A New Vocabulary Word: Inimical

I somehow missed the word “inimical” in my SAT prep and in all of my years studying English literature. Maybe I knew it once and forgot. Maybe I never knew it. Either way, I have so much to learn!

I’m standing in line to order food, and the kind youngster takes my drink order. Whenever people speak, I listen to their language. I like to hear the verbs. I like to hear the rhythm of their sentences. We begin discussing how I love to combine something diet with something like Dr Pepper. He says, “I do that with sweet tea and unsweet tea so it’s not so inimical to my health.”

Inimical? Inimical?

He says, “Um, yeah, you know, like deleterious?” He doesn’t say it in a condescending way; he’s more instructing me. He’s clearly a lover of language, and I would like to be his new friend.

As he serves me my chicken sandwich, I look up the word on my phone and find it’s just as glorious as I imagine. It comes from the Latin word inimicus or enemy. Of course! It’s a beautiful new word that I somehow never learned. Instead of saying “harmful” or “destructive,” I can say “inimical” and enjoy the four syllable joy of it.

And suddenly, I consider how many more adjectives I can learn. Maybe I’m spending too much time with verbs and not enough with adjectives.

Then I consider how not to live in an inimical way–one causing harm and destruction, one obstructing or ruining.


Encouraging Writers to “Go For It!”

Today, a student stops by my office and asks in a somber tone, “Do I have a chance at this?”

Do I have a chance at this? 

He’s talking about his dream of becoming a writer. He’s not the only one stopping by, asking how to begin and where to begin the journey of becoming a career author. I speak honestly at first about having another source of income until your first book contract, and even then, it might take three years until you receive royalty payments. I talk about how it’s difficult to earn a living unless you have huge advances, consistent royalties, and multiple book contracts.

But who knows? Go for it! Anything can happen!! Let’s do this!

He pauses to ask about the language: “What’s an advance? Can you explain royalties again?”

I stop him right there. I remember the best, purest advice about all of that–the business of it–being a “happy accident” alongside your love of writing. You write because you’re a writer. You write because it brings you so much joy and you must do it. You organize your whole life around writing, and you can’t think of any other way to live.

And when you finish that first novel, I explain, you query an agent. You go for it! You might receive dozens of rejections, and you’ll keep sending the query letter. You go for it again! And then you write more books, and in the meantime, you keep sending out manuscripts. You might find yourself self-publishing, freelance writing, and joining writing groups for the pure love of writing. You might find yourself trying your hand at memoir or historical fiction or essay writing. You might realize you’re already a success when you read your stories aloud for your own community.

I can’t promise anything. But you must go for it! But think about what the “it” is. What’s the big goal? Too many people begin writing for the big book contract and the success because maybe they aren’t really writers. They dream of writing and fantasize about the writing life (maybe the cabin in Maine, the steaming mug of coffee, and the cozy library in which you write bestseller after bestseller) but they love the dream more than the writing. Writers write. Writers keep writing.

You have something to say, and one day, you’ll find just the right home for your books. So I say to write! Go for it! But just know that “it” is the writing itself, not the money or attention from writing.


Almond Cake!

If you need to whip up a quick and easy dessert, depend on this Italian Almond Cake. You can top it with a raspberry sauce or ice cream. 

When having folks for dinner (lasagna and salad), I love that feeling of enjoying a delicious meal—only to discover it’s not over! Dessert is on the way (with coffee, of course)! 

I remember that living with flair means entertaining and hospitality–especially enjoying dinner with others. And it’s the kind of hospitality that keeps delighting guests just when they think it’s all over. 


Always Learning What and How to Cook

After all these years, and all these meals, I still find myself asking other parents, “What do you love to cook for dinner? What do your children love?” Sometimes, when children visit my home, I’ll pull them aside and say, “What’s your favorite thing your parents cook for dinner?”

I want to know! I want to learn! Even after all this time!

