Following Up: A Little Habit that Makes A Big Difference

There are those who do things the way the masses do them, and then there are those who have a quality of excellence about them. We tend to trust and respect them more. One of those excellent qualities is following up. It comes from a sense of friendliness, gratitude, organization,  and respect. Following up sets a person apart.  You get the feeling that someone is professional when they wrap up loose ends after a meeting or conversation. It tells you that you are not "out of sight, out of mind" with them.  

We are so accustomed to hearing "Thank you so much!" that it has nearly lost its meaning.   A follow up message lets the person know that it REALLY WAS good to talk to him and reminds him that you have not forgotten about your conversation. 

My husband and I notice when people are responsive and when people are not.  Some have lost job and other ministry opportunities because they waited so long to respond. Either someone else snatched up the opportunity while he dragged his feet or the decision-maker realized that he would not want to work with someone who took so long to respond.  It is a matter of being considerate.  If someone is nice enough to make you an offer, be nice enough to give them a response.

๐Ÿ“"He's really good about responding quickly.  I sent that email out just an hour ago and he has already replied."

๐Ÿ“"He said he would get back with me by yesterday and I haven't heard from him."

๐Ÿ“"It's obvious why she has risen to where she is.  She is very responsive."

I'm beginning to think that not responding is the most severe form of disrespect. I require an answer from my children when I speak to them.  Imagine if you stood face to face with someone and asked them a question and they just looked at you in silence or walked away without answering.  That is a figurative slap in the face.  It says "You aren't worth wasting my breath. You are invisible to me." 

I have felt this way when greeting people I know and they look the other way. In our country, even a smile should be answered with a smile. An initiated communication requires a response unless it is inappropriate. When you know someone that is considered "the nicest guy you could ever want to meet," it is probably because he esteems every person highly, showing interest in them, and responding to every thing they mention.

Let's consider some common situations that require follow up.

โœ๐ŸปExchange of information
If you have announced information, keep people updated on any changes. It would help if you would let them know when they can expect the update so they do not have to ask.

๐Ÿ“"Thank you for all of the well wishes and prayers for my uncle.  He is doing much better and went home from the hospital today."

๐Ÿ“"I am happy to announce that we reached our goal for the fundraiser!"

๐Ÿ“"She played beautifully! We will not know the results until 4pm."

โœ๐ŸปAsked a question or given a task
Update people as to your progress from time to time on projects they have assigned you. Respond to texts or emails so that they know you received them. You may not have a final answer for them but at least they know you received the communication.

If you do not get back with them, they might suspect that you never got the communication or that you forgot about it or that things are going poorly. If it turns out that you did not receive the communication OR that the progress is slow, they may be in a bind on the due date. Remember that many managers answer to others so they need to know how the project is coming along. I would venture to say that the one who keeps a manager updated on progress would be more likely to get the promotion. Communication is key. People do not like to be left wondering.

If the ball is in your court, you should be initiating communication to keep others informed of your progress.  It's like when your child has to ask you "Did you like my picture?" That's when you know you've blown it.  They had to elicit your approval because you were too late with it.  Being mature means taking care of your affairs without others having to make you do it.

๐Ÿ“"I got your email and I will get on this Monday."  

๐Ÿ“"The envelopes are stuffed.  As soon as we get stamps in the morning, we will put them in the mail.".

๐Ÿ“"Got it. Will let you know soon."

โœ๐ŸปResponding to invitations

The letters RSVP stand for the French phrase "respondez, s'il vous plait" which means "respond, please". My iPhone is obviously not familiar with the term; it auto-corrects "rsvp" as "taco" because the letters are adjacent to one another. Notice that it does not mean "respond if you CAN come" or "respond if you CANNOT come".  It just says "respond". Either way. 

There are plenty of reasons the host would need a response.  Perhaps she has capacity for only twenty and, if you cannot attend, she could give your spot to someone else.  I have wanted to invite a list of people but had room for only twenty.  I had to save spots for those who did not respond in case they DID show up, but when they did not, I had a low turn-out when I could have invited folks that I would really have liked to invite.  It's rude not to respond to an invitation. 

