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Words Mean Something

I may be a writer but golly I’m dreadful at interviews. Giggles bubble out, I can’t help but talk about myself because I hate awkward silence, and I’m known for saying “super cool” sixteen too many times.

I sat in a coffee shop this morning with a college sophomore. As part of my job, I get the incredible honor of writing a profile about him for an awards banquet. He’s being recognized for his courage, and I knew–even before I met him–that this guy’s going to move mountains.

After going through my list of interview questions, I looked up at him and said, “Hey, kid. I want you to know that you are extraordinary.”

It was weird and I came back to my office and gushed to my coworkers that I probably really creeped him out, but I meant it.

This white, heterosexual male from a wealthy background decided he wanted to devote his life to standing up for minorities. Just out of his teens, he speaks on behalf of all of us who have truckloads of privilege, and he does it humbly. He spent the better part of an hour telling me about all these passions and desires and hurts and burdens, and I didn’t even know what to say to him. So I called him extraordinary and I meant it from the depths of my soul.

And now I can’t stop thinking about what the world would look like if we called it like it was. What if our first words to a child didn’t mention how pretty her dress was or how cool his light-up sneakers were? What if, instead, we told them how kind they are, how joyful they seem, how brave they act?

What if I looked at my husband and instead of calling him handsome and fun and cute as I do over and over again each day, what if instead I told him that he works hard and leads well and is respected? I want him to know that I think he’s strongresilient, and wise. But we hold these words back because it’s not normal to affirm so bluntly.

He and I just finished filling out pages and pages of paperwork for Social Services, and a question they asked was, “What words would your friends use to describe you?” That question made us really dig deep because I want to be something more than how I’d describe myself now. I want to betenaciouspassionate, unyielding, and courageous. I want our lives to look like the soldiers in 2 Timothy 2, battling, with eyes on the prize, for the Lord’s glory.

What if the words we called ourselves were the words God calls us?


Words mean something, and I’m not trying to waste mine.

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Holly Paulette

Holly is in love with good words and wants to share them with the world. She is the wife of a farmer, a diehard Hokie, self-proclaimed indoorsy type, and will never turn down a chocolate chip cookie. She's learning to find herself at the feet of the King of the Universe, who, for some crazy reason, knows her name.

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