20,000 Chances to Steer the Ship – Relation-ship, Friend-ship, Disciple-ship

Most women express a daily mega-load of words.  About 13,000 more than men.  What if all of those words were uplifting?


God says that the tongue is hard to tame, full of poison, and that it’s like a small rudder that’s capable of steering a large ship.  Recently, after sensing sadness within my home, I prayed and asked God to show me what my part was in this.  He revealed that I’d taken my gift of words and wounded my loved-one.  God had given me the gift of words to bless and build, but I’d used them as a curse.


A woman enjoys enormous power in her femininity, which can be harnessed for good, or exploited and used for destruction.   We are very much like that small rudder that is capable of steering a large ship.  Along with the abundance of words, a woman’s mind is able to multi-task, and we usually have an enormous capability to be aware of the happenings around us.  We are natural managers, delegators and motivators.  Unfortunately, pride in our abilities can get in our way.  We remember details, so we correct or chide others when they don’t.  We are capable of juggling many tasks, so we demean others when they can’t.  When others hurt us, we wound by expertly wielding the weapon of sharp cutting remarks.


I hear your lament – “but Madeline, you have no idea how hurtful my husband has been, or how exasperating my child is, or how cruel that other woman was!”  You’re right, but I do know that life isn’t fair, and that the only person that you have control over, is yourself.  I’ve learned that when another person intentionally or unintentionally hurts me, I have no right to return the hurt.  God tells me that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I possess the same power that resurrected Him.  That’s power!  I should be able to follow His command to love my neighbor – the people that He puts along my path or in my sphere of influence.


God humbled me – I apologized and then asked for forgiveness.  I’m determined to steer this ship into peaceful, beautiful waters.  He created me as a woman, to be a guardian of hearts.  My words should be full of grace and seasoned with salt.  I should protect hearts, lift hearts, build hearts, and repair hearts.  Just as salt brings out the flavor of food, I can bring out the best in others.  I can help someone believe that they can overcome and do great things.  I can tell the truth gently, always with the motive of love, and helping another to see the best path – God’s path.  I can forgive again and again, because I hope in God’s purposes.  I can withhold my thoughts, because I understand that my wisdom is limited, and God is always working.  Most remarkably, I can speak words to heaven, interceding for others.


Life giving words are sweet and encouraging, savory and wise.  They’re not bitter, nor are they hot.  Perhaps we could taste test our words, before we spit them out.


Thank you for taking time out of your day to read.  Your readership, reactions and comments are so encouraging to me.


Look Up

How are things going?  How are the people that you care about?  What was that?  How about me you ask?  It seems that a deluge of adversity is raining down on many that I know and care for.  Each new day brings another conversation, text, message, email or phone call – another dear one sharing their news and asking for prayer support.  Disease, marital disharmony, betrayals, relationship failures, worrisome decisions, unfair circumstances and wayward children.


Ask my husband and he’ll tell you that I carry a heavy burden for those that are dear to me.    I will go to war with my prayers.  I’m relentless until the Lord releases me.  I’ll wake up and pray.  When I’m alone at home, I’m praying.  One of my favorite times to pray is when I’m alone in my car.  Pray without ceasing, He says – no kidding.  Recently, bearing the weight, wore me out.  I found myself in a minor health crisis – an outbreak of shingles.  I imagine that stress along with a weakened immune system, allowed the sleeping virus to wake up.


Shingles are painful and vile.  I stayed home for two weeks, which was a blessing and a curse.  I suddenly had more time to sleep and rest, but the quiet in my days left my mind more time to think.  I’m a thinker – can’t seem to shut my thinker off sometimes.  The extra time to think, became time to obsess, and the burdens that I felt for others became overwhelming.  It snuck up on me too.  I felt crushed and I couldn’t even put together a cohesive thought and pray.  I sat on the floor of my bedroom and cried as the thoughts raced, and then it all changed in a moment.  For the first time in all of my years, I truly understood what it meant to have the Holy Spirit intercede and make sense of my groanings.  I didn’t recite a list to the Lord – I simply thought of the person and the circumstance.


What was happening here?  God was teaching me.  He was teaching me to look up and release the burden to Him.  I can’t walk and hold onto my burden while I am looking up at Him.  If I try to, I stumble and fall.  There’s a fine line.  We are to carry the burdens of others, but we are not to retain them.  We are to hand them over to the only One who has shoulders that are broad and strong enough.  The only One who can bring lasting healing and change.


What have I learned?  To boil it down – I can make anything a curse when I attempt to do it in my own power and in my own way.  God brought me to the end of myself.  My own strength was exhausted – literally.  Resting became a necessity, and in His gracious mercy, He taught me to look up.  Being self-protective isn’t the answer – looking up is the answer.  I’m looking up a lot more these days, and I’m not letting the weight of the burdens separate me from the power that my Father has over them.

Intentionally Messed Up

We moved into our new home in November, and I placed hanging our family pictures at the top of my husband’s honey-do list.  I like to call it my family wall.  I do my work-outs in the same room, and I love to look at those photos, and pray for the people in the pictures.  He did such a beautiful job, placing each one perfectly level and plumb, but every time a door closed or someone walked by, the pictures shifted a little and ended up askew.  It became a never-ending straightening game.


