Friday, July 30, 2010

What's an 'allegory' again?

I told my husband that I bought a new book for our trip. I said, "It's an old book, called Hinds Feet in High Places. Ya know, that allegory?" "Oh yeah," he said. Then, "What's an 'allegory' again?"

Well, you can read an excerpt HERE if you need a refresher on this genre. It's when the characters have names that tell you something about them, basically.

So I'm excited. I've been wanting to read it for a long time, and I will review it on my blog when I get home.

But I'm not just bringing one book. For heaven's sake, I'll be without kids for 10 days. I'm also bringing this book.

Remember my favorite parenting book ever, Grace Based Parenting? Here's my REVIEW from a while back. Well, this guy wrote both. So I'm trying out his latest effort, a take on our hurried culture and the effect the increased pace is having on our families. I have a feeling I'll learn a lot from this book too (guilty cringe).

I'm also bringing my Bible, my latest Family Fun magazine (I really need some better me, airport kiosk!), and I wish I could bring a whole lot more. But I'm sure 10 days will go by quickly and then there's all the sightseeing I'll have to squeeze in, of course.

Ooh. Maybe I can do a travel post from my hubby's laptop while I'm there. Oooh la la. That would be fun. Maybe I'll bring a little gnome and place him in spots, take photos, and then you can guess where I am, just like in the Travelocity ads! Hmm. I think we have a gnome around here somewhere...

So not the favorite

I wanted to share this post by a friend who blogs from last week. It spoke to me today, while thinking about how encouraging it always feels to know that I am seen. No matter how alone or isolated I can feel on my worst days, no matter how misunderstood I think I am, God always sees and gets me.

At one point in the post, Karen refers to God as El Roi. This is one of the Hebrew names of God, in the original language of the Scriptures. There are so many beautiful names for God in Hebrew that are kind of diminished in beauty, in my opinion, when translated into English. A mother in the Old Testament, Hagar, names God El Roi in Genesis 16:13, saying He is "the God who sees me". (If you never have, find a book or do a simple Internet study on the names of God. Someone gave me a bookmark which listed about 10 of them with the associated scriptures so I could read the context of each one, and that helped me learn a ton. But I know there are great books out there that do the same in more detail. It's such an incredible study.)

There have been seasons in my life where this particular name for God has been something I've gripped onto like a lifeline. He sees me. He knows. He gets it, when no one else does. I'm thankful that in those seasons, he's allowed me to be isolated in order to learn that His seeing me is enough. It took a long time and a lot of practice settling down the feelings of panic in my own heart when I felt alone or misunderstood, but I know now He is enough.

Today, I hope you know He sees you, He knows your story, and He so loves you right where you're at.

Especially when you're not the favorite. I am a mommy who is not the favorite. No one fights over who gets to sit next to me, or have me tuck them in. This year, I was aghast that I did not even make the Thanksgiving word collage from school of the things my child was thankful for. Daddy, pets, and lots of other things did though. Not mom. I'm the given.

But God sees me; I work for Him, caring for His children, and what joy there is in having that privilege.

Click here to read "When Daddy is the Favorite" from Finding Rest

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pre-trip list-making

I love list-making. I found these large-ish adhesive wall stickers that you can write on with dry erase pens, and I stuck the biggest one on the back of the front door so that I can make a list anytime I want. (Because what is the point of a list if you can't remember to look at it. So this one is situated so that you will nearly walk your face into it before going out the door.) However, it is only good for shorty lists. Pre-trip lists are way too long for the dry erase sticker.

Enter my good friend Microsoft Excel and a little document named TRIP LISTS.

Since we are leaving on Friday, I have three major lists going:

List 1: What to bring for the kids, to the in-laws (who are watching the kids for a week and a half)

List 2: What to bring on my amazing grown-up trip

List 3: Errands to run/Things to do before leaving

I decided today that I need a List 4: What would happen in my perfect world every time I went on a trip

This is a list of things that would magically take place every time we went on a trip (incidentally, I think this list could also be titled Things that happen in heaven):

1. The week before the trip, all dishes used wash and store themselves.

2. The week before the trip, all surfaces remain clean. Sinks, kitchen counters, etc.

3. The week before the trip, kids are content to quietly read books all day long. (OK, I don't want that to be the case in heaven)

4. Dogs feed themselves.

5. Mail sorts itself.

6. Our bodies become surrounded by force-fields that repel sickness and ailments of any kind.

7. All things missing that you need to pack sneak out of hiding and line up on the counter when you're not looking.

8. Hair, nails, and other special, personal care types of things automatically default to your most preferred state.

9. All toiletries and products you use have buttons that you press to turn them into miniature travel-sized tiny bottles and jars that decompress themselves with changing altitudes.

