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.

Beautiful Music – Never Out of Style

Men and women are equally valuable, and come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of personalities, gifts and interests, but God made a man to be very different from a woman.  God composed a beautiful symphony when He created masculine man and then feminine woman.  No matter what our cultural influencers are saying, whether platonic or romantic, men are attracted to a soft feminine woman and women are attracted to a strong masculine man.  What are some of the characteristics of this strong masculine male?

 

Physically –  his body is hard and angular and he is naturally muscular and strong.  He can be a little crude and rough around the edges.  He craves physical touch and reads it as love – this doesn’t define him as a maniac.  He is a visual creature, noticing and appreciating feminine beauty.

Emotionally –  he craves peace, and will hide his feelings when he feels judged or when he believes she’ll react badly.  He will always have a little boy within himself.  He needs the women in his life, to be light-hearted and fun to be with.  He’s not your best girlfriend – keep the girl talk and shopping between girls and don’t ask him for an opinion on your outfit – he is afraid to say the wrong thing and if he likes it, you will know.  He desires to please the women in his life.

Mentally –  he feels the need to provide, protect and conquer.  He naturally problem solves.  He’s competitive, never allowing another driver to win the race to the traffic light.  He thinks in terms of compartments or boxes – only open one at a time please.  He needs you to need him – stop being so darn competent at everything.

Spiritually – sometimes, he has difficulty understanding spiritual things.  Don’t use your knowledge or spirituality to intimidate him.  Instead, be an uplifting inspiration to him by living your faith in front of him.

 

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’re aware of the slippery slope that we’re on – the blurring of the lines of distinction between men and women.  Sometimes, I’m tempted to go crawl under that rock, but then I remember – God has given me a platform to speak truth.  Men are men and women are women – truth.  They are created to be very different from the other, but when united as two perfectly tuned and masterfully played instruments, together they make a harmonious sound.  One is not more important than the other, but one is to lead and the other to help.  The leader instrument provides the direction and cadence and the helper fills in with soothing and soft sounds, helping the strong to be incredibly beautiful.  Imagine for a moment, the helper instrument attempting to take over.  No, the symphony was planned and it is beautiful when played according to the plan.  No competition – just a perfect blend of each instrument completing the other, by playing their very special part and most importantly, the conductor guiding the process.

 

Being a strong leader is a high responsibility and many men don’t understand what it looks like.  They will either buckle under a domineering wife and allow her to lead, or they will take the tyrant approach and rule with a heavy hand.   A biblical leader doesn’t do either of these.  He models his leadership after the example of Christ.  He is a humble, self-sacrificing servant.  He leads with truth but always seasoned with grace.  He never runs over others.  He is courageous and stands up for what is right even when it costs him peace.  He never treats a woman harshly or as though she is lower than him.  He respects women and values their input, because he recognizes that they are uniquely gifted by their Creator.

 

We may not be able to control the cultural trends, but we can certainly take a look at ourselves and ask the hard questions.  Am I playing my instrument according to the Conductor’s direction?  Am I the masculine man or feminine woman that God intended me to be?  Am I helping the men in my life to be the masculine men that God created them to be?  What are the areas that I can improve?

For Exactly This Moment

I hear other people talking about God’s call on their life.  Starting a ministry, going to Bible college, training and going into a remote mission field.  I’m excited for them and happy that they are following God’s leading, but I’ll admit that sometimes I feel like I’m inadequate.  Every ministry that I’m involved in, is a behind-the-scenes venture.  There isn’t acknowledgement or “stage-time”.  I’m fine with this – even comfortable and at peace with it, but sometimes I feel like I don’t get to handle the big guns – kind of inadequate.

 

I was just crawling into bed, getting ready to settle down for some much overdue writing and then some television watching.  It was going to be a nice quiet evening with my husband in bed next to me, doing his evening scroll through Facebook.  Then the call came.  It was a distress call.  I was to throw a few items into a bag, get out the door to someone who needed me.  I handed the telephone to my husband, who began to sooth the distraught soul on the other end of the line.  I stood there completely frozen – stunned at this thing that was happening.  So much was at stake here.  I’m so inadequate.  How would I be able to be wise enough and strong enough?

 

I flew down the highway.  Praying constantly.  I prayed for His protection over the hurting one.  I prayed for wisdom.  I prayed for God to keep my car on the curvy road and to keep the animals off of the road.  I prayed that He would empower me to keep my mouth shut when I needed to, and to give me the words to say that were right for the moment.  I felt inadequate.

