The Wisdom of Harold and His Purple Crayon

Ahh the wisdom of children’s books… One of the gifts of motherhood has been rediscovering children’s books. Reading them as an adult, I have discovered a treasure trove of poignant wisdom. My son, like most children, enjoys reading the same story over and over and over and over and… well, you get the picture. The latest book du jour is Harold and the Purple Crayon. Somehow I missed this book growing up but am thoroughly enjoying it as an adult. Oh what a lovely story! If you’ve never read it, you really should go to the bookstore or library and read through it.

As I have been reading this story for several nights now, I’ve had some time to reflect, shall we say, on Harold’s adventure. Harold and the Purple Crayon is about a little boy named Harold who creates an entire world with his purple crayon. Harold goes on a mighty adventure filled with apple trees, dragons, oceans, ships, picnics with pies as far as the eye can see, mountains, and tall buildings until finally he decides it time to find home and go to sleep. I know, I know, it sounds too simple to be profound, but it is such a beautiful commentary on the power that lies within us to bring our dreams to life.

This evening, the beginning of the book really struck me…

One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. There wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. haroldmoonresized_9737

And he needed something to walk on. He made a long straight path so he wouldn’t get lost.

haroldpageAnd he set off on his walk, taking his big purple crayon with him. But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…

But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…

Sometimes we need the long straight path to guide us so we don’t get lost, to give us security and direction when we are just starting out. The long straight path is indeed helpful. Necessary.

But sometimes we discover that we don’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So we leave the path. We have to leave the path for the unknown adventure.

We need the long straight path and we need to leave the long straight path. If we stay on the straight path forever, we lose the opportunity to stretch ourselves and experience the glorious uncertainty of adventure. However, if we are always leaving the straight path for the unknown, then we never establish roots or plant seeds that will one day bear fruit. Our lives need to be a mixture of both… following the straight path when we need security and creating a new one when we realize we are not going anywhere.

What is your heart longing to do? What does your journey look like right now? Do you need the long straight path to keep you from getting lost or do you need to leave the path and set off on a new adventure? Wherever you are on your journey, remember you can choose the path… and don’t forget your purple crayon. ;)

August 2000, Crying in Church, and My Personal Saturday

Philip Yancey, in his book Disappointment with God, says that Good Friday, Saturday, and Easter Sunday, represent “the three day pattern- tragedy, darkness, triumph-… (that) can be applied to all our times of testing.” There is the unthinkable loss and tragedy of Friday, followed by the questions, grief, and despair of Saturday, and then the redemptive healing of Sunday.

We can talk about being bold and bright. We can talk about believing that we are worthy and that our worth comes from grace. We can talk about living brave and stepping into the arena. We can talk about all those things, and all those things are fine and well, but when you find yourself stuck in Saturday, when you’re in The Middle, that stuff doesn’t really matter.

I agree with Philip Yancey that the pattern of tragedy, darkness, triumph is one that is found over and over in our lives. The Fridays are so painful and the Sundays are so joyful. It seems over our entire life we cycle thru this three-stage period, but sometimes it seems like we spend a lot of our time in Saturday.

Years ago, I found myself in a prolonged Saturday. My life had slowly been tumbling downward until January 2000 when everything crashed. Over the course of 10 days my entire life changed… I withdrew from grad school, moved home, made a decision to leave my life in music, ended an almost four year relationship that left me lost and broken, and enrolled in a new university. The next 12 months were my Middle… they were my Saturday… and they were bleak. I was depressed; I was anxious. I rarely went out with friends. I stayed in my apartment, thought, and watched old episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 and Dallas.

I wrestled with God in a way that I had never done before. I went from being angry- very angry- and wondering where He had been over the past four years and why He hadn’t stopped this out-of-control-train-of-chaos that had become my life. I wondered how He could pay me back like this for those years of faithful church attendance, praying, and living a life that was above the norm.

Then after some months of being angry and realizing that was getting me nowhere, I realized that God had not necessarily abandoned me, but baby step by baby step I had abandoned Him. I had ignored the red flags. I had refused the help. I kept pushing against a brick wall wondering why it wouldn’t move and then getting mad that I was battered, bruised, and tired.