When I was a younger mother, I always wanted the perfect little Christian family, with the perfect little Christian children.  I’m pretty sure that I believed that if I tried very hard to be a “perfect” mom, I’d have children that never rebelled or disobeyed God.  As I’ve watched my children grow, and as I’ve done the most difficult thing ever – pushing them out of the nest, I’ve spent many moments white knuckling it.  Guess what?  They’re not perfect little Christians, and neither am I.


Now, back to the photos on the wall.  I gave up straightening them, and one day as I exercised, it hit me.  Leave them crooked!  Better yet – mess them up as a reminder that we are not perfect, and that we are each a work-in-progress.  When I am reminded that we are each real, with strengths and weaknesses, I am reminded to extend grace and mercy to my loved ones.


Mothers are amazingly good at many things.  Unfortunately, we are especially proficient at beating ourselves up.   I agree that we do need to give our children our very best effort, because in doing so, we are giving them the greatest chance at succeeding at what really matters, but there’s no such thing as perfect mothers or perfect children.  When things don’t turn out exactly how you’d hoped, don’t be hard on yourself.  Remember that God is more powerful than your shortcomings, and your children’s disobedience or rebellion.  Remember that He loves your children even more than you do.


I had a lot of fun intentionally messing up the pictures, and I am joyful when I look at them.  Those haphazardly placed pictures are a visual nudge to me.  I’m reminded that I need to trust in the Lord, not in my parenting skills, and that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end – they are new every morning, and great is His faithfulness.



Some might consider me to be old-fashioned.  I believe in the value and necessity of kindness, civility, others-respect and self-respect for all man-kind, but this post is written specifically about a certain person.  The person that proclaims that they are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, the son of God, blessed redeemer to those who put their trust in Him.


I’m finding myself increasingly demoralized by the lack of civility in our society, but what really gets to me, is when the foul language or vindictive attitudes come out of a fellow Christian.  When they’re behind a computer screen, some seem to have invincible courage, or at least a lapse in good judgement.  Why do so many feel the freedom to behave in a mean-spirited way online?


I wonder if they’re not thinking very far ahead, and only considering what feels good to them in that moment.  I wonder if in that moment, they are forgetting who they belong to.  I know this for sure – there is a human being on the other end of that remark, meme or photo.  The snarky words that make the writer feel as though they’re hilarious or vindicated, have the potential to break someone’s heart.  The recipient is not weak-minded – they are simply human.  There is nothing outdated about common decency, using discretion, and respecting other human beings, or even self-respect.  The author of poor taste humor or foul attitudes and language, would benefit by following the golden-rule.


Perhaps using some simple damage prevention tactics would be helpful.  Consider how you’d feel if this was directed at you.  A personal cooling off period – say ten hours of prayer and consideration on whether or not the comment or post is acceptable.  Will it hurt someone or damage a reputation?  Does it add value?  Institute a personal code that you will not violate, and double check that your code lines up with Scripture.


Unfortunately, there will be times that we unintentionally hurt other people, but being mean-spirited is disgraceful.  There’s a flesh and blood human with feelings on the other end of the comments and posts.  Our words and actions have consequences – they will always have an effect.  Even though you cannot see the reaction on the other side of the online world, it is still occurring, and that reaction might be a tearful, broken heart.  Is this really who you are?  Is this who you want to be?


Do not be wise in your own opinion.  Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Romans 12


Unacceptable Heartache

Scrolling through her feed, she sees a prayer request.  A child with a debilitating disease, a husband fighting the ravages of cancer, a parent injured in a car accident, an elderly couple needing assistance.  She stops to pray, and something very treasured has taken place.  Facebook connects us to each other, and people who find themselves in horrible circumstances can feel the support of caring human beings.  But unfortunately, there is a dark side.  It is the loneliness of the unacceptable heartache.


What is an unacceptable heartache?  It’s not a real thing – no heartache is unacceptable, but due to shame, embarrassment, stigma and the fear of judgement, some would never feel the freedom to share their difficult circumstances or heartache.  At this very moment, you know someone who is experiencing unacceptable heartache.  A mother and father that cries because their child is rebellious and wayward.  A husband that walks on eggshells around his mentally ill wife.  A child who lives in a difficult home situation.  Someone held captive by a life enslaving sin.  A wife or husband that is lonely in their marriage.  A marriage that is falling apart.  You know them, but you do not know the pain that they are in.  They walk this hard, dark and lonely road alone.


What then can we do?  Get involved in the life of others.  Not in a nosey way.  Build relationships.  Be trustworthy.  If someone shares their heartache with you, two things are happening.  They desperately need to unburden themselves and receive support, and they are exercising great trust in you.  This is a monumental privilege – please don’t abuse their trust.  Be a friend.  Listen.  Help in the method that they are asking for help.  Never, ever share their story with anyone else without their permission.  Your mere presence in their “secret”, may be a lifeline to them.


Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.


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.


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.