Saturday, February 6, 2016

When You Want to Call a Friend to Vent

I've been thinking about a message that comes up a lot in my world lately - that of being positive and not talking about the things that are going wrong. Pastor John Gray said this best when he claimed that "a lot of our friends WANT us to be broken." I find this to be absolutely true! When I tell my friends that I am doing great, I find it's a conversation-stopper.

Today, I'm going to address this phenomenon from a Biblical and research perspective. Then, next week we will explore alternatives to wallowing in our troubles and instead focusing on what is RIGHT in our lives.

Last year about this time, I read that "Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back" (Psalm 29:11). This brought me up quickly. How many times do I call a sister or friend to vent about what happened last to irritate me? We are told by many people, friends and family for sure, that venting is good. We'll feel good to "get it off our chest." Yet, this verse seems to indicate that we might be way off base with that notion. 

Further, research shows that contrary to popular belief, venting breeds aggression, hostility, and resentment. Ouch. That's a lot of bad outcomes for a simple vent. Certainly that's not the positive outcomes we are promised if we call our friend and vent about our day. 

So, what's a person to do? Well, researchers Cavell and Malcolm recommend beginning by taking some deep breaths. I know, sounds simple. But next time you're angry, see how "simple" it is when all you want to do is call a friend and spew. 

Next, focus on what's good. Second Timothy 3:2 says that people who are lovers of themselves (hhmm...self-centered focus on one's own problems?) are also lacking in gratitude. On the other hand, Hebrews 12:28 tells us that since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (it's a sure thing - no need to get worried about it or focus on our circumstances), we should show gratitude. So, in your situation, what can you be grateful for?  Perhaps by this time in your situation, you realize you are glad you didn't vent about it to someone! 

So that's our start for today. Venting may not be all it's cracked up to be. Instead, stop, breathe, and be grateful. 

The Bible and researchers do know some great strategies for what we can talk about with our friends that has GREAT effects and builds our relationships - without needing to be broken all the time. But we'll talk about that next time.

Happy Communicating!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


I've done Bible studies for various reasons over the years. I've wanted to learn about God and His Son, I've wanted to learn more about myself, I've wanted to learn how to live in a way that is in alignment with what I believe. While I enjoy simply reading the Bible, a study helps to get me up in the morning with a purpose and gives me something to focus on throughout the day.

Maybe you are a Bible reader - or maybe not.

Either way, I bet there has been at least one day when you wished that life could be simpler. While many of us talk about 'simplicity', we often wear our busyness like a badge of honor. Out of my entire social network, I only have one person who is outspoken about her quiet life. And even she gets overrun by busyness sometimes!

For others, simplicity has to do with "stuff." These people feel simplicity when they clean house, give unused items to the charity of their choice, and declutter. There are lots of great websites to help you do that, if you feel drawn to it.

For me, however, simplicity goes deeper than my schedule or my stuff. It goes to my soul. I long to be someone with a quiet and gentle spirit. Someone that others want to be around because of my calm nature.

This morning I completed a study that helped me to understand just how to attain that kind of simplicity.

Cynthia Heald has written a great study - Becoming a Woman of Simplicity.

In this fantastic, Bible-based study, Cynthia shows us how to draw near to God and away from the elements of our lives that draw us from Him. She gives great tips for how to settle down to attain that quiet spirit. Cynthia balances questions from the Bible, application questions, and text explaining the Bible and her own application.

I am so glad I took the time to do this study. While there are 11 lessons, I took about a month to complete it. I'd work in the mornings, as time allowed. Some days I only had time to answer two questions. But those questions would stay with me throughout my day.

Understanding the concept of quieting my soul and focusing on a gentle nature absolutely impacts my family. My boys begin to see a more calm mother, ready to handle life as it comes. My husband sees a wife who is more eager to spend time with him when he's available, instead of rushing back to my list.

Without a doubt, Becoming a Woman of Simplicity was a great use of my money and time. I am sure it can have impact for you, too.

Have you worked through a great study? We'd love to hear about it in the comments section!

Happy Communicating!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Many Meanings of Christmas

When one peers around during the Christmas season, one seems to find two views: a materialistic, expensive "event" or a quiet, peaceful celebration of Christ's birth.

Some folks are rushing around, carried away by the tide of Christmas buying. Despite the busy stores, people are generally happy and excited. While many people are buying their many gifts for the kids (albeit maybe begrudgingly), I believe they have a hidden kernel of the childlike enthusiasm for the holiday.

Then others eschew the Christmas rush and focus on the "reason for the season." They don't want their kids to grow up thinking that presents are expected and focus on just a few special gifts to celebrate Jesus's birth.

