On Friendship: In Person

Old fashioned, shoulder-to-shoulder, roll up your sleeves together, yell and scream if you need to then make-up kind of friendships, have always been on the scarce side. But today’s world of separation, ‘othering’ of people who believe differently than you, alienated families, and virtual meeting places have almost rendered them visibly extinct. Those of you who still retain the closest of in-person human friendships, please know you are truly blessed.

Fighting for those kinds of relationships is worth every drop of sweat, blood, and tears. But take note I didn’t say peaceful friendships, easy friendships, or quiet friendships, although those kinds are also a blessing and very important. It’s the friendships we must fight for that tend to grow the deepest strongest roots, and in times of trouble as well as calm produce the sweetest fruits. I also don’t believe that this level of deepness can be reached in a virtual friendship.

If you read last week’s post On Friendship: Virtual Friendship you will know I’m in no way against online relationships. In fact, I think they are pretty important in this changing world. But, they should never take the place of in-person interactions if we can help it. Face-to-face communication and connection are what humans were built for.

“Fighting for those kinds of relationships is worth every drop of sweat, blood, and tears. “

So what do modern in-person friendships look like these days? I don’t think casual friendships have changed all that much over the last few decades. It’s still about going out with friends for drinks, catching a movie, and sharing a laugh. Going and doing is still very much a part of it all, especially for younger people. It’s the ‘staying and being’ that I have seen change. We are so busy that we slip friends into the rush of our lives but tend to exclude them from the quiet moments when we come up for breath from the busyness. Have they become just another responsibility we long to take a break from? Friendship is work, and building a friendship to a deep level requires A LOT of time. So yes, we are so busy that the modern human often lumps friends into a group of draining activities. This is true for introverts especially. But I think extroverts are much more tired than they might realize.

Why is this?

We have lost the ability to ‘rest’ in friendship. Of course, this isn’t going to be true for everyone and every relationship, but since relationships take work to build and we are so busy we often don’t have in-person time for each other. Fewer and fewer of us are able to form friendships we can ‘rest’ in. Friendships where you don’t feel like you have to show up looking and feeling your best to participate. Even for an introvert, just being with someone who enjoys your presence so much that the messy living room doesn’t matter, gives you rest. Friendships where you can just be you, and you know you are wanted, friendships where silence is acceptable and the need to entertain each other isn’t constant while still sharing each other’s company, are a lost art form.

I remember those friendships, and I long for them with a deep ache. Have you ever experienced companionship like that?

“Have they become just another responsibility we long to take a brake from?”

This kind of friendship that you can ‘rest’ in is also going to look different for each of us since we all have our unique ways we show love and receiving it in turn. But it’s become exceedingly rare to KNOW someone at that kind of level. We just don’t have time for it.

Or do we?

There is another reason for this I’ve been mulling over. In our collective growing exhaustion, we’ve all become very needy people. We sometimes need much more from our relationships with others than we can give in return. This creates a deficit in relationships. Friendships should be a give and a take.

So what do we do when we simply can NOT give the same as what someone else is offering us? Or what do we do when a friend asks for more than they can give back?

I think we need to realize that everyone brings something to the table of friendships, it’s being able to recognize exactly what that is first, and not expect to get something they are not able to offer. We do not want our friendships to become co-dependencies. Boundaries, even while endeavouring to form strong bonds, are important. Being able to respect the boundaries of others is equally as important.

Friendship isn’t always about doing fun things, sometimes it looks like cleaning someone’s living room before leaving their house, not to shame them, but to give them a few more moments of rest in their day. Or letting someone act out their offer of help to clear the table when we’ve invited them for a dinner party. This thought is going to horrify some of you. That’s okay, as they are only a few examples of letting someone step out of an entertainment role and inviting them into a more active role in a relationship. Perhaps for some, it might simply be asking advice, and taking the time to truly listen to the ideas offered back. (With cell phones left in pockets while others talk) The point is being ACTIVELY engaged in each other’s lives. Not just having fun.

