a well-lived word {a lesson from "Frindle"}

I finished reading the book Frindle with Jadon and Amelia last night. It’s been a family favorite since my first reading it to Nick and Colton many years ago. I don’t remember shedding any tears the first go around, but this time was different. Last night, I cried with Frindle’s conclusion.

There wasn’t a reason to cry. The book is humorous, well-written, and delightfully entertaining. It finished well. Happy endings. The way I like it. But there was something about that final chapter and the way it ended that ministered to me, pushing my tears downward to drop as wet comfort on the pages I held in my hand. It was a note, written by Mrs. Granger to her bright and challenging fifth-grade student, Nicholas Allen. Nicholas wouldn’t receive that letter until he was a junior in college, even though the note was written in those beginning days of 5th grade.

A lot of history passed between his being a boy at eleven and growing into manhood at twenty-one. That’s really not the focus of the book, but I suppose I brought that meaning to the story. Something about watching a decade pass between my own two generations of kids. Something about reading that book in an earlier season to a fifth grade boy named Nick and a third grade boy named Colton. Something about the growth that’s taken place and the notes that they might one day receive from a teacher or two who took the time to value them and believe in them beyond the challenges they brought to the classroom.

And I started thinking about my teaching years. The ones I spent in a third grade classroom. The ones I’ve spent and continue to spend in other classrooms. Every single place I’ve left a boot print. The words I’ve spoken, the lectures I’ve given, and the actions that speak a witness all their own. After time slips away into history, what letter will remain for the kids I’ve taught, the family I’ve raised, and the friends I’ve loved? A decade or two or ten from now, what of my witness will serve as an encouragement to those who walk behind me?

Perhaps Mrs. Granger says best in her letter to Nick. Perhaps the reason for my tears last night:

“The world has changed in a million ways. That is why I have always tried to teach children something that would be useful no matter what. So many things have gone out of date. But after all these years, words are still important. Words are still needed by everyone. Words are used to think with, to write with, to dream with, to hope and pray with. And that is why I love the dictionary. It endures. It works. And as you now know, it also changes and grows.” (Andrew Clements, Frindle, Aladdin Books, 1996, p. 100)

Oh the power of a well-spoken, well-written, well-lived word! We’ve all got a few left in us. Some more valuable than others, but all them… every last one of them, are writing a story and leaving a witness. Our story. Our witness. Our letter left behind for the world to read as time slips away into history.

Last summer, I wrote a letter to the world about my cancer—some 60,000 words in the span of forty days. They’ve been simmering at a low boil these last six months. Today, I had them bound at Office Depot and shipped them to a dear friend for his assessment. They’re going to print in the near future, and I’m counting on them mattering to someone down the road. In Mrs. Granger’s assessment, some “words to think with, to write with, to dream with, to hope and pray with.”

If that happens—if the words I’ve written causes others to think, write, dream, hope, and pray—then this chapter in my story will have served the kingdom well. To discard them, not include them, not give them to the world as a witness to the strength and healing from Jesus Christ that I’ve experienced, is to finish my race lesser than how God intends.

Some words are meant to breathe. These are some of mine. By God’s grace and in his timing, I will give them to you.

In the meantime, keep writing your stories, friends. Keep living and speaking words of truth to one another in love. Make them count. Words are still important. Words are needed by everyone. As always…

Peace for the journey,

PS: Sassy Granny, because of your affection for Webster’s and all things word-related, a copy of Frindle is on it’s way to your doorstep. Maybe you can read it with your grandkids!

19 Responses to a well-lived word {a lesson from "Frindle"}

  1. Elaine, what a great reminder and encouragement to those of us who deal in words day in and day out. Words are indeed powerful — and I can use the reminder to write and live and speak them in love at all times.

    Blessings as you get your newest manuscript ready for publication!

  2. How very exciting that some more of your words are on the way to press!

    I'm reading a wonderful "almanac" written by a farmwife and compiled in 1961. Very little of it is out of date. It continues to carry wisdom and perspective to all who take the time to read it.

    My Utmost for His Highest is another example of long-lived words of a well-lived human being.

    God bless you as you continue to speak, write and live YOUR words, Elaine!

  3. Words are SO important – and what they can do is amazing. That's why God has called you – and me – to use them for His glory.

    Beautiful post.

  4. Oh how exciting to have another one of your books in print. I can't wait to read it. I do agree btw as well. Words are sooooo important! Hope you have a good week! HUGS

  5. Elaine- you are such an encouragement to me. This post, your words, resonated deep within my heart.
    Thank you.


  6. There are life-lessons tucked into the most amazing & strange places. Sometimes I fall upon them, or they me. I actually love it when tears form & a lump refuses to let me form words.

    The Lord is certainly tuning your heart to new sounds, Elaine. I must wonder what He's got planned for you next.


