When You Feel Criticized {A Guest Post}

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Dear friends, I hope you will give my friend Kelly Balarie a warm welcome back to the blog today. Kelly just released her first book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, and today she is talking about a fear that hit me very close to home: fear of condemnation. The need to be right, and taking well-meaning advice as an insult. Perhaps you’ve been there? I hope you are as blessed by her words as I was.

When You Feel Criticized

We stood in the kitchen staring at each other. It was that moment, the moment we all hit, probably a thousand times a day. How will I respond? I had to decide.

Would I speak defensively, thereby covering my guilt and horrific mothering skills with platitudes and strong pleas regarding my goodness?

Of course, I was going to do more than this! I had big plans. You don’t know them.

Or would I, bow low, get real and listen to his words?

Yes, you have a point.

Two roads and, one, for me, is far less traveled.

I’ll admit: I am horrible at receiving new ideas and feedback. So, my husband’s comment suggesting a different type of breakfast? Well, umm… I took it as a rapid-fire slap in the face with a thick leather belt. Ouch!

It conveys: You did bad. You do bad. You always will do bad.

It reminds me I am probably the only mom on the block who goes frozen everyday – frozen waffles, frozen pancakes, frozen french toast – with a healthy dose of mom guilt whipped and delicately placed on top.

Push, then, comes to – shove back. Without a second for evaluation of response, I lean in and throw out: You don’t know. You aren’t in my shoes. You don’t have as much work as I do. You aren’t trying to manage laundry, lunch boxes and putting toddler clothes on squirming snakes, all before the clock strikes 7:30 AM (Imagine: Hands on hips!).

 I’m an expert at this talk: I divert his eyes, strengthen my stance, and deflect like crazy.

It’s not my fault. He pushed first. It’s his fault.

This is what I tell myself. He’s messing with my inner Martha Stewartness. How dare he? He pushed me!

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It’s not easy to love when you’re throwing a virtual fit. It’s not easy to learn when your mind is totally against it. It’s not easy to grow when opportunities feel like an assault on your inner character.

He was insulting my character, wasn’t he?

I think about it more. The guy suggested I make another type of meal. That’s it.

He wasn’t saying I was a flunky. He wasn’t circling my fat (although it kind of felt like it). He wasn’t stamping me bad. He wasn’t acting mean. I was.

Have you found yourself so pushed, like me – that you shove? Do your words rush out from a place of worry – you’re not enough?

I’m certainly not one to judge you. Nope. Because I 100% understand you.

But, I’m also considering the consequences of my words, the divergent paths I can take when I stand at the crossroad of – what to say next…

If I go left, I go towards a pride-filled response: heated words, barriers rising, anger flowing, discouragement, frustration and guilt. Usually, it ends, at best, with me knowing I lied a little, but satisfied because I still got away with it. Or, at worst, it ends with the overwhelming guilt I am not only the worst mom, but also the worst wife.

If I go right, I can choose kindness and love. I can find an opportunity to grow, to learn and to take risk. It’s not easy, but I can receive hard words because I trust God will:

1. Help me believe my worth is based on his truth, not others opinions.
2. Equip me to do what he calls me to do.
3. Comfort me, even when I feel hurt.

God will do the same for you, you know? When we make space to hear God’s voice, our voice speaks differently…

We make space when we ask God: What do you want me to do here? Do I need to change? What do I need to see? How should I approach this scenario where my husband feels valued and so do I?

God’s love changes our capacity to love. What he speaks is not condemnation, but peace. And what he brings is not an overwhelming to-do list, but a lesson in letting go. We react differently. We smile. We nod our head. We sit down. And we laugh at the table with our family. And, if it’s me, we eat something non-frozen.

 

Interested in fighting fear? Join the 4 Days to Fearless Challenge!

 


About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day. www.fearfightingbook.com

 

kellypicKelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear here.

