“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
I have said this countless times since I became a parent, especially to my oldest who is still learning the concept of “filter”. We say it to combat sibling squabbles. We use it in regards to strangers (if you don’t know them, you really shouldn’t be correcting them, 3 year old daughter of mine!). And we try to instill in our kids a respect for authority which sometimes means you just need to keep your mouth shut.
But recently, I have begun to feel that we have this thing all wrong. I think we should be saying this instead…
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, then find something nice to say!”
You see, I want my kids to overflow with kindness. I want them to always find the best in others, to search for beauty, to find the joy, to be content in any situation. And I don’t feel this way just because it sounds good. Scripture commands it.
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. ~Philippians 4:8
“If you don’t have anything nice to say” can happen when our focus is on truth and what is right. There are some awful things in this world. And quite frankly, there are some awful people. There are absolutely times when we are confounded and there truly is nothing nice to say.
I’m not suggesting that we fake it. I’m not saying that we should be sickeningly sweet. And I am certainly not saying that we should be disingenuous or insincere.
But we can’t focus on truth and miss the love. Not only are we to dwell on things that are true and right, but we are to think about things that are lovely and admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Verse 9 of Philippians 4 goes on to say, “Whatever you have learned or heard or received from me or seen in me, put it into practice.”
Living out what God is working in us is an action. We’re not supposed to keep our mouths shut. Instead, we are to fill our lives with things that are lovely, so that “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” ~Matthew 12:34.
When my kids are fighting with each other, we have to take a step back and focus on the relationship. I often ask my kids, “Do you love each other?”. Even when they don’t want to, they always say, “Yes”. And my response is “than act like it!”.
This is not fake or false. It is a choice to focus on the things that are good and to respond out of that. The practice of looking for the good in others allows my children to get over the issue and seek resolution to the situation.
What if we did this as adults? Instead of holding onto our grievances, what if we sought to find the admirable and praiseworthy things? What if we could honestly say “I am struggling with this (truth), but I love this (lovely, excellent) about you?”
What if we worked harder at finding something nice to say?
I think it would change so many things. We wouldn’t be able to hold onto grudges or bitterness. We wouldn’t seek revenge for our perceived wrongs. We wouldn’t jump to conclusions or make unfair assumptions. We would be kind and gentle with others.
It sounds a lot like LOVE, doesn’t it?
The next time I start to say “If you don’t have anything nice to say”, I want to finish it with this- “then FIND something nice to say!”
You have learned so many new things lately. I find myself wanting to hold on to this time, to fix it securely in my memory, because I know I will forget. Your decade older sister is a constant reminder of how time doesn’t slow down and how memories of the baby and toddler years dim with time.
I don’t want to forget the way you say certain things. When we say “I love you”, you respond with “you too!”. If you are asked to say “thank you”, you say “much” instead. I didn’t realize how often I say “thank you very much” until you started doing this!
You say “mere” when you want someone to “come here”. You call both of your brothers “Gibsy”, you call Lindsay “Sissy” and you have finally learned to call me “Mommy” and your father “Daddy”. A dear friend of our family watches you every Thursday morning while Mommy leads a Bible study. This past Thursday, you saw her and immediately said, “Hi, Grace!” as if you have been calling her by name forever.
You love to color and want to write on everything! This is exciting for me as I wonder what the future holds for you. Your siblings all enjoy being creative, but you are the first to spend hours coloring at such a young age. You simply say “color” and we rush to get paper and crayons for you. While you have written on things that you were not supposed to (like your cousin’s homework!), you have not written on walls or furniture yet. Fingers crossed.
When it comes to stuffed animals, you are exactly like your brothers and sister. Your bed is covered with stuffies. You sleep on them and snuggle with them. I bought you a new Pinkie Pie pony this weekend and you have carried her tucked under one arm ever since.
You have opinions on every little thing. This is both endearing and exhausting at times. We have laughed several times as the book on our shelves that you seem to be drawn to the most is “The Strong Willed Child”. I hope that you will learn to balance strength with humility, that you will learn to hold opinions loosely, but pursue truth with all your heart and that you will learn the importance of loving others well.
One of my favorite things about you is how much you love our family. You will say “hug” with your arms outstretched and then proceed to give all of us hugs. Repeatedly. You are able to turn tween angst into a softened heart in record time. With one squeeze, you turn aggressive boys into kind and gentle little men. Your snuggles slow down time for your parents who have a tendency to rush from one thing to the next and need the reminder to savor the moments.
The other day, you stood in front of the mirror in our room, swaying back and forth to your own music, and it struck me. When do women lose the wonder of themselves, the beauty of who God created them to be? When do we focus on the things that we don’t like, rather than seeing all of the things that we do like? When do we stop dancing without inhibition and start trying to fit into a box labelled insecurity?
I look at you, my sweet Demi girl and I pray for you that you would not lose this sense of wonder when you look in the mirror. I pray that you would not only see yourself as your family sees you, but more importantly as your Heavenly Father sees you. I pray that you would always move to your own music, because it is delightful to watch you.
I don’t want to forget.
Sometimes we will watch a movie as a family and inevitably you will dance during the credits. The rest of us will join you and follow your moves, which simply means that we all look a bit ridiculous and we end up in piles of laughter. You have brought a level of happiness to our family that we didn’t even know was possible.
Somewhere along the way, you learned to say “Ew, gross!” complete with a body shudder. My best bet is that you learned this from observing your tween sister, but regardless of where you picked this up, it makes me laugh every single time.