This year, I was particularly late in "setting up" for Christmas. My class schedule ran later than usual, we had wonderful guests visiting, and I was simply overrun with other activities. My children openly wondered if I was ever going to decorate or bake cookies.

When having a short visit with a friend, she shared part of a sermon her pastor had given about Christmas being about Jesus and not getting swept away in the trappings of the holiday. I'd heard that sentiment in the past and left her continuing to think about it.

Was I fretting over matters that didn't matter? Was I missing the reason for the season?

After thought and prayer, I decided that I was not. I'll explain why, along with our family's view about Christmas. Maybe this will help you untangle the confusing messages that seem to contradictory this time of year.

My husband and I both grew up in families that had extravagant Christmases. In the house of my youth, there were two times a year we received gifts - our birthday and Christmas. Otherwise, it was necessities only. My husband and I truly enjoy showering our kids with gifts on Christmas morning.

When I was growing up, Mom would bake cookies for a month while listening to Christmas music. I would help her when I wasn't in school and I cherished those times with her. Some of the cookies I bake to this day are those I learned working with her. When we decorated the tree, we would have the first Christmas cookies, drink eggnog, listen to Christmas music, and hear the stories of all those ornaments. Who gave us this one and who made that one? On Christmas Eve, we would make and celebrate the Polish Wigilia dinner, with pierogis and breads made and frozen months in advance.

To this day, those are my traditions. I bake with my boys. We sing and dance to Christmas music. We eat cookies, drink eggnog, and I tell my kids the stories of all our ornaments. I make sure they know that someday, they will share these stories with their children. On Christmas Eve, we enjoy the traditional, seven-course Polish dinner.

We also firmly believe that we share gifts on Christmas morning because God sent His Son for us. These are birthday gifts in honor of Christ's birth that we share with each other. We read the Bible, go to church services, relish in the beautiful Christmas songs, and generally appreciate the gift of a Savior.

Back to my friend's reminder. I finally realized that Christmas can be BOTH. I can love God and His gift...and create special traditions to celebrate the season...and give my kids tons of gifts...all without a contradictory message.

And you are free to feel the same - or different. Just know what you believe, and what's important to you, and stick with it.

What Christmas traditions to you carry on with joy?

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holidays and In-Laws

As my semester winds down and I find myself buried in papers to edit and grade, finale exams to prepare, and 100 students concerned about grades they should have been concerned about 10 weeks ago, I find myself pondering that in the middle of all that, I must prepare for the holidays. Thanksgiving will occur in between grading papers and final exams. Then when my exams are over, the Christmas rush will begin.

I know that my story is not unique. All of you have busy schedules, no matter how much we tell ourselves we need to slow down.

So, when this article came through my e-mail inbox, I thought I should share it here.
I hope it helps at least one family navigate those tricky in-law issues during the holidays!

As my papers slow down and final exams are created, I'll be back with more tips for communication successfully in our families.

Until then, enjoy your November!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sweet and Salty Words

Yin and Yang. Black and White. Discipline and Reward. 

Our lives often seem to be held in a balance. Every day we have a series of choices to make that govern the path of our lives.

The same is true in our communication. In the field of interpersonal communication, we are aware that people face opposites every day, but they occur in a "both/and" format. For instance, at times I want to be with my partner, while at the same time I want time apart from my partner. I want to be with you, but I want time alone. These dialectics, as they are called, occur in various parts of our relationships, and between those in relationship and their social world.

We see evidence of this "both/and" concept in today's verse: "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6) that speaks directly to the concept of opposites presenting a choice in our lives.

Let's unpack this a bit and see how we can live Paul's direction.  According to Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, "Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, and keeps it from corrupting."
My New American Standard Bible (study version) says that the salt is used for preserving, as in with meat. 

In looking at these two sources, it seems that our words should be both sweet and salty. I'm picturing a good piece of ginger-pistachio chocolate bark right now! Lots of salty pistachio with sweet, tangy ginger wrapped up in dark chocolate. Can you feel all those tastes and textures?

The way we talk with people should be just like that. We should be sweet (gracious, kind, loving, understanding; think Proverbs 4:7 - Wisdom is the main thing; Therefore get wisdom; And in all your getting, get understanding.) We should also be salty (lively, preserving, life-giving, ready to give an account for what we believe, wholesome, filled with Truth). 

We can be both at one time. We can speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) in all that we do. When we do this, we will know how to answer each person. Too often, I think I am trying to come up with the "right" answer, instead of the answer that is both sweet and salty - and in line with what God wants - the truth in love. When we focus on answering the way we learn from Colossians and Ephesians  we will know what to say...whether to our spouse, kids, or friends. 

Happy Communicating,