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On My Third Grade Teacher & the Grandparents I Never Met

teenage girl whispering gossipI remember the day vividly. My mom had just returned from parent-teacher conferences. I was in the third grade at Delta Center Elementary School. My mom sat me down at our dining room table and gave me the report. Progress reports in those days included categories such as "very good", "good", "average", and "needs improvement". I was quite the people pleaser even back then and always wanted to get all the "very good" boxes checked on my progress report. And actually, for the most part, I did.

In math. And English.  And social studies. And classroom participation.

There was just one little area where I often saw a check mark in the "average" or "needs improvement" square:

"Paying Attention"


You see, I love to talk. I have always loved talk. In fact, I'm sure ever since I spoke my first sentence {which was "Aunt Patty eats toast." I'm told} that I haven't stopped flapping my jaws. My husband informed me that, should I go before him, he knows what he is going to put on my tombstone.

A period.

She's finally done yakking!

Well it seems that my chatterbox ways found me sorely lacking in the paying attention part of elementary school. I talked when other students were talking. I talked when we were supposed to be quietly reading. I talked when the teacher was trying to explain the lesson to the class. {In my defense, I felt that what I had to say was way more interesting than what she was currently talking about at the moment.}

My talking has often got me into trouble. Not only at school but in my family and with my friends and sometimes even with complete strangers. Yes, most of the time my feet are planted squarely on the ground. However, they do spend short stints now and then neatly tucked inside my big mouth!

God has done a huge work in my life when it comes to my words. He has convicted me of the times I resorted to gossip in order to be the center of attention. He has shown me that I often use my words to wound my husband's spirit. Sometimes my careless speech has put a pinch in my child's heart. Sometimes I have said the right thing but for a wrong motive. God has shown me when my words were misused.

But he has also shown me that words have power. They can encourage the timid. Cheer on those who are faint of heart. They can give strength to the weary and serve as a balm to soothe a scorched soul.

I had a grandfather who used words in his vocation. Grandpa Patterson was an itinerant preacher. He began his preaching days by riding from town to town on horseback in Northern Kentucky in the early 1900's. Yes, grandpa spoke words before a listening congregation. But grandma used her speech to petition God.

I never knew either one of them. My grandmother was killed in a car/train collision about six years before I was born. My grandfather died when I was three months old and he hadn't even seen me yet. But from what my father tells me, my grandad was a powerful preacher and my grandma was a powerful pray-er.

She prayed for her husband. She prayed for her seven children. She prayed for her grandchildren yet to be born. Somehow God took the prayers of this faithful saint and the "loves to talk gene" of my daddy's side {he's a yakker too just like grandpa was} and combined them all to help me to find my ministry.

Although being a wife and mother are my greatest callings and most important ministries, I love to encourage women with my words.

In person. In books. And online.

I don't claim to know all the answers. I don't suppose that I am profound. Sometimes I start a blog post and just stare at the blank screen with nothing to say. But when I can string letters together to form words that fashion a blog post---or article or chapter or message for a retreat---I feel so very alive.

But just like in third grade, I need to pay attention when the teacher is teaching. To not interrupt Him. To let others hear His instructions.

What He has to say is waaaaaay more important than the feeble words of this woman.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14


Karen Ehman,

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

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