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Just when I think I’ve got this whole motherhood thing figured out (which usually lasts about four point three seconds), one of my three throws another curve ball. This time it was my oldest.

For the majority of her seven years of life, my oldest has been my easiest- compliant, mature, helpful, gentle, trustworthy. She is big sister to two brothers (ages four and one) and exhibits first born qualities through out the day, every day. She is my helper, my sidekick, my shadow. So when, on a now forgotten date, some weeks ago, she began exhibiting behaviors I had never seen in her before, I quickly became more than a little perplexed.

Dark was her mood for many of those days, and not in the way of a young child, not in the way of her brothers when they pout or whine or lash out. This was different. This was new. -Honestly, she reminded me of my darkest days as a teenager, days when I was sullen and brooding and weepy with no idea why or what in the world to do about it. (“Can a seven year old be hormonal??” I kept thinking. “Surely not!”)- Many tears were shed over those few weeks (most of them hers, a couple mine), as I wondered what was happening to my girl and what was I, her mama, going to do about it? But it wasn’t until last week that I became alarmed when she not once, but twice within a few days time, was physically unkind to her brother.

Now I realize that in many households this is normal- siblings fight, siblings hit and push or worse- and would not necessarily be cause for alarm. But this has never been the case in our home. (ok, I take that back, my one year old hits when he is mad -or frustrated or whatever it is that one year olds get- and that was probably the case when my other two were that age as well.) But now, and for as long as I can remember, Meadow and Granite do not and have not been siblings that physically fight. So last week when one argument with Granite led to her angrily pushing him off the bed with her foot and another involved her hitting his leg in response to something he said, I knew something just wasn’t right. (Both times I happened to walk in the room right as she did it, allowing me to observe and understand in a way I could not have had I only learned about it through Granite telling on her. I think that was a God thing.)

So last Thursday night (after the morning that Meadow hit Granite’s leg, her second “offense”) we were in the car on the way home, Meadow and Granite bickering in the very back seat of the van, Chaz and I talking quietly in the front as I tried not to overreact to the bickering, and Canyon observing it all from his carseat in the middle, when I brought up the hitting incident and expressed my concerns about what was going on with Meadow. I had mentioned her behavior several times prior but not with as much emphasis or concern. “I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t understand where this behavior is coming from.” were some of my words to my husband. And it was right around that time that the bickering in the backseat escalated (once again, as had happened so many times that week, thanks to Meadow) to the point that Meadow was told by her father not to speak again until we got home (about five minutes away).

“You guys go on inside. I’m going to stay in the car and talk to Meadow.” were Chaz’s words to me as we pulled into our driveway. I gathered the boys and their bags, headed inside and began getting them both ready for bed, all the while thinking about my girl and wondering what was being said in the van sitting under our carport.

About fifteen minutes later father and daughter entered our back door and Meadow quickly, quietly headed to her room to get ready for bed, Granite following her close behind. I greeted them both from the couch then watched Meadow walk away, noting that I would talk with her after talking to my hubby. Standing, with Canyon on my hip, I asked my hubby how the talk went, what was said, what was her response to him. Almost immediately his eyes filled with tears. Alarmed and surprised I waited for him to speak. He recounted their conversation, speaking the words that brought his tears-

“A few minutes into the conversation it dawned on me to ask, ‘Has someone  been treating you that way?’ (referencing her hitting and pushing her brother), to which she immediately answered, ‘Yes, Amaya next door hits and pushes me sometimes and she yells at me.'”

At that point he paused, giving me a chance to gently ask, “Why the tears?”

“It’s just so pitiful. She’s never been treated that way by anyone. And you know it’s been on her mind by how quickly she answered me. Just picturing her dealing with that and thinking about that…” he kind of trailed off at that point, tears still filling his eyes.

We talked for a minute more before the older two ran back into the room, then decided to continue the conversation later, after all the loud short people were in bed. I hugged my husband fiercely, so very grateful for his care and concern for our daughter and our family, and kissed him goodbye as he headed back out the door to return to work for several more hours.

And for the rest of that night and for the past week since, Meadow has been back to her usual self- chipper, talkative, helpful, occasionally emotional, sometimes selfish, silly, gentle and kind. Her mood has been joyful, her aura light, her energy pure. Our home has returned to its usual state- quiet and peaceful, full of chatter and laughter, with a bit of arguing and bickering mixed in.

And all this week I have asked myself: How could one conversation with her daddy release my girl from the torment that was causing such ugly behavior, such emotion, such a dark mood for so much of those three weeks?

This is what I have come up with, these are the lessons I have learned (or relearned maybe?) from the kid next door:

1) Learn to ask good questions. I think sometimes our children/the people around us are hurting or thinking/feeling things that they need to express and just don’t know how to without a little prompting. Learn to ask good questions. And lots of them.