 

What should have been a forty-five minute drive, became thirty minutes and when I drove up, my fears abound.  My mind played tricks on me, replaying a time of a hurting loved one from my past – the one that I couldn’t help, because I was inadequate.  I knocked.  We embraced.  We prayed.  I prepared a meal.  I did the dishes and I listened.  I realized that my entire life was preparation for exactly this moment, and this was His call.  It was the appointment that He had made for me.  I then knew, merely listening with only a pinch of input, being in the room while they slept, and praying for them as I kept watch, was completely adequate.

 

His strength is made known in my inadequacy. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Pet Pain

None of us are immune from experiencing mistreatment, but have you ever wondered why two people can experience this and the effects are so different?  One person eventually moves on, accepting the realities and they become stronger, but the other becomes enslaved – blaming every weakness, shortcoming or failure, on the things that have happened to them?

 

The process of emotional healing looks very different for each of us and I would never suggest that there is an appropriate ending time for your pain.  We are unique creations and so our grieving is individual.  Have you ever been devalued and written off as insignificant?  Have you been forsaken by someone that you love?  Have you been the recipient of rude confusing behavior?  Have you been slandered or blamed for something that wasn’t your fault?  Did they seem to get away with it?  Did you choose to not tell what they did?  That old high road is a hard one to walk.  If for some reason, you are still experiencing extreme pain after a significant period of time, beware – your pain may have become your pet pain.

 

Do you believe that keeping quiet about the details of the mistreatment, betrayal or slander is the right thing to do?  Maybe you are protecting someone that would be hurt if the entire truth came out.  Maybe you are protecting a marriage.  Maybe you are protecting another’s reputation.  Whatever the reason, I commend you for your integrity.  You have made a commitment to not run your mouth around – even if they do kind of deserve it.  What’s the downside of handling it this way?  When you watch your offender get away with their crime, or even be rewarded in some way, it will be natural for you to replay what has happened and then your hurts become a familiar and comfortable pet pain.  You can take your pet pain out of the cage any time you like and it’s comforting to cuddle with.  Beware – this type of pet grows into a monster called bitterness and bitterness requires a heavy price to us and those that love us.

 

Why would we want to keep a pet named pain?  When things are done to us, we feel victimized, and victims often feel like losers with no control over the situation.  We are in control when we decide to take our pet out for some quality time.  Even if you’ve forgiven, you might still have difficulty accepting the realities and crave a sense of control.  You do not have to live as a victim.  Realize that when other people treat us badly, there is not necessarily something wrong with us.  Actually, when another human being treats you badly, it says more about them, than it says about you.  Seek out relationships with people who value you.  You’ll feel like a winner with them.

 

If you are not moving forward and still in pain after a significant amount of time, get some help.  First, I always encourage you to spend significant amounts of time, praying and reading God’s word.  Ask Him to help you understand your part and to take responsibility and ask Him for the healing and guidance that you need.  Secondly, get input from a wise trustworthy friend and/or counselor that is not personally involved.  Be aware that they can’t fix you and be willing to hear hard things and do hard work.  Work to get to the point that you despise the pain, instead of seeking alone time to go cuddle up with it.  Sound familiar?  It does to me.  At times of my life, when I experienced heartache from another human being, I would go out to the garden, on a drive or hike with the intention of praying, but often found myself cuddling up with my pet pain instead.  It’s a process – do the work and when you get distracted by your puppy, just tell him “no, not now”.  If needed, give yourself 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night to cuddle.  Soon you may not feel the need to cuddle at all.

 

 

Get ready to move on.  Stop paying the price of reliving what someone else did to you and don’t view every new relationship as though the same things will happen.  Realize that what they did to you, doesn’t say anything about you and good things happen because of you.  God says that you have a future full of hope and He is truth and justice.  If there is anything that God needs to deal with, He will do so, when and how He chooses.  Sorry pet pain, we’re finding you a new home.

 

 

The Memory and Legacy of Your Father

This post is dedicated to those that grieve on Father’s Day.  Your Dad is no longer here to celebrate this day with you.  You would love to pick up the telephone and catch up with him, or sit beside him as he relaxes in his favorite chair, but you can’t.  He is gone, and it is not by your choice, that you can no longer spend Father’s Day with your earthly father.

 

I understand the void that you feel.   36 years ago, my father took his own life.  It was just 3 months to the day before my 18th birthday.  He was only 42 years old and there was so much life to be lived.  There was so much good to come, but he couldn’t see that – his pain overwhelmed him.  I miss him but there is something else that I miss too.