“Friendship isn’t always about doing fun things, sometimes it looks like cleaning someone’s living room before leaving their house, not to shame them, but to give them a few more moments of rest in their day.”

To cultivate long-lasting and deep in-person friendships our perspectives need to change. Going out isn’t always going to be possible. But sitting together in someone back yard or living room is something almost everyone can afford. I love the kind of people who want to spend that kind of time with me, especially when they don’t care if my hair is properly brushed or not. Doing life together doesn’t always look like ‘doing and going’. But doing life together is what friendship is all about.

What do you think? It’s not possible for me to explore every part of in-person friendship in a single blog post. I would LOVE to hear your ideas in the comments. Want me to write about something specifically? Let me know. Disagree with me? I would love to hear why.

How do you prioritize and maintain in-person friendships? How do you open the door for those relationships to grow beyond casual friendships?

Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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On Friendship: Receiving and Giving Forgiveness

How to say “I’m sorry” is one of the most important lessons we learn as children. But saying the words and actually meaning them doesn’t always come naturally. It’s hard.

Telling someone we forgive them is the next important lesson we learn. But again, do we really mean those words when we say them? That’s also hard.

Both phrases are ones I’ve used a lot during my 35 years of life on this earth. When you grow up in a large family, it’s just a way of life as you constantly interact with other people’s space, property, and hearts. I learned how to say I’m sorry, but I also learned how to fake it. (Yes, I was a huge stinker as a little girl.)

The need to use the words “I’m sorry” hasn’t decreased with age. In fact, it’s become more important as I live alongside my husband, teach my children the importance of these words, and grow adult friendships. I say them a lot and truth be told, I’m still learning to mean them every time. I’m constantly reminding myself that my perspective isn’t the only valid one, so even if I think I shouldn’t have to say it, I still do, because it’s not always about guilt in a situation, but empathy, too.

I’m also Canadian, and saying sorry really slips out of our mouths all the time.

But when it comes to forgiveness, I’ve really struggled. I don’t mean it’s simply something I’ve I hard time saying. No, I mean I’ve done battle with this concept in my innermost being after the words have already passed my lips. Sometimes the betrayal of others sticks to you like tar, marking your soul just as black as the person who hurt you…

That’s why it’s so important. Unforgiveness is a poison that will slowly eat away at your mind and soul. It’s also impossibly hard to give in its true form, even in the closest of relationships. It’s something you have to be constantly choosing because even after you think you’ve finally been able to release that ‘thing’ or ‘person’ or ‘situation’ your mind will decide to circle back and give it a good sniff again, just like a dog and its vomit.

So how do you do it? How do you really let your ‘I forgive you’ mean what it’s supposed to mean? How do you stop returning to the betrayal, the hurtful moment, or words that have imprinted in your mind, the grief that penetrated past a physical heart to touch your soul?

There is only one way I’ve learned to do it, and that’s giving that moment, that memory, that emotion, to the person who has forgiven me the most: Jesus Christ. For someone who doesn’t share my faith that might seem laughable, even weak, and honestly, that’s okay, because I am weak. But Jesus is strong, and the most forgiving being in the universe. He is also the epitome of empathy, and he understands the pain that draws me back to that vomit pile. He understands the pull for what it really is, grief.

See, as humans, I believe our souls, minds, and bodies are in a constant state of grief. Grief for what once was in our world, and grief in losing our innocence. But I digress, and if someone who has a different belief system, then I would like to invite them to share how they forgive in the comment section.

So what does giving forgiveness actually look like apart from saying the words ‘I forgive you’?

Well, it’s not giving people a free pass to walk all over you again. But it can look like inviting them back into your life and home and trusting them again. It doesn’t have to though. Some forgiveness looks like upholding boundaries and giving people a chance to prove that they have changed and won’t repeat their mistakes. It can also be given without inviting the person who did the hurting back to a close friendship. But forgiveness almost always requires action, just like friendship.

