together to weave our human story. Each word spoken, glance given, or space shared become part of the narrative. The story is being written, will you choose to direct your narrative or leave it up to chance?

We are writing this story for ourselves, our family, our friends, acquaintances, co workers, and the passers-by. Likewise, a story is being written on us. All of the people in our life are adding to who we are. So many aspects of this life are imprinting into our being; our environment, our homeland, our climate, our culture, these are all peripheral investors into our development.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about why I am the way I am, why I believe what I believe, and why I react the way I do to certain situations. What is it that establishes the core of who I am? I’m not sure how eloquently I can dive into these in this blog, but I would like to share some of the beginnings.

Let me start by sharing the lyrics to a song I had written about four years ago:

To know a story, counting the days passed

Remember the ways and the paths tread

If you could see inside, what I hide

Darkness there, leads only to despair

But the one who brings light, brings sight to the blind

Brings life inside, opened my eyes

No longer reeling

Recounting struggles, remembering defeat

If I grow, then I find liberty

Humility, whether or not I want it

Grace came to cover me

Peace granted to steady me

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

Defined not by the failures, defined not by defeat

Every time I fall you remind me

There is more than we see

There is more that you’ve breathed

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

This verse came about during a time of loss. This was not a loss in the sense of death, but rather a time of loss of self-identity; actually, this was probably the beginning of this existential line of thinking. I remember the words forming in my head as I walked the halls of my workplace. I was in my early thirties, and I was about five years into my new job, learning to raise two daughters, and reframing my understanding of my faith.

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes the days can creep along, and at the same time, the years can fly; which is why I believe that we need to make the most of the time that we do have. We were given life so that we can live. The time had flown by, and I needed to assess that I still “had the reins” so to speak on the direction and state of my life.

The verse above talks about knowing my name. This refers to how I am known. There may be many names we have, and I would like to know which are the names that are true. The story we write is being written…right…now. Today, take a moment to reflect on who you are, where you are headed, and the narrative you are writing.