Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Gifts We Could All Use May 24, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:52 pm

Editor’s Note: This post was intended to be posted yesterday, but life happened and I’ve had to delay it by one day. A day late but never too late for its message. Although spiritual in nature, its message is one today’s divided and angry world could use, regardless on one’s beliefs.


One of my favorite prayers to teach little ones, including our daughter when she was young, is the very simple “Holy Spirit, help me today in everything I think, do, and say.” It’s not biblical or found in a specific scripture, but I’ve always thought it pretty well sums up what should be our thought process each and every morning.


I’ve always had a special affinity for the Holy Spirit. I have a prayer that’s typed out on an old-school typewriter that I’ve had and said for years. I don’t know where I got it but I do know it’s very special to me. This should be somewhat surprising considering that growing up the Holy Spirit was often referred to as the Holy Ghost. Yikes! What young Catholic girl would ever want anything to do with a ghost? As it turns out, me and many others.


Granted, the “ghost” reference is somewhat up there with rotary phones and televisions with antennas, but the third person of the Holy Trinity is indeed ageless and timeless. Maybe I’m a fan because the Holy Spirit is often described as the love between Father and Son and is also sometimes referred to as the “female” side of God; the kinder gentler side full of wisdom and joy. Not that God and Jesus aren’t, but who doesn’t need a spiritual mamma in their life?



Pentecost Sunday

The Holy Spirit is on my mind because the church celebrates Pentecost today. It is one of the most important feast days of the year and it concludes the Easter season. It’s also considered the birthday of the church.


Pentecost is the Christian celebration of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles, Mary, and other first followers of Jesus as they gathered in the Upper Room; literally and figuratively lighting a fire in them for the Word. It commemorates their transformation from frightened and confused to ultimately those who preached and made believers of millions thanks to the gifts given to them to do so. It’s those gifts and their ripened “fruits” that I feel, regardless of your beliefs and opinions, are much needed in today’s world.


The name “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek word “pentekostos,” which means 50. Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus and 10 days after His ascension into heaven.


As often has it, there is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu’ot, which falls 50 days after Passover and commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses. I have to believe my Jewish brothers and sisters would agree with today’s message.




The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Without going into too much detail, the Gifts are dispositions that make us open to following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They are there for the asking and give us strength for the journey. Four enlighten our minds: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and counsel; and three strengthen our hearts: fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. They are biblical and can be found in Isaiah 11:2 and are ways of living we should all strive for. They are:


Wisdom. The ability to exercise good judgment and distinguish between right and wrong. It is also common sense and often advances in years and gains life experience.


Understanding. The ability to think clearly and have insight and discernment.


Counsel. The ability to give and receive good advice.


Fortitude. Moral strength, courage, determination, and resiliency.


Knowledge. The ability to study and learn and put what is learned to constructive and good purpose.


Fear of the Lord. Acknowledges that everything comes from God and therefore downplays personal achievement, pride, and self-sufficiency.


Piety. Being devoted to goodness, decency, mercy, meekness, and virtues.



The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

The Gifts are to be made of good use or they won’t ripen and grow. They must be cultivated and applied daily; the result of which are the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, and I’m not talking apples, oranges, and bananas.  As with the Fruits of the Spirit, those types of fruits are never manufactured but grown; seeds need to be planted and a gardener needs to tend to them. As opposed to the “bitter fruits” of immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, drunkenness, and carousing found in Gal 5:19-21, the Fruits of the Spirit are good habits, virtues, and deeds that are by-products of God’s presence in our lives. They can be found in Gal 5:22 and are:


Love. Unconditional love that expects nothing in return. Opposite: Self-serving.


Joy. Inner contentment that comes with speaking and upholding truth, honesty and integrity in relationships, and decent conduct. Opposite: Discontent.


Peace. Living with contentment in a world that is never satisfied. It is also when the dignity of all living beings are respected and when legitimate differences are tolerated. Opposite: Anxiety-filled.


Patience. The virtue of suffering delay with composure and without complaint. It is also the willingness to wait even in a world of instant gratification and to slow down and set aside one’s personal plans and concerns. Opposite: High-strung.