When forgiveness is especially hard for me personally, it looks like holding a constant silent prayer on my tongue. “Please help me forgive. Please help me let go, and trust again. Please help me be wise in how I welcome someone back in to my life. Please help me be brave in how I tell them just what hurts.”

True forgiveness requires honesty. You can forgive someone without confronting them about something they have said or done, but giving them a chance to say ‘I’m sorry’, often helps us release that forgiveness in to the relationship. If we chose not to tell the person what they have done to hurt us, then we at least have to be honest with ourselves and not take more of the blame for a situation than needed.

It’s not possible to fully explore forgiveness in one blog post. People have written books on it and still we as humans struggle to understand its depths and how it really works. But let’s move on from giving it to receiving it.

It can be equally hard to receive forgiveness as it is to give it. There are many reasons for this and again it’s not possible to talk about all of them here, but two that stand out the most to me are shame and denial.

Some people don’t believe they are worthy of forgiveness, and honestly, none of us really are. That is the beauty of true forgiveness though, it is an act of pure love.

When a wrong is committed, we can’t go back and change it. Justice demands action. But justice handed out without forgiveness at its right hand can easily turn in to vengeance and spoil the act of justice with traces of hate.

Justice without forgiveness can not bring healing, and often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. When we have an understanding of what right and wrong is and we know we have committed an offence against a friend, someone we are supposed to care for and love, well, we blanket ourselves in shame. And it is shameful, but we all do it. No one is perfect, and when we deny ourselves forgiveness that friends and family members hand us, we stop healing; sometimes for both parties.

Receiving forgiveness is an act of humility as well. It means we understand we have hurt someone, and this feeds in to the second reason so many of us have a hard time with it. Denial.

When our sorry isn’t real, when we hold on to the idea that “I didn’t mean to hurt you so I shouldn’t have to say those words and don’t truly need forgiveness,” or when we hold on to the belief that we were justified in our actions even if they hurt someone, is cuts forgiveness short.

These are sticky situation that are often so hard to sort out, and really how often are hurts in a friendship the soul responsibility of one person? More often than not, both parties need to give and receive forgiveness at some level. Maybe that is the key to it all, being open to acknowledging how we hurt others even as they hurt us.

This is not a comprehensive guide to forgiveness, but I hope it has started a conversation in your heart as you read it. Typing it out has definite helped solidify a better understanding of it in my own heart. I would love to hear your thoughts on forgiveness in the comment section.

Thank you.

Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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On Friendship: The Word Enemy

We have looked at the word ‘friend’, what it means, and where it comes from, but sometimes it helps to understand a word or idea by looking at and understanding its opposite. So what is the opposite of a friend?

An enemy.

What does the word enemy mean? Here is the first definition point from dictionary.com.

a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent.


Something I noticed while reading this definition is how it’s packed with action. ‘Fosters harmful designs’, ‘feels hatred for’, ‘engages in antagonistic activities’. So at least when it comes to a personal enemy, it’s not someone who simply feels indifferent towards us or someone who thinks or believes differently. There must be some kind of hurtful action involved, even if it’s just mentally planning harm that may never come to fruition.

dictionary.com also takes it to the impersonal level where it defines a nation, or peoples who are hostile against one another as enemies.

So why dig into this?

I think it’s just as important to understand what a true enemy is as to understand true friendship, why we define relationships with these words, as well as how enemies have been viewed throughout history. As we have talked about before, languages change. Dose an enemy still mean what it did one hundred years ago? How about a thousand?

Latin root: in (meaning ‘not’) + amicus (friend) = inimicus, according to WordSence.com

So the Latin root word for enemy literally translates to not friend. The word enemy is also related to Old and Middle English words as well as Old French words as well. It is also related to the word ‘fiend‘ which dictionary.com defines as literally “Satan; the Devil, and a diabolically cruel or wicked person.

