Words Mean So Much!

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Proverbs 21:23 NAS

My fifth grade teacher didn’t like me, and at the ripe old age of 10, even I knew it. To this day, I remember Mrs. Chadwick talking about me and ridiculing me in front of all the other students. I would either pretend not to hear or act like it didn’t bother me. But on the inside, not only did her words hurt, they began to rip apart my self-esteem. It didn’t occur to me I should tell my parents. After all, she was an adult authority figure in my life. Who was I to question her?

Modern society has legitimized sarcasm and labeled it comedy. Many people think its okay to put someone down, call them names, or make fun of them, especially if it’s followed up with the disclaimer, “just kidding”. But it’s not okay.

The Bible teaches us words can be a blessing or a curse. Whether spoken in sarcasm or in an uncontrolled moment of anger, words like “stupid” and “clumsy” or “what’s WRONG with you?” definitely fall into the latter category. We have the responsibility as parents to protect our children. Yet without realizing it, sometimes our words are what bring our children the greatest harm.

Think about the words you use when you speak to and about your children. Do they lift, encourage and affirm them? If not, it’s time for a vocabulary change. Sit down as a family and discuss ways to de-word and re-word your home. It’s a lesson none of us are too young (or old) to learn.

PRAYER: God, forgive me for saying things to my children I didn’t mean. Please heal their wounds and help me have the self-control and wisdom I need to guard my tongue every time I speak to them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Learn When to Let Go

Shannon on her 1st birthday, 3-16-79

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Isaiah 43:18 NIV

It was a Sunday morning. I was crouched on my knees leaning over the bathtub shampooing Gwen’s long blonde hair while our one-year-old Shannon crawled on the floor behind me waiting for her turn in the bubbles. I’d already plugged the curling iron in so it could get hot. I thought it was safely out of reach on the bathroom cabinet…

All of a sudden, Shannon let out a blood-curdling scream that wouldn’t stop. She was less than three feet from me, but with my back turned I didn’t see her pull on the electrical cord and grab hold of the curling iron when it fell on the carpet.

Despite her hysterical screaming, Shannon didn’t let go of the curling iron. Her tiny hand clenched the hot metallic barrel and I had to literally pry it off. Her hand was severely burned. I later learned that when children (and adults) feel sudden pain, our muscles respond by tightening up. In Shannon’s case, that response caused her to hold tightly to the very thing that was hurting her.

I credit Abilene’s West Texas Rehabilitation Center and a very special physical therapist, Mary Lou Garrett, for saving the use of Shannon’s hand. Every day for weeks, Shannon went in for a sterile hand bath followed by painful debriding of the dead skin. There was nothing easy about this process…this was Shannon’s thumb-sucking hand…and that never changed. She sucked her thumb through medicine, bandages, gloves and every other creative obstacle I could think of.

Almost everyone has painful experiences…some physical and some emotional. We can hold onto bitterness, hurt, disappointment and even anger for a lifetime. It’s a natural reaction. But if we do, the hurt will continue to fester inside of us…and it won’t go away. The sooner we learn to let go of things that hurt us, the healthier we will be!

Teach your children a simple exercise in letting go. When they get upset or hurt and are “hanging on” to an offense, have them imagine that offense sitting in their hands. Is it something they like? Do they want to keep it? Does it hurt when they think about it? Then it’s time to hand that offense to God once and for all. Instead of dwelling on something that hurts them, train them to give it to God and let HIM deal with it…so their healing can begin.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me teach my children to never hold on to past hurts, but to give You those painful things so Your Holy Spirit can bring healing to their minds and their hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


galveston-jail“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” Luke 8:17 NAS

As a young mother, my days were spent teaching our four children the importance of choosing right instead of wrong – and how to know the difference between the two. At times it seemed I was fighting an uphill battle because even when they clearly knew better, the kids were deliberately disobedient. To make matters worse, when I confronted them, they lied. And if there’s one thing this mamma doesn’t tolerate, it’s a lie. I can’t tell you the number of times I doubled a punishment because dishonesty was added to the “crime”.

Despite their sneakiest efforts, I always managed to find out when my children did something wrong. I didn’t have eyes in the back of my head. I just had a secret weapon – prayer. I knew if they didn’t get caught, they’d grow comfortable making wrong choices and continue to walk down a path that would eventually lead to bigger risks and more serious consequences. So I prayed – regularly –  a simple prayer in line with the truth of God’s Word in Luke 8:17. I asked Him to expose all things where my children were concerned, and to cause all things hidden to come into the light. The result? Time and time again, when they least expected it, they found themselves BUSTED!