Kindness. A warm and friendly disposition demonstrated by a kind and compassionate person who is polite, well-mannered, respectful, considerate, pleasant, agreeable, cheerful, helpful, positive, and complimentary. Opposite: Privileged and Elitist.


Goodness. A bigheartedness grounded in unselfish generosity and integrity and the courage to do the right thing even when it’s hard. Opposite: Dishonest and Deceitful.


Faithfulness. Demonstrated by loyalty, fulfilling commitments fulfilled, keeping promises, and being true to one’s word. Opposite: Unreliable.


Gentleness. Sensitivity and humble consideration for others. Mild-mannered, not pushy or abrasive. Quick to listen and slow to speak with a desire for wisdom and understanding before the desire to be heard. Opposite: Arrogant and Melodramatic.


Self-control.  Reject evil and choose goody by being in control of one’s self rather than controlled by temptation or other people. The ability to remain calm, cool, and collected especially in times of crisis; be even tempered; and avoid impulsive, knee-jerk reactions and responses. Opposite: Undisciplined.


It is often said that these Gifts and Fruits are also revealed in The Beatitudes, which Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount and can be found in Matthew 5-7. On the flip-side, they and the Virtues of humility, chastity, kindness, temperance, vigilance, meekness, and generosity can also ward off the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, anger, and greed, respectively.



Turn on any newscast or scroll any social media site and the urgent need for all of these good traits and true gifts will quickly be revealed. Time to be the gardeners of our inner spirits so we can plant the seeds of fruits that are healthy for the whole of the land. Time to dig deep.




House Rules May 17, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:49 pm

Summer break is almost here, the country is slowly opening up, and a society tired of being masked up and locked down appears ready to venture out. That might be flying somewhere, taking a road trip, staying in a luxury hotel, or maybe visiting friends or family. If it’s the latter, take note. Being a guest and hosting guests are important roles and they both come with some standard rules of thumb. Let’s start with being a gracious guest.




It’s fun and frugal to camp out in someone’s guest room but we’ve all heard that guests are like fish: they start to smell after three days. So, rule number 1: don’t overstay your welcome. Granted, three days may seem like a really short visit so always double-check with your host. Get and give specific dates and never, ever just assume an invitation awaits you. Just because someone you know lives in a fabulous place doesn’t mean you’re invited to visit and stay with them and for goodness sakes, never just show up. No one wants to be Cousin Eddie from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”


It’s also important to be clear as to who exactly will be joining you on the visit. Opening your home to a couple is much different than doing so to a family of five with a dog or special needs visitors.


Blogger and author Mary Hunt also reminds guests to respect their host’s space and the house rules of that space. Don’t arrive with multiple suitcases, clothing that requires numerous hangars, a cooler full of your vegetarian or keto foods, and while visiting, make sure everything you bring stays in the room where you’re staying. And keep that room or space tidy. When you’re not in it, it should look just like when you arrived. You’re not staying in a hotel so don’t treat your friend’s home like one. Housekeeping won’t be dropping by when you leave the room.


As for house rules, well, they rule. If your hosts remove their shoes when they come in, so should you. If they’re non-drinkers, don’t arrive with bottles of wine and bourbon. Pay attention to where they eat and drink. If they drink their morning coffee at the table or in the kitchen, join them there. Be sure any kids you bring with you adhere to rules as well and have them pitch in and lend a hand when it comes to setting the table, washing dishes, or taking out trash. Go over manners, respect, and tidiness and let them know you expect all three from them, which includes everything from television/tablet/music choices to verbal politeness to picking up their clothes.


Arrive knowing that your hosts are just that-your hosts. They are not your tour guides, chauffeurs, or babysitters. Arrange your own transportation prior to arrival and invite them to join you on any activities you have planned. Just don’t expect them to do everything with you unless they choose to. If possible, let them know any plans or reservations you have before arriving so they can schedule joining you beforehand. Be sure to include your kids and any elderly relatives you bring with you on any and all activities and don’t expect your hosts to babysit either unless they offer.