I think it’s safe to conclude that the definition of ‘enemy’ has stayed relatively constant thought the last several thousand years. Unlike the word ‘friend’ I’m not seeing evidence of its definition expanding. It may actually be shrinking or becoming more defined as our modern understanding of different cultures and people changes. As our towns, cities, countries and continents become more diverse we are being forced into closer proximity with people who are vastly different from us, and finding them not nearly as hostile as we used to. Different doesn’t automatically = potential enemy anymore. Though we still view strangers with a healthy dose of caution, I think the general view is shifting towards viewing newcomers as potential friends first, or at least indifferently.

So, the grey middle between enemy and friend is widening, even as friend welcomes in a wider definition. But there is one question itching the back of my mind. Can a true enemy, someone who is actively pursuing harm to someone else, ever be reconciled to that individual and achieve true friendship?

The shift from an enemy to a friend has always been a rare occurrence though history. Does it still happen in our modern world as relationships grow and morph to include online spaces and as in-person interactions decrease? Have YOU ever experienced this? If so I would LOVE to hear from you.

Have you ever considered yourself someone’s enemy? Is it different to BE an enemy than it is to HAVE an enemy? What do You think?

Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Six Word Story (114)

There are worlds of perception above us and worlds of perception below us. We walk across them, hide under them, and forget that our height only shows us one view.

Crouch down low and realize your lawn is a jungle ready to be explored, and the tree canopy above hides homes that are just as important.

It’s a brave thing to explore where you have never been before. It’s also brave to experience newness in surroundings you thought you had memorized like the back of your hand.

Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Photo sourced from unsplash.com

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On Friendship: My First Friend

There are seven people I will eternally be grateful for. They are my brothers and sisters and each one has taught me many valuable lessons about human relationships.

I am the third eldest in a family of eight kids and my first friend was my older sister. She was my first playmate, my first protector, and my first source of grief.

Grif? Oh, Yes.

Up’s and downs are a normal part of every relationship, including friendship and sisterhood. This is why the bonds we form in early childhood are so important. They teach us resistance, respect, and loyalty when grown in a healthy way. Of course, they can leave wounds so deep it takes a lifetime to heal as well. But if a child is sheltered too much and not taught friendship from an early age, true connection will always be difficult at best, or unattainable at worst.

What were some of your earliest friendships like? were they with family members? Or perhaps you were an only child and had to look outside the walls of your first home to find friends? Who were they? How did they impact you as you grew?

My earliest memories contain flashes of playing in our room with dolls and stuffed animals. My sister had this brown pug puppy with a wrinkled brow and I had Purple Monkey who was really a bear but looked like a monkey with a short tail to me. (He lives in my little ones’ room now and still looks like a Purple Monkey to me.) When we lived out in the woods while my father was a logger, we shared a bunk bed. We got chickenpox at the same time and learned alongside each other when our parents decided to homeschool their kids.

For many years my older sister was a constant in my everyday. I had to learn how to connect, react, and live beside her as our relationship evolved with age. We are three years apart and so for a long time, I was ‘the baby’ sister, both treasured but also reviled. After all, who wants the baby tagging along on adventures ALL THE TIME? Not my older brother and sister.

Still, my sister was often my guard as well. She told my older brother off when unnessasarry words were said, or his rough play became too much or dangerous. Boundaries were learned. “Don’t go there Mary, it’s not safe. I’ll tell Mom!” or “Look what you did to her? How could you? Run back to the house Mary, it’s going to be okay.” She helped me grow an awareness of others, and how I affected them at the same time they affected me.

Sisters, treasures, and there is really none quite like mine.