2) Don’t always take a child’s/person’s behavior at face value. Children/people are selfish creatures and much of their ugly behavior stems from this. But other times they are only reacting out of the hurt that they are experiencing or feeling. Don’t assume their bad behavior is just them being “bad”. It could be from them feeling hurt.

3) Don’t be naive and assume that the children your children are playing with are going to treat them with respect and kindness. Be observant. Be vigilant. Be appropriately protective, especially until your children are old enough to protect themselves.

4) And lastly: There is power in the spoken word. I have learned (relearned) this for myself recently as I have fought some ugly demons (another post for another time) and watched the stronghold that these demons have had on my heart loosen each time I confess/express/speak them to a friend or family member. I saw that same power the night Chaz talked with Meadow. So speak, my friends, speak! Find someone you trust, someone who loves you and speak your truth, speak your struggle, speak your demons. Find the faith, the humility, the guts, and speak! And if you have no one, no one in your life to listen with compassion, please, please message me. I know an incredible counselor and would love to pass along his number. I am also a willing listener myself. Speak what weighs on your heart and watch as the load begins to lighten.

I hurt when my children hurt. I so much want to protect them, protect myself, avoid any and all hurt as well as I possibly can. But I am also learning that life’s hurts usually lead to life’s greatest lessons. And that that is one small/huge piece in our story of redemption. So I  am also grateful. Grateful and learning and hurting and laughing. Thanks for reading, friends. Let me know if you need me.

Sincerely Yours,

~Echo~

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My post today is the fourth and final one in my series on being a peacemaker. In part one and two I wrote about five things that peacemakers must do. And in part three I wrote about two more: they must be willing to state their opinions as opinions and they must be willing to ask permission before sharing those opinions. And just as my first three posts were inspired by the Scripture (in italics) I read that night so many years ago, today’s post was as well.

 

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

Try to be sympathetic and compassionate of John’s situation. John’s mind and heart are a complicated mess of darkness and emotion, remember that when you are tempted to be affected by him. I know that it is easy to be affected and offended by John but stand above that. Be unmoved by his words. When he makes emotional statements, do not respond to them! Stick to the issue and to reality, do not get lost in his emotion.

 

“If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrong-doing is sin and there is sin that does not lead to death.”

Pray for John. Pray unceasingly for him. Pray for his heart. Pray that you will have wisdom to know how to love him. Pray that his eyes and ears will be opened. Pray that he will allow you into his life. Pray, pray, pray.

 

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Keep loving him! That is all you can do right now. Hopefully, prayerfully, John’s eyes and ears will someday be opened and if and when that day comes you will be there to help guide him. But until then, keep loving him. Who knows, your love may be the very thing that brings him to that day.

 

Do you struggle to be compassionate towards people who are hard to get along with?

How often do you pray for the people in your life?

Are you diligent about loving those around you?

 

I hope and pray that the words I have shared with you over the past week have in some way been a blessing to you and to the relationships in your life. I have included a summary (below) of the ten things we have covered. As always, thank you for reading!

His and Yours,

~Echo~

 

In summary:

Peacemakers must…

…be slow to speak.

…speak to their listener.

…be sincere.

…be willing to let disagreements go for the sake of a relationship.

show people God’s love rather than just telling them about it.

…be willing to state their opinions as opinions.

…be willing to ask permission before sharing their opinions.

…be compassionate.

…pray without ceasing.

…be diligent about loving those around them.

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” -Matthew 5:9

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Welcome to part three of my series on being a peacemaker. In part one of this series I blogged about two things peacemakers must do. And in part two I blogged about three more: they must be sincere, they must be willing to let disagreements go for the sake of a relationship and they must show people God’s love rather than just telling them about it. Today I want to share with you two more thoughts inspired by verses (in italics) I read that night several years ago.

 

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?”

There was a time in my life when I presented my opinions as law. Instead of a statement being my perspective, or my opinion, it was law. For various reasons, I cannot do that anymore. That may be good, that may be bad (I haven’t decided yet) but I just can’t find it within myself to express my beliefs as law. I encourage you to consider this. For example: Instead of stating: “The beach is the best place to go on vacation.”, consider: “I believe the beach is the best place to go on vacation.” I have found that less doors are closed when a subject is approached this way. Also, this guarantees that you are right! It is true that you believe the beach is the best place to go on vacation.  (I don’t actually know that you believe this, I’m just using it as an example.) Therefore, no one can argue whether your statement is true or not. And as an added bonus, you come across as more approachable if they want to discuss their opposing belief with you. Let God be the judge of John. If he asks for your opinion, your advice, your help, then by all means, be eager. But otherwise, in this particular case, let God deal with him.

