What Is The Impact of Your Words?

Our words are so incredibly powerful; the words we speak to others and the words we speak to ourselves.

Our words can delight the heart or devastate the mind.

They can be instruments of peace and hope or chaos and destruction.

We can wield them as weapons or whisper them like salve over deep wounds.

We all know the power of our words, and yet we speak them with such carelessness, such blatant disregard for the impact they will make upon landing.

There is an ancient biblical proverb that says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue . . . "

The Power of Death and Life

I had a friend of mine who's father went into surgery for a minor hernia repair.  No big deal, even given his advanced number of years.  They were assured it was a very simple procedure; he'd be in and out before they knew it.

After some time, two doctors came out (they never deliver bad news alone), each removing their surgical caps, almost in unison.  She and the rest of her family stood up, surprised and each sensing the impending doom that had sucked the oxygen out of the room.

Due to a slight error in the way some medication was administered, a medication designed to regulate his heart rate during surgery, her father had suffered a heart attack and they could not revive him. He died on the table.

Imagine the shock of that.  A simple medication, designed to give life, but instead delivered a deadly blow.

Thus is the impact of our words.

Though they have the power to give life, if spoken carelessly, they can bring death and destruction.

Choosing My Words

I have thought so much about my words lately; about the ones I speak, and the ones that remain thoughts in my head, threatening to spill out over those I love . . .

. . . and those I struggle to love.

God gave each of us the ability to speak. He also gave us the power to give life, and hope, and encouragement with our words or to use them to bring devastation and destruction.

All that to say, we have the power of death and life on the tip of our tongue. Today, for one whole day, speak each word as a gift and measure the life that it brings to your soul.

What Would Happen If You Just Loosened Your Grip?

This morning I woke up to go workout, but with a last minute cancellation from my workout partner, I found myself fully-dressed, caffeinated, and wide-awake with a good hour and half before I had to wake the girls for school.

So I spent that time listening to the Lord. The Lord does speak to us, despite what we may think to the contrary. He spoke to me of trust and my lack thereof.  He whispered sweet endearing words, assuring me of His love for me and my value to Him. And then this song came into my mind, and I sang it, out loud, in my squeaky early morning voice.  

These are the words to the song:

I confess my hope 
In the light of Your salvation 
Where I lose myself 
I will find You're all I need

Sing my soul of the Savior's love 
Sing my soul Unto God alone 

I will meet You here 
In the life we call surrender 
Let the world I know 
Be the glory of Your grace

You alone are God 
You alone are God 
We declare the glory of Your name 

Holding On

I try so hard to hang on, to control things.  I have fooled myself (many times) into believing that by controlling my own life, I have found freedom.  I can do what I want, what *I* think is right. I can course correct, make adjustments, go my own road. But the reality is that nothing could be farther from the truth. There is no freedom in being in control.  There is worry, and anxiety, and heartache. There is bondage.

Where I lose myself, I will find you're all I need. There is rich, deep truth in that sentence.

I sat across the table from a friend of mine a while back. Her life was out of control, spinning in a crazy chaos and she said to me, "You know, I'm just white-knuckling it. Just hanging on the best I can."  And I said to her, "What would happen if you just let go?"

All that to say, What would happen if we just loosened our grip? What would happen if *you* just let go? The scary part is removing our hands. Letting go . . .

I Peter 5:7 Cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you.

What are you holding onto today that would set you free if you released it?

Why Finding Fault and Placing Blame Won't Solve Anything

Yesterday I woke up early.  Mike was out of town, and I knew I needed to get up early to be able to shower and get everything ready before it was time to wake the girls for the day.

I had plenty of time for the things I needed to accomplish.  Get dressed, make breakfast, pack snacks and backpacks, get two 5 year olds ready for school . . . no problem.

Except . . . I decided to open my computer for just a few minutes.  (What was I thinking?!!!)

A few too many minutes went by and in a panic I closed my computer, rushed up the steps, stressed out from how little time I now had to accomplish such a long task list!

 And it's *that* mom that my girls woke up to.

Have you ever tried to get two little kids to do anything in a hurry?  If you have, then you can picture the scene in my house.


I woke up Shannay and told her to go potty.  Shannay's not a morning person. At all.  So I give her the extra time she needs.  Except we didn't have extra time today because I made a poor decision.

As I finished getting her sister ready, and then told Shannay it was her turn to get ready she said, "I need to go potty" . . .  just like she does every. single. morning.  She always waits until it's her turn and then SUDDENLY she has to go.  For real.