 

The Most Excellent Way {A Guest Post}

To start the month of February, I am thrilled to introduce my friend, sister in Christ, and fellow encourager, Christy Mobley. Christy’s heart for the Lord is evident in everything she writes, and she inspires me to love others the way he does. Today she is talking to us about marriage and sacrificial love, a message which we all need to hear again and again.

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Christy is a wife, mother, writer, mentor, and Life Purpose Coach. She is passionate about encouraging women to move forward, and press on through their struggles, seeking God’s presence in every bump and turn in the road.

You can follow Christy on her blog, Joying in the Journey.

God said love him

1 Corinthians 12:31, “…And now I will show you the most excellent way.” (NIV)

Husbands and wives have spats from time to time and well, me and my hubby are no different. As a matter of fact, you might say in the first part of our marriage we were exceptional “spatters”!

We are so completely different, and isn’t that usually the case? I’ve always  wondered why God would have opposites attract. Truth be known, I’d be a little bit better off  being more like my hubby and he’d be a little better off  (in my estimation) being more like me. If you think about it,  it’s true what it says in James 4:1,  that we argue because of our selfish desires. Human love is self-seeking.

However, by rubbing each other the wrong way, we can rub off some of our hard ways. While the chafing of disagreement may be painful, when used for God’s purposes, the shine results is excellent.

Last year God gave us another opportunity to polish that shine.

David and I had an argument and to be honest with you I don’t even remember what it was about. I only remember it was a doozie.  I also recall, pridefully I might add, I was right. But because he was leaving for a short business trip I apologized quickly, taking credit for my part of the argument (hey, I’m learning) and he reluctantly accepted.  I thought that was the end of it. When he came home he only had a few hours before another trip but being that apologies were made I thought we were fine.

I was wrong.

He came home as prickly as a porcupine ready for a fight, very uncharacteristic for my laid-back hubby.

Maybe you’re like me, when half of you is injured you feel crippled all over.  That day I felt quadriplegic.  And the real truth?  I was mad at the way David was acting. He hadn’t really accepted my apology.

When he left again, I turned to God for healing…Hubby’s healing! I wanted to know what was wrong with him. I prayed the verse in  Jeremiah 33:3 which says, ” Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

As I prayed for God to convict David’s heart, God convicted mine. I remember it like it was yesterday.

As I prayed to hear great and unsearchable things, I heard God whisper,

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There was no mistaking the instructionGod clearly said, love him.  He didn’t whisper, apologize again. There was not even a, give him the cold shoulder. There was only. . . love him.

When David came home, I gave my love to a humbled heart. We were two different people who had surrendered ourselves in obedience to God.

In 1 Corinthians 12:31, when Paul writes,  “. . . and now I will show you the most excellent way,” he is talking  about the excellent way of God’s love; the excellent way we should love one another. The following chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, commonly called the love chapter, is where  Paul explains what this love looks like.

God’s Word is His love story to us. From beginning to end, a story of sacrifice.

If David and I were exactly alike, sharing the same wants and desires, there would be no need for sacrifice. Then what would we learn of real love? I beg to say, nothing. But in God’s infinite wisdom he made opposites attract. And in rubbing each other the wrong way, with God’s help, we smooth our rough edges and find a better way.

A sacrificial way.

The most excellent way… to love.

 

*Linking up with Kelly Balarie & Friends, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Meredith Bernard to encourage and be encouraged. Come join us.

When Communication With Your Spouse Breaks Down

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The snarky remark came tumbling out of my mouth before I had time to think about the outcome. I saw the look on my husband’s face, and I knew I shouldn’t have said it. Immediately, I began trying to explain away the hurt already caused.

But the words were already out there, the line of communication severed. My husband was trying to ease my worry over a stressful financial situation, but instead of hearing him I’d decided to defend my attitude.

We often focus more on being right than trying to mend the wound, don’t we? Our pride blinds us from seeing the damage that is growing with each syllable.

My instincts told me to get defensive. After all, hadn’t I tried to address this situation a week ago? We’d exchanged a few sentences over the subject and I thought we were on the same page.