8. The day after we leave, a group of forest animals come in to clean the whole house (while singing), top to bottom, just like in Snow White. Then, when we come home expecting to see the things we forgot lying on the ground, breakfast dishes we tossed on the counter as we ran out the door at 6 a.m., and the messes we never got around to picking up, everything will be perfect and blue birds will be chirping.

To anyone who has ever been on a summer vacation: Don't you think this is exactly the way it ought to be? Yes. I know you are nodding.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kind of a big deal

Hi friends. Sorry I neglected my blog for so many days; I didn't expect that being a group leader for our church's Vacation Bible School would be as consuming and exhausting as it was. I knew the hours and physical demand would be demanding, but I totally underestimated how tiring it would be to stay emotionally and spiritually attuned as best I could to ten children for five days. Giving them my all was literally what happened. I gave, and then ran out of steam by the week's end!

On Saturday, my body just wanted to shut down and sleep for like three days. But since I couldn't do that, I just took a nap and moved on.

Now, on Friday we leave for vacation. I'm not telling you to where because you may be a little bitter or envious, like one friend admitted. Just know that my parents are taking us, and that my blessed in-laws are watching my kids and I will be having a completely lovely time with all grown-ups for about 10 days.

So I'm saying Hi and Goodbye all at once. It's just the way it is right now.

But I have some thoughts to share first. Tonight I've been thinking about different ways we are important to others. It's a given that I'm an important character to certain people: my kids, my husband, my friends...those would be my easy answers. I'm not talking about that kind of important. I'm talking about the times you want to be important to someone, and you're not really sure you are.

If you think about it, I'm sure you can pinpoint a relationship or circumstance or job where you strive to be an important character, hoping so badly to be useful or needed. Recently, I witnessed someone else striving so hard to be important in my life when she already was, and just didn't know it. This kind of striving is not hard to find; everyone wants to be needed.

Then tonight, I spoke to a friend about a situation where she was used by God totally unexpectedly in another person's life. A stranger's life, who happened to be a pretty, 18 year old girl, walking a cat on a leash, and apparently living under a bridge in our town.

My friend wasn't trying at all to be useful, and was in the middle of some errands. But God stepped in and used her anyway, and not in a small way. It's as if she was going about her business, and God said, "Right now, YOU are important! I have a job for you."

So I'm juggling these two contrasting ways to be. Which do I want to be? The person who is asserting my wonderfulness into someone else's life assuming it is for their benefit (you know, because I'm such a big deal)? Or the person who is simply acknowledging that God is in charge of all things, and open to divine appointments where I am fully useful to Him (which equals remembering that He's the big deal)? That's easy.

I am certain of my answer right now because I just worked at VBS. I thought I was just going to oversee a group of 2nd and 3rd graders. I thought I may get a chance to be an important character to one of them. I thought I may find some opportunities to be useful. I may find them.

But it was not like that at all. God knew where the opportunities were going to be, and he is the one who placed Importance on me. Every moment I was with my group, God gave me this intense burden for the girls. My heart even felt an urgency in my job. God placed Importance on me in such a way that I served that group with a holy fear. I am not dramatizing how it felt, here. The girls were telling me things about their personal lives that needed truth and love. Some of their lives were already desperate, and they were only seven years old. I interpreted things that were being said in the talks and the songs so that they could understand God's love and who He was. We talked about forgiveness, prayer, salvation, and how we need to share the truth about God with others. Of course, it was mostly standard VBS lessons, but God showed me that many of the girls are not hearing any of the truth anywhere else. I didn't expect it, but God made me feel so important.

His jobs for us are often adventures we don't expect. I know this is so John Eldredge-y to say (see my list to the right on books that have changed me if you aren't familiar with this guy), but often, God's assignments do come with urgency attached. The world is in a desperate state. People need rescuing. Homeless 18 year-olds, scared, shy 7 year-olds, and me. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I'll need a Savior. When all is said and done, God employs us and blesses us with that feeling of importance in order to show the world how important He really is.

Jesus exemplified the attitude I want when he prayed, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." (John 17:4) He - Jesus himself - never forgot that it was God who is the biggest deal ever.

