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.

That First Step

It’s so natural for us to get bogged down in the negatives of life, or even the trivial details of living life.  Perhaps you’re dealing with many challenges right now.  It can be overwhelming.  This is not a think positive post, because I know that these difficulties are real, and they cannot be positive mental attituded away.  Instead, I’m asking you to hit them head on.  Take the actions that are within your ability or resources, and don’t forget to search for, and focus on, the blessings that already exist in your life.

 

I’m writing with my knee propped on a pillow.  I really have no idea what I did to injure my knee.  It might have been when I stumbled off of some unfamiliar steps a few months ago while moving boxes, or perhaps, it is as simple as turning 54.  This bum knee has been the source of a lot of angst lately.  I love to dance in the privacy of my own home, and that’s not as easy, or enjoyable as before.  Also, I must work out, or I gain weight – rapidly in fact.  Right now, I’m 5 pounds up and my clothes don’t fit correctly.  My modified workouts don’t feel effective.  I know that I should go to see a doctor, but we are within a month of moving into our new home.  I’m in a conundrum.  I’m not comfortable sitting and watching others put my house together, or letting others take care of me.  I’m a worker bee by nature, but I’m concerned that if I attempt to do this move, in my current condition, I’ll do more damage.  I’m not exactly hitting this head on, am I?  The pain and indecision nags at me. That’s it – I’m going to put some action behind my words.  I just got up, grabbed my insurance card, performed a few Google searches, made a few phone calls, and presto! – I have an appointment with a doctor.  I’m now unstuck and moving forward.  It was that simple – I took the first step, and then I’ll take the next and the next and the next.  I’m no longer focusing on the uncertainty of how it’s all going to work out, but I’m focused on doing what I have to do, to feel better.

 

Once I took the first step, things moved rapidly.  Suddenly, the appointment that I had made for the following week, was being rescheduled for the next day.  When I went to see the doctor, he examined me and sent me for x-rays.  Once I returned to his office that afternoon, we reviewed the x-rays together.  He remarked that I had a gorgeous set of generally healthy knees, and he determined that I have a meniscus tear in one knee.  We began working on scheduling the surgery, which has now been set for next Thursday.  My doctor thinks that I’ll heal quickly.  I should be good as new, and busting my moves a couple weeks after surgery.

 

Was that so hard?  I was completely psyching myself out.  The current complicated nature of my life, didn’t make things easy, but I just needed to take a step, and get moving forward.  What do you have going on in your life that’s nagging you, or bogging you down?  What’s the very first thing that you need to do?  Take that first step today, and start moving forward.

This Post Has No Title

I’m finally ready to admit it – I’ve been struggling to write and post each week.  I’ve been limping along for several months now.  It began in March, when we put our house up for sale.  Then the house sold, and the inspections and packing began.  In April, we bought land, and continued to plan our new home, and then the move in May.  Our only choice, was to move into a house which is thirty miles from where we are building.  As you can imagine, this has caused some difficulties.  In June, my daughter’s wedding was cancelled, and I found myself helping her to get back onto her own two feet again.  In July, my newly driving son began driving to his first job, which is a construction job, thirty miles away.  In August, miles and miles of road repairs began on the only road to town, making our thirty-minute drive, more like an hour.  Then, another obstacle hit.  It isn’t a physical time barrier to writing, like the ones that I’ve listed above.  It is an emotional barrier.  Several weeks ago, I learned that one person, who has been very important to me, stopped following my page.  It took the wind out of my sail.  I’m not sure why they’ve unfollowed me.  I’ve looked back, read old posts, and searched my own heart.  Did I do or say something offensive?

 

The sadness and disappointment that I’ve felt over these last several weeks, has left me feeling defeated.  You might be wondering how one follower could be so important to me?  Well, for many reasons – they just are.  Each and every one of you represent a person, not just a number – some of you comment regularly, and you are a friend to me.  What am I doing about this sadness and disappointment?  I’ve been praying about it a lot, and now I’m opening up and sharing it with you too.  Beyond that, there’s not much that I can do.  As I’ve shared my sadness with my husband, he remarked “go back to what you love”.  He explained “when you first started writing, you always said that if you reached, or helped even one person, it was worth all the struggle and effort”.

