Wondering if You've Said too Much + A Prayer

“If I know for sure that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.

If I have a strong hunch that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.

If I have even the slightest doubt that something might not be true, I need to be quiet.

But just because something is true does not mean I always need to say it. Motives and manners matter. And so?

If something is true but saying it to someone will needlessly hurt their feelings, I need to be quiet.

If something is true but I know that my reason for saying it is to belittle someone or make them feel guilty, I need to be quiet.

If something is true but I promised to hold it in confidence, I need to be quiet.

If something is true but I know that my reason for saying it is to cause a rift between two people, I need to be quiet.

If something is true but my motive for speaking the truth is to make myself look better by comparison, I need to be quiet.

If something is true and I just feel in my heart that saying it will do nothing but make me feel good, in a sinister sort of way, I need to be quiet.

Bottom line? more often than not, I need to learn to keep it shut. How about you?

I think I have enough duct tape for the both of us.”

[Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All, Karen Ehman]

I compiled some of my favorite verses that remind me to be quiet + my favorite prayer at the end:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 18:21

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 10:19

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

Proverbs 21:23

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:6

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29

Lastly, my favorite prayer:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 14:19

with love, Damaris

How to Hush our Harsh

How we talk to God is consistently connected with how we talk to others.

When I correct the little girls, I try to instruct them that by learning to listen to mommy’s voice, they are learning to listen to God’s voice. While I teach the children this lesson, the business of the day makes it hard for me to listen to the voice of God and be reminded of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Instead, I forget to spend a few minutes with God or get distracted, and my tone becomes harsh toward everyone around me (I admit to all the uglies here). I lose patience so much sooner, I snap, I raise my voice, and I don’t follow through with the commands given. Many days, my to-do list is so long that I don’t want to fall behind and take time to pray.

Recently, I was reading (you can read my thoughts on the book here) Keep it Shut: What to Say, How to say It, and When to say Nothing at All. Karen Ehman suggests to take our to-do list into our prayer time! I love the simplicity:

“To pray your to-do list, find a few moments to be alone and quiet. Ask God to bring to mind all that you must accomplish that day. Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Then briefly pray through each item on the list. If more tasks come to mind, simply add them to the list. Don’t worry that it is unspiritual to stop halfway through prayer and jot down an item. If you’re like me, it will help you to clear you mind and enable you to focus better on your time alone with God. He is concerned about the details of your life, even the errands.”

Why do we assume we’ll find the time to be with God? Setting an alert in your phone to pray on a time you know is consistently quiet is a new idea I recently came across. I have been known to write it on my to-do list : ) Some moms find the best predictable time to be at the beginning of nap time, while they sit in the pick-up line at school, during meal prep when the children are snacking or watching a little show, or first thing in the morning. It’s been working for me to pray during Samuel’s morning nap. I sit in the schoolroom at the children’s table and they’re very curious as to what’s new on the prayer list.

I also use a short devotional book. This is the one I’ve been enjoying for the last few weeks. Some days I take a minute to copy a portion of one of the Psalms. Writing it down helps me focus. Other wonderful ways to hush our hearts and minds can be listening to worshipful music during clean-up or an audio Bible app during lunch.

Due to the ebbs and flows of family life, our routines usually change every 4-6 months, so it’s important for us to be flexible and embrace the new rhythms. Being intentional about our time with God will make an immense difference in hushing our harsh. I know from experience!

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.”

– Corie ten Boom

with love. Damaris

Sharing Life…not Just a Roof

photo credit: Daddy

Spending time with all the children is a such a delight to my soul, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to be home with them. I’ve found that, just like any other relationship, spending time together fosters closeness. Over the years, I have found different approaches which have helped enable getting to know each child better.

Even though for the past…seems like forever…years we’ve had a baby, a toddler, and a couple school aged children; because we homeschool, spending individual time with the older children has not been difficult. We’ve worked on reading, memorization, writing, etc. on a regular basis and often in a different room focused from the other children. Of course, the way homeschooling goes, this time was often more than just schoolwork and would include conversations, prayer, instruction, and yes, correction.

In addition, one rewarding activity that I have grown to love is playing a board game on my bed with one child at a time. When Nathan works in the evenings on this old farmhouse’s aches, I invite one school age child to pick their favorite game. We play on my bed, where it’s just us, but only on the nights that Daddy’s working and usually for about 30-45 minutes.

With the toddlers, there is always much time spent daily in discipline or instruction. These times of correction are spread throughout the day and require my undivided attention. These are not always “happy” moments (as you can imagine), so I have always loved dedicating some moments for sitting on the floor in their room with them on my lap, reading board books just before laying them down for afternoon nap. As parenting goes, most of them may never remember these moments, but the joy is mine, and I cherish the memories!