I am also an older sister, I have a handful of siblings I put threw the paces myself as we all searched for our spot in the family. I’ll tell you they didn’t all appreciate the ‘lessons’ I passed on to them. I could be just as mean as my older brother and as the string of little people following us grew it wasn’t just my older sister’s job to protect me, she was also protecting them FROM me. So, we all learned repentance and forgiveness together. The need for justice in the face of cruelty. The fact that no matter how deeply someone lives you, they will at times still say and do mean things, and whether you want to or not there are times when you just can’t cut people out of your life. Not when you’re all homeschooled and stuck living in the country together anyway. This forced deep bonds that for most of us still hold after decades of wear.

She has become a safe place for me. I don’t use that safe place as much as I probably should because I’m still prone to thinking I can just do things myself. But when the hurt runs deep she is instinctively the first place I run to, even above my mother.

Do you have a friend like that? I know not everyone does. It’s also hard to BE that friend at times, it shows great strength of character, being willing to welcome people and their burdens into your life over and over again.

If you find yourself without that kind of friendship or removed from it for some reason, I just want to encourage you to not give up cultivating new friendships. It’s never too late to plant the seeds that might grow into a bond that is stronger than time and distance. The key ingredient to growing something like that is TIME, the key to retaining friendship like that, is humility and forgiveness.

If you find personal investment, humility, or forgiveness hard, it’s okay. It’s never too late to start learning them. I believe the first step is simply to ask for help. Read a book on friendship, pray for an open heart, and then ask God for someone to help you put into practice what you have learned. But be prepared to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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On Friendship: What is it?

Do we still know?

Last week we explored the meaning of the word ‘friend’ and how it has evolved, as all words and languages do. Now let’s explore what friendship might look like in today’s world.

The meaning of the word ‘friend’ has widened greatly over the past decades, so what friendships look like will also vary. Friendship is no longer something reserved for people who we get to know face to face but is something that stretches over great distances. I think there’s still one key element that links all levels of friendship, and this thing has not changed with the passing of time. That thing is the investment of time itself. If two people have not made that investment in each other, be it in person, over video calls, phone calls, texts, or some form of social media, there is no relationship. Therefore no friendship. Without that expenditure you may know of someone’s existence, but nothing beyond that other than perhaps a few surface facts they have shared publicly.

Last week we also talked about words in relationship to ‘friend’. These words help clarify the connection between two people. Let’s start with acquaintances.

  1. a person known to one, but usually not a close friend.
  2. the state of being acquainted or casually familiar with someone or something: As far as I know, no one of my acquaintance has travelled around the world.

These are just two of the definitions for the word acquaintance.

A second key component of friendship is an emotional connection of some kind. So is an acquaintance a friend? Well, some of them may be, and some of them are not. I think it depends on the individuals and how much care they generally offer to others on the first meeting. This emotional connection doesn’t have to be very big, but it does need to be something that sets a person firmly in their mind. If the interaction is forgettable, how can the seed of a friendship be planted? Every acquaintance has the potential to become a casual friendship, but we don’t always care enough to plant that seed.

If there was some kind of connection made, then comes the investment of time. Do we care enough about this potential relationship to water it by interacting again?

This is where I think we often fail each other in the modern world. We are so busy, we may not even have the energy to care after an interaction with a new person. Hurt might hold us back, and fear, anger, and anxiety. These barriers to starting friendships are by no means new, but I believe have become more concentrated. Friendship is work after all, just like any relationship.

Fast Friends:

Have you ever met someone and the connection was so strong that it felt like this person had always been in your life? Trust comes easily, you can’t wait to spend time growing whatever this wild friendship thing is. Friendships like these are treasures and have the potential to transform into something deep and long-lasting. But the truth is, very few of them do. Why?

They were not made nor meant to last. These friendships are beautiful moments and can refresh us like a cup of cool water on a hot lonely day, but there is only so much water in that cup. They can not sustain. Perhaps the two individuals find out they are too different and when a disagreement happens the bond is just not strong enough to withstand the pressure. Or maybe time can just not be found to grow the friendship. Perhaps one individual struggles with long-distance relationships of any kind, or the opposite, finding it hard to stay open while meeting in person. Maybe something hurtful is said or done and one friend chooses to walk away, unable or unwilling to mend the breach. It can be devastating when these friends are lost like lightning, just like they were found.

