Dear Children of Mine,
I love memorizing scripture with you. “Go, but only do what I tell you”. “Do not be anxious about anything”. “Be beautiful inside, in your hearts”. “Call to me and I will answer you”. “I can do all things through Christ”.
We have memorized many Bible verses through the years (although we are not so great with the references!), but my favorite part of memorizing scripture is seeing how God teaches you and changes your hearts as a result. Our most recent verse has accomplished this very thing.
Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing. ~Proverbs 12:18
It has been interesting for me to see how I don’t need to convince you about the truth of this proverb. You have experienced reckless words and you have been pierced by them. You have also experienced words that bring life and healing. You know that when you aren’t thinking about what you are saying, you can hurt others, but when you take time to really think about the person to whom you are speaking, you can choose to use your words wisely.
Our words are powerful. We can use them to build others up or to tear them down. As I have been contemplating the words that we use, four words have jumped out at me, words that I do not want you to use. They are reckless words and when used thoughtlessly, they have potential to hurt and to damage others, to pierce like a sword.
Can we agree to work them out of our vocabulary? Maybe I should tell you what they are first? Okay. Here we go!
You use it when you are joking around and I hear you using it for dramatic effect. But we need to ask ourselves, does this word build others up or tear them down? “Stupid” is a hurtful word whether we use it to describe a person, an inanimate object or even ourselves. It is a critical word, putting ourselves in the position of judge. It makes others feel like they are “less than”. Maybe we use it because we are trying to make ourselves feel better, but if that is the case, we will find that the piercing sword is also ripping us apart. Any time you try to find satisfaction or validation in anything other than God, you will be left with gaping wounds.
Stupid is an ugly word. It is derogatory. It is reckless and it tears down, rather than building up. So, can we agree? No more “stupid” in our house? Good.
Unless you are describing a valid physical condition, this word is hurtful. Once again, it puts us in the position of judge and jury. It doesn’t live up to my expectations? Lame! You don’t have the same preferences as me? Lame!
There will be times when you experience something truly remarkable and then you will look back on something that you thought was amazing, but now it appears, well, not so amazing. And you will be tempted to think, oh, that is so lame! But here’s the thing. Your friends might not have experienced that remarkable thing and so they still love the thing that you now consider to be lame. All of a sudden, you have alienated a friend through your reckless words. For what? To express that you have better taste? “Lame” pierces like a sword. It does not bring healing. Don’t use it!
Unless you are referring to one of your beautiful sisters, please don’t use the word “sissy”. It is meant to be derogatory. In this culture where we value strength and courage, there is a tendency to see anything that falls short of our standard as being weak. And sometimes when boys are trying to be strong, they are tempted to make fun of others who might not be as strong physically.
But using words like “sissy” will only make you a bully. We should never, ever put others down to make ourselves somehow feel better. I want you to be the type of kids who encourage others to be strong, not the ones who put others down to feel good about themselves.
There will be times when this word is used appropriately (as in the person who comes in last place is the loser), but “loser” has become a word used to put others down. It is used recklessly and flippantly, but never to build others up. It is another ugly word that becomes too easy to use if we don’t make the decision not to use it.
Sweet ones, you will hear many people that you admire using these words, so I want you to know that it is not your responsibility to correct what others say. It is also not your place to judge others for what they say or don’t say.
It IS your responsibility to use your words in a way that brings healing. This is my desire for you, to speak life, to speak love.
In the process of writing this letter, I said something that we have deemed off limits in our family. And Ethan, you corrected me. I share this, because I want you to remember that Mommy is on a journey too. I often use words recklessly and for effect. I have a lot of growing to do and I just want to be completely clear about that.
God uses each one of you to make me more like Him.
I love you all to the waxing crescent and back,
Linking with a community of writers who are writing on the prompt “Word. Speech. Language”. Feel free to join in at Kirsten Oliphant’s place.
I am fully aware that it is not Thursday. It has been that kind of week. Motivation has been elusive, but I am compelled to share this post and in this case better late than never is certainly appropriate.
The Journey Begins
Our family has always had many traditions that surround the Advent season~ the time leading up to Christmas. Every year, we read The Advent Book and by Christmas day, our kids have memorized huge portions of scripture. It has become a rich and meaningful time for our family. Our traditions have helped us to focus on Christ and the true meaning of Christmas.
