My husband and I once scurried to an out-of-state hospital to be with friends in need. Their baby girl was in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit due to some birth complications. Phone calls and fervent prayers just didn’t seem like enough in that particular situation. We felt like we needed to have boots-on-the-ground, to be physically present to give them support. Right before their infant daughter went into surgery, we gathered in a loose circle and offered up our prayers. We prayed for the surgeons to be guided well, for the baby to be stable throughout the procedure, and for our dear friends to be surrounded in peace…that a wave of peace cover them during this tender time.
The surgery went exceedingly well. Their precious daughter was discharged shortly thereafter and our friends were able to return home with her snugly in their arms.
Several months later when our families got together, we rehashed those heart-wrenching moments and were able to laugh about our prayer being misheard as “swirled peas.” Our friend added that his “wave of peace“ felt a lot like nausea.
Now, whenever we have a prayer request, we do take it seriously and commit it to the Lord. But we also can look at each other and pray for “swirled peas.” Sometimes a hint of humor can make the serious situations just a little more manageable. If it gives us a bit more strength to endure a difficult time, then that is healing, too.
“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11
The words we speak in our homes are so powerful. Words can be spoken in a way that edify and result in strengthening the connections we have with one another. Or our words can tear down and fray those tender threads that link us to our loved ones.
Words within a family carry underlying messages:
“I know you.”“You are meaningful to me.” “I want to continue our story together.” “We have something shared that’s unique to us.”
Not only the content, but the tone conveys so much….are we communicating warmth? criticism? rejection? belonging? This is a daily struggle. I have to be intentional DAILY in my choice of words, my timing, and especially my tone of voice. The words we have posted throughout our homes are as much for us as parents as they are for our children. They are reminders to maintain the peace, to speak truth, to be kind.
When we think about the “tapes” in our heads from our own childhood, what do we hear? Think back to those tender junior high lunch encounters, those rowdy high school band trips, those tension-filled college interviews. How many of those events had a word or phrase etched into the memory? How many of these were more negative than positive because it felt seared into us at the time?
The lines repeated to us the most and grooved into us are most likely from our closest family members and carved in deeply during intense interactions filled with highly charged emotions. What are we as parents instilling in our children’s heads? What tracks are we laying down? When our child is in a tough spot, does our voice pop in with an encouraging tone “you’ve got this!” or a negative tug “what did you do NOW?” Home is where we practice our words and reactions with one another. It’s where the training ground is for communication.
My husband and I have been working toward fostering a ‘no criticism’ buffer around our dinner table, redirecting and reminding our sons to rephrase negative statements they make to one another. Recently, we capitalized on a sermon we heard about not using a filter of negativity with one another. The pastor’s message was about how much we “filter” over our interactions, not being true and genuine, often putting a negative spin on others to cast ourselves in a better light. Since we heard this message as a family, I made a #nofilter reminder sign and place it in the center of our table. When this reminder was first invoked, my oldest son was particularly quiet throughout the meal. My middle son noticed this and complimented his brother on respecting the #nofilter rather than make critical comments to correct his younger siblings’ stories. We acknowledged both of their efforts and moved on, not dwelling on it. It’s a little reminder with a powerful impact: this time and place is a protected space to be yourself
The family dinner table is a small zone to cover, but so far seems manageable. It creates a safe zone when we all come together for a meal, especially if we’ve been scattered in different directions throughout a busy day. This safety zone invites us to linger a little longer over a meal because feelings aren’t being hurt by inadvertent comments or direct put-downs. It’s slowly becoming a family norm so we as parents don’t have to police the verbal barbs quite so much.
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11
One night shortly after starting this new routine, I served baked apples as a fall treat. I suggested to my youngest, who was my dinner helper, to come up with a quick family game. He chose “Apples to Apples” to coincide with our dinner. We did a 10-minute round of the game, which ended in a greater sense of family closeness and much laughter at my husband’s expense. (Now we have a new family catch phrase “Glitter hands!” that we can use as a tension breaker, but that’s another story!) I think I had more energy to prolong the dinner into a family activity because we hadn’t been refereeing negativity. It’s a simple shift in a specific family routine that hopefully will gradually extend into other interactions.
Where might your #nofilter zone be? At your dinner table? In the car? At bedtime? During school drop-off? The 30-minutes right after a child’s sporting event?
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet for the soul;
healing for the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
We know that God created the universe with words, and Jesus healed with words. We learned in our upbringing that our words of prayer overcome evil. We were read scriptures about sowing words: “the seed is the Word of God” Luke 8:11. We know by experience that words build faith or doubt; they are sometimes subtle, but so powerful. And of course they can bring joy or pain to our day in a split second, changing the course of how we feel or act.
Last week we decided to walk through our homes, just out of curiosity, and write down all the words we have on our walls, tables, frames, etc. Wow! This was a great exercise: you should try it! It took just a few minutes, but it showed us something interesting. We have wall art with words painted, small rocks with words etched in, pillows with words stamped, blankets with words stitched, letters that symbolize initials in our families. Once we had our lists of words constructed, we began to see themes emerge that we never recognized! In fact, we both gravitate toward this layer of our home, and some of our rooms were missing that layer. The dining room was void of any words. This was quickly remedied as we borrowed a few items from other spaces, and now, as we are sitting at that table, we see words of hope, of family, and of love. It is subtle, but it makes us smile.
The word Peace is in a boys’ game room that is anything but peaceful!! It was hung during a season of raising 3 babies when it was desperately needed as a visual for the momma. It hangs a little crooked, yet there is no way we want it straightened. It still brings calmness to a crazy family space when we see it; and it reminds us of how faithful the Lord has been to us through thick and thin. One word can change an atmosphere. One word can adjust a momma’s attitude and that, dear friends, can make a difference for the whole family dynamic.
We build up our children each day with words of affirmation, pouring love into those sweet spirits. We sometimes have to ask our family for a “do-over” — for words that came out wrong. We pray out loud with them to etch those words on their hearts. We write them silly notes and tuck them places; only to discover they sometimes cherish them and place them under pillows or in special boxes to save and look at over and over. Words are full of Life.
If this is a layer of your home that seems meaningful to you, then take a stroll through your rooms and see what you discover. It is a thread that you weave throughout the spaces that your loved ones walk. Enjoy the journey.