They can also be addictive. If we fall into the pattern of making fast friends and losing them in quick succession they can also be very damaging. We can become afraid to make those connections at all or think that lightning high is the mark of true friendship and if that spark isn’t there at the beginning a relationship isn’t worth tending to.

It takes great wisdom, and flexibility to know when to let go. But know that these friendships are worth having even when they are destined to end. If you never take the chance, you will never find the rare few that will transform into lifelong bonds.

Old Family Friends:

These people have always been in your life, and maybe there has even been a family connection for generations, but they come with expectations. “Of course, we have to invite them to the Christmas party! It’s expected.” You might carry a deep love for these people, or not, but the interactions have been too many to count. Whether you like them or not these people are counted as friends, the time investment has buried those roots deep. They are more like family.

This breed of friend is something I see dying in modern culture. More people are learning boundaries and upholding them. For the first time in a long time, we are being told it’s OKAY to say no to people who are ‘toxic’, even if they are family. Social media has given us tools to stay connected but separated, blocking or muting people right and left. This can be good, but it also comes with dangers. No relationship is easy, and difficult people are still worthy of time and love. Again it takes discernment to know how to handle friends that have always been but might not always be wanted.

What kind of friend do you want? What kind of friend are you?

Surprise Gems:

These people, oh these people, they pop up out of nowhere and add value to your life in spades. Maybe they start as fast friends, or maybe they are old friends that never really got close to you until the time was just right. They might even be reluctant friends, or someone you never liked at all, but for whatever reason one of you reached out in a deep way and now you have no idea how you could ever live without them. When you find one of these friends, don’t ever let them go.

This holding on doesn’t look like a stranglehold though. Sometimes they even require vast amounts of space and time away, years even. But that space doesn’t matter, when you come together again it’s like you were never apart.

Do these friends still exist?

They have become rarer than ever. There are so many reasons for this and I would love to know why you think that might be. Have you ever had one? Been one? Or viewed a relationship like this from the outside?

There are so many different levels to each of these kinds of friendships. They vary from person to person and social media has transformed how they can begin and be sustained. But I am curious… Do we still take that time investment seriously? Do we know how to hurt people with, cry with people, and work with people? Or are we content to just be around for the smiles and then walk away with every disagreement, inconvenience, or misunderstanding?

It’s not possible to have deep friendships with everyone, and it’s also not healthy to try. But it’s imperative to true human happiness and health to have true friends. We won’t find those gems unless we look for them, and hold on to them when we find them.

Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Six Word Story (79)

The fall to earth is never strait, or predictable.

For a while they hold fast, grow, preparing for the fall. A fall that’s inevitable.

We all fall.

I pray when I finally land, others will say I fell with grace.

And when I rest, it will be in fertile soil, in which to spread new roots.

©2022 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Photo sourced from unsplash.com

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The Dreaded Red Mark

I love the adventure of writing. I love exploring and experiencing the world or emotions I write about. But when I finish that first draft, editing must always happen.

I hate seeing those nasty confidence crippling red marks. Let me tell you, for someone who is mildly dyslexic, it’s never just one red mark. More than likely, it is a sea of them I feel I could drown in. This has been my number one challenge in completing my work.

“I have learned that taking one bite at a time and chewing it well is important.”

So how do I face those red marks?

Slowly, methodically, and with help.

I have learned that taking one bite at a time and chewing it well is important. One word, one-line, one paragraph, one page. If I get ahead of myself, I give up.

I also pace myself. Sometimes we are unaware of the energy spent while creating something, and the drain it can have on our being. I fix one word, then remind myself to blink and breathe. After tackling the next sentence, I do the breathing over again, and maybe step away from the screen to get a drink.

I am a much slower writer than most people, but that’s okay. We all create in our own way and honestly, I’m not trying to be anyone else’s competition. (Unless I am writing for a contest, that is.) I dread those red marks, but there is also nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing them disappear from my work.