 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Another thing I have changed in the last couple of years is offering my opinion when I have not been asked for it or gotten permission to share it. I try to always start a conversation with: “Can I talk to you about something?” or “Can I give you advice about something?” That way you know whether the input is welcome or not and can respond accordingly. Take the time to solidify your thoughts and beliefs so that when someone does ask, you can answer. But answer gently and respectfully…even when you don’t feel like it.

 

Do you usually present your opinions as law?

How often do you ask for permission before sharing your opinion with someone?

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the fourth and final part of my series on being a peacemaker, coming soon.

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Yesterday I blogged about two things peacemakers must do: they must be slow to speak and when they do speak, they must speak to their listener. Today I want to share with you three more things peacemakers must do. These thoughts were also inspired by verses (in italics) I read that night several years ago.

 

“But the wisdom that comes from Heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

I think it is wonderful that you are pursuing peace. Don’t give up! I know it feels hopeless but do not allow that! Be merciful of John! Be impartial to his ridiculousness but sincere in your love for him (when I say love, I mean “doing what is best for and wanting what is best for” the other person). 

 

“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

I know it is near impossible to ignore John’s choices but I believe you currently have no other choice if you want any chance of mending things. Do you agree with him? No. Do you approve of his choices? No. Can he hear anything you say about it? I don’t think so. Let God deal with him. Maybe someday God will use you for that and I hope that if or when He intends to, you will know it without a doubt. But for now, let it go and leave it to God to deal with John.

 

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Let John see God’s goodness and wisdom in you by your actions, not your words. For whatever reason, John cannot (or again, will not) hear your words. For now at least, let your actions be a testimony to God’s beauty and goodness. Be humble and be forgiving of John. Show him God’s love rather than telling him about God’s love.

 

How do the peacemakers in your life show you God’s love rather than just telling you about God’s love?

Do you have a relationship with someone who’s choices you do not agree with? Have you been able to set that aside for the sake of the relationship?

 

Thanks for reading part two of my series on being a peacemaker. Stay tuned for part three, coming soon…

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” -Matthew 5:9

 

A few years ago, after a dear friend emailed me asking for advice, I prayed for wisdom, let my Bible fall open in my lap, and began reading. These are some of the verses (in italics) that I read that night. The words written after them are my own, inspired by those that I read. I hoped and prayed then that these words would be a blessing to my friend. I hope and pray now they will be a blessing to you.

 

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

I encourage you to talk with a neutral party before communicating any negative emotions. Find someone that you respect and admire and run your thoughts and feelings by them before sending any Emails, making any phone calls or pursuing any confrontations. Find a good “sounding board” to incorporate into your life. Also, be quick to ask questions, slow to make accusations. I have found that this is ALWAYS more effective, especially initially. Some people can handle bold statements, most can’t. Most people can handle sincere questions, few can’t. Speaking out of emotion almost always gets me in trouble. Learn to communicate emotion without communicating through emotion. This is a very hard concept for most people (myself included) and takes much practice and guidance.


“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

Consider your words very, very carefully. Remember that everyone’s perspective is different. Speak for the benefit of your listener. If you came to me and said, “Your choices are ruining your marriage.” I would be eager to hear why you think so. If you go to John and make that exact statement, he will likely be hurt and respond defensively. Same statement, same mouth, same motives: different results. John cannot (or will not) see God or God’s love (or your “religion”) through statements like these. Remember to speak to your listener.

 

Who are the peacemakers in your life?

In what ways have they been a good example of being quick to listen and slow to speak?

Are you known to be a peacemaker?

 

Would love to hear your answers in the comment section below. Stay tuned for a continuation of “Ten Things Peacemakers Must Do”, coming soon!

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“I was young and pregnant by a guy I’d only known a few months. I remember crawling into bed between my parents one night, about three weeks before my wedding, and begging them both, “Please don’t make me marry him. I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to marry him,” and my mother patting my knee and saying, “It will be fine. It will all work out.” Much sadness and disappointment and neglect, many fights, some abuse, several children and a dozen or so years later we divorced.”

“I tell my wife I love her everyday. My family didn’t do that. My grandfather was the only one that I felt any love from as a kid and when I was a teenager he left my grandmother for another woman and denounced my grandmother, me, my entire family. So I wasn’t really sure what love was until I met and married my wife. I tell her that I love her everyday. I don’t want my children to grow up in a home where no one says I love you.”

“I moved here because I am going through a midlife crisis of sorts. I’ve been taking care of my parents for the past thirty years and they both died recently so I am looking for a fresh start. I have eleven siblings. They all figured that since I wasn’t married and didn’t have any children and thus “didn’t really have a life” that I could just live with mom and dad and take care of them. I had the honor of being the last person that my parents spoke to before they died. “Thank you and I love you.” were both of their last words to me. They had never said that to anyone or to me before that. Those two moments were the greatest gifts I have ever been given.”