A few years ago, it struck me as odd that while we have wonderful Christmas traditions, our Easter traditions are sadly lacking. We had established some fun traditions, but I was longing for the same depth of meaning, the same richness that we experienced at Christmastime. After all, as a Christian, the Resurrection story is of utmost significance. Without Jesus’ death, there would be no reconciliation with God, no redemption for our sins. And if he did not rise from the dead, his death would be meaningless. He would just be another good teacher.
The story of Easter is the foundation for our faith and so I was left with many questions. Why do we seem to place such little significance on Jesus’ resurrection? How can I teach my children to embrace the sorrow as well as the overwhelming victory of this story?
As my husband and I discussed this, we made the decision to practice Lent with our family. Neither one of us had grown up with this tradition, but the ritual of The Advent Book had taught us the value of a discipline, especially in the training of our children.
Practicing Lent was an experiment for us. We decided as a family that we would not watch television or movies during the 40 days leading up to Easter. It ended up being easier than we had expected it to be. Turns out our family loves playing and reading together. Upon reflection, we decided that giving up something was not enough, or at least it didn’t fully accomplish the hopes we had for the Lenten season.
The Journey Continues
During this time, I was reading two blogs of moms who had the same hearts for their children, women desiring to be deliberate in sharing the truth of scripture with their children. One was Amanda who writes at ohamanda.com, the other was Heather who writes at heatherhaupt.com. Both of these bloggers share wonderful, God-honoring activities to teach our kids to know Christ. Our family has adopted several of their ideas and our Easter traditions have become fuller and more meaningful as a result.
Amanda will be releasing a Resurrection story e-book hopefully next week. I will share it with you when she does, because I can’t wait to get my hands on it. And I’m pretty sure Heather has been involved with this book in some way. (On a side note- this is one of my most favorite aspects of the Christian blogging world- the way bloggers encourage one another to pursue the opportunities that God puts in their path. It is a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of!)
These activities with the kids were wonderful, but God was stirring things up in my own heart. How can I teach my children to love Jesus, to pursue Him, to know Him more if I am not being intentional about this same pursuit? What might God want to teach me through His Word and how should I model His truth to my little ones?
My Lenten Journey
Last year, a dear friend of mine who I met through the blogging world (Nicole- you will love her!) shared a newly released book. The title of the book captured my attention. Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement. I immediately purchased the book and then devoured it, trying to slow down my pace, so I could actually work through it over the 40 days of Lent. It is not a day by day devotional book, but it was exactly what God intended for my heart. I wrote about my Lenten journey last year. God certainly took me through a period of refining. But as hard as it was, my words continue to wring true-
The path grew beautiful as I discovered anew that this refining is all about the glory of God. He is at work in each one of us, accomplishing what we cannot do ourselves, so that His name would be praised.
This year, Lent begins on Wednesday, March 5th. Once again, I will be reading “Holey, Wholly, Holy” by Kris Camealy and I am anticipating working through the Companion Workbook that Kris released this year. The description of the workbook says that this book is “for anyone who wants to grow in their faith and be renewed in their passion and purpose of bringing glory to God”. Perhaps this describes you too? I would love for you to join me! My best friend, my husband, will be working through the books with me and this thrills my heart. God is working in our hearts as individuals, as a couple and as parents.
While my Lenten journey will always be personal, I am aware that my refining is not just about me. It is ultimately about bringing glory to God, but it affects my children and how I intentionally lead them. It affects my husband and how well I love him. It affects my relationships and the way I treat others. And it affects you, my readers, because my words will change as God continues to do his work on me.
Do you practice Lent? What had God taught you through it? Will you be joining me this year?
I was 21 years old before I was actually dating someone when Valentine’s Day rolled around. But as my luck would have it, my boyfriend ended up having knee surgery on February 14th. I went out for dinner with one of his best friends instead, but we will save that story for another day!
By the time we got to Valentine’s Day the following year, my boyfriend and I had been dating over a year. In that year, we made it through a near break up and through it all had discovered something beautiful- we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. As a result, I had high expectations for Valentine’s Day. I was in love! This meant I would finally get the cards, the roses and the chocolate, right?
Well, maybe not.