Wonder what my next assignment will be? I promise I'll let you know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Winner of the book!

Hello all! Just wanted to announce the results of the giveaway for Preparing Him for the Other Woman.

I wrote the names on folded up pieces of paper and then brought them to my daughter. I told her what they were for, and she took the drawing very seriously. It took her forever before she ceremoniously selected one. :)

And Jenn H. won! Hooray for you!! Email me your address, Jenn, and I will mail it out to you!

Just so you know, I am in charge of my daughter's group of ten 2nd/3rd grade girls for VBS this week, so in between that craziness which is taking up the bulk of my day and, surprisingly, giving me quite an aerobic workout (you know, due to the vigorous hand motions, jumping, and dancing required during music time) and my regular life, I'll try to squeeze in a post or two. But I'm not making any promises at this point. So far so good, but it's only Monday.

I hope you have a great week and congrats to Jenn!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Shaking it up

I'm a huge fan of being prepared. Actually, that is putting it too casually. Feeling prepared is a big deal for me. It is just how I was made, I guess. Some people get really bent out of shape when they aren't appreciated. Some need a lot of validation. Some get itchy when they don't spend enough time alone. I'm not a stresser, for the most part. But I get a little insane when I don't feel prepared. I pepper my husband with a million questions sometimes simply because I am trying to feel prepared, gather data, get a grasp on what is to be, whether we're talking about the upcoming Saturday or some hypothetical situation that hasn't even actually happened.

A couple of weeks ago we had a little, beautiful, 2-year-old guest who stayed with us for seven days. Her name is Ella and she is addicted to Hello Kitty (her mommy blogged about our time with her here under #5 over at The Reed Life). The day before she arrived, I was bustling about doing everything I could to feel prepared. I haven't had a 2-year-old in about three years. I haven't thought about diapers, strollers, high chairs, or exposed electrical outlets in a long time. What I did not realize was that while I was "preparing," I was behaving like a grouchy ship's captain, treating my family like hired hands. It wasn't a proud day for me, and at one point I ended up crumbling. I remember, through my messiness, finally trying my hardest to communicate to my husband how much I just wanted to feel prepared. That's all. I was just mishandling my need, and quietly believing the lie that my bustling and busying would meet it.

We both know that is a big, fat lie. No matter how hard I work at it, I can't ever be fully prepared because I can't predict the future. I need to rely on something much more formidable than my efforts and my plans. Lies masquerade as the truth and leave us crumbly. Just like the lie that having enough validation will disperse your self-doubt. And just like the lie that being appreciated will finally make you feel like you're enough. All lies. All impostors of the need-filling truth God wants to speak to us.

Trusting God is the antidote of my driving need to feel prepared.

This short and sweet post over at Mama Manifesto a couple days ago reminded me that having a child shakes everything up in a way for which you cannot be prepared. And that makes parenting hard to recommend. I love the author's resolve at the end, as she basically says, so what? So you can't prepare for it. So it makes your life a crazy, shaken-up, sleepless mess. That's kind of what makes it beautiful, and it's so worth it. Bottom line.

I couldn't agree more. That is the truth I needed to hear. For me, the post boiled down to these notes to self: reasonably try to prepare myself for stuff and then get over it when my expectations aren't met, trust God to prepare me for what He has in mind, and relish in both the beauty and the agony of the journey. Or should I say roller coaster. Maybe acrobatics on the top of a moving train. Yeah, that's a little more like it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Boy, oh boy! My 1st Official Giveaway

[Part of me just had to write up this post today so I didn't have to look at Lotso anymore!]

If you are a mom with a son, or know a mom with a son, I highly recommend this book. I love it, and I want to give a copy to one of you! This is my first official giveaway, so be excited people!

But first I have to tell you about it. If you haven't guessed, the "other woman" to whom the title refers is a boy's future wife. The book's introduction begins with this question: "What kind of husband will your son grow up to be?" The question gives me pause, personally. But this book has helped me have a vision for what kind of husband I think God would have my son become, and how I can be used in that process.

After reading it, I realized I used to believe that nearly all of a boy's training to be a man and a husband was to be done by his father. While the role of a strong, Godly dad in his life is certainly irreplaceable, God has been showing me that I too am in a powerful position in my son's life as a woman. I can teach him about the needs of a woman in a unique way. I'm convinced that just as in many other areas of his life, my input in his training to be a man is not only valuable but critical.