    P.S. Woohoo! Both Merriam and I are honored & delighted 🙂

  7. Words.
    God spoke the world into existence.
    Jesus' last words were ones of intervention for us.

    Words can cause pain.
    They can bring grief.

    But they can bring joy, peace, comfort and assurance of love.

    I believe your words will bring the latter! Your blog is a source of joy already. Your book will continue that pattern, I'm sure!

  8. What a wonderful way to minister and encourage others on similar paths or just those who need a little light shining at the end of their tunnel.

    Words…they are powerful.

  9. You were born to write dear lady, and I'm so glad you do. Never give it up, for the world needs your spirit in print. You inspire me and many many others as well.

    I just gave your study away to a friend today and can't wait to get ahold of your new one.

    Perhaps we love to write words because Jesus IS the Word. So powerful isn't it.

  10. wifeforthejourney:

    Having Jadon and Amelia later in life (ten years dividing them from Nick and Colton) has afforded us a unique opportunity to re-live Nick and Colton's long past childhood. It is a special time.

    To many of us parents spend the days of our youth wishing away our children's infancy. OK, who doesn't love a baby, I get that, but I have not lived so long that I've forgotten how much work babies are. So we long for the days when our kids are potty-trained, when they can dress themselves, when they aren't so dependent on us for EVERYTHING. Even with our younger kids on the back-side of elementary school I still have moments of frustration where I will say to them, "Daddy needs a moment's peace," and then inside my head I finish that request with those words I WANT to shout at them: "Will you PLEASE STOP NEEDING ME!"

    So, days slip into years and suddenly Nick and Colton are out doing their growing up without me around to do extra parenting. Our relationship is taking the course its supposed to take – and while I am glad for their leaving the nest, being in the room while you were reading "Frindle" to our younger two is like a time machine ride back to the late 1990's. Weird to think that's 13-14 years ago.

    You know you are growing older when you find yourself saying things like "Well 20 years ago…." Anyway, at least my new life as a geazer isn't dull, because no matter who is coming and going from the nest on any given day, I have my wifeforthejourney.

    Thank you for your own gift of words and self-expression. You help me know myself better and you keep me grounded in life's best. In case you can't tell, fellow bloggers, I'm still stuck on my elaine. Life is precious and so is she!

    ~ Billy

  11. Love Frindle and almost all of Andrew Clements books. Read through them with my darling Christopher many times. And I miss them.

    I love how the Lord will stir within us a remembrance from words written by others. Your words do that for me. And hearing your tenacity to send even more words to be bound and then offered to those who need them blesses my heart. (As I have often wondered if I pushed you into attending earlier this year?)

    And now to sit and read husbandforthejourney's comment… well, tears well up in my eyes. So grateful that you are loved so deeply and completely by that man.

    Love you darling!

  12. Hi Elaine…Our words matter so much! I am remembering all the letters I read from my Dad and Mom over the years, as well as encouraging notes from teachers, friends…so many. The words are them, their love, their mark on my heart. I can't wait to read yours! Lori

  13. I needed your encouragement today as I am at a point of giving up and taking what I do and stopping. Words do matter–I just want God to give me the right ones.

  14. I constantly read books to the boys when they were growing up…how did I miss Frindle? I've never heard of it!

  15. Your words touch me so this evening. To write through the difficult times is hard, but to know you knew there was a bigger picture is amazing. YES, is anything we write, speak, say, hope for, or pray serves the Kingdom well then we've met our purpose. And if others are blessed along the journey then what an incredible gift. Blessings sweet friend.

  16. Dearest Elaine,
    I have not been around blogland much these days… but the story will eventually told in bits and pieces.

    My 2011 year end post still has to be written, and for the sake of uniformity, will just have to be antedated, much as I hate doing that.

    I have been to Manila back and forth twice already in just twelve days… so here I am again, at my favorite Starbucks coffee shop, because the coffee here is good, and they offer free wifi. We have no internet access at my daughter's pad.

    I was delighted with your visit to my last post. Hopefully, in less than two hours my Dec 2011 year end blog entry will be posted, and I will be able to put a closure to 2011 on my blog.

    You have been a good blog friend to me, Elaine. Kind is really the word I want to use. Very kind.

    WHen your new book gets out, I promise myself that I will get copies of both your books… and have them autographed by you.

    Frindle… I still have to read that book. You are right, the words we speak are not spoken in a vacuum. There is always a context for the words that we speak, and write.

    Your words have brought so much life to my life, Elaine, more than you will ever know.

    Much love

  17. When I taught college composition, my students were required to buy a thesaurus (not all our classroom time was in a computer lab) – and I taught them that their vocabulary is much bigger than they realize – they just cannot always remember the words they know. The purpose of the thesaurus was not to find $10 words because it is not the $10 words that wrote the most powerful books. It was the $3 dollar words and a few $5 words that wrote the most powerful books!

    Words are so important, even to non-love-language people. I will definitely be looking into frindle for my boys! I can't wait to read it!

    Wishing you blessing with your book!

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