It was during this period that it was hard for me to be with God. I felt that I had ruined everything. The relationship was damaged beyond repair. You can only ask so much of God, right? And then He eventually throws His hands up in frustration, right? And then He takes everything away, right? It’s the twisted version of the parable of the talents.

All I wanted during this time was to be free. I did not know what freedom looked like, and a large part of me believed I would always be damaged, but there had to be some sort of freedom from this Middle.

One Sunday morning in August, I was standing in church and a song came across the screen:

You are beautiful beyond description Too marvelous for words Too wonderful of comprehension Like nothing ever seen or heard Who can grasp you infinite wisdom Who can fathom the depth of your love You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above




And I stand, I stand in awe of you I stand, I stand in awe of you Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of you.

And when I started to sing the words of the chorus, I just stopped. It was like someone was squeezing my throat and I couldn’t sing. I stood there, hung my head, and started to cry. All I could think was, “I am not in awe of you right now. I’m not. I’m hurt and angry and broken and I just want this pain to stop.”

We go through phases with God during the Saturdays of our lives. We wonder where He is. We rail against Him. We shake our fist and blame Him for our plight. Or we blame ourselves. We don’t feel good enough to come to Him. We don’t know how to come to Him because we don’t know what to say.

What we discover, though, when we get to the other side is that Saturday, The Middle, changes us. There is no going back…thankfully. There is only moving forward.

I drove home from church that day numb not really knowing what to do or where to go from there. As I drove home I had the strangest feeling that I was not alone.   And later I realized that I was not the only one crying that Sunday morning.

In the Gospel of John, we read that shortly before the Crucifixion Jesus received word that his dear friend Lazarus was sick. He made his way to the home of his dear friends, Mary and Martha, where he learned that Lazarus had died four days prior. Mary and Martha were grieving; others in the town were grieving. Jesus knew what was going to happen. Jesus knew he was going to bring Lazarus back to life. He knew the end of the story. Yet we have that most famous, shortest verse of Scripture: Jesus wept.

Jesus wept, not over the top, demonstrative tears, but the translation says silent tears as he saw his dear friends sadness and grief. This image tells us we have a God who loves us to the point that He aches for us. It’s like a parent who sees their child sad and brokenhearted but knows that there will be another tryout, another boyfriend, another opportunity. But their heart aches because their child’s heart aches regardless of the fact they know this disappointment is temporary. God’s love for us is similar… times a thousand.

I think God weeps with us. I do not think He sits idly by, unemotional, untouched. I think His heart breaks when we feel we can’t come to Him, for whatever reason, and we want to. I think His heart breaks when we mourn and grieve even though He knows the rest of the story. And I think on that sunny August morn, God wept with me.

I take great comfort in that thought… that I was not alone that day or in those months and years. I was not alone that Sunday in August, but yet not fully able to take hold of that which was being offered. That would come a few months later. The redemptive healing of my Sunday came one October morning when I finally surrendered and let my old self die so that my new self could be born.

I learned in the months and years later that I had not damaged by relationship with God. I had not pushed Him so far away that He never wanted to come back. He had never left me in the first place. I was not broken beyond repair.

I realized that no matter how long your Saturday may seem the redemption and restoration and resurrection of Sunday always comes. You are never left. You are never alone. That is the promise and the hope of Sunday.

Have a blessed Easter, friends.

Wanna Read-Along?

Well, can you believe we are just days away from the start of August?  I really feel like this summer has flown by!  Before you know it, kids will be back in school, the days will be getting shorter, and we will all settle back into our "normal" routines.   As I have shared before, summer is my time to step back and slow down.   But in my stepping back and slowing down, it is also my time to think and plan for upcoming events and things I would like to do in the fall.  So today I'm taking the first step in checking one of my fall goals off the list!