We’ve all heard that saying when it comes to national parks and such, and it kinda applies to being a gracious guest as well. Before departing, remove sheets and pillow cases from beds, fold them, and pile them neatly on the floor along with any towels. Simply throw the comforter over the mattress and prop the pillows up. Wipe down bathrooms and offer to remove trash from your room.


As you take your memories with you, maybe don’t leave footprints but leave behind a kind gesture of your gratefulness. This could be something as simple (and at the very least) a nice thank you note as well as a small candle of their favorite scent, tasteful hand towels, or other small tokens of appreciation.  Lastly, always offer to reciprocate them hosting you.




Your main goal as a host is not to make your guests feel pampered but comfortable. Take time to remove anything that might make them squirm and add things that will encourage them to relax. This might be just letting them settle in casually when they arrive to placing fresh flowers in the room where they’re staying. At the same time, don’t exhaust yourself. Be yourself and let them be themselves. Keep it simple but nice. If you’re stressed they will sense it and in turn feel stressed. Guests don’t expect a perfect house or a perfect host.


Before they arrive, ask them about any allergies…both food and otherwise…and inform them of your schedule. If you have a doctor or hair appointment, yoga or dance class, let them know so they’re aware you’ll be unavailable during those times.


Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette queen Emily Post, suggests setting a specific start and end date for the visit and to consider your guest’s interests when setting up any activities. Just because you like to hike or visit museums doesn’t mean they do. Lastly, take under consideration any little people who will be visiting and order your home accordingly. Put away any precious breakables or possibly dangerous items before your guests arrive.



We’ve all been guests at someone’s house and I’m betting we can all remember one or two homes that stand out and felt like the owners thought of everything. Was the bed dreamy?  Were the towels cushy?  Did you have everything you needed or forgot?  These are the keys to a top notch guest room.  I’ve gathered some tried and true guest room tips and ideas here for you and would love your input on anything I’ve forgotten or something that caught your eye and that you appreciated as you guested somewhere.



  • Although most guest rooms, mine included, have queen beds, design experts agree that twin beds are guest room perfection. Also if there’s room, have a comfy chair nearby for both sitting and plopping things onto.
  • Every guest room (or room you use for guests) needs a reading lamp. Reading glasses, depending on their age, would be a bonus treat, as would a nightlight.
  • Provide at least one smart phone charger in case they forgot theirs.
  • If the guests don’t have to share a bathroom with anyone else in the house, stock it up with shampoo, shaving cream, lotion, toothpaste, etc. If they share the bathroom, have all these items – perhaps travel sizes – in a basket for them in the guest room.
  • A basket filled with bottled water, drinks, and both salty and sweet snacks is also appreciated and can be accompanied by a pretty carafe and glass that they can fill and refill.
  • Either show them where towels are stored or bring some out and put them on the guest bed. Be sure to include bath towels, hand towels, and wash cloths.
  • Have a pen and paper handy for them.
  • As mentioned above, a low-key vase of fresh flowers is a nice touch to any guest room.
  • To alleviate both incoming and outgoing smells, have a small candle and matches available and/or a subtle reed diffuser.
  • If possible, empty out a dresser drawer and make sure there is space for their clothes in the closet along with plenty of (non-wire) hangars for them to use. A luggage rack or bench for suitcases is also a nice touch.
  • For a true luxury hotel experience, provide various robes for guests to use.
  • Reading materials – books, magazines, catalogs, etc. – should be stacked or laid out in a way that tells them “it’s okay to read these!”
  • If you have Wi-Fi in the house, have the code written down somewhere in the guest room.
  • On the Wi-Fi card that I provide our guests is also our address and phone numbers. Should they need to call an Uber or order food delivery for the group, it’s nice for them to have the address close at hand.
  • If your guest room has a television, have handy step-by-step instructions for all TV remotes and include a channel guide.
  • Provide guests with neighborhood info that includes nearby pharmacies, gas stations, grocery stores, florists, etc. Even though all of this is available on smart phones and computers, guests will appreciate not having to look them up.
  • Give your guests a brief tour of your home, pointing out where dishes, snacks, and other items are located.
  • Show guests how to use your coffeemaker. Every kind is different and this will allow guests to help themselves to the java.
  • Create as comfy a bed as possible. 300-400 count sheets are as high as you need to go, goose down is fluffier than duck when it comes to duvets and pillows, and a fluffy mattress topper will ensure your guests sleep like queens and kings.  Think layers too:  layers of pillows and layers of sheet/blanket/duvet/folded throw.  I personally prefer bamboo or microfiber sheets but 100 percent cotton is popular as well.
  • Be sure outlets are available and easily accessible for a multitude of all things electronic. If several are covered by a bed or dresser, provide a multiple outlet converter and extension cord.
  • Provide plenty of mirrors for your guests. Full-length mirrors come in all styles and are wonderful additions to any guest room as are magnifying mirrors.
  • Two cute ideas on saw on-line for guest rooms are to provide a clear, glass vase of river rocks and a Sharpie for them to sign and date and/or a calendar for them to add their birthday and date of visit to.


