In which I have (more than) one good phrase

My parents are not writers, they did not grow up as devout readers of literature or poetry, and they value words more than almost anyone else I know. My father and mother believe that life and death are in the power of the tongue and so they have always been careful about the words they say to us. I was reading an interview with Maya Angelou recently and she said, “Those negative words climb into the woodwork and into the furniture, and the next thing you know they’ll be on my skin.” I recognised her words from my parents’ actions.

Words have gravity and weight. Not in a “name it and claim it” sort of thing with admonishments about “watching your confession.” Nope – I had enough of that in the Word of Faith days in the 80s. But I see my life – and the lives of my tinies, my husband, even my work as a writer – as fertile ground.  And the words I scatter so carelessly around me can take root in the hearts and minds of us all, giving a narrative deep in the core about ourselves, the God we love, each other and our world. I am conscious of sowing words of life and freedom.

The hardest part of writing this essay for Micha? Picking one phrase. We have dozens of “one good phrases” in our family history.  My eldest daughter already knows exactly what I mean when I tell her to “be the head and not the tail”  as she’s climbing out of the minivan during school drop-off because my parents always said that to me. (Dad also used to say “be not unequally yoked!” in regards to all the boys, but somehow I didn’t listen quite as well to that one good phrase….) “Make a quality decision” is another one. We use the phrase “Guard your gates” because their eyes and ears are gates for the hearts, so if you guard what you see or hear, then you are guarding your heart. (Now, if a scary commercial comes on TV, the tinies clap their hands over their ears, screw their eyes shut, and holler at each other to GUARD YOUR GATES!) I also have a little homemade sign in our house that proclaims “We use our words to love each other” because I cannot tell you how many times I say it – it’s for the tinies and it’s also for my life on the Internet. I have pet phrases I use often in my writing life, too, they are my darlings, and I won’t kill them off just yet (sorry, William Faulkner, maybe someday…).

But for this week, for our world, I’ll tell you a bit about this one: Calm your heart.

Read the rest of this post over at Micha Boyett’s Patheos blog, Mama: Monk. Micha is a good friend and I have a whim to take a weekend at a monastery with her. Someday…



  • Jessica Leep Fick

    Thanks so much for this post! My own toddler has been in a screaming/crying series of fits these last few weeks and I am at my wits end. screaming for bananas, my phone, for his daddy. calm my heart and calm his heart indeed! Jesus help us!

  • michaboyett

    The weekend at the monastery will happen. It will. Thanks for being at my place today, friend.

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