If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….

There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Parents weren’t interested in policing every errant word out of the under 18 crowd’s mouth back in the day.

It was a simple (and effective!) rule:  If what you want to say does not meet the criteria of T.H.I.N. K. (true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind) then

just.

don’t.

say.

it.

THINK ACRONYM

I wish grown-ups would follow the same advice. 

Especially when it comes to offering up “helpful hints” to broken hearts.

In that instance it is rarely a case of another person aiming to be ugly or to hurt someone, but words are not neutral and they do hurt when tossed out carelessly by people who really just don’t understand another person’s pain.

So, for those who are tempted to fill empty spaces with empty words, may I help you apply the T.H.I.N.K acronym to the kinds of situations more likely to face us as adults?

T-Is it true?  You may think that giving out a Bible verse would automatically mean you were safe on this count.  Yes.  God’s Word is truth.  But how we use it and whether or not we understand the context can make a particular application of God’s Word UNTRUE.  And even if we get the context right, hammering a heart with a Bible verse may not be helpful.  You are not the Holy Spirit.  Let Him breathe truth gently into a wounded heart.

H-Is it helpful? This is tricky because sometimes what is helpful for one person is unhelpful for another.  I try to use this as my litmus test:  When have I ever been distraught and helped by someone pointing out the obvious? Or laying out a plan of action (when they don’t have access to the full picture)? Or reminding me that “all things work together for good” when right now all things really stink?  If there is any doubt about whether or not what I say will be helpful, I swallow my words.

I-Is it inspirational?  The word, “inspire” has roots in the the idea of breathing into someone or something.  Will my comment put wind in a person’s sails?  Will it breathe courage into his or her heart?  Will it lift them up and help them hold onto hope?  Is it the equivalent of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or am I instead sucking what little breath they have left out of their body?

N-Is it necessary?  This single criteria helps me hold my tongue so many times.  I might think of lots of things but is is necessary for me to speak them?  Am I warning someone of impending danger or am I just trying to make myself sound wise or insisting on making a point?  To be honest, very few things I have to say are necessary. Most of the time a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a smile, a friendly nod are the only thing someone really needs.

K-Is it kind?  The word kind comes from the same root as “kin”-which means family.  Is what I’m going to say something I’d want someone to say to me or my close family?  Am I treating (with my words) this person they way I want to be treated?  The Golden Rule, rules.

I can’t claim to always follow my own good advice.

But when I do, I find that I am building people up, not tearing them down.

There’s enough tearing down in the world.

I want to speak light and life.

a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

Defiant Faith

Defiant faith scorns circumstances, obstacles, and impossibilities. This brand of faith challenges the fiends of hell to hurl their fiery darts, and when diabolical schemes seem to triumph, faith exclaims to God, ‘My times are in your hands’ (Psalm 31:15). It is that tenacious, unyielding trust in God that leads troubled hearts into immortal hopes. One’s sorrowful condition becomes the platform upon which the strength, wisdom, and beauty of God is revealed to a darkened world. Therein lies the consolation and power of the Almighty God.

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

Just think-when our hearts hang onto hope in this Valley of the Shadow of Death, we are taking back territory from the enemy of our souls.

We are shedding light and spreading salt.

What a powerful testimony to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. 

For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son Of God.
~1 John 5:4-5

learned to kiss the waves

 

When You Think You Can’t Hold On

So many ways to be reminded of how hard it is to hold on in these days and weeks around Christmas.

If your heart is barely able to beat, the pressure to be “hap-hap-happy” can send you over the edge.

If your home is empty of cheerful voices, the constant barrage of commercials touting family togetherness can leave you feeling oh, so lonely.

Early sunsets and darker nights send feel-good hormones flying and leave a body aching for just a little relief from anxious and depressing thoughts.

SadGirlBeach

When you think you can’t hold on, let go.  

Let go of expectations-yours and other people’s.

Let go of traditions that no longer serve your heart or draw you closer to the Babe in the manger.

Let go of tons of baking or cooking or entertaining with perfect centerpieces and fragile china.

Let go of blasting Christmas music through the house.

Let go of shopping for the perfect gift or mailing all those cards.

candle and hand

Be still.

Light a candle in the darkness.

Sit quietly and see how even the faintest light can chase away the black of night.

And then hold your empty hands out to the God Who made you, the God Who loves you, the God Who longs to draw you to His heart and let Him fill you with hope.  

jesus-the-heart-of-christmas

There IS hope.

He came in the form of a Baby-weak and vulnerable just like us.

He KNOWS our pain.

He is not impressed with our busyness or our decorations or our presents piled high beneath the tree.  

He sees the heart.  He looks with mercy on a broken heart.  He is the Healer of hearts. 

He longs to heal yours.  

heals the broken hearted

 

 

Why I Still Put Up a Christmas Tree

It’s a question every hurting heart has to answer if you celebrate a traditional western Christmas:  Will I put up a tree this year?

christmas-tree-melanie-edited

I had a few months of lonely travel through the Valley of the Shadow of Death before I had to answer that one.

