Square One

Which direction to take?  I will turn, do a little hopscotch, and go back to square number one – the genesis of Madeline Eatenton, so to speak.

It all began somewhere around five years ago, when I signed up for a study with a group of women.  It was on the subject of biblical womanhood.  I thought that I knew this stuff, but a refresher would be good for me, and I brought my daughter along, thinking that this would benefit her. Within the first week, my eyes were opened and my mind was blown.  This would end up being the most life changing, and relationship healing study that I’d ever participated in.

I was this woman who had been born in 1963, the same time that the women’s lib movement was gaining energy.  What I discovered over forty years later, would be that the process of growing up during this time, had slowly shaped and molded my thinking.  The “you go girl – don’t let a man hold you back” worldview had permeated my mind, and it had also made its way into the Church. It was simple – men were to blame for the unhappiness and unfulfillment of women, and women weren’t going to take it any longer.  The answer to the dilemma?  Throw everything male and female up into the air, and let the pieces fall where they may.

This study was different.  It didn’t focus on the roles typically assigned to males and females.  Instead, it took us back to creation and defined the God given characteristics given to a man and to a woman.  As I worked through this study, I was actually overwhelmed as I uncovered the various areas of my life that had been adversely affected by my under-cover feminist attitudes.  My marriage, parenting, friendships, career, ministries – all tainted in some way.  Why?  Because I was competing with the men in my life.  I was competing instead of completing.  I was convicted, but with conviction comes confession, and then freeing transformation. This woman would begin a new journey.  With God instructing me, I would begin the work of examining my attitudes, words and actions.  I would kick the habit of competing with the men in my life, and instead, I would eventually learn to love my God-given femininity.  I am a designer model.  I am specially designed by my Creator to be a soft helper, responsive to the needs of others, and to be a nurturer.  I am specially designed to be woman and to be fulfilled by it.

It’s a shift in thinking isn’t it?  For a shift in thinking to pay off, we also need a shift in actions and words.  For me, I must continually be asking myself hard questions.  The following is a list that I’ve compiled for myself.

 

>Is my demeanor loud and ruthless, or am I soft and pleasant to deal with?

>Do I attempt to control, manipulate or trick other human beings, or do I respect and honor the individuality of others?

>Do I admit when I’m wrong, and do I take responsibility and offer a genuine apology when I’ve wronged someone?

>Do I let other people into my life, and do I rely on them when needed, or am I too independent?

>Do I live in a way that I have extra time, energy and resources to share with others outside of my household?

>Do I believe that being a wife, mother and homemaker is as important as any paid job?

>Do I lead with sex toward men that aren’t my husband?

>Am I defiant, self-willed, self-centered or selfish, or am I cooperative, giving preference to others?

>Do I compete with the men in my life, or do I see myself as a helper, completer?

>Do I resent when others need me, or do I embrace my role as helper and nurturer?

 

These questions revolve around my character, and they don’t place me in a box marked “stereotypical roles for a female”.  I’m really good at handling money, so I handle our finances.  I’m strong in the area of administration and negotiation, so I handle quite a lot of business matters.  You get the point.  On the other hand, my husband is a fantastic cook, and he’s been known to do a load of laundry, run the vacuum, and bring me a cup of tea.

I’ve committed to live out the rest of my life as the feminine woman that God intended me to be – God’s kind, gentle, forgiving and compassionate daughter.  Since making this shift, I’ve seen amazing benefits in my relationships, and it’s very liberating to no longer be fighting for power or position in my work, ministries or other interactions, and I still have a voice and I’m still strong.  True femininity – this is where real girl power exists.

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Lending More Than Your Ear

Listening is a craft, and it involves so much more than simply hearing.  Some are fantastic listeners, but most of us could improve our skills to effectively listen, and demonstrate empathy toward others.

 

We may lack confidence in our ability to speak well, but have you ever considered that listening well makes you a far better communicator?  Listening can be a way to demonstrate that you put others first.  As long as listening is not for the purposes of plotting, scheming or searching for a chink in someone’s armor, it is a selfless action to listen, rather than to be heard.  When a person needs someone to listen, they need someone to lighten and share their burdens.  Their mind unlocks, and burdens begin to ease as they feel that another human being cares for them.  You have helped them to pour out their confusion and overwhelm, and now they can gain clarity.  Since this is so important, let’s look at a few of the most crucial aspects of good listening technique.