“Her husband died suddenly a few weeks ago. I’m not sure exactly what happened. She is in her mid-forties. He was too.” another mom told me about the teacher in the classroom down the hall from my daughter’s classroom, the teacher who always has a smile on her face and a kind word for each child that passes her doorway. My shock, that such a great tragedy had occured in the life of someone I see and speak to every week, without me having any idea until a month later, was apparent. It is a moment I have thought of often since.

“I had several one night stands while my husband and I were dating. I was young and stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking. Sometimes I can’t even believe that I actually did that, that it actually happened. That was a decade ago and I’ve never told anyone until tonight. I’ve been so afraid that people would judge me and reject me. I’m afraid if I tell my husband, he will leave me. But I can’t live with this guilt any longer. It is eating me alive.”

“My second miscarriage was at sixteen weeks. We discovered at my doctors appointment that the baby had no heartbeat. They sent me home. I spent several days waiting and knowing that the baby inside me was no longer living. I never did go into labor. I remember laying in bed beside my husband, that last night before I was to be induced the next morning and thinking, “This is the last time our baby will lay between us.” My heart was broken that night. It took a lot of years to mend it back together.”

Listen…

Such a simple word. Such a simple act. But with the power to transform a life.

So let us slow down. And listen. And have compassion.

Because everyone has a story.

They just need a chance to tell it.

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Dear R,

I feel honored that you have asked for my thoughts! I hope they will be a blessing to you and your wife and son and his girlfriend.

Short answer: If I had to do it over, I would still get married at 19. 🙂

Longer answer: After seven years of marriage and many years of watching friends date, get married, and after watching a few divorces, I do have a lot of thoughts about when to marry and how to marry.

My perspective is that age, in and of itself, is a neutral. Some people are ready for marriage at 19, some most definitely are not. I do believe that getting married and staying married is much easier, more enjoyable and more peaceful when the couple has had some training and if they have been intentional with their time before marriage.

I think the key is finding the balance between how long a couple can last not being married and staying pure, and how long they should know each other and experience life together before being in covenant with each other.

I have had several friends meet, get engaged to and then marry a person all in a year or less. It is probably possible to do this well, but in the relationships I have seen, meeting and marrying this quickly usually means that the people do not know each other very well and find out A LOT of stuff about themselves as individuals and as a couple, after the wedding day. From what I’ve seen this leads to a lot of drama, emotion, inability to work through things quickly and easily, etc… Its like these couples go through the phases of really getting to know each other as individuals and as a couple, after they become husband and wife which seems to really, really complicate the heart and how the heart deals with issues. Again, this is just what I have seen, I don’t know that it means it always HAS to be this way.

At the same time, we have seen a few couples date for many years and be incredibly impure and because of their impurity (the guilt from it, the bad patterns it created in their relationship, the distraction that it was that kept them from spending their time intentionally, etc.) still have the drama and the struggle after the wedding day because though they had the QUANTITY of time they might have needed, they did not experience the QUALITY of time that is needed to prepare well for a marriage relationship.

SO, all that to say- I believe if a couple pursues purity AND uses their time before marriage to get to know each other WELL, uses that time to get counsel and training from people who love them and who they love and respect, and uses that time to experience some life together (i.e.- don’t just go on dates all the time and spend all their energy trying to impress each other and romance each other but spend time LIVING LIFE together- serving, working, spending time with each others families, talking about the DIFFICULT subjects, arguing well, planning for their future, etc.), then yes, getting married at 19 can go very smoothly and be one of the best decisions that couple has ever made.

Also- there are some realities of life that may not be ideal for the timing of marriage (being in college, having to move around a lot, not having a lot of money, etc…) and can make things slightly more challenging for the early years of marriage, but I believe (based on my own experience, with Chaz being in school and with us being dirt poor!-although we didn’t really know it at the time, how poor we were, haha) that if the couple has a solid foundation and the training to deal with life’s issues, that those harder times can actually make the couple STRONGER, teach them a lot, help them to grow and make them more thankful in the long run.

I think those are all my thoughts for now. I hope they make sense and I hope they help! I know the feeling of wanting what is best for your child and wanting them to make good choices and struggling to see it their way when they don’t completely agree with you!

I hope and I pray that God gives each of you peace and wisdom during this time to know what is best and to love and be connected with each other no matter the direction all of this takes! And I pray a spirit of beauty, of Godly success, of love and vision over you, your wife, your son and his girl during this phase of life.

You all are in my thoughts and in my prayers. Please let me know if there is anything I can do or say to help during this time! I remember it so well. 🙂

Love you guys!!

~Echo~

P.S. If you can find the time, please keep me updated on this situation. You all will continue to be on my heart.

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