In the end, you want your home to be a sanctuary and to make your guests feel at home and at ease.  Treat your guests like family and your family like guests, right?



Here’s hoping that the welcome mat is out for wherever you want to go or whoever you want to host.  Open your hearts, open your minds, open your eyes, and open your doors.





Beautiful Boxwood May 12, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:23 pm

On a recent visit to a nursery in search of some heat resistant plants, my friend and I got to talking about boxwood, an evergreen we discovered we both love. I’ve forever been fond of the formality and symmetry of perfectly shaped boxwood but like many, am a bit intimidated by it. Seemingly both formal and high maintenance and considering that I’m no true blue green thumb or fanatical gardener, the constant talk of blight and shaping has been enough to make me back off of boxwood. But maybe it’s time to jump in the boxwood pool, even if it’s just to make a small splash with a pretty potted porch version.


Boxwood is the ideal garden design building block and an arrangement of it adds instant curb appeal. The gorgeous greenery creates structure and depth to any landscape and it is both earthy and elegant. Christina Dandar of “The Potted Boxwood” perhaps said it best when she wrote, “To me, a potted boxwood by the front door or anywhere in the landscape is a fairly certain declaration that what is inside is something worth seeing…potted boxwood have the subtle ability to let you know it’s worth opening the door.”


So, come on in. Let’s enter the world of boxwood.



Mark D. Sikes

Stately to look at and simple in design, boxwood can for sure be a bit much for the novice gardener. But, it is drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, and endlessly versatile when it comes to garden design. It also beautiful at weddings and wedding receptions!


The beautiful boxwood has been around forever and has an illustrious history when it comes to grounds and the design of them. This staple of gardens was found as formal hedges in ancient Egypt as well as palatial gardens of ancient Greece and Rome. Today they can be found on porches and pathways everywhere, from Colonial Williamsburg to concrete-surrounded suburbia enclaves. So fabulous are they, that Houston landscape designer calls them the “little black dress” of plants and says every garden should have at least one.


I’m all about little black dresses so sounds like a plan and yes ma’am!


So what is it about boxwood that makes it so special and so fabulous? For one, it’s extremely versatile and can be used as everything from low-growing hedges to conical columns to shapely globes. In addition, the classic shrub’s small and dense evergreen leaves boast what many consider the perfect sculptable quality.


A word of warning though: if you’re even considering investing in boxwood, know that you’ll probably hear a lot about blight, a disastrous fungal threat gives boxwood a bit of a bum rap. It is also sometimes considered a money pit if not tended to properly. Times have somewhat changed however, and there are more than 90 species and 365 selections of boxwood, many much hardier than and somewhat threat free.



A bit about the dreaded blight. It’s definitely something to be aware of but not afraid of. Basically a fungus that can wipe out an entire shrub, blight can affect any boxwood species and can first be spotted as brown spots on leaves. The spots get bigger and merge together, eventually turning entire leaves brown. Keep an eye out for black or dark brown streaks on the stems and rapid leaf loss.


The fungus thrives in humid and warm conditions and once a plant is exposed, spores of the fungus are easily spread through splashing water, wind, and even contaminated gardening tools. If you see any signs of blight on a boxwood, remove and destroy all affected shrubs by burning (safely and legally), burying at least two feet deep, or double bagging in plastic bags and landfilling. Also dispose of all gardening tools used on the affected plants, roots, and leaves or branches that fell. Blighted portions should never be composted.