The other night, you had a horrible stuffed nose and cough and I woke up to your screams. And so, we slept on the couch together, you laying on my chest, box of tissues close, so that I could wipe your nose throughout the night. I didn’t get much sleep, yet I treasured that time. It might have been the last time that you snuggled with me through an entire night and while I am a girl who loves her sleep, these times are so precious to me. YOU are precious to me.
In a few short weeks, you will turn 2 years old. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will continue to learn and to grow, but in the midst of that learning and growing, I hope that you will know how much you are loved and adored. By all of us!
I have told you many of the things that you say on a regular basis, but do you know what my favorite one is? You have learned to say, “I’m adorable”, but when you say it, it comes out “I dorable”.
Yes, you are, sweet thing. Yes, you are.
All my love,
The words haven’t been coming lately. Even when I have a few moments to sit down with my computer and write, it just doesn’t happen. I have written approximately 322 blog posts in my head, but for some reason, the words won’t come out on the screen.
Part of this is due to the fact that I am tired. Weary really. I have grown weary of the blogging world, the try-hard-to-get-noticed aspect of it. I don’t want to build a platform. I don’t want to grow “my tribe”. I don’t want to worry about numbers.
I do want to pour into others and to be poured into in return. I want to invite a friend over for coffee and not worry about how that will affect “the schedule”. I want friends and family as well as acquaintances to know that I mean it when I say I’m not busy. I don’t want to be viewed as influential or not influential. I don’t want my “success”as a blogger to be determined by how others define me.
The opinions of others can become a siren call, but my heart longs for the freedom of pleasing Jesus only. I want my story to be written by the Author and Perfecter of my faith, not by critics or naysayers.
I’m tired of expecting others to reciprocate. I just want to write and not worry about who reads my words.
I started writing in this space because I felt compelled to do so. My heart has always longed for God’s glory, but along the way, I have grown distracted. I have been tempted to pursue my own ends.
I’m done with that.
But I’m not done with writing. And I hope you aren’t done with reading. Because I am a girl who thrives on relationship. I feel squashed by numbers and trying to earn attention. That drains me dry. But real, honest, genuine community? I’m all in.
I hope you are too. Because I kind of like you a lot.
It’s a question I ask myself on a daily basis. Every time I make lunches, prepare snacks, plan dinner. Are my kids eating enough of the healthy stuff? Every time I say no to video games and yes to rollerblading. Are my kids active enough? Every time I encourage my kids to create, to make music, to play with play dough or paint. Are they inspired to reach for their dreams? Every time we pray together, read God’s Word, sing a worship song. Are they falling in love with Jesus?
Raising healthy kids is not an exact science. Sometimes I wish it was! Do this and they’ll turn out as healthy adults.
Raising healthy kids is an art and in my better moments, I remember that it’s a process. It’s a journey and for some reason, God chose me and their Daddy to be the tour guides. Which means that raising healthy kids looks like their parents seeking to be healthy as well.
My tendency is to focus on one thing and forget that health is not relegated to the physical or the spiritual or the emotional. Health involves the whole person. Some days, I feel like I am playing Whack-a-Mole. I have one area covered and another issue pops up.
Raising healthy kids doesn’t just happen by hoping that it will. It takes work (all the good things do!).
So what do we do about it?
In our family, we have decided to stop waiting for perfect and start by taking small steps in the right direction. In regards to food, I am working at planning meals, so that we eat more home cooked meals and less fast food/delivery. I try to make lunches every day, but don’t stress if we run out of time and the kids have to buy lunch at school. I am also working at offering healthy snack options to the kids and having “sweets” be a treat rather than a norm.
Our kids love to play outside, but it has been a hard winter. Setting a healthy example for them looks like their Daddy joining a gym and their Mommy running laps around the house. It looks like playing Just Dance on the Kinect and doing family stretches. We can’t wait for bike rides to start again!!!
Creativity abounds in our house. Discipline does not. And so, we have to work on this. This means that we have instituted chores and regular homework time, so that our kids are learning that living inspired lives is not just doing whatever you want. It is understanding that the practice and the mundane parts of life set the foundation for the excitement that comes from pursuing dreams. This looks like Daddy doing administrative work, so that he can fulfill his dreams of preaching and teaching. This looks like Mommy doing dishes and laundry before I write or create.
Spiritual health might be the most difficult aspect of health to measure. Spiritual growth depends on so many factors. Maturity. Experiences. Response to difficulties. Deeper trust in God. We can’t manufacture situations to help our children grow, but we can be faithful in growing ourselves. For us, this looks like personal devotion time. It involves listening to Christian music in the car. It includes scripture memorization. We talk about how our love for God should impact every area of our lives. Just as a day doesn’t go by without seeking to be healthy physically, a day doesn’t go by without seeking to be healthy spiritually. It is as normal to us as breathing. And this isn’t just because we are a pastor’s family. It is because we are a Christian family.
In sharing all of this, I want to be clear about something. I firmly believe that raising healthy kids will look different for every family. Too often we can feel the pressure to look like another family instead of seeking to be the family that God has made us to be. We are working on eating more fruits and vegetables, but our family will never be vegetarian. We have workout plans, but I don’t see any marathons in our future (not ruling out the kiddos though!). We have passions and dreams, but they are ministry driven, not financially driven. And though our relationships with God are our highest priority, we all have a lot of growing to do in this area.
Raising healthy kids is a journey, but I am thankful for the one we are on. I’m grateful for grace along the way and the reality that seeking health isn’t about perfection, but about pursuing it.