Way back when this blog was just a thought in my mind, one of the ideas I had was to hold read-alongs.   I love to read and discuss books  so having a read-along through the blog seemed like a natural fit.  This fall I want to make that little idea a reality and hold the first Voice Lessons for Today Read-Along!

Here is where I would love your help...  I have been tossing around some book ideas for this inaugural read-along, but I am really curious to hear what books have inspired  you or that you've always wanted to read.   I would love to know what you would like to read together.   I'm looking for book suggestions that fall into the inspirational/self-help/spirituality and faith/learning to live a fuller life type category.  If you wouldn't mind, leave me a comment with book suggestions, we'll pick a book, and go from there!   I look forward to reading and growing together this fall!

Take care, Mazi

Your One Thing in 2014

We are a week in… a week into 2014.  How’s it going so far? The holidays are over.  Christmas decorations have been taken down (or at least there are plans to take them down).   New calendars have been purchased and filled with upcoming events.  Children have returned to school, and adults have returned to the daily grind of emails, meetings, and carpool while visions of the next vacation dance in their heads.

Last week we discussed how to wrap up one year before leaping into another.    We looked at ten questions designed to help us reflect on 2013.  In keeping with that theme, here are a few questions to ponder as you start 2014.

What are some things you would like to do differently this year? What are some things you would like to repeat from last year? What relationships would you like to cultivate or invest more heavily in? What would you like to learn in 2014? But here’s the big question…

What do you want your 2014 to be about? 

This is your 2014.  You only get one.  You only get one 2014.  What do you want to do with your 2014?

As we all know, the start of a new year often means all sorts of plans for turning over new leaves.  I’m going to go the gym ___ days a week.  I’m going to stop ________.  I’m going to start ________.  I’m finally going to take up that hobby.  Resolutions, goals, plans.  Our minds and journals are filled with them.

But what do you really want your year to be about?  If you set a goal because you think you should do it, chances are pretty slim that you are going to actually accomplish the goal.  If you are really going to “cut back” or “ramp up” or “start anew”, then you have to have something much deeper motivating you than the self-imposed yoke of should thinking.

Not sure how to discern what you want to make of your 2014?  Try this… Fast-forward eleven months and a few weeks.  It’s the end of December 2014.  You are trying to figure your New Year’s Eve plans and your cursing the person who decided New Year’s Eve should be a big social occasion.  You realize, once again, you are only days away from the turning of yet another year, and you start looking back on what you have done in 2014.

When you put yourself in that picture, what is the one thing you want to be able to say you did?  What is the one thing you will regret not doing or working on in 2014?

I think there are a lot of things we can say we want to work on or try or accomplish this year.  But, in truth, there are only one or two things that are so significant to us that we will feel regret or disappointment if they go untouched.  Regret leaves a terrible aftertaste and can be an interesting motivator.  So what are your one or two things that you want to be able to say you did, or at least worked on, in 2014?  What are the steps you need to take to insure against regret?

Is it surrendering a self-destructive habit or letting go of an unhealthy relationship?  Is it repairing a broken relationship?  Is it repairing your broken spirit?  Is it facing old fears and insecurities and finally going after that dream or goal?

My hunch is that we all know the one thing we need to work on that will have positive ripple effects in other areas of our lives.  It is hard to ignore unhappiness, conflict, and dissatisfaction- the telltale signs that always point us to the one thing starving for our love, time, energy, or courage.

So how do you start this journey once you’ve identified your one thing?  You know what needs to change so that you will stop kicking yourself at the end of each year.  You know what you want your year to be about.  You start on your journey by answering these two questions:

What has kept you from this goal in the past?

What is presently keeping your from this goal?

We have to know two things to move forward-  we have to know where we want to end up and we have to know where we were.  The first step is identifying what you want to be different in your life.  The second step is figuring out why you are there in the first place and what is keeping you stuck. 

Last week on Facebook I kept seeing this quote: 

Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.

So true.

You get one 2014, and you play a significant role in making it a good one.  What do you want your 2014 to be about?  What is your one thing?

Here’s to 2014, friends!  May you have joy in your heart, peace in your mind, and courage in all your endeavors!