To avoid blight, always buy boxwood shrubs from local reputable suppliers that have thoroughly inspected the plants for evidence of blight-including those ever popular Christmas and holiday wreaths- and dip pruners in a 10 percent bleach solution after use on each plant. Once purchased, isolate new boxwood shrubs from established boxwoods for several weeks before planting, as boxwood blight symptoms often don’t become apparent until weeks later.  When planting boxwoods, space them far enough apart from each other and other shrubs so that branches on adjacent shrubs do not overlap.  This will increase air flow between them and promote a drier environment that will be less favorable for boxwood blight.  Wherever possible, avoid watering plants with sprinklers or overhead with hoses and instead use a soaker or drip hose.



I don’t know about you, but the more I learn about boxwood the more demanding it seems. All the more reason to hire a professional, right?!  But, even if you do, it’s important to know what you want out of your boxwood, including the “Fab Four” boxwood uses:


  • Hedgers and Edgers. These are generally a series of small boxwood balls that form an edge. They can also be used to define certain spaces in large gardens and break up gardens into smaller sections.


  • Container Accents. I love these because I love topiaries! I also love green and white together and a green boxwood in a white square Chippendale style planter is simply stunning. Add some Paper Whites, Star Jasmine, or Phloxstar White phlox to an arrangement and it’s green and white perfection. Just one or one pair on a porch is perfection, or group some globes or cones side-by-side or a more dramatic look.


  • Backdrops. Think of it against a house or fence as a way to frame blooming perennials, give a space structure and authority, or even create some privacy.


  • Architectural Shapes. A large grouping of cone-shaped boxwoods alongside a sidewalk or home foundation gives evergreen elegance and unequaled uniformity.



Today there’s practically boxwood for everyone, most of which are hardier than the perennially persnickety English boxwood, including Japanese and Korean types such as Green Beauty and Winter Gem, which are more resistant to the disease.


Here are just a few examples of the vast array of boxwood and their individual appeal and suggested use:


  • Newgen’s Freedom is one of the most promising of the many new blight-resistant varieties.


  • Dee Runk boxwood offers a unique, upright, and conical shape and is ideal as focal points on garden corners or to frame a walkway.


  • Baby Gem variety is smaller in size but boasts dense foliage so it’s great for low hedges. Once established it’s also drought tolerant and generally only needs trimming a couple times a year.


  • Justin Brouwers selection is easy to maintain, is very hardy, and perfect for low hedges and bed borders.


  • Grace Hendrick Phillips boxwood is perfect for short hedges and parterres as has a very slow growth rate. It doesn’t need constant clipping and has smaller and narrower foliage, which add interesting texture to its placement.


  • Variegated English boxwood is perfect for making a statement, as it adds a pop of personality to a sphere or topiary.


  • Wintergreen and other fast-growing types are great for impatient gardeners, as they produce height quickly. This fast growth also means they need regular trimming and pruning.


  • Morris Dwarf is a slow growing variety and is perfect for all you patient green thumbers. It requires less care but its slow growth rate means it takes longer to acquire a desired shape.



Whatever boxwood you choose, don’t believe all of the many warnings and negatives you might hear, as once established, boxwood is quite hardy and low maintenance. The “plant in fall” gardener golden rule doesn’t necessarily apply to boxwood since it is considered an evergreen. It is advised to avoid planting them in serious heat, but if the weather isn’t scorching hot and you have good irrigation, you can pretty much plant boxwood any time of year.  Also keep in mind that most boxwood prefers some shade so don’t plant it in areas that get a lot of afternoon sun  and loose, quick-draining soil is best.


Although long-considered a traditional twist to any garden, today’s boxwood is being used in new and fun ways such as with loose grasses and flowering perennials. I personally love the look of an all green garden or garden section that incorporates boxwood (preferably shaped) with other green plants of various hues.


