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Last week I read an eye opening article.  The article was on literacy and children.  A study points to something other than sight words and alphabet recognition to literacy success.
Kate-Koch Sundquist writes, "The best indicator of future success as a reader is actually a child’s ability to use invented spelling as he writes."
My eyes widened.  I was expecting to read that parents reading to their children daily was the key.  Or perhaps an exposure to wide variety of books. I wasn't expecting to be reading about inventive spelling.
My mind instantly pictured Moriah, my four year old.
Golden head bent over she focuses long on a drawing and usually includes letters that seem out of order to summarize what she has drawn.
She comes to me with her story.  She usually asks me to read what she has written.  I smile and think of how I'll correctly read her collection of letters.  They are usually real letters, but they are definitely out of order. Sometimes I can decipher the words. Many times I smile and say, "You read it to me." And she always knows what it says. She takes the letter she knows and uses her skills to build her story.  She's happy with what she hands me.
I never knew this skill was valuable.  According to Kate-Koch Sundquist, "Invented spelling refers to a young child’s beginning attempts to spell words. Using what they know and understand about letters and writing, children who use invented spelling are encouraged to create their own spellings based on their own phonetic knowledge. As their phonetic knowledge grows, their invented spellings become more and more similar to actual word spellings."

A few days after reading this article Moriah came to my room with a new story and picture to illustrate.  I viewed this as a new opportunity. Like I was witnessing a small miracle at her four year old tries at drawing and then narrating with her own words.  I savored watching her small hands trace over her words and tell me what they were.
This seemingly insignificant attempt at writing meant something different now.

Learning to recognize letters by writing down Crayola colored words is Moriah trying. Can she read perfectly now? No way. But all those oversized 'A's and funny looking Rs she is splattering all over computer paper with her own works of art will one day pave the way.
The little tries add up, even in their imperfect state.
Like the term Lysa TerKeurst coined, imperfect progress.
Most progress is imperfect.
Sometimes it seems like what we have in our lives is a page of words that don't add up and no one else can read. Our tries seem more like fails than steps to success.
We quickly see others with scrutiny as well.  We see all the ways they don't spell perfectly yet.  We don't often smile at all the good they have on their paper, but frown at what doesn't read smoothly...yet.

Relationships are filled with imperfect tries.  Lots of little tries and big ones strung together.
I like what Maria Goff says about relationships, " They involve pushing through difficult circumstances. Taking the next step is the best medicine to recovering when we are feeling less than whole.  Will we get it perfectly? Of course not." (Let Love Win)
Do you easily want to give up because your progress seems so imperfect? Filled with lots of eraser marks and wishes for do overs?
Do you never start things for fear that your tries can't add up to a finish? Or any kind of success?
Maybe we think like I did about my girls barely legible writings.  Something so far from perfect isn't what I pictured this would be like. Dwelling on those kind of thoughts lead to doubt.  Maybe I should have never started in the first place. Failing to see all the good that is there and majoring on what isn't right yet....
That's what life really does look like up close. It takes a persevering spirit and gallons of grace to cover all the cracks and fill the holes.
 Maria Goff  writes specifically about marriage but true of all our lives, "Our marriages are never really completed.  We work on them for a lifetime and then lay them down at Jesus' feet."
That's what we do for our lifetime really. Married or not.  Whatever our situation.  If we want to succeed and live a life of passion, meaning, and purpose we will keep trying and falling and rising and then learning from the cycle. Through all of this we will becoming the better versions of ourselves. Like Moriah, I'm learning to read. To correctly read the story of my life. And I've left out lots of letters and misspelled many pages.  So many errors.
Yet...this new day is a fresh page and what I'm writing today with my life is more important than what I wrote in the past. Maybe all those incomplete and typo ridden pages will produce a better page now.
I want to be willing to try the new things that God hands me to do. I want to not give up on life when my tries look like giant mistakes and lots of misspells.
I want to remember the power of every single simple day and my opportunity to try today.


  1. "The little tries add up." I love that! Thank you for reminder that nothing is wasted as we lay all of our attempts at Jesus' feet!

  2. Great post! I agree, it is easy to be discouraged when things don't seem perfect instead of recognising the progress. Those imperfect tries are all important steps forward.

  3. My son is in 4th grade and struggles with reading and I am having to learn Patience and to go slow and not, do it for him or get frustrated. So this is what I am trying to do this week. Have a great day.

  4. Imperfect Progress...Summer, this is BEAUTIFUL!

    What a lovely post on the halting and stumbling path upon which we all walk. Thank you for this1

  5. That's so interesting! I remember years ago, when a friend was in labor and I was watching her older daughter, that the little one was obsessed with writing her name. She knew the letters, but couldn't yet get them in the right order. I had no idea that this was a good thing.

    Thank you for sharing the phrase "imperfect progress" with me. I'd not heard it before, and it's something I need to really think about and pray over. - Marie (

  6. Somer,
    I love the photos of Moriah! What a beautiful picture of our progress as you share her artistry with letters with us. It's so true that we have to keep trying and moving forward and as we experience small steps of imperfect progress, we're growing and we don't even realize it. Until one day, our stories make perfect sense as seen from God's perspective and we see something beautiful in the making! Sending love to you! xoxo


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