You see, she has control issues.  It's too much to explain so you can read this if you want to understand what I'm saying.  But the point is, I know this is how the morning is going to go down.  On most mornings, it doesn't bug me.  I don't let her need to be in control be an issue for us.  I politely tell her, "Okay, go potty and let's get ready."

But because I had made the decision to get online and waste precious minutes that I didn't need to waste, I was not the mom she needed.  I flipped.  I yelled like a crazy person said , "Shannay, we do this every single day.  You are not in control.  I am in control."

Side note:  Anytime you have to STATE that you are in control, you aren't.

The morning proceeded pretty much as you would expect it to go with a stressed out, flipped out mom. Lots of yelling, lots of hurrying, lots of tears.

When we finally got in the car, and we were all able to take a deep breath, I said, "Girls, I'm sorry.  You didn't do anything wrong this morning.  I did.  I wasted time on my computer and then I got mad at you because we had to hurry. I'm sorry.  It's my fault."

Nikki said, "Mama, fault don't matter."

Cue my mama tears.

You see, when we have conflict in our house, especially between the girls, there is always such a great need for them to blame, to establish whose fault something is.  And I often just say to them, "Ladies, fault doesn't matter.  Let's just say we're sorry, fix the problem, and move on."

Sure fault matters. But my point to them is that sometimes we are so busy trying to find fault, and place blame, that we get stuck in the conflict and can't move on.

Despite my parenting fail of the morning, she was able to reach beyond the craziness and find the reassurance I give them when conflict threatens to overtake them.

"Fault don't matter."

All that to say, if today you're feeling like you've blown it as a parent, take a deep breath, say you're sorry, fix the problem, and move on. You're probably getting way more right than you think.

Why I Married That Jerk

I remember meeting Mike Jones that day in the Student Union of LSU in 1979.  As far as I could tell, he had one major personality flaw.  He was a jerk.  And the only thing that was bigger than his personality was his reputation for being a . . . hmmmm . . . how can I say this in a way that would be culturally relevant 33 years later

 . . .  he was a p-l-a-y-e-r.

So no, I wasn't too impressed.

But we had a large circle of the same friends, and as was the "thing" back in those days, we often ended up in the Student Union together at the same table playing Spades with our mutual friends.  Playing Spades with Mike did little to change my impression of him, other than perhaps to add adjectives to my already dim view of him.  He went from being a jerk in my mind to an arrogant jerk, a cheating jerk (he was notoriously bad for cheating, but virtually impossible to catch) but also a brilliant jerk.

I'd often tell my friends, "It's a shame he's such a jerk because he's so dang smart and cute."

So how in the world did I ever end up on a date with this man, much less married to him?

Well that story started 34 years ago today, the anniversary of our first date.

You see, he was brilliant, and I sucked at math, and he helped me pass college algebra.  And honestly, I was so surprised to pass that class (I got a solid "D" and was incredibly grateful!)  that when grades were posted, and I passed, I ran straight to the student union and found Mike Jones and kissed him straight on the mouth. It was a spontaneous gesture.  I was overcome.  Don't judge me.

And in that moment, when he saw my weakness, he charged, as any good p-l-a-y-e-r with an "a" game would do, and said, "You know, I think you should repay me with a date."  And I agreed.  Because I was weak.  And grateful.  And it was sort of a good kiss.

And even though my friends were appalled that I was going to go on a date with "THE Mike Jones" I have to say it was the best move of my life to date.  Turns out he wasn't a jerk.  He was funny, and sensitive, and a man richly in love with his family.  And a marvelous kisser.

Three days later, (which also happened to be 3 DATES later) he declared that someday he was going to marry me.

All that to say, I learned that sometimes you have to look beyond what you think you know about someone and realize there's a richness to people that we sometimes never take the time to see.  I'm glad I married that "jerk."  Turns out he's the gift of my life.  (But he still cheats at cards.)

So Happy Anniversary of our First Date to you, Mike Jones.  

I Give You Permission to Quit Trying So Hard

I love the early morning.  Before the girls became a part of our life, I used to wake up early just to experience the peace and quiet of life before daylight and hustle crashed in. It was during those quiet hours that I had the leisure to think my thoughts as they came; untidy, unfiltered, and unpolished.

I still rise early, but it's to be able to have time to brush my teeth and throw on some clothes before the mad rush of the day begins.  Some mornings, as I look back at the woman whose face I see in the mirror, I think, "Man, she's gotten old." 