However used and wherever placed, boxwood can be shaped into decorative topiaries, thick hedges to hide and protect, and used as low-in-height borders to keep other plants in order. Most experts do suggest it’s best to start with boxwood that has the natural size and shape that best matches your end-result desire rather than pruning any boxwood into a shape you choose. For example:


If you’re seeking a small and squatty look, Compacta, Grace Hendrick Phllips, or Nana varieties will best fit your bill while John Baldwin, Rotundifolia, and Wintergreen are great large hedge choices. For those beautiful upright and triangular-shaped  perfect for framing a stairway or path, choose either Fastigiata or Graham Blandy.


Maybe you’re still leery about boxwood but you love the look of them. No worries. A few simple indoor topiaries are much easier to keep and always make a great addition to any grouping. If you really, really like the look of boxwood but haven’t had good luck with it or are worried it might not work for you, BH&G suggests considering similar “Golf Ball” Pittosporum, Japanese Holly, Rosemary, or Yew. They tolerate heat, work in various climates, are great for borders, and can be pruned as a topiary…in that order…but know that Yew can be toxic in large quantities to pests.



So say you’ve picked your boxwoods and they are looking fabulous but you know they’ll eventually need to be trimmed. How best to do so? First and foremost, avoid over-pruning, which is bad for the plant and is an open invitation to both pests and blight.


Landscape architect, boxwood grower, and former director of the American Boxwood Society, Andrea Filippone suggested the following tips to BH&G:


  • When pruning for shape, gently and selectively prune a few inches of growth by hand to control size and shape. Do so twice a year: once in the summer but before August and again in December.


  • To make window cuts, make selective cuts into the outer six inches to allow more light (i.e.: “windows”) and air to reach the plant’s center. When doing so, angle the pruners into the shrub and make cuts where the plant begins branching. Remove all clipped and dead branches and twigs.


  • Don’t shear! Boxwoods push new growth where they’re cut, so shearing – clipping only the outermost layer of leaves – leads to a dense outer layer that blocks light and air from reaching the center. This ultimately encourages pests and disease.




Like anything, I come away thinking boxwood may not work for me unless I get a professional to lend a hand, but it’s worth the risk and could be both beautiful and fun. Are you with me?





No Doubt About It May 2, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:55 pm

I’m not sure how many of you have watched the amazing series, “The Chosen,” but if you haven’t, do. I won’t go into all the details, but just know that it chronicles the life of Jesus like no other show I’ve ever watched. It’s real, inspiring, emotional, and eye-opening. In a word, it is relatable.


There are many lines throughout the episodes that have caught my attention, but one that stands out is when Jesus told Thomas, the infamous “Doubting Thomas,” “Maybe don’t think so much.” I’ve always said I would probably be that “doubting Thomas” and to hear Jesus say those words to a fellow deep thinker hit home and made me think. In a good and healthy way.


Another line I connected with is when Jesus tells Simon, “Get used to different” after He invited tax collector (and possible introvert?) Matthew to join the other disciples and follow Him, raising many an apostolic eyebrow.



It’s not uncommon for introverts like me to overthink and not like surprises. It is our nature to notice and observe everything, boast a knack for details and empathy, and have a deep desire to solve problems and feel compelled to act. At the same time, we crave solitude and quiet. This includes our prayer and worship time.


In studying introvert strengths and how they make me different from extroverts, I’ve learned so much. It’s no secret that introverts prefer intimate and genuine small social settings so it should come as no surprise that I, and many a fellow introvert, do not like big stadium-sized churches. Those giant, energy-filled gatherings do not feed my soul and neither does their rock-style music and hands-in-the-air worship. It all makes me uncomfortable. And that’s okay.


As “The Powerful Purpose of Introverts” author and introvert Holley Gerth writes, we introverts ask ourselves, “Why does everyone enjoy the loud music, feel the need to join a ministry group, and love going on retreats but I don’t?” In a nutshell, because it’s now how we were divinely created.


Many introverts say faith is central to their lives and find our spiritual moments while reading in a quiet place or participate in a small group study. We relate to God and draw near Him better in more intimate settings and ways. Yes of course I love going to church, but the church we attend is smaller in nature and since it’s Catholic, is not prone to what I like to call “Six Flags Over Jesus” services. And please know I’m not judging or criticizing, just observing as a good little introvert does. Those mega-churches serve a purpose and change lives. They’re just not for me.