I’ve always been able to nurse our babies, and one benefit I’ve enjoyed, is that I get to spend lots of restful times sitting and holding them and talking or singing while I change them. My babies have usually had their last feeding after the other children are in bed – this has worked great for Nathan and I to get special one-on-one time with the baby and enjoy this fleeting stage of togetherness.

I’ve left my most favorite family time for last! For the last several years, Monday night has been family read aloud night after dinner. We have read through poetry books, kid’s classics, but most often Nathan reads Christian biographies. Mostly I fold laundry while he reads; curled up in their pajamas, the children hang on every word!

with love. Damaris

Special Visitors

Being born and raised in Spain with all of my relatives still there, there are many ocean miles which separate my family! Although this wonderful technology allows us to talk regularly to my parents, my aunt, and my cousins, a visit from my parents is a celebratory occurrence. A couple of weeks ago, my dad and mom spent several days with us. Here are little snippets of happy days:

We celebrated my mom’s birthday simply, but not without enjoying a delicious carrot cake. Carrot cake has been her favorite as long as I can remember. No one can decide if it’s the butter cream frosting or the moist spice cake…or both…that they love the most – I’ll have to share the recipe with you soon!

Nathan and I went to dinner and a stroll through town on his birthday. Yayo and Yaya (my children’s names for my parents) put the kids to bed early so when we came back from our date it would be restful and quiet. Isn’t that so sweet and thoughtful?

The more time I spend with my parents, the more I realize how I sometimes underestimate their deep genuine care for their adult daughter. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I crazy love my children only because they need me so much now – will it always be this strong? I know it won’t fade when they no longer depend on me, though, because I’ve seen it in my parents.

How grateful I am for their commitment to persevere and grow in their marriage! They’re blessed to share 45 years together. Even though they’d acknowledge many mistakes along the way, with that time comes many insights as well, I’m sure.

I love to see Yayo and Yaya’s enjoyment of my children! Although many months go by between visits, everyone’s excitement, and love so obviously abounds when we’re together again. The kids need not a minute to warm up and pick up where they’d left off.

Before my parents left, my Dad encouraged me to take a few minutes daily for myself. “It will help you these days and in the future if you have 15 minutes of quiet and alone time.” His advice has helped me look for moments to light a candle, read a Psalm, add prayer requests to my prayer notebook, or make a new simple scone recipe without little floured helping hands.

Gracias, Yayo and Yaya!

with love. Damaris

Mercy Triumphs

Biblical principles are not the same as practical methods…but this is a trap I can easily fall into!

You know, we all have something in common – we like to be appreciated and commended. Even if you are not a conflict-phobic person like me, condemnation or criticism (or even just the perception of these) can still be really hurtful.

Sometimes this ‘condemnation’ doesn’t come from anyone other than ourselves – the lure of comparison. This can happen even between sweet Christian friends. It seems we so quickly become consumed by our lacking when we compare our worst to someone else’s best – and isn’t that the way we always compare ourselves, our worst – their best? The truth is (and we know this deep down) all of us are unique creatures with varying gifts and interests. Our varied natures are why we have different ways or “methods” for pretty much anything and everything!

Our value is not found in these distinctions, like organic gardening, essential oils, natural foods, or homemade bread baking. Yet, our practices (especially culturally en vogue ones) can make us feel superior. The reality is that these are methods, not biblical principles. While the Bible certainly is explicit and thorough in laying out God-mirroring principles for daily living for fulfilling our purposes, the Bible doesn’t go into the micro details or “how-to’s.” It is explicit (and wholly sufficient)concerning all areas of life including parenting, family planning, finances, relationships…

How about this example: a biblical principle is that parents are responsible before God for their children, so a mother should feed her baby. We’d all agree to that, right?! But breastfeeding or bottle feeding, scheduled or on-demand? Now things get sticky…but these are just methods to obey a principle.

How about you? Do you keep a grocery list on your phone, do you keep an ongoing list on the whiteboard in the kitchen and take a picture of it before heading to the store, do you have an app for grocery shopping, or maybe just pen and paper? Maybe you use a delivery service? The same questions can be asked about our chore lists, house cleaning routines, or cooking from scratch.

If we’re not careful, we can be vulnerable to feeling criticized when we hear, “Can you believe she still has to get up in the middle of the night with her 10 month old? Why aren’t you homeschooling? Why are you homeschooling?” I need to remind myself that if my words begin to sound like this, I’m in danger of damaging, causing stumbling, or encouraging defensiveness to those I care about.