Here are some specific things I love about it:

It has a strong premise - Shepherd asks, "What if a husband had a mother who invested her life not only in cooking, cleaning, and caring for her son, but also in carefully and deliberately bestowing upon him what every man desires to know - how to understand and care for the fragile heart of his bride?...Imagine how differently many tragic love stories would end if every new bride took the hand of a well-trained hero - a strong warrior, equipped for victory as a loving leader." Shepherd continues by making a strong case for moms. A mother is the first and most influential woman in a young boy's life. She therefore must be intentional in shaping her son's understanding of a woman's heart and his future role in a family.

It is so incredibly practical - This is not simply a fluffy Christian book full of abstract suggestions with scripture to match. The commentary in each chapter is actually very short; the author spends the bulk of the book listing practical ways for mothers to guide their sons. Each chapter has a section called "A Mother In Action," where she lists chapter-related ideas for boys ages 3-8, then 9-13, and finally 14-19. I've already used her suggestions many times and my son is only five. Shepherd is basically arming a mother with tools for building a strong foundation with her son in a variety of ways, encouraging a mom to use her position of influence to train him for leading his future family. I will be referencing this book for years, I'm certain.

It covers fourteen critical skills we'd all agree boys need to learn (and we'd all agree it's clear that most of the grown-up ones haven't) - Teaching him to express love, resolve conflict, be a Godly leader, choose purity, and be affirming to his wife are just some. I would love to list them all because they are all so good.

Every chapter contains a prayer - Not only do the prayers point moms to the Lord and His wisdom, but the whole directive of the book hinges on a mother's reliance on the Lord to empower her and guide her in the best ways to raise her son. Moms are encouraged to boldly teach their sons in a way only a woman can, allowing God to work through them with love and wisdom.

SO, if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Preparing Him for the Other Woman, all you have to do is become a follower. Click "Follow" on the right margin and in a couple simple steps, you'll be in! If you're already a follower, comment that you want to be entered. If you'd like to be entered more than once, you can post this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, (click below on the icons) or blog about it. Just post the link back here in the comments. You have until the end of Saturday to enter. Thanks, and I hope I get to send it to someone!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Uh, no.

I really love going to the movies. But it's pretty obvious that good movies are hard to come by, particularly for kids. I hate to say any one production house is better than another, but I confess I have been under the spell of Pixar since its early days, believing it offers my family a "safer" variety of entertainment. Haven't you been? I quickly looked past Pixar's recent flops as exceptions, and kept holding out for another Cars or Toy Story. (Wait. There was another Toy Story but who really got excited about that one?)

Tonight I held out my hope one last time as we took the kids to see Toy Story 3. We went with another family, went to dinner first, and had a great time. But I have to make a couple comments on this piece of cinema. My five year old was on my lap for half the film because he was scared. At one point he moaned, "I hate this movie," as he buried his face into me. I felt like a bad parent at that point for making him suffer through it, not wanting to leave the rest of the group. But I chose to continue whispering positive thoughts in his ear (ie. "Let's see how the good guys are gonna escape! Let me know if you see the way they're gonna beat those bad guys!"), lamely expecting his rational mind to trump his fear, as if he would suddenly start enjoying it.

But really, I was feeling mad. I shouldn't have to talk down my 5 year old in a G-rated film. My son is not normally afraid during the usual movie conflict and action. But something about the villain in Toy Story 3 is more sinister than usual. The fluffy pink bear who smells like strawberries and is named Lotso, is a bit of a chameleon. Just like one would see in a grown-up film, Lotso starts off by being everyone's BFF, but then his true colors are revealed. Apparently, Lotso has a a deep-seated anger from being abandoned, which results in his having a tyrannical rule over all the other toys in his community.

Lotso has issues and says weirdly depressing things like, "No owner means no heartbreak!" He is intimidating, angry, and mean. This is not light-hearted fare, my friends. Lotso is a far cry from Toy Story's first villian, Sid, the boy next door who wants to tie toys to fire crackers. Sid is the equivalent of Butch Cavendish, the cattle rustler, in the Lone Ranger, while Lotso is Vito Corleone. And really, disturbing just doesn't fit into my Pixar paradigm. Well, clearly, it's my paradigm that needs to change, since it seems to me that innocence has left the building.