 

>Concentrate on what is being said, instead of how you will respond.  Most of us tend to hear while we are actively thinking about our response, or how we can relate to what is being said.  Instead, completely focus on what they communicate.

>Let them speak without interruption.  Interjecting your questions or thoughts, causes them to feel as though they didn’t complete their story.  They feel cut off.  If you’re concerned about forgetting questions or points that you would like to make, try jotting down some reminders.

>Don’t finish someone’s sentences or help them find a word, unless they ask for help.  They don’t feel helped, they feel interrupted.

>When they’ve finished telling their entire story, it’s time for you to jump in.  If they are looking for advice, here is where you may offer it.  If they are not looking for advice, but are instead trying to problem solve or gain clarity, try drawing them out with open-ended questions.  Asking questions is also a great non-confrontational way to help someone see error in their thinking, and they are more likely to come to conclusions without feeling judged.

>A pleasant and relaxed smile with natural eye contact, will communicate your sincerity, empathy and engagement.  Be aware of your head nodding.  Nodding gives an impression of agreement.  If this is not the impression that you want to communicate, then make an effort to control that.

>Summarize what you’ve heard.  This is your opportunity to prove that you have been actively listening, and that they have been heard.

>Be patient and understanding.  They may need to tell the same story repeatedly.  They are working through things, and for some, this is very helpful.

>Finally, make sure to follow up with them.  This demonstrates your sincerity, and that they are not out of sight – out of mind.  Knowing that someone truly cares, removes feelings of loneliness.

 

Let’s look at another type of listening.  Listening to someone who is upset with us.  Too often, we feel the need to defend ourselves, or make excuses.  God’s word gives us helpful guidance in this area.  James 1:19 says “so then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”.  Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger”.  As difficult as it is, a confrontational situation can be defused by following these very simple words.  Arguing or making excuses for yourself, will further inflame.  It is wiser to listen, and then take it to prayer, allowing God to show you the truth.

 

Listening is so much more than hearing.  When we really listen, we are fully engaged.  We hear, but we also see the other person’s emotional state, and we feel compassion and empathy.  One of the most powerful ways to minister to another human being, is simply listening to them.  Most people don’t need someone to solve their problems – they need someone to listen.  When we give our time, and make the effort to really listen, we lighten the burdens of another human being.  Most of us won’t get this completely right every time, but try putting a few of these tips into practice every time that you have the opportunity.

Tainted Opinion

It plays in the mind, something like this:  He’s speaking today? – I don’t want to listen to that Pastor – he handled my friend’s situation so badly.  She’s here? – I don’t like her – she hurt my friend.  I don’t want to sit here – that person sits nearby.  I won’t be his friend – I’ve heard he’s not a man of integrity.  In the mind, clouds hang over this person, but there are two things in common with each scenario.  First, these tainted opinions are not based on personal experience, and second, they are opinions formed after having heard only one side of the story.  Proverbs 18:17 says, that any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight.  Unfortunately, a lot of damage is done in the meantime.

 

I submit that while another’s reputation is being destroyed, often the destroyer believes that they are fully justified, or that no one is really getting hurt.  I also submit that usually, a liar completely believes their own lies, and that they are extremely skilled, and can be very convincing.  Lastly, I submit that these influences always hurt – always.  Whether the subject ever knows or not, they have been discredited, and at the very least, they will wonder why other people treat them the way that they do.

 

If your ears hear a negative word, or your eyes see a negative expression, a red flag should go up.  Immediately begin asking yourself questions.  Do I have the entire story?  Does this match up with my own personal experience with this person?  Do I even have a personal experience with this person?  Does the person that is influencing your opinion, stand to gain something by swaying you?  You’ll need to dismiss attempts to negatively influence your opinion.  You’ll need to give the subject person a chance to live out their own representation of who they really are.  What’s the best way to stop the contamination from spreading?  Simply cast it away, and then the next time that you have the opportunity, open your heart and mind to the slandered person, or allow your previous high opinion of them shine through, and be your influencer.