When it comes to relationships, assuming the other person can see the inner workings of your mind only leads to frustration and disappointment.

If I’d talked to my husband about the matter nearly as much as I’d thought about it, perhaps we would understand each other. But between kids and bedtimes and chores and other demands, somehow the conversation kept getting put off. Over and over. Until the tension mounted and my snide words came tumbling into the room.

In my tiredness I had let the mind-numbing noise of the T.V. do the talking for us both for weeks on end, but The Voice doesn’t do a very good job of voicing my thoughts.

As I stood there in the kitchen regretting my words, I realized the need for me to be intentional. The need to communicate with my husband instead of just thinking about it. That means not trying to have a conversation when I’m rushing out the door to make an appointment or assuming that he knows what’s bothering me without my taking the time to explain it.

When I don’t take the time to communicate with my spouse, I sever the bond that unifies our marriage.

Proverbs 25:24 says, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my husband in the house with me than on the corner of a roof. Nor do I want be the reason he wants to live there. I want to our kids to see a unit that is strong, healthy and reflective of Christ.

And a healthy marriage is not something we simply find. It is something we have to work toward. Each and every day.

I knew I was wrong after uttering those hurtful words and I apologized. I explained what I wrongfully assumed my husband already knew, and we made plans to sit down and talk about a solution.

If there is a problem or cause of tension that is creating disfunction in your marriage, can I encourage you to sit down and talk to your spouse about it? One of the worst reactions is to simply do nothing.

When we invite our partner into our world, the loneliness and stress start to dissipate. When we realize that we’re working together as a team, we become stronger.

 

*Photo credit (text added)

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. Come join us and be inspired.

When You Want to Be Right

As startled awake sometime after 3 AM, my anger was almost as palpable as the laminate floor. The air mattress which had been my bed for the past two nights was deflating rapidly since I’d failed to seal it properly. I clumsily got up and fastened the seal, inwardly counting the hours until I’d have to wake my oldest for school.

For two weeks our family had battled rounds of sickness and I wore my tiredness like an emblem across my eyes. I used it as an excuse for my poor attitude, my snippy tone, my lack of attention to details and anything else I could. Now my husband had strep throat and I was doing everything in my power to keep the rest of the family from getting it.

Since he had refused to go to the doctor when his first symptoms of illness emerged, I hung this fault over this head like a dark cloud, reminding him that I had told him at the first of the week to get checked for a possible infection.

The morning after my fight with the air mattress, my oldest son stopped me in my trek of self-righteous anger. Five-year-olds have a staggering way of doing that.

“Mama, do you have to take care of Dadda since he’s sick?”

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I hung my head in shame. Yes, I should have been taking care of him. Instead, I was whining and using his mistake as a reason for my behavior. Was I really mad at my own husband for being sick?

When I promised to take care of him in sickness and in health, I don’t recall an addendum that said, “when you make wise choices.”

Sometimes our obsession with being right becomes the sin that blinds us to our wrongdoing.

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We convince ourselves that because we are right, we don’t have to apologize. And then the pride sneaks in and blinds us to the truth. And the truth is that any act which isn’t done with love does not reflect Christ.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Transforming my mind is a discipline. It does not come naturally, or simply because I want it to. I don’t know about you, but once I start complaining, I find it difficult to stop. I sink deeper and deeper into my self-induced pit of pity until I don’t know how to get out.

My five-year-old’s remark was the trigger for me to snap out of it. Because they’re watching. Each and every day, they are modeling my behavior, my tone, and my words. As he keeps his eyes on me, I’m filled with a huge sense of responsibility.

I want to raise a child who respects and loves his spouse as Christ loves the church. And to do so, I must start in my own home.

 

 

 

What if Marriage Wasn’t Designed to Make Us Happy?