Dominic left us at Easter, so by December I had learned that wishing didn’t make anything better nor did it make decisions disappear.

As Christmas drew near, I just could not bring down the usual decorations from the attic.

So I didn’t.

Instead of trying to work up the courage to dig through boxes and decide what I could or could not bear to see that first year, I bought a new, small tree and put it atop the table in the living room.

How do you arrange pieces of happy memories in a world where everything has changed? How do you touch bits of who you used to be when you have no idea who you are right now?

I decided that even if I didn’t put one other decoration on it, I would have the company of sparkling lights in the darkness of winter evenings.

The lights remind me that the night has limits.

Their tiny twinkling helps me remember that even a small bit of hope is enough to hold on to.

merry-christmas-tree

This is the fourth Christmas since Dominic ran ahead to heaven and it is just as hard as the first one. 

Each year there are additional challenges and additional heartaches on top of the giant one I carry every day.  I’ve found that these years since he left I don’t do well with a lot of the trappings surrounding Christmas.

But what my heart holds onto is the promise of Christmas:

That the Baby became the Man and the Man was Messiah.

I light the lights because they remind me that darkness has limits.

I declare by my defiant act of celebration in the midst of heartache that one day every hard thing, every sad thing and every broken thing will be redeemed and restored.

My prayer for all the hurting hearts this year is that God will make His love real to you in ways you neither expect nor could imagine.

May you find some symbol this season that speaks courage and gives you strength to endure. 

And may the promise of Christmas give you hope, even in the darkest night.  

jesus-christmas

 

 

 

Choosing to Be a Lighthouse

There are two ways to deal with the scars pain leaves behind: try to cover them up or display them boldly.

Hiding seems the easier way so many times-because the scars are tender and the last thing I want is to invite more pain.  But it takes great effort and is rarely successful.

The edges peek out here and there and then I’m left awkwardly trying to explain how I got them and what they mean.

If I refuse to hide my scars and instead lay them open to the world, I am vulnerable, true. But I am also in a position to help others who are suffering the same pain that etched those scars in my heart.

business-authenticity

 

 

So I choose not to hide.  

I choose to be a lighthouse.  

 

 

Not because I think I can steer others clear of the rocks of loss and sorrow, but because I want them to know they are not alone.

the scars you share become lighthouses

 

 

 

Feeling Our Way in the Dark

Often this journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is dark and lonely.  

man in woods with glowing light

I am frightened of what may lay in wait-tragedy has visited once, it could come again.

I know Jesus is my Shepherd and I never doubt His companionship.  But if I’m honest, as much as I lean into that truth, it’s oh, so helpful to have a living, breathing human being walk with me.

So when a friend reaches out and takes my trembling hand it calls courage to my heart.

When we huddle together in the dark places, waiting out the storm of grief or doubt, it gives me strength to carry on.

Never, never underestimate the power of presence.

For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face, and now we know in part, but then we shall know fully just as we have been fully known

I Corinthians 13:12

So until then, what?
We feel our way in the dark.
Until we find each other.
We huddle together in the storm.
Wet and shivering, but together.
And maybe in the end it will be our huddling in the storm that gives us more comfort than our understanding of the storm.”

~Ken Gire, The Weathering Grace of God

 

me too sharing the path

New Eyes for an Old Story

I’ve studied it many times over a lifetime-beginning with fun “coat of many colors” crafts in preschool and ending with an emphasis on remaining faithful in trials.

Joseph’s story is typically told from his point of view.  

But I’ve never considered it from Jacob’s perspective.  Until now.

Because on Jacob’s side of the door, Joseph was gone, gone, gone-beyond reach, out of sight,  nowhere to be found.

All the while Joseph was very much alive, God was working and Joseph would (ultimately) flourish and Jacob would (ultimately) be reunited with his son.

There was no way for Jacob to know this so, of course, he was heartbroken:

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.  Genesis 37:34-35

Jacob’s grief was real.  His loss was devastating.  His heart was shattered and there was no substitute for the son he was missing.

I understand that now.

I glossed over these verses in the past-rushing to the “happy ending” promised a few chapters later.

But Jacob didn’t have that option.

He was living these years-one day after another, one foot in front of another, one sunrise, one sunset-never knowing he was making his way toward reunion with a living son.

I share Jacob’s heartbreak.  

My son is out of reach, out of sight, unavailable to my arms and eyes.

But I have something Jacob didn’t have-I know the end of the story.  I have the Bible and its promise that this life is not all there is, that while this body dies, the soul lives on eternally.

And for those who choose Jesus, the soul lives for ever and ever with Him.  

Hallelujah!

While I too, mourn deeply for Dominic, there IS comfort.

I cannot ignore the pain of separation, but I will hold steadfast to the promise of reunion. I cry for what has been lost, but cry out for faith to cling to what will ever be.

This earthly journey is dark, but there is assurance that light will triumph.  

john-1-5