Our culture’s practices and opinions change, but we must be so careful to distinguish between principles and methods! Here’s another principle that is worth remembering…

Mercy Triumphs over judgment. every time (James 2:13).

with love. Damaris

To The Lady At Panera

It takes an enormous amount of energy to get all my little people out of the house! I have felt this way since I had only one little guy…and now there are seven! But, as painful as it usually is, getting out is always worth it. Every time!

Lately, the kids and I have been going on a new adventure – I have been taking ALL of the children to Panera for breakfast on Tuesdays. Mind you, it is only on Tuesdays because that’s when their bagels are less than half price! You’ve gotta go. Our family can eat a baker’s dozen in a day (not me! ).

The discount is terrific, but the reason I started to make this outing a routine was because it was a great opportunity for some life-skills training! Our family rarely goes to restaurants, and I have suspected that the kids’ table manners might be somewhat lacking, since there is no pressure to “perform” in front of mommy at home – with PB&Js. At Panera, we always sit at the longest table which happens to be in the very middle of the dining area. The kids love it there – right in the center (not me so much).

During a recent Tuesday trip, we ordered our usual: bagels, toasted with butter, and a skim milk cappuccino for Mom. While I buttered the endless bagel halves, I noticed a thirty-something lady with a bluetooth earpiece in her ear sitting in front of her laptop in a corner booth. She hadn’t appeared to have been bothered by us at all…yet. Before we finished our breakfast, the lady from the corner booth handed me a folded paper as she walked out of the restaurant.

“you’re doing great, momma!”

I couldn’t believe it. My heart was full of gratefulness for her considerate and generous words! Right then, as I read the note to the children, they asked me what her name was. “We don’t know. We didn’t even have a chance to return her smile!” I replied.

In that moment, I realized that she taught the kids and I a lesson far more important than table manners. She taught us to give without expecting to receive – she so freely gave us kindness! As I write this now, I think of Jesus’ words in the gospel of Luke. Hereminds me to do good, expecting nothing in return.

So, to the lady at Panera, I want to say that every time we go back for our baker’s dozen, I look for you. I want to tell you that you were a blessing to a nervous, flustered mama. And I want to buy you a cappuccino!

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan

with love. Damaris

She Called Me Beautiful

She is always pleasant and a good listener. My friend is not agreeable just to get along. Neither is she a flatterer. And yet the other day she called me beautiful. Although it was my home my friend was entering, I felt welcomed. “Hello, Beautiful!” she greeted, as she let herself into my house through the kitchen (she always does – and I want her to). Her name for me was warm, sweet, and sincere.

Photo Credit: Daddy

For days my mind kept pondering over this word. Why couldn’t I stop hearing it in my head? Maybe she has never called me by any name other than my own. Why today and not another? – I know it’s more than that. She spread her friendship over me with her quick word, and it proved to be a balm to my soul.

With her gracious words, my friend brought sweetness to my week. She was seeking to encourage, and that she did. The Proverb says that our speech should be like the honeycomb. Not flattery, but genuine words that give value, appreciation, respect, and esteem. “Honeywords” for the hearer’s benefit and good.

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, …” I Thessalonians 3:12

with love. Damaris

Banned Words

photo credit: Daddy

“Be kind one to another” is probably the first Bible verse that we try to get our little ones to memorize. A close second is “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” As I type this, I can hear the sing-songie voice in which even to this day I recite these two verses. When they were still little and could only say a few words, the children repeated the verses with us, and we tried to make some application. How amazing it is that while repeating these Scriptures over and over again to our children, God uses the same truths to work on my heart. Through all these efforts, it’s been clear to me that it is God’s words that call us to kindness and obedience – not mommy’s preferences.

As the children have grown, we continue to purpose to cultivate the same truths: “Have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The shortened version that you would hear if you did life with us for a day is just, “brotherly love” and “keep the peace” or “be a peacemaker.”

In order to nurture these attitudes, we also don’t allow certain language. “Hate,” “Stupid,” and “Bored” are the official banned words at our house. House rules! But after almost losing my mind this week, Nathan and I have made an amendment. “Stop,” “stop it,” or any variation thereof are also now on the black list (and nobody wants to be on momma’s black list!) The reason for these additions, is that it finally dawned on us that these words are never spoken with brotherly love, humility, or kindness from the mouths of our children. Of course, now that they can’t say these words, they say something like: “William, would you please twist Providence’s swing in circles instead of mine?” through barred teeth.

It’s obvious that by changing this rule we are not making them holy, but hopefully we can make the path of godliness clearer.

“Whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8.

photo credit: Daddy

with love. Damaris