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There’s nothing like marriage to show you how selfish of a person you truly are.  Outside of your parents and possibly a roommate, there are few people who are with you day in and day out, and see the good, bad, and all the in-between.  The dirty laundry that’s accumulated for days.  The dishes piled in the sink.

Nothing wipes the honeymoon out of your eyes like the mundane monotony of the day-to-day.

Your husband? He sees the credit card debt you’ve been accumulating.  If you let him, he may even see the bones you’ve been hiding in that closet of yours for far too long.

I used to think that people got married so that they’d be happy.  They’d have someone to wake up to each morning, to take evening walks with after dinner, to share life and journey through all the peaks and valleys of life.

And while all of those things are wonderful and certainly aspects we hope to achieve, I realized they are not what this sacred covenant is about.  Being a wife isn’t simply about having someone to grow old with or rock in rickety chairs on the porch when we’re in our eighties.

Here’s what the Bible has to say about what a wife should look like.  In Proverbs 31:11, it states, “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.”

He lacks nothing.  Can my husband say this about me?  I would like to think so, but knowledge of my own human nature tells me different.

It reminds me of that snippy remark I made the other night when he arrived home from work late.  It shows me times when I’ve withdrawn a loving embrace because I simply didn’t feel like giving it, even though I knew he needed it.

In Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage, he asserts that God didn’t design marriage to merely make us happy.  He created marriage to make us holy.

Holy, sisters.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t felt very holy lately.

Our marriage, as stated in Ephesians 5, is a living picture of the Christ’s relationship with the church.  It is a testimony to all who see it, a placard which states in loud letters, “You see this? This is what God’s love looks like.”

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This knowledge fills me with a huge sense of responsibility.  I want to be that wife my husband can look at and say, “I have full confidence in her.  I trust her with my life.  She is the picture of Christ’s love.”

To move from glory to glory we must begin with a step forward.

 

Today I’m gathering with a beautiful group of soul sisters at For His Glory blog as we study Proverbs 31.  Won’t you join us?  Click the button below to find out more.

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Are My Kids the Center of the Universe?

As I sat watching the well-known pastor on television, he stated something that made me start questioning my priorities.  My husband should come before my kids.  God first, husband second, kids third.  I immediately began running different scenarios in my head of how our family did things.

Were our kids the center of our universe?  And if so, how would this affect their behavior in the long term?  Certainly, they had more needs and required help with day to day activities, but I wondered what kind of world I was creating for them beyond that.

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The following week, I began studying scripture, looking for instruction related to this topic. One of the first passages I found was in Ephesians:

“Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” (Ephesians 5:22-23)

I have to admit these verses were a source of contention for me for many years, because I am not a person who likes submitting to authority.  My husband once joked that the reason I’d never been happy in any job I’d had in the workforce was because I wasn’t the boss.

However, as I studied this scripture and its meaning, I realized something.  The relationship between the husband and wife is a model of the church, of which Christ is the head. By living in this way, we are creating a living image and testimony of God’s love for us.

In the following text, the husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loves the church.  In other words, the previous statements are not a free pass for the male to wield his authority with force or use it to his advantage.  He is to follow the example of Jesus, who laid down his life for us.  He is to hold his wife in the highest esteem, as he would his own body.

After I spent some time in the Word and in prayer, I realized my husband and I had some work to do in this area.  Although we allowed time for dates and alone time each month, our outings had become routine and stagnant.  We needed to “shake things up a bit.”  A marriage ministry our church recently started helped tremendously in this area.

They assigned date challenges.  We were forced to think outside of our normal dinner and a movie fallback.

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Here’s what I recognized:

When we take time to for each other as husband and wife, we are not only strengthening our marriage, but are giving a gift to our kids.

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We are displaying for them what love looks like.  We are investing time in our marriage and showing them that like any other commitment, it takes dedication and work.  We return to them refreshed, with our needs as a couple met, and ready to tackle our next family adventure.

We show them that while their wants and needs are important, there is only one center of the universe.

And his name is God.

 

*Black and white photos courtesy of Derek & Diane Photography