So after seeing the movie tonight, I remembered that last week, when we went to Toys 'R' Us (and I would have made that "R" backwards like in the logo, if my keyboard would have let me), we saw the largest display ever of Toy Story 3 merchandise. Of course, there were many, many Lotsos for sale. Now, I'm wondering if Lotso comes with "emotional baggage" as his accessory.

Do you see on the box where it says, "I talk! Over 45 adorable sayings,"? I'm guessing some of them are the following:

"I won't bond to you because I'm broken on the inside."
"The rage is because I'm afraid."
"My smile is just a mask for my pain."

OK, I'll get over it. But to you Pixar, and you Toys "R" Us shelf full of boxed, pink, scary bears, I say, Uh, no.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Teachable Moment: Ashamed

Yesterday we were doing some housework. I went upstairs to find my eight year old daughter hanging her head. I asked her what was wrong. Silence with a guilty expression was returned. I recognized that guilty expression and knew to tread lightly, holding my emotion back for fear of damaging the trust I needed to preserve at that moment. I asked again. What was going on? She mumbled, "I'm afraid you'll get mad." I replied, "I promise I won't get mad. I may be disappointed, but I won't get mad." She said, "I'm still scared. What if I write it down?" After I agreed, she disappeared and returned a few minutes later with this:

Apparently, for the last week or so, instead of hanging up all her clothes, she'd been shoving them into the back of the closet, under the rest of the hanging clothes. It was a lot of clothes. This child changes multiple times a day, and half the clothes were ones she'd not actually worn, just tried on and decided against. In addition, we've been down this road before. She's done the shoving thing on a small scale every now and then. So she knew the rule: No shoving your clothes to the back of the closet. But she had shoved, again and again, hiding each mistake until she had a mountain up to her waist when it all came out.

And a mountain of shame in her heart. After she handed the note to me, she jumped into bed and pulled the covers over her head while I read it. Her eyes were red when I uncovered her. At this point, the imaginary sirens were going off in my head indicating that this was a teachable moment I must not pass up. So I did all the loving things I could think of. I gave her a big hug, I offered forgiveness, I said I'd help her with her mess. But she burst into tears. I said, "Honey, are you crying because you're bummed out at having to hang up all your clothes, or because you're feeling ashamed?" She whimpered, "Ashamed." into my side.

I've never seen my child harbor shame quite like yesterday. I couldn't patch it up with a hug and a helping hand. She had a deeper need. I needed to address her shame and show her how to deal with it. And frankly, I was not prepared for that. (Incidentally, I'm never prepared for teachable moments. Don't think that I rehearse these kinds of conversations in my head ahead of time. But God is always prepared, and always gently prods me forward, giving me surprisingly appropriate things to say. Honestly, I'm surprised. Not by Him, but by my part in it all.)

I couldn't approach my daughter's issue of shame without thinking of my own. What about my pile of sin? What do I do when God reveals something I've been hiding, that's been shoved to the back of the closet? When He exposes something I'd rather not face, it's not fun. I know how she feels. Don't we all experience the burden of guilt from time to time?

But then there's Jesus. Galatians 5:1 says "It is for freedom that Christ set us free." While feeling sorry for our mistakes is one thing, as followers of Jesus, we are not meant to wallow in shame. In eight year old language, I explained this to my daughter. Jesus took away our sin on the cross so that we would be free from feeling ashamed. I told her that the Bible says when you accept Jesus' gift of forgiveness, it's as if you put on His clean, white robe. So when God looks at you, that's all He sees. Your mistakes are totally covered because Jesus is perfect. But here's the thing: even though God always forgives you, He wants you to learn how to make better choices. And the reason you want to make better choices is not because I say you should, or to make me happy. The reason you want to stop shoving your clothes is because you're thankful Jesus gave you His robe.

Something in my little speech clicked, and it seemed my daughter crossed over from shame to freedom. And on about the day we went, simple as that. In fact, she diligently spent over an hour cleaning up her pile without complaint.

I think a lot of us struggle with shoving. We have habits or vices that we keep choosing, and then keep shoving. It can even be something subtle that you're simply leaving room for in your life, like complaining or envy. (OK, maybe you aren't, but those are just two I sometimes make room for.) Don't be afraid to invite God into that closet, even if you have to write it in a note. On Hello Kitty paper. My daughter had a perfect example for us in her two part confession: "I'm sorry," and "I need help!" God is so happy to help you pull the junk out and clean up the mess. Then you and I can show off our matching white robes.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Shut-up already

I never got in trouble for talking in grade school. Well, maybe now and again. In Kindergarten, I remember being asked to leave carpet time and go put my head down on my desk after being caught chatting with a friend. I knew that for some kids, having to put your head down on your desk was a daily requirement. I, on the other hand, was completely mortified. It did not happen twice.