Because it was God and not ME who found them out, the kids learned even if nobody else saw what they did. . .God saw. And no matter how carefully they spun a lie. . .God knew. Eventually, each one of them decided right is better than wrong. Always. No matter who sees or doesn’t see.

Prayer: God, thank you for being faithful to your Word and for helping me teach my children they couldn’t get away with making bad choices. Continue to work in their lives so they will walk in integrity in every circumstance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Train Up a Child

117_1739I couldn’t wait to start school! When the big day arrived, I was up at the crack of dawn, dressed and ready to go. Armed with my “Big Chief” tablet and two sharpened pencils, I snuck out the front door – too impatient to wait for my mom and baby sister – and walked a half mile to Woodlands Elementary School all by myself. By the time my frantic mother caught up with me, I’d found my way into a First Grade classroom and was standing in line to meet the teacher.

Public school was much different in 1960 than it is today. The Ten Commandments were displayed in every classroom, Mr. Barnes (our principal) led us in “The Lord’s Prayer” each morning over the loudspeaker, we couldn’t chew gum, girls had to wear dresses, and if we misbehaved, we would get paddled (at school and later at home!)

Manners were a big deal back then. Kids said “yes ma’am” and “yes sir”, “no thank you” and “yes please”. Boys were taught to open doors for girls and always allow them to go first. It was rude to interrupt when someone was talking, arguing with adults was virtually unheard of, you never put your elbows on the table and the most important rule was the Golden Rule. Call me old-fashioned, but I still place a high value on manners. I’m proud of my kids for training their children to be polite and considerate of others.

Proverbs says even children are known by their actions. How they behave dictates what people think of them. As children grow older, the way they act can have a great impact on their future. Google “good manners” for an exhaustive list of suggestions and teaching materials to use in your family. It’s never too early to start…bad manners will be caught…good manners must be taught!

Prayer: God help me teach my children to be respectful and considerate of others…place in me the persistence to require right behavior from them no matter how much extra time it takes! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

P.S. Those of you who know me know I couldn’t write today’s entry without including my number one pet peeve. So here it is: “no problem” is NEVER the right thing to say when someone says, “thank you”! The proper response is ALWAYS “you’re welcome”. Always.

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

IMG_3421I am no scientist, but it sure seems like the world is spinning faster than it did when I was a child. In the good ‘ole days, a week was, well, a week. It wasn’t a blink of an eye like it is now. The lazy days of summer were actually lazy days…we had time to relax, take naps, ride our bikes, swing at the park and trap lightning bugs after dark. Organized sports weren’t yet developed for children in our little town and most of us didn’t even know what a soccer ball was. I probably would have been a klutz on the ball field, but I could outrace anybody wearing roller skates clipped on the outside of my PF Fliers!

What a difference a generation makes! When Grant and I raised our children, sports, extracurricular activities ruled our lives and filled every waking moment. Talk about the tail wagging the dog…with four kids playing multiple sports, we didn’t even have time to meet each other coming and going! Many of my memories are at best a blur…and the busyness is getting worse instead of better. When I served as a children’s pastor at my church, I saw the demands of “gotta do” and “have to be” stretching kids and families to the breaking point. It’s no wonder divorce is at an all-time high and children have to be medicated just to “cope”.

The time for guarding your family’s time is BEFORE it is over-committed with “stuff”. Good as all the many activities are, without boundaries, the good will be offset by stress, lack of rest and a loss of time together…time you can never get back! Take a hard look at your calendar and the number of hours in the day. Schedule family time like you would a soccer practice so it actually happens…be intentional as you plan how many hours you’re willing to sacrifice for carpooling, practices, rehearsals, games, etc. Once you have the answer, give your children choices but don’t let them bite off more than your family can chew!

A final note…don’t forget to put God on the schedule. Teach your children (by example) to spend time daily with God, studying His Word and praying. I can’t tell you how many of my church kids used to say they didn’t have time to read their Bible because of sports, dance practice and homework. God must be a personal priority…without Him, what a mess we make for ourselves!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I need Your wisdom as I plan each hour of my day. Help me put You first and seek Your will before adding extras to my life. Give me the boldness to say “no” and the courage to let go of time stealers that rule my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pass the Olives Please!