Friend of Comfort

The one that you trusted so much, was untrustworthy with your heart, and now they are your lost one.  It feels safer to climb up onto a shelf and watch life, rather than allowing someone else into your heart again.  So many tell you to move on, or get over it, or their words communicate their thoughts of “why are you still hurting”?  Whether platonic or romantic, your lost one, possesses a piece of your heart, and you have a piece of theirs.  That aching that you feel from time to time, is the void that was left in your heart, when they left your life.

 

Hopefully as you learn to trust again, a friend of comfort will come into your life.  They won’t be able to fill the void that the other one left, but that’s alright, because they will make their own special home in your heart.

 

How will you recognize a Friend of Comfort?  They won’t tell you to get over it, because they might have a void in their heart from a lost one, and they might still be hurting.  They will understand and be patient with you, when you grieve.  They will tell you kind things, like when you feel a tugging on your heart, it is your lost one tugging from wherever they are, and that they must be remembering and missing you, because you played such a special part in their life.  They will remind you that rebuilding after an emotional storm, is a process.  They will encourage you when you’ve seen your lost one, or heard from them, and feel as though all of the rebuilding that you’ve done, has been for nothing.  They will see that you are strong and compassionate, and they will tell you so.  They will see that you are special and beautiful, and they will make sure that you believe it.  They will see that you have a heart that can comfort, because it knows pain.

 

I have been blessed with friends of comfort entering my life, and this post is dedicated to them.  Each one has played a very special part in rebuilding me, after the storms that have hit in my life.  They each are a piece to my puzzle, and this has become a beautiful puzzle.  Some are sensitive.  Some are quirky.  Some are hilarious.  All are smart, honest, loyal and fun to have in my life.  They persist in telling me that I’m special.  They have proven to me that I am worthy and deserving of having true and loyal friends, that also have the capacity to give back to me.  I’m just so thankful for each one of them.

 

Come on down from that shelf.  You’ve learned a lot about who to trust, and how to trust.  There is a friend of comfort waiting, because they need a friend of comfort too, and that might be you.

 

2  Corinthians 1:3-4 All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the source of every mercy, and He comforts us.  He comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort others.  When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort that God has given us.

“Look for the Helpers”

I’ve watched quite a bit of news these last several weeks.  Way more than I usually do.  The news turns me off – too much fact spinning and ugliness.  I’ve watched because, I was either concerned about those dealing with the hurricanes, or those dealing with wildfires and the dangerous air quality issues resulting from the smoke.  The news is depressing, but then I happened to see a great interview.  Do you remember Fred Rogers from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood?  He was talking about something that he’d learned from his dear mother.  She taught him that whenever scary things happen, “look for the helpers – they’re always there”.  Yes, they are Mrs. Rogers, and I very much appreciate those words today.

 

Yes, disasters bring out the worst in human nature, but they also bring out the best.  Neighbors banding together to help a woman in a high-risk pregnancy and the worst of conditions, to safely deliver her baby.  A man using his jet-ski to evacuate others to safety.  The families of first responders, having to deal with the disaster and worry alone, because their loved one must go and serve their community.  A man giving the last generator to a woman who needed it for her oxygen tank dependent father.  Medical and mental health personnel, putting their lives on hold, to be deployed to deal with the aftermath of disasters.

 

America.  When disaster strikes, there is no question of whether or not someone deserves assistance.  They aren’t asked about their religious beliefs, or political views.  The color of skin isn’t a factor.  We aren’t who the political machine says that we are.  We need not believe the loud voice, that says we are weak minded, and that words can destroy us.  We are brave enough to help each other, and selfless enough to sacrifice for each other, and tough enough to listen to each other, and we can be respectful when we disagree with each other.  We are Americans.

A Little Bubble, Perk and Joy

She’s a bit bubbly, and she smiles a lot too.  When she was a little girl, her Daddy nicknamed her “Smiley”.  Her life isn’t perfect, and she doesn’t always feel happy.  She has just as many heartaches, struggles and challenges as the next woman, but she was created with a perky personality, and she can usually find the bright side, in most situations.  Sometimes she even laughs through her tears. She has felt self-conscience about these traits, but she is arriving at a place where she accepts, and even values the positive aspects of her personality.  Who is this woman? It’s ME – Madeline Eatenton.