 

Since his death, I miss what he has missed out on.  He never met his son-in-law.  He has missed watching his grandchildren grow up – every milestone and accomplishment, and he never got to see the woman that I’ve become.  I could be sad, and sometimes I still grieve, but mostly I now choose to remember that he loved me and that he called me endearing names like “smiley”.  He looked at me as though I was the best thing that he had ever done with his life.  Now, I realize that even though my Dad was with me for only a short time, he gave me so much.  He taught me to feel deeply when I love and to think thoughtfully and God has not wasted any of my grief.  The pain that so easily could have become bitterness has become compassion, which has evolved into a deep longing to have others see the light of Christ in me – in order to glorify Him.

 

If you are missing your father today, and wishing that he was here with you, try to remember that there is an abundance of the fatherless.  If you have been blessed to have a father invest into your life, even if it was for a shorter time than you would have chosen, take that and use it to bless another life.  You can continue your Dad’s legacy by pouring into someone else.  Giving of ourselves takes our focus off of our own pain and is deeply therapeutic.

 

You can probably imagine that this was an extremely difficult post to write and share.  I have bared my heart to you and my deepest hope is that someone will be helped.  I want this to be a Happy Father’s Day for you.  May you have many pleasant memories of your Dad this weekend, and every single day, and may your joy spill out onto others!

Will We Have Enough?

There are reminders everywhere.  Television, radio, emails and pop-up ads.  Are we adequately preparing for our future?  I propose a different question.  Are we adequately living for today?  Are we pouring the fun into our marriages that will sustain the relationship during those empty nesting, job is a thing of the past days?  Guess what?  We can keep saving for retirement because this kind of fun is free.  Today, Madeline is talking about glue.  The glue that keeps the marital relationship alive and well.

If you’re raising littles, you’re tired.  If you’re raising teenagers, you fondly remember the simplicity of the “littles” days.  This isn’t about whether or not you are exhausted, because I know that you are.  I know this because, I’m exhausted too.  It’s life.  Life is draining, but every day that we choose to put our spouse’s needs toward the end of the to-do list, the life drains out of the marriage and when the children are gone and the careers are over, who and what will we be left with?  Will it be a malnourished spouse and marriage, or shall we choose to invest in this relationship and reap the rewards now and later?  Here are a few of my free investment tips.

 

>Wife, put your freshly showered body between clean sheets and wait for your husband to return home from work?  Yes, during daylight.

>Husband, tell her how beautiful she is to you and make love to every inch of her body?  Yes, not merely the “main parts”.

>Hold hands while you drive to your appointments together.

>Wife, climb onto his lap and let him undress you while you passionately kiss him.

>Husband, walk her to the couch after dinner, place a glass of wine in her hand and immediately return to the kitchen to clean up.

>Wife, greet him at the door, grab him by the belt and tell him about the things that you want to do with him later.

>Husband, envelop her into your arms and just hold her without the expectation of things going further.

>Wife, behave a little naughty for him.   He might enjoy watching you enjoy that ice-cream cone.

>Husband, choose to look at her soul and point out the beauty that exists deep inside.  She might need to hear about why you think she’s so special.

>Take care of yourself for your spouse.

>Look nice for your spouse.

>Enjoy the person that you are married to.  Make a choice to like them, warts and all.

 

Empty nest divorce, also called gray divorce, is too common and it hurts everyone involved – even the grown children.  Couples lose closeness while life marches on around them.  Waiting until the children are gone and life slows down to begin investing in each other, doesn’t work.  In order to reach these years with a successful marriage intact, you’ll need to invest along the way.  Marital romance is the glue that bonds and protects the relationship, so make glue and bond and have some fun along the way.  You’ll never have to wonder – will we have enough to get us through to the end?

Drama Junkie

I’ve spent my lifetime, silently watching and listening.  Wondering.  Why do some people seem to continually be surrounded by difficulties?  My heart would break and I would step in to help.  Then, I stumbled across unfamiliar terminology – excessive attention seeking disorder.  Did you know that for some people, receiving attention gives them a chemical high, similar to a drug hit?  Excessive attention seeking or addiction to drama is very real and this enslavement reaches outward and affects everyone that comes into contact with the drama junkie.  If someone that you care about seems to crave excessive attention, there are reasons for this behavior.  This post is not intended to offer in depth scientific evidence, or a cure but instead I hope to provide clarity and understanding to the one who suffers from second-hand drama.  Please allow me a few moments to take what I have learned and break it down into a very simple explanation, then we’ll look at your role in the drama.