IMG_5985Sunday dinner at Grandma Cline’s house used to be quite a feast…pan-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, bread and butter pickles and pitted black olives. When I could get away with it, I’d grab a handful of olives and put them on my fingertips and then savor them one at a time. That’s how I know Micah (my #5 grandchild) has some of my blood cursing through his veins.

Micah loves black olives. When we put them on a relish tray, they seldom last long enough to make it to the table. One Christmas, he ate almost a whole can before the turkey was even carved. Just for fun, I pulled a can of olives from the pantry and quickly put it in a Christmas gift bag. When he opened it, everyone burst out in laughter. Mikey’s smile said it all…he loved the gift!

Later that night when it was time to clean up the empty boxes and piles of torn gift wrap and ribbons
from the floor, unbeknownst to me, someone picked up Micah’s can of olives and put it back in the pantry. When he got home, Micah began searching his “stash” for the olives. They weren’t there.

Gwen explained somebody probably thought it was just a joke and didn’t expect him to take the olives home. He asked her, “why would someone do that to a little kid?” He was understandably disappointed. When I heard what happened, I immediately IMG_1304gave him another can of olives – which brought a smile to his face. From now on
no matter what we’re serving, I hope to always have a can of olives nearby so Micah will know just how special he is to ME!

It doesn’t take much to show a child they are special. Look for simple ways to say “I love you” with your actions…they speak much louder than words! Making kids feel special builds up their “emotional bank”…so if someone picks on them at school or makes fun of them…their little spirit doesn’t become bankrupt. Most importantly, help them know how special they are to God, and to His Son Jesus!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me find ways to make each of my children and grandchildren feel special – just at the time they need it. Most of all…help each one of us remember how special we are to You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


You’ve Gotta Dig In

IMG_2625“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8 NIV

When Drew turned one, we set him on the floor in front of his birthday cake. Wearing only a diaper, he put first one hand and then the other into the big fat middle of the icing, squishing it in his fingers until both hands sunk to the bottom of the cake. Grabbing fists full of gooey delight, he proudly displayed his find. The more we laughed, the bigger the mess. By the time he’d finished, he was wearing more cake than he had eaten and it took a hose to clean him off. Years later, Drew still enjoys digging into his birthday cake…if you look closely, you’ll see sometimes he doesn’t even bother to blow out the candles first.

It isn’t hard to get kids to eat cake, but what about spinach or Brussels Sprouts or cottage cheese? I discovered my kids almost always ate what Grant and I ate…we put it on their plates and it never occurred to them to turn their noses up and say, “I don’t ike that” – because we didn’t. Eating a variety of vegetables and meats was “normal” for all of us.

Parents define normalcy for their children. If mom and dad pray, read their Bible and have a personal relationship with Christ, their children grow up understanding a faith that is real. Conversely, if mom and dad only serve up a “sliver” of God in their life and home, that’s typically all their children feed off of and the entire family may end up spiritually malnourished.

God wants us to be comfortable digging into Him with the same zeal we eagerly jump into other things with. He has so much to offer and waits patiently for us to come to His table…the table of Life. Remember…your kids will develop a taste for what YOU are eating. Is it time to upgrade your menu?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray for a renewed craving of presence in my life, so that spending time with You is as important to me as eating a meal or watching my favorite television show. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Change Is Hard (For Me)

dome“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

I love new phones, new computers, new cars — almost anything new electronic. I enjoy the challenge of learning how technology works and how it can make my life easier. Those changes I embrace with enthusiasm.

But when it comes to doctors, jobs, churches, grocery stores, driving routes, and so many other things, change is hard for me. When we moved to Plano, I drove back to Abilene (3 hours one way) once a month, for FIVE YEARS to my old hairdresser so I didn’t have to look for someone new to cut my hair.

In the mid ’90’s, my daughters shamed me into finally changing my beloved 80’s frizzy-permed hairstyle for one “a bit more modern”. Then there’s my grocery store – the one I have gone to for years because I know where everything is – even though the produce is terrible and the prices are more than Kroger down the street. I guess since we’re moving 10 miles away, change is inevitable. Ugh. And it’s no secret the kids think my decorating style is old-fashioned, desperately needing to – you guessed it – change.

Earlier this year, as Grant and I prepared to break ground on our dream home, I seriously considered making major changes to my “style” as I met with my builder’s designer. Even though I felt at home with my colors and selections, I kept hearing they were “out of style”. Facing tough choices, I thumbed through dozens of decorating magazines and explored popular house websites, wrestling with the idea of change. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the new looks…they just weren’t ME. One day I came across a page in a magazine with the following words printed in an eye-catching 2″ font: “Be True To Yourself”. I had my answer. Choose what made me feel comfortable and happy, not some magazine editor! Through the rest of our house building process, decisions were much easier to make. (Ironically, if I didn’t like a choice I’d made, all I had to do was turn in a “change” order.) Styles come in and go out all the time. If I wait long enough, the choices I made WILL be in style (again).