 

Hello, I am Bubbly, and my bubble, perk and joy isn’t always tolerated well by other women.  I am sure that I’ve annoyed a few women, and sometimes women just don’t like me at all.  Some of these women were created with a personality that is more subdued, and as for the others – your guess is as good as mine. I will call the subdued woman, Somber.  Somber is akin to a regal feline, perched high.  Her demeanor is reserved.  Bubbly is a bouncy, energetic, friendly puppy that just wants to play.  She could be friends with almost anyone.  Somber doesn’t really understand Bubbly, but if she gives her a chance, they can teach each other great lessons about life.  I now have women friends that fit into the somber category.  They are open to my bubble.  We appreciate each other and our differences.  I value their influence greatly, and I believe that they value mine.

 

For my fellow Bubbles – a Somber may have difficulty relating to you, but she’s still open to the possibility.  Beware of another type of woman that doesn’t understand you – she may have a somber demeanor, but she has already decided that you won’t be entering her life.  She will use various tactics and behaviors to make you feel disliked and unwelcome, and her manipulation can be so powerful, that you might believe that you are the problem.

 

Women of all personalities, shapes and sizes are sisters.  We understand each other, and relate in ways that only sisters can.  We can value each other, and realize that there is something to learn from other types of women.  Instead of being turned off by a personality type, try examining her integrity.  Is she open, kind, giving, honest and non-manipulative?  If so, let her add her own unique brand of personality to your life.

 

Fellow bubbly: you and I must learn to temper our effervescence just a little, at least until we know whether it’s safe to pop the cork, and let the bubbly flow.  Remember, when another woman doesn’t accept you, it is not about you.  She may be dealing with her own insecurities, heart issues, emotional difficulties, mental illness, or at the very least, she simply isn’t able to understand you.  You will learn to recognize the men and women that appreciate you for who you are – that Bubbly that naturally exudes a little sparkle and joy.

Deep Within

I am your greatest earthly treasure, but you’ve placed me upon a shelf. You pour yourself into things, that will be tossed away tomorrow. Look at me! Strangers, acquaintances and friends affirm me for a season, but you don’t see my gifts. Look at me! You see my adornments and your hands and lips examine the jewels, but you don’t see my heart and mind. Look at me! You praise my efforts, but always with a suggestion. Look at me! I am only a whisper away from you, but you don’t see the tears in my eyes. Look at me! What do I want? I do want you to be thrilled by my adornments, I do want you to praise my best, but I also want you to be amazed by my heart and my mind. Who am I? Don’t look at me, but look deep within me.

 

This statement could have been written by any married woman living today or throughout history. It is incredibly common for a wife to feel this way.  She isn’t necessarily depressed or not functioning, but she feels emptiness.  She needs encouragement.  She needs her best efforts to be praised, without an added criticism, in the form of a suggestion.  She needs to feel valued.  She needs all of her gifts and abilities to be appreciated, instead of being seen as problems or complications.  She needs you to be amazed by every part of her – her mind, body and soul.  She needs you to believe, and show her, that she is the butter to your bread.

 

Husbands, I’m trying to help you to help yourselves.  If any of the above sounds familiar, your wife is needing you to go to school.  She needs you to love her, by studying her.  She is worth the effort.  Your marriage is worth the effort.  Make her your lifelong learning project.  A man learning about a woman, is an attractive man.  I know it’s hard and probably foreign to you, since she is a strange and wonderful creature, but anything that is important, requires time and effort.  She doesn’t find it easy and natural, but she tries to make your physical needs her priority and put you before the children.

 

Women are relational, soft-hearted and responsive. Women have a deep need to be understood. If you remove the outward beauty and all of the tasks that she completes, you will find her essence. Her essence is her qualities and character. It is her own unique set of gifts, given to her by her Creator. Does she seem to attract those that you deem as unlovely? Is she kind, thoughtful and generous – putting others above herself? Is she sensitive to the moods or hurts of others? Does she love others, even though she gets hurt? Does her heart of compassion move her to take action?  Does she impressively deal kindly with you, the children and others outside of your household?  This is her essence, which is to be appreciated, not viewed as a problem that needs to be fixed.

