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.


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


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.


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.


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.