Some people make changes because they think only of themselves, at the expense of relationships, promises, and even their marriage covenant. Instead of working to nurture and care for those they should value, they discard them like an old sofa – just to get someone or something new. Most of the time they are looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and they never truly find it.

My kids may tease me about being in a rut, but I know they’re glad some things in my life have never changed – my love for them, for their father, and for my Heavenly Father. I pray I will always be an example of being steadfast — especially in the important things — and with the important people!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing me with a wonderful husband and precious children. Thank You for choosing me before I even knew to choose You. Help my children learn through my example and Your Word how to be steadfast in their lives and families. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.







You’re Never Alone

IMG_0495“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

In 2007, my oldest daughter Gwen called in hysterics, needing directions to Children’s Hospital in downtown Dallas. Her son Saber was by himself en route to the medical center via ambulance. Gwen was 30 miles away, frantic, and didn’t know how to get there.

Saber had fallen 15 feet from a tree in his Memaw’s backyard. On the way to the ground, God miraculously saved him from a tragic outcome. His thin “I Love New York” t-shirt caught on one of the lowest tree branches, halting his fall mid-air, just inches from the bricks on the ground below. But blood was everywhere. A sharp limb had severely sliced his leg open from upper thigh to knee. EMS responders determined they needed to bypass a closer regional hospital and go straight to Children’s. Memaw was home alone with the other grandchildren, so she couldn’t go with him.

Gwen was imagining how afraid Saber must be feeling…hurt and alone, being taken by strangers to a place he’d never been before. As a mother, she desperately wanted to give him comfort and be by his side.

But Saber didn’t feel alone. The trained medical staff riding with him in the ambulance was wonderful. They brought comfort to this little 7-year-old boy as if he was their own. Their calm assurance helped transform a scary time into an exciting adventure, complete with one very big scar! A quick phone call alerted one of our precious church friends (a pediatric physician at Children’s) who met the ambulance at the door of the ER. Saber was well cared for. Mom arrived moments later and yes, she too survived.

The Bible reminds us time and time again our God is never absent. When the young boys Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, God was with them every step of the way. Instead of being fearful, they stood on their faith and trusted God. When they were thrown into a blazing furnace, He saved them from a fiery death. In the end, they were elevated to positions of great importance.

You can’t be everywhere all the time when your children need you. Only God can. But you can take great comfort in knowing the God who created the universe is the same God who watches over your children when they are beyond your grasp and out of your sight. Teach them to trust in Him and call upon Him when they are afraid or feel alone. He will never leave them!

PRAYER: God, I am so grateful You watch over all of us even when we don’t realize it. Thank You for all the times Your angels have saved my children from harm. Continue to watch over them, protect them, and draw them unto You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Passing the Hat


“Be careful…that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

There is something about a daddy’s hat and a little boy…need I say more? It it’s Drew’s, Liam wants it. At the ripe old age of one, Liam was already copying his dad. He would even swing his arm when he walked…just like daddy did (who by the way picked that trait up from his dad). Kids are in many ways, their recycled parents. Scary thought, isn’t it!

Over thirty-five years ago, God allowed me to see how influential my actions were. I remember it like it was yesterday. My personal wake-up call came when I walked in on Gwen and Shannon toasting one another with water-filled wine glasses. Grant and I weren’t big drinkers, but even an occasional glass of wine was already being emulated by our two toddlers. That “reality snap shot” changed my life forever. How could I expect them not to drink alcohol if they saw me do it? What if they couldn’t stop after one or two drinks? What if my actions influenced them to do something that would later destroy their lives or marriages? I never took another drink of alcohol.

Today’s blog is not about drinking…it’s about influence. As parents, we will ALL be copied. When we “pass the hat” to our kids, it comes with our habits (good and bad), our traits and our character. We must take a long, hard look at ourselves and make the necessary changes, so the person we are is the kind of person we want our kids to become.

PRAYER: God, it’s not just about me anymore. My influence is shaping my children and grandchildren. There are areas of my life that need to be cleaned up and gotten rid of. I submit myself to You. You be the potter and I’ll be the clay. Mold me into the person and parent I need to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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