 

See and appreciate her essence.  Praise her for all of her qualities, and brag about her to others.  As a woman ages, her physical beauty will change, the volume of tasks that she can complete will reduce, but her essence will remain, and it will become even more beautiful in time.  Give her the hope and encouragement that she needs, by looking deep within.

My Word Lesson

It wasn’t always this way.  Words haven’t always meant so much to me.  I didn’t always grasp the impact of a word, or the chasm created by the absence of words.  Now I seem to have a love affair with words.  Sometimes I choose to keep them to myself, and sometimes I use them to express my heart, and sometimes I use them to make someone else feel good, but unfortunately, sometimes my words have made someone feel bad.

 

Recently, our son said “mom, you don’t talk to us the way that you used to – you’re not as kind and patient as you were before”.   Before what?  My heart broke, and I thought long and hard.  It seems that the pressures of my current life and challenges were really getting to me.  Due to the necessary busyness of my life, I now believe that my relationship with my Lord began to suffer.  The branch, had become disconnected from the Vine.  The fruit that had existed on the branch, was beginning to shrivel and rot.  This manifested itself in short-tempered and harsh attitudes and speech.   As I wrote this post, I realized something else.  My son had been witnessing his mother as she worshiped God on Sunday, and then she returned home as a hypocrite.

 

I make no excuses for myself.  Yes, the demands are great, but do I have the same power in me that raised Christ?  Yes, it is available to me as a Christian, but if the branch is disconnected from the Vine, I am also disconnected from His power.  This is the power that could enable me to have grace on my tongue, no matter what my circumstances.

 

Now we’ve come full circle.  Why do words mean so much to me?  One word – legacy.  I want to leave a sweet legacy.  As it has been said, “taste your words before you spit them out”.  I want my words to be silent when appropriate.  I want my words to be carefully measured, with exactly the right amount of grace combined with truth.  I want my words to be merciful, encouraging and uplifting.  I want to be speaking these words for the rest of my life.  I want these words, to be the words on my lips, as I speak my very last.

 

I am the Vine, you are the branches.  Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from Me, you can do nothing.   John 15:5

Youthfulness Doesn’t Have a Number

You know her.  She walks into the room, and others become aware of her presence. She is hated by some women, and loved by most men. The woman that despises her, will search high and low, to find a chink in her armor.  Men will notice her, and think that she rocks completely chink free. There is just something about her.

 

What this woman possesses and releases into the room, is the magic of youthful feminine loveliness. She is confident, but this doesn’t mean that she believes that she’s perfect.  Actually, it is quite the opposite. She is very aware of her imperfections, but she chooses to view them in a positive light. This kind of confidence, comes from a deep relationship with the One who designed her.  She is happy with her appearance and her personality – imperfections, quirks and all. The confidence that she feels, allows her to reach out to others, freely giving of herself, and she works to accept that she may never receive anything in return.  This doesn’t always come easy to her.  There are days that she could easily curl up inside of herself, to lick her wounds and insecurities, but she chooses to reach outwardly instead.

 

How does she do this?  It’s really not that complicated.  She is sweet, spicy and fun.  She is open and honest – showing her authenticity.  She smiles.  She looks others in the eye. She talks to the ones that others ignore. She listens with care. She doesn’t allow herself to be cliquish.  She may not be young, but she exudes youthfulness.  She’s like a magnet that draws others in.

 

Don’t be jealous of her – she isn’t your enemy.  You would be better served to examine your own attitudes and demeanor, and then learn from her.  Here’s a word about men.  They like this woman, and they can’t see anything wrong with her, so if you are tempted to speak negatively about her, or even raise an unapproving eyebrow when her name comes up, you might be pushing a man away.  A man won’t always be able to identify why this offends him – he just knows that it makes him very uncomfortable to hear a woman attempt to destroy his image of woman that he admires.  Men are attracted to youthfulness, and they are repelled by prudish catty behaviors.

 

Good news – youthfulness doesn’t have a number.  It exists in a woman that whether she is physically young or not, she captivates others with a glow that comes from within.  It’s her capacity to love others, and it comes from a confidence that quietly, softly radiates outward.   Youthfulness is so much better than merely a young physical appearance. This woman will actually make others feel better after they have had interaction with her. She breaths life-giving oxygen into a room and into the lives within it.