Friday, March 26, 2010

Heavenly Punctuation

I have a confession to make. I am a spelling/punctuation geek. I cringe whenever I encounter typos in church bulletins, or business signs. When I was in high school, I even attended a punctuation competition. (Yes, they have those!) In this illustrious contest, each entrant was handed a brief, typed essay that was filled with various punctuation and spelling errors. The focus was to find as many errors as possible in 1 hour's time. I wound up coming in second place for my age bracket.

Well, I'm grown up now, and I'm a bit rusty on my punctuation skills, but I still am an avid supporter of correct grammar. Consider the power of the comma. Alone, it's a simple, slender punctuation mark that looks alot like an eyelash. But when it's used properly, it can make even the strongest of men pause for reflection.

Lynn Truss, author of a famous punctuation textbook, humorously illustrates this point with the following two sentences: 1.The chinese panda eats shoots and leaves. 2. The chinese panda eats, shoots, and leaves. While the first sentence describes the panda as an herbivore, the second sentence depicts the panda as a heartless killer! This is all because of a little inserted comma in the second sentence!

Without punctuation it's often easy to misunderstand a message or race through a reading too fast. A comma says, "Hey, pause a minute! There's something here worth looking at a bit closer." It sets a rhythm and slows down the pace.

Sometimes there are punctuation points in life. I recently hit some in my own. I'm a busy wife and mother of four children. It's easy for me to pick up speed in life and keep blazing through one day after another. Then I got word that my mother had ovarian cancer. I felt like the rest of the world kept whirring around me, but my life skidded down to extreme slow motion. It felt like a big period had been added to a section of my life story. Something came to a screeching halt. I asked God all the "why" questions, and walked through several days feeling like a zombie. Then I started to feel a shift.

As my family joined together in faith to believe for my Mom's recovery, I began to see this chapter could still be a good one. Things weren't ending--they were just slowing down. I found a real beauty in that. As I made the trip to see my Mom, we spent a lot of time simply visiting. She laid on the couch as we laughed and shared at a level we hadn't in a long time. Normally we would have felt like we should be doing something. This necessary pause, due to her illness, helped us focus on the most important thing of all--family.

The late comedienne, Gracie Allen said, "Never put a period where God only placed a comma." While my Mom's diagnosis felt like the end of the world, it has turned out to be a meaningful pause for my family. Each day is filled with purpose and very little is taken for granted. The chirping of the birds, the sun streaming through the window, the kind gestures of a concerned neighbor, finding a beautiful wig to wear during chemo treatments--all of these stand out at a time like this. The rhythm of life's dance has changed to a more intimate, slow pace.

On my own, I don't know how much I would learn from life. I think I would just blaze right through it. As I look over my life thus far, I find that most of my lessons come at times like these when a comma is inserted in my life. In this period of reflection and pause, God offers wisdom and insight that help equip me for things down the road. And I realize just how full and blessed my life really is.


Gina said...

You've been in my thoughts and prayers since I heard about your mom. Thanks for sharing this great reminder: no matter what is going on around me it's good to pause for a bit. You will be in my prayers!

Yvonne Todd said...

Julie - love the thought of times, moments and seasons in our lives as commas.
What a great way to view those announcements that initially cause us to feel like we've hit a brick wall at high speed.
Here's to the comma's in our lives, may they help us to see and evaluate life in new ways, bringing a greater appreciation, hope, life, love, and peace in the midst of the storm.