Many who know me well are often shocked to learn that I’m a full-blown introvert. They say things like “But you’re so outgoing and fun.” Yes, I for sure can be but only around those who give me peace. I can sense it in a heartbeat and my comfort level increases immediately when I do.



Introverts often feel awkward in a crowd, especially one in which we don’t know a lot of people. We don’t feel awkward because we’re shy or stand-offish, we feel awkward because people matter to us and we are wired to connect. Just not on an arena-sized level.


Think about it, big church services feed right into an extrovert’s wheel house. They emphasize emotion and outward signs of faith, which often make introverts uncomfortable. None of it leads to happiness for us, which should be one of many goals of attending a church service.


Spiritual experiences should give us a sense of connectedness, reduce (not increase!) stress, and boost our mental health and happiness. Turns out to extroverts, “happy” is synonymous with enthusiastic, excited, and ecstatic while introverts feel “happy” when content, fulfilled, calm, engaged, peaceful, and satisfied. Modern day culture’s extroverted spin on this concept complicates things for introverts who feel best with minimal external stimulation.  Extroverts are wired to spend energy, so an active service is perfect for them, while introverts are wired to conserve energy.


Learning all this released a “light bulb” moment for me as it explained why I’m not big on retreats despite being highly faith-filled and religious and why a recent bible study I joined was ultimately not for me.


I love bible studies and was so thrilled to join one I’d heard about for years. However, as I became a regular attendee I never felt myself with the reading assignments or the discussion. I also never felt comfortable with the opening and closing praise music videos complete with standing, raised arms, and other “six flags” moments. I love and respect the women who jumped right in and I tried and I wanted to, but if I’ve learned anything about being a card-carrying introvert, it’s to never ever try to be something or someone you’re not…especially an extrovert.


Enter my new bible study that’s much more intimate and comfortable for me. If someone asked “WWJD?” the answer would be both!  In His “only Jesus could” perfect way, Jesus was most likely both an extrovert and introvert. He preached to millions but often also went away to pray quietly and alone.


And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.

Mark 1:35


Throughout the Gospels it is noted that Jesus went off for private prayer, including:

  • After the multiplication of loaves, Mark 6:46 says “He went up to the mountain to pray.”
  • “He went up into the hills to pray” after choosing His 12 apostles, as recorded in Luke 6:12.
  • Before the Transfiguration, Luke writes in 9:28 “About eight days He took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.”
  • Matthew 26:36-45; Mark 14:32-41; and Luke 22:39-46 all document that before the crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus went to pray alone.
  • As only Jesus could, He also preached what he practiced and invited the disciples (and ultimately all of us) to do the same when he instructed them: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” in Matthew 6:5-6.


Like Jesus when he’d go away to pray, introverts are often energized by solitude and recharged from the inside out and from our ideas and feelings. Our souls. It’s where we’re happy. And secure.  It’s where we find our strength.



Jesus was a quiet leader and is proof you don’t need to be an outgoing or brash extrovert to lead. Jesus, the most influential leader ever, focused mainly on just 12 people, traveled less than 200 miles from His birthplace, lived only to age 33 and spent 30 of those years in obscurity, was King of all kings but was born in a humble manger not on a throne or in a castle, and came as a baby not as an expert. Doesn’t sound like much of an extrovert to me. Can I get an Amen?!


There should be no argument that it’s more important to lead with inspired standards than inspiring personality and that sometimes silence is golden. I’m all for hanging with 12 of my closest and most loyal friends, but I can also sit and read for hours on end and am never bored when alone in my home. I take inspiration from the above examples of Jesus doing the same and from the apostle Paul who instructed, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life.”



This is somewhat easy to do as an introvert. Putting to use my analytical mind and retreating to reflect and pray give me more energy than any rock ‘n roll church service or prayer group can. Gerth writes about this and the nine “Sacred Pathways.” I lean toward the Contemplative path in that I feel closest to God through spiritual intimacy and quiet moments as well as the Intellectual one as I love to learn something new and the resulting “aha moments” about faith and God. I am also predictably in the Traditionalist pathway by loving God through rituals, symbols, repetition, and routine. They all fit the mold of an introvert’s tendency to like an orderly system, scheduling, and planning and are perfect for my cradle Catholic upbringing and life journey. If there is anything that incorporates quiet moments, repetition, and rituals, it’s a Catholic mass!