Now, strangely, talking gets me in trouble all the time. I get caught in verbal situations that are not pretty. Here are some common scenarios in my life, and perhaps in yours:

Scenario #1: The Knee-Jerk Reaction

Sometimes I'm caught off guard by stuff. Sharpie marker on my new tablecloth, THE stuffed animal left at a restaurant, a throwing up dog after having eaten two bags of chocolate chips out of the know. You have your own list like that. And when I'm not prepared for a challenge, I can overreact. This is when my kids get the, "WHAT were you thinking!?" and "Seriously?" and all the other ungracious things I say from time to time. Yes, I pray for God to erase all my unkind commentary from their little damaged hearts. Earnestly, I do. But the knee-jerk reaction still happens sometimes. Why? Because I'm trying to change something with my words.

Scenario #2: Thinking Out Loud

My poor husband. I think out loud a lot, never realizing he's doing his best to figure out a strategic response. Should he solve the problem, nod quietly, offer advice, ask questions? Do I even care about his response, or am I just sorting out my heart aloud? I don't even know the answer to these questions. But I do know I can be self-absorbed. I can forget about my loving, listening audience. Why? Because I'm trying to change something with my words.

Scenario #3: Good Old-Fashioned Shouting

It's effective, let's be honest. Shouting gives me a feeling of power sometimes. Shouting at him is the only thing that stops the dog from barking. Shouting shocks the loudly bickering kids into silence. Shouting is a theatrical complement to a good verbal stab. But shouting is cheap and lazy. It's relying on volume instead of content to influence a situation. Nonetheless, I still on occasion resort to it. Why? Because I'm trying to change something with my words.

Scenario #4: Miss Needy Needleton

My poor husband, chapter two. I have learned that he is not God. My husband, no matter how great he can be, is not responsible for (nor is he capable of) making me feel whole. Only God can fill up my empty, befriend my lonely, and heal my deepest hurt. But my husband is the one I see everyday, and I am forgetful. So that empty sneaks up on me and I sneak it up on him, asking him ever so subtly to do the job God is meant to do. It never goes well. Sometimes I'm needy and I look to the wrong person to remind me who I am. Why? Because I'm trying to change something with my words.

Last week was a little bit messy. I had more on my plate than usual, and let's just say I was less emotionally together than usual for a few reasons. It wasn't horrible, but it was a little messy. I kept having to sweep up those messes, and apologize to my people.

In the midst, I began re-reading a book I'd read years ago called The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. Early on in the book, Stormie has a subsection entitled, "Shut Up and Pray." It encapsulates her position, one on which she has written numerous books, that prayer should precede any potentially sensitive conversation you have with someone, not only with your spouse, but in any relationship. This is expected Christian advice, in my experience. And advice which I myself take, when a big issue is on the table, or when I'm really nervous about speaking to someone about something. Rare cases. So the section wasn't really hitting home until this passage:

When we live by the power of God rather than our flesh, we don't have to strive for power with our words. "For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power" (I Corinthians 4:20). It's not the words we speak that make a difference, it is the power of God accompanying them. You'll be amazed at how much power your words have when you pray before you speak them. You'll be even more amazed at what can happen when you shut up and let God work.

Of course! Part of the reason I kept having to sweep up my own messes was because I was striving for power with my words and then feeling powerless, because it was all my own strength and not rooted in God's. Really, it is exhausting work. Do you feel this? And this kind of striving for power is not limited to instances of verbal manipulation, being controlling, those kinds of obvious misuses of words. The ways I can strive for power with my words can be so simple and subtle, especially with my kids. My love and desires for them run so deeply that my words come out tangled with striving.

Thankfully, God's offer is freedom from such burdensome verbal work. He is in charge of all my people, and is reminding me to allow Him the room to work and speak in their lives. I'm not in the habit of this yet, but certainly I have a new plan to pray first, speak second. Even when I'm caught off guard by a disaster. Even when I just need to ponder something out loud. Even when I'm tempted to shout (except for at the dog). And especially when I'm running on empty. Why? Because God is trying to change something with His words.