So I ask the Baker family in Michigan, and I find out about their son’s love of Honey Curry Chicken. More importantly, I find out you just throw a few simple ingredients together, shove the pan in the oven, and dinner’s made.

I’m trying it this very evening. I cannot wait to see what the family thinks! I’m serving it with rice and a salad.

Living with flair means learning all the time and trying new things. I find myself so excited about something as simple as a new meal.



How You Use That Feeling

I tell a wise, older woman (someone who’s always on stage) all about how nervous I become before public speaking, especially before large audiences. It’s the worst! It’s a tightening, a storm inside, a clenching up, a racing heart, an irrational fear of impending doom. It’s a dark, terrible rush of. . . something.

“It’s called adrenaline,” she says calmly. “And it’s good.”

As a performer and someone so used to the stage, she tells me what to do. It’s so simple! She explains that I can reinterpret that bodily experience as so good, so important, so vital. She explains that the very feeling I hate so much is the hormone responsible for success in public speaking. Adrenaline provides clarity, poise, organization, and the ability to improvise. Adrenaline makes someone so sharp in the moment, so ready to win. Adrenaline keeps a person on high-alert and boosts confidence. It makes a person hyper-aware and attuned to what’s happening around her.

It’s good. Be thankful for that feeling. Use it. 

It’s so strange to suddenly love the feeling and no longer fear it. It’s so wonderful to reinterpret a negative, terrible surge inside as something strengthening performance. This short conversation about how to embrace that rush of adrenaline makes me less fearful of the next speaking event. Athletes know this, and now I do, too.


Losing, You Win

This morning, I hear the principle of taking on the nature of a servant once again. Instead of wondering in any situation, “How can I win?” I’m challenged to ask, “How can I lose?” In other words, how can I give up even more of myself, my rights, and my comforts to serve others? How can I help you win, not me? 

How can I lose? 


Serving, Not Succeeding

I read a statement by Bill Bright that changes how I think about serving in speaking and writing. He writes in My Life Is Not My Own:

“I am a slave of Jesus. It is not the slave’s responsibility to be successful, but simply to do with the master asks. When you understand this, you will realize you don’t have problems. All that’s left are opportunities to see the master work.” 

I consider how it’s not our job to be successful, only to serve and let God accomplish what He will. 


He Seeks to Discover Himself

I think deeply about a quote from Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. It’s this:

“Always, everywhere, God is present, and always He seeks to discover Himself. To each one He will reveal not only that He is, but what He is. He did not have to be persuaded to discover Himself to Moses. . . God’s promise of self-revelation is literally true. . . Our pursuit of God is successful because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us.”

He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. Our pursuit of God will succeed. 

I think about how much I plead with Jesus to work in our lives, to move among us, and to reveal Himself. I imagine God someone hesitating and not wanting to do so, when, in fact, He wants to do this even more than my wanting of it.

It doesn’t depend on my right asking, my right behavior, or some right combination of this or that technique or material I present in a speaking situation. No! God is forever seeking to reveal Himself to each person, so teaching and speaking about God begins with inviting receptivity to this eager, loving Savior.


The Values You Hold

Today I asked students to peruse a list of over 400 personal values and choose their top five. It occurs to us that our point of views and particular goals and values differ greatly from one another. 

We assume everyone around us values, for example, punctuality or tidiness, when, in fact, their highest personal values might be spontaneity and creativity. 

Talking about values helps us understand one another and inhabit other perspectives.  

Imagining that your audience might hold different values matters deeply for effective writing and communication. We ask, then, what do I most value? What does my audience most value? How can I find out? How can I write in a way that discloses my values and acknowledges theirs? Do our values hold common ground? 

We’re learning that writing works best when we understand both ourselves and our audiences. 


Little Joys

My oldest daughter knit this little adorable bird and nest for me, and it rests on my piano. Such a tiny joy! I remember that living with flair has everything to do with recognizing those tiny things that make you smile. My daughter knows that I love seeking nests and eggs each new spring, and now I have this reminder of all that’s coming.