I notice all the imperfections I see there.  The tired eyes, the fine lines and wrinkles that seem to multiply daily, the haggard look of a woman in her fifties with a whole lot on her plate.  On those mornings, it is so easy to doubt.  Easy to doubt God, easy to doubt His plan that includes me raising babies all over again; easy to doubt my ability to do it well, do it again.

But most mornings, I rise early, brush my teeth, throw on a bra, a t-shirt and some jeans, rake my fingers through my hair and think to myself, "You look pretty damn good for an old lady, Carol Jones."

Then I dash upstairs to greet the day and the two beautiful little girlies who await my morning greeting.

Amidst the frenzied pace of getting them dressed, fed and off to school, I am often caught off-guard by my reflection.  Not the one I see in the mirror, but the one I see in them.  Turns out, some mornings they, too, notice the tired, doubting version of me.  And other mornings, they delight in the me who is ready to conquer the day.

I've been thinking about my reflection a lot lately, because the me I see reflected in them is a much clearer reflection than the me I see in the mirror.  What my children learn and receive and hear and see in me; they will practice those things, they will reflect those things. 

All that to say,  I'm not trying to pressure myself into becoming a perfect mom so that my kids will reflect that.  I'm giving myself permission to relax, take life a little slower, a little easier, let some things go that aren't really important anyway, and let *that* version of me be the reflection I see in them.

And just in case you need it, I give you permission to quit trying so hard as well. What do you say, you in?

Photo by Shauna Maness Photography

Quit Making Resolutions You Won't Keep and Instead Carry Your Strengths into 2014

Ahhh resolutions.  We love to make them, fail to keep them, and discard them as quickly and as carelessly as we made them in the first place.

But it's the new year.  Aren't we *supposed* to make resolutions? Aren't we supposed to take a look back at all that we didn't get accomplished last year and make a plan to do it right, to do it better this year?

You know, out with the old, in with the new . . . that's how the saying goes after all.

But what if instead of focusing on all that we didn't get accomplished in 2013, we started the new year with a celebration of all that we did well, focusing on our strengths, and making a plan to use those strengths in an even new and better way.

What if old became the new new?

What if the celebration of "Old" was the thing to do each New Year's day instead of making resolutions we know we will never keep?

Today, I'm going to dump the marbles of 2013 out on the table and look for the patterns I see there, making a note of strengths I see in myself and my family members.  And then, I'm going to spend some time thinking about how to use those strengths in a new and better way in 2014.

All that to say, out with the new and in with the old. I'm celebrating the joy and strength of 2013 and carrying those things forward into 2014.  Who's with me?

If I'm Going to Rise Up About Something

I find that I am often frustrated by Christians' response to things.  I'm not saying we shouldn't stand up for what we believe in, or that we shouldn't have the freedom to speak our minds.  I'm not.  There are plenty of things I feel strongly about, and I'm certainly entitled to my opinion, and  I'm equally entitled to speak about those things (based on the Constitution of this country where I live), and I'm equally entitled to "take a stand" about those things. (and i'm entitled to write run-on, grammatically incorrect sentences when I feel passionately about something!)

But what I am not entitled to do is to be hateful.  I am not entitled to be hurtful.  I am not entitled to misrepresent Jesus and His love for ALL mankind, regardless of race, or gender, or political orientation.  I am not entitled to make you feel like you are less than me because we do not share the same religious beliefs.  I am not entitled to judge you.

I am called to be different.  I am called to use my powers for good ("Do not withhold good to those whom it is due when it is in your power to do so.")  I am called to love, unconditionally, unequivocally, without reservation or regard to political or religious or any another persuasion.

So if I am going to rise up and cry out and want to make a difference in the world . . .

If I am going to put my energy someplace . . .

If I am going to try to change the world to be what I believe God would want . . .

I'm going to rescue babies, and help dig water wells, and help rescue modern day slaves, and feed the poor, or at the very least I'm gonna spend some time getting to know my neighbors and loving them better.

I could go on.  But I won't.  I don't want to join the melee.  (I think I just did).

I just want to say that I love Jesus.  And I love people.  And if my love for Jesus and you isn't the *first* thing you notice about me, then I need to work on myself before I even THINK about what you need to change about you.

All that to say, before you act . . .before you speak . . . ask yourself, "Is what I am about to say or do going to be a beautiful reflection of Jesus or a hateful reflection of myself?" My answer to that question should drive who I am and how I act in the world that I am called to love.