 

Research shows that when a developing child feels neglect, their brain interprets this as danger and wires itself to survive within this environment.  This wiring for survival trains a developing mind to do whatever is necessary to attract the craved attention, even if it’s extreme.  Sometimes this means creating turmoil by making decisions that cause difficulties.  These behaviors attract attention which then trigger a chemical reaction in the brain, similar to a drug high and the behaviors have now been rewarded and reinforced.  You see, endorphins and dopamine are released which suppress pain and bring feelings of happiness.  This becomes a cycle, where the end goal is a reward of short lived feelings of elation – then the cycle begins again.  Just like any other addiction, a tolerance is built up and it will require a bigger and better crisis to achieve the good feelings.  Here’s the cherry on top.  Researchers believe that a consequence of neglect is a smaller hypothalamus gland in the brain.  The hypothalamus plays a key role in sleep, body temperature regulation, hunger, healthy parenting and processing of the “feel good” chemical, serotonin.  When the brain doesn’t efficiently process serotonin, problems occur.  Have you noticed that your attention getter struggles with other addictions, obsessions or depression?  It is common for the addiction to drama and excessive attention seeking, to accompany other addictions such as food or substances – legal or illegal, or obsessive tendencies and depression.  This is the serotonin link.  So, now that we have a better understanding, how can this intrusion into your life be managed?

 

First, realize that enabling the behavior isn’t helpful.  If you care about someone who exhibits these behaviors, maybe it has felt easier to let the turmoil and crisis roll in, or maybe you’ve been helping them feed their other addictions, but if you have influence in their life, it might be time for you to confront them with truth in a loving manner.  Second, never minimize the great transforming power that God can exercise in our lives when we are willing participants in His work in us – pray for them.  Encourage them in the following areas.  Contentment – loving what we already have more than what we don’t have.  Forgiveness – forgiving our parents or other caregivers from our developing years is crucial.  Acceptance – realizing and accepting that sometimes other humans only have so much to give and that sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough.   Self-control – encourage them to make sound decisions.  Belief – remind them of God’s everlasting love and encourage them to read God’s word and devour it.  We all benefit by being continually reminded of the great love that God has for us and His unmerited favor upon each of us.

 

One last thought – if you are exhausted by someone like this and you are tempted to remove yourself from their drama, it might be necessary to do so, but remember that 1st Thessalonians tells us to be tender and patient toward those that are weak.  This person probably has a root of hurt that goes deep.  If you have a influential relationship with this person, God could be calling you to help them.  Without enabling the behavior, you can present the truth in a loving and supportive manner.

Meaningful, Valuable & Impactful – Words Have Meaning

How do you feel when someone acknowledges a positive characteristic in you?  You’re elated, right?  It’s like they’ve become the wind beneath your wings.  I sincerely hope that each of you has someone in your life, that gives you the gift of encouragement.  Now, I challenge you – be that person to someone else.  Give the gift of words that are meaningful, valuable and impactful – words that lift up.

It is pleasant to hear that someone likes you or even loves you, but when they are specific as to why they feel this way, it takes you to a new level.  Put some thought into your admiration and let them know what it is.  Put a name to it.  Following are some examples but don’t stop here – add the how, when and why that you’ve noticed this about them.

>You’re kind.

>You’re observant.

>You’re sensitive.

>You’re cheerful.

>You’re charming.

>You’re joyful.

>You’re wise.

>You’re gifted in the area of ….

>You’re talented in the area of ….

>You’re an encourager.

>You’re generous.

How about when someone has a deep impact on you?  Have you observed that they smile and lift the spirits of others?  Are they a musician who impacts you with their music?  Did they teach you or exhort you and open your eyes?  Did they sweep in and help you to improve your living conditions?  Does their gift give you joy?  Do their writings inspire you?  Has their input into your life, made you a better human being?  Has their encouragement lifted you up out of a pit and put you upon a rock?  Tell them.  Write your thoughts down and give it to them.  Your words have more meaning than you might realize.

One last thought, don’t overlook that person that appears to be confident.   They are mostly self-assured but all humans need to receive encouragement and many long to know that they are positively impacting the lives of others.    Life has a way of demoralizing even the most self-assured people.  Your kind and thoughtful words, might be the boost that they need to continue on.

Be a characteristic specific encourager, and be sure to tell them the how, when and why.  You might be the person that brings sunshine into a gloomy heart and mind.