 

I am writing to each of you today, to tell you that I am struggling to write, but I’m going back to what I first loved about it.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with my normal writing schedule, but when I do post, it will be to reach someone out there that needs to be encouraged.  Someone that needs to feel that they aren’t alone.  Someone that needs to know that their struggle is not uncommon.  Someone that needs to see that there is a path to hope.

“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.

Don’t Rush It

Remember the popular saying “spend quality time”?  This idea was born out of the legitimate need that all children have – the need of time with their parents, and time to be parented.  As a mother, I always felt that the quality time theory was flawed.  What children really need is quantity time, but most two parent households are being supported by two incomes, and most one parent households are struggling to put food on the table, and fuel into the tank.  Quantity time is a rarity, and the shortage exists in all of our relationships – marriage, children, friends, aging parents, and our most important relationship – our heavenly Father.

I’m honored to be thought of as a prayer warrior.  I’m in church every week.  I read God’s word daily.  I’ve served in ministry non-stop for many years.  All good things, but I reached a point where something felt amiss.  I believed that I was close to God – I speak to Him almost constantly throughout my waking hours, but I longed for something that I wasn’t experiencing.  I longed for a vibrant relationship with God.  I began to realize that I was too busy for God, but not busy enough, just being with Him.

It happened purely by accident, or did it?  After months and months of challenges, that continually drove me to God – all day long in fact, I found myself living in a dark dreary temporary home, which is also located in a very remote location.  The only relief that I could get from the depressing interior of this house, was to go outside.  I’m a mushroom, and cannot spend much time in the sun, so I found a shady spot on the back deck and began taking a cup of coffee out there in the morning.  At first, I spent five or ten minutes and headed back indoors to tackle my to-do list.  I’m a homemaker, and I also still work my home business, homeschool my son, write and I tend to the details of building our house.  After a few days, I found myself staying out longer to pray, read God’s word, and journal about the amazing things that I was learning.  Truthfully, after weeks of this, I could now spend limitless amounts of time with my heavenly Father out on that deck, but my family is really attached to clean laundry and home prepared food.  Time – there is no substitute for spending time, to build a relationship.  Time where you are completely focused on the one that you’re with.  There is just no substitute for spending undistracted time with God.

I’d been crying out for months to Him.  “I want more of You.”  “I want this relationship that I hear others rave about.”  “I want to feel Your presence.”  “I want Your word to come alive when I read it.”  “I want Your power in my daily life.”  He met me out on that deck.  There was nothing else to distract me except a busy squirrel or the circling bald eagles hunting for breakfast, but even they drew me back to praising the Creator.   He changed me on that deck.  He walked me through conviction, repentance, forgiveness, acceptance and obedience.  He has held my hand and told me to wait and be patient.  This time is so sweet, I began to fear losing it.  I’ve already made plans of where I’ll continue this time, once I’m in our new home.  Recently, God allowed a situation to arise, and I did very nearly lose my peace with Him.  He gave me a taste and I didn’t like it – bitter not sweet.  I persisted out on that deck, and He met me again.  This time, He held my hand and walked me down the path of obedience, even when the personal cost was very high.  He said, I have something better for you.  As I write this, He is carrying me, while He fights a battle for me, and this I know for sure, His methods will be pure and powerful.

 

Quantity time – time where it’s you and Him.  This is where His power is.  This is where our transformation happens, and He changes our desires into His desires.  This is where we the branches, attach to Him our Vine, and He brings forward the beautiful fruit of faith, peace, obedience and patience.   Don’t get discouraged if this doesn’t work perfectly for you.  Persist through the internal and external distractions.  Read His word as slowly as you need to – camp on a verse or passage for as many days as you want to.  If you are seeking God’s direction on an issue, stay there for weeks if necessary – either He’ll give you an answer, or He will actually change your heart to align with His desires for you.  God never feels rushed and you shouldn’t either.  This is where He unrolls the carpet, and you see the pathway of the hope of a future, designed by the One who wants to give you His best – which is the very best.

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.