His hand was warm in mine as we walked the familiar streets. We had walked them a hundred times together, but on this night, I was crying. I wanted to spend the evening with the man I loved. Instead, he was walking with me to the home where I would spend the evening babysitting. This did not fit my idea of the perfect Valentines celebration.
I tried to smile as he kissed me, telling me he would be there in a few short hours to pick me up, but I was miserable. I did my best to love on the little ones who were in my care, but I doubt I was the best babysitter that night. I counted down the hours until bedtime. And then I counted down the minutes until the parents returned home. I couldn’t get in the elevator quickly enough and was thrilled to see my favorite person waiting exactly where he said he would be.
Once again, we walked down the familiar streets hand in hand, but this time my heart felt lighter and he had a knowing smile on his face. As we got closer to the place where I knew we would say goodnight, he reached into his pocket and pulled out…
…a cassette tape! He noticed my confusion and encouraged me to read the front cover. This is when I discovered the best Valentine’s gift I have ever received.
The entire time I was babysitting and wallowing in my disappointment, he was recording a song that he wrote for me.
After saying goodnight (because our Bible college had girls and boys dorms as well as a curfew!), I stumbled up to my room to listen to his song.
His song told me the story of his evening. While I was making macaroni and cheese, he was browsing through Valentine’s cards, trying to find one that would perfectly express his love for me. But he couldn’t find any and so he gave up and decided to write a song instead. Because he realized that he could say it better himself and he knew how much I loved to hear him play guitar.
While I counted down hours, he was counting beats in a measure, weaving notes in beautiful chord progressions.
While I allowed myself to be disappointed by unmet expectations, he demonstrated the ability to make the most of any situation.
For the second time that night, I found myself in tears, but this time it was because I had learned a lesson about what love truly means. His song was a lesson in selflessness, in letting go of expectations and in seeking to love another in meaningful ways. His song Be My Valentine, is timeless. Roses have been thrown away through the years, too much chocolate has been eaten and cards end up taking up space.
But his gift of song lives on.
The Best Serenade!
I’m not sure why, but I have struggled a great deal with writing this post. But I am choosing to publish it even though it is not exactly what I wish it to be. I am doing this as part of a new and growing writing community hosted by the lovely Kirsten Oliphant. This weeks prompt was “Song”.
“Mommy, I was angry”, he said, an explanation of sorts for the state of his room.
His big blue eyes got a little teary as he followed up with, “I’m sorry”.
I gave him a hug, thanked him for the apology and then told him that he would need to clean his room when he got home from school. Because he needs to learn the consequences- when you make a mess, you have to clean it up.
“We all get angry sometimes, but we have to learn how to control it,” I said to my boy. And then I turned around and saw my room.
I was angry this morning too. Angry at the socks on our floor that don’t have a match. Angry that I couldn’t find a pair of underwear in my drawer, so I dumped a load of laundry on the bed. Angry that we still have two empty suitcases in our room. Angry that I can’t take those suitcases to the basement because of continued flooding issues.
And all of those irritants were on top of other frustrations. We had a wonderful winter break, but as the kids were getting ready to walk out the door today to get on the bus for school, we discovered that Ethan had neglected to tell us that he had a homework packet he was supposed to complete. It made me angry.
And then Ainsley wouldn’t eat her cereal and I needed to make lunches and Lindsay needed me to sign a paper and… the list goes on.
I was angry.
I talk a lot in this space about leaving a legacy for my children, about this desire to be intentional in how I teach my kids. But the truth is that my kids not only see the awesome things that I do, they also see the ugly. They see when their mama gets angry. They see me toss laundry across my bed. They see me toss it back into a basket instead of putting it away.
Oh, I wish it wasn’t this way. I wish I was a mom who had it all together, all the time. I wish they could see me demonstrate grace and love in all circumstances.
I would love for them to learn from my brilliant moments, but to ignore my disasters.
But this is part of my legacy too.
Will I fail? Absolutely. But can I remind them that God never fails? Yes, I can.
Will I get angry? More often than I would like to. But can I demonstrate a contrite heart and ask for forgiveness? Yes, I can.
Will I always have it all together? No, in fact I probably won’t ever have it all together. But will my kids be comfortable sharing their struggles and difficulties with their imperfect mama? I hope so!
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
~2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV
When you are angry, His grace is sufficient for you.
May the power of Christ rest upon you and on me!