Trying is also something I do slowly. I often make mistakes while trying to fix things. Rarely is a second draft enough. More likely, a third, fourth, or even fifth draft happens before the piece is ready. The longer the project, the more drafts needed.

“So those red marks keep me humble and social.”

I rely heavily on grammar software as it’s difficult for me to see mistakes like the use if the wrong ‘to’ in a sentence. I don’t know if I could even attempt writing if it wasn’t for programs like Grammarly and ProWritingAid. But even after I reread things myself, and let the computer to its thing, I always need at least one other person to help. Software just can’t pickup all my mistakes.

So those red marks keep me humble and social. If my husband isn’t available to read through my work, I have to reach out and ask someone else. This is always awkward for me. Will they roles there eyes at my mistakes? Will they be able to see past the red to the heart of things? Can I trust them?

Oh, those little red marks teach so many things…

How do you handle the dreaded red mark?

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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The Truth and Lies of Poetry

There is power in poetic verse. Words roll off the tongue like music and lose us in the sway of emotions that flood each word. But what about the messages hidden within poetry?

There are many ways to hide truths and or lies behind emotions. Often poetry takes us on a path we don’t control and we discover answers to questions along the way. But not always. If the engine that drives a piece is emotion, it’s inevitable that the author will sometimes get it wrong. After all, we need many more things than love to survive this world, and those that love should definitely still use the phrase, “I’m sorry.” Still, poetry has at one time taught us these things as truth.

How do we sift through the half-formed thoughts, fragmented ideas, and coloured emotions of poetry? Is it worth it? It is, especially when the poet speaks to us of their own personal story, with words that journey to understanding.

I say, you will never find gold if you are not first willing to sift the rivers for it. Maybe that is what a poet is. A prospector, braving the cold river of emotion, the pan of language in hand, searching the sediment of life for nuggets of truth. Will we find gold? Or pyrite? Or nothing but unwanted rocks?

You will never know until you are willing to jump in that river or start a poetic journey. The key is to understand it’s a journey, and a fragment of a journey, not a whole.

I thank God every day for the gift of the written word, and the gems I have found in the gift of poetry. But I also know, not every word I write is truth. They are expressions of emotion. I am also aware that the things I believe in this moment will change, as it should. Life is continually teaching us. A person who stays the same is a person who never grows.

I pray I can grow with open eyes and mind, ready for the truth, but also aware of the lies. For searching for both is necessary for growth.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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The Worth of Early Works

We store away our children’s scrap paper drawings as if they were masterpieces. Maybe not all of them, but the few that hold sentimental meaning. But with our own art, whether written word, the stroke of a paintbrush, or a photograph of a first cake decorating session, we push them to the back cupboard, or even throw them away.

Making room for a new and better isn’t wrong, but maybe we should hang on to one or two of those learning pieces. Treasuring them like we do the scribbles and hand paintings of childhood.


Undoubtedly your first works hold mistakes, just as mine do. So why keep any of them? Why show any of them to anyone?

They are beautiful examples of growth.

How often do you get discouraged in your creative life, and need a reminder of just how far you have come? How many times do you need help to keep your feet on the ground? Or encouragement to not give up? Keeping, and even displaying the art made while in the first stages of learning can be these powerful reminders.

Above is a picture of my first 4 foot by 2 foot painting. I wanted to stretch myself and see how different it was to paint a larger piece. The water was FAR from what I was going for…

So when I finished, what did I do with it? I hung it in on my kitchen wall, and every time I looked up at it, I thought about what I would do differently next time. (Now it’s hanging in my sister’s cabin because she is crazy and loves it.) I learned so much from just looking at it every day for over a year.

Everyone was once a beginner. No one has yet ‘arrived’ at perfection. So cherish those sloppy first strokes and overused words. Let them shine a light on your future creative path.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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