Most introverts love order and planning so perhaps a favorite scripture verse of ours should be John 13:19 in which Jesus says, “From now on I am telling you before it happens so that when it happens you may believe that I am who I am.” Nothing like giving a perpetual planner a little heads up to prevent them from becoming a doubting Thomas. I believe!



Gerth’s book has inspired and taught me so much. God doesn’t compare us to anyone else and neither should we. At some point we need to stop trying to be someone God never intended us to be and be who He carefully created.  He made me brilliantly and beautifully an introvert and I embrace it with grace. No doubt about it.



This One Takes the Cake May 1, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:51 pm

Happy month of May! Can you believe it’s already here? Boy has this year flown, especially after last year, which at this time seemed to drag on and on. Truth be told, May is one of my favorite months. I love that the weather is warm but not burning hot yet, it’s the month our daughter was born, it’s the month of Mother’s Day, and it’s the month I was born! Woohoo! I actually had her the day after my birthday and will forever consider her the best birthday present ever. My poor hubby used to lament that he’d walk into a store to buy birthday and Mother’s Day cards and come out broke. LOL.



Growing up, kids birthday celebrations weren’t the gigantic ordeals they are today. If we were lucky, we’d maybe invite a few neighbor kids over for a party of cake and cone-shaped hats. That’s it. No princess imposters. No pony rides. And we were just fine.



I was fine because my birthday meant my favorite cake: German Chocolate. My mom would always make one, complete with stacked round layers and that decadent coconut and pecan icing and mid-layer filling. To this day, it’s probably still my favorite cake, right up there with carrot cake, even though I rarely eat it and have never made one from scratch myself.


I go way back thinking of those memories and you’d think the cake itself goes way back to some small Bavarian village, but it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even originate in Germany. It all comes down to not geography, but grammar.


It’s actually more a case of a dropped possessive, so more punctuation than grammar, but this wordsmith is all over this story and I’m here to tell you that German Chocolate cake is a true blue American concoction. Its origin does however have something to do with German.


That would be Samuel German, an American by way of England. German arrived in Dorchester, Massachusetts sometime during the 1830s and met a man named Walter Baker, who owned the Walter Baker & Co. chocolate plant. German became his coachman and in 1852 perfected a recipe for a sweet and mild dark baking chocolate. German’s chocolate (do you sense an enlightenment coming?) contained more sugar than Baker’s previous version and was a hit. Up until then, a bar of chocolate was unsweetened and very bitter. Baker bought German’s recipe for $1,000 and marketed it as “Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate” which was later simply called German Sweet Chocolate by the adoring public. The simple dropping of an apostrophe explains everything. Punctuation matters!



But what about the cake itself? Not until June 3, 1957 did the cake using the chocolate appear when a recipe for it was published in the “Dallas Morning Star” as its “Recipe of the Day.” Submitted by Mrs. George Clay of Dallas, “German’s Chocolate Cake” called for an 8 ounce bar of German’s Sweet Chocolate and readers loved it. In today’s world, you’d say the recipe went viral.



By this time, the Baker’s brand was owned by General Foods, which in 1958 made the recipe available to the public in a booklet. The cake had an immediate and enthusiastic response, and requests on where to find the German’s chocolate bar were so numerous that General Foods decided to send pictures of the cake to newspapers all around the country and sales for German’s Chocolate skyrocketed. Later publications of the recipe permanently dropped the possessive and it’s remained so to this day.


As with any brilliant idea, many say the recipe was not original to Mrs. Clay, pointing out that similar cakes using buttermilk, sweet chocolate, and pecans had been popular in the south for some time. Clay is the one who submitted the recipe however, so let’s give credit where credit is due.



Regardless of who created the first ever German Chocolate Cake, we know it wasn’t someone in Germany. The cake has stood the test of time and today is still a favorite and can be found in bakeries everywhere, is just as good as a sheet cake, and boxed cake mixes make baking one a breeze. I might just have to whip one up myself!