Other reasons the host could need a response is to avoid foods she may know you are allergic to, in case she is personalizing place cards, to be sure everyone has a fellow guest he knows and is comfortable talking to, to have enough party favors, and to know the party can begin because everyone has arrived. 

Some invitations may ask you to respond with "regrets only".  That means the host is holding a place for you until you let her know otherwise.  I have developed a habit of not giving a reason for regrets.  I personally do not expect my guests to explain why they cannot attend and hope that they are not pressured to come if they do not want to explain.  There are times that the reason is just too personal.  Sometimes folks have been going so hard that they just need an evening at home with family to rest. Sometimes family relations are so stressed that they cannot manage to go out and act jolly.  They may be allergic to your pet and do not want to hurt your feelings by broaching such an emotional subject.  There are so many possible reasons and it is not up to me to approve of a reason. I asked if they could come and all I need to know is yes or no. Let's give one another grace and not pry for an explanation. We can be Christlike in this. Jesus invites us to come to Him and leaves it to us to accept or reject His invitation. He does not force us.

If you said you were going to go and now you cannot, let your host know as soon as possible.  Do not be a no-show.  

๐Ÿ“"Just wanted you to know I haven't forgotten about the banquet.  I'm waiting for a reply from a coworker before I know if I'm able to go." 

๐Ÿ“"I really want to go to your party but am just not feeling better yet.  How late can I respond?"

It's nice to give options for another time if you are unable to go. This lets the inviter know that it's not that you do not like them.

๐Ÿ“"I cannot go to your party but let's make a lunch date soon!"

๐Ÿ“"We cannot come for dinner Friday. Do you have any other night this week available?"

โœ๐ŸปAfter receiving a gift or being a guest
When someone sacrifices their money, time, or a great deal of effort for you, you should thank them with a note.  It is not for every time someone holds a door for you or does some simple act of kindness.  A simple "Thank you" will do for that, but when someone has singled you out and gone out of their way for you, a thank you note is appropriate.  

A thank you note left on my guest bed

Keep thank you notes on hand so that you can respond to them quickly while the sentiment is fresh and you do not have to begin with an apology for being late. Mention the gift, party, or favor and express your gratitude for it. Mention how fitting and enjoyable it is or was and of your hope for future use of the gift or connection with the giver.

๐Ÿ“"Thank you for having us over for dinner last night. It was such a treat to walk in and sit down to a delicious meal. I need your chocolate cake recipe! My family talked about it all the way home. The highlight of the evening was the fellowship and laughter we shared. What a refreshing evening with good friends. Thanks so much! See you at Bible study."

We should feel very honored (because we are) when people invite us to an event they are hosting.  I'm not talking about inviting us to somewhere they can market to us and use us as prospects.  That's well and good IF you have shown interest, but for someone to host a party and include you on the guest list is an honor.  I have given many a gathering and I can tell you that it is a lot of expense and work, even if you have it down to a science. 

In today's age of electronic communication, we have no excuse not to follow up with people.  A text within 24 hours of an act of kindness is very nice and adds sincerity to your spoken thanks.   This works fine in place of a note for something that deserves more than just a spoken word.

๐Ÿ“ "We had a great time at the reception last night. Thanks so much for inviting us and congratulations!"

โœ๐ŸปAfter a meeting or event
A follow-up call or note, whether written or emailed, is impressive after a meeting. Just think of it as an online review after leaving a restaurant. Of course, only the positive comments should be made publicly to a friend.

๐Ÿ“"It was very nice to meet you, Bob. Have a great day."

๐Ÿ“"Your lecture really struck a chord with me. I have been wrestling with that very issue and you gave some real help. Thank you for all the work you put into it."

๐Ÿ“"That meeting was well organized and efficient! Thanks for not wasting my time."

You can see how follow up is a very practical way to be an encourager. We all need encouragement and, if you have ever put work into writing or teaching or cooking or ANYTHING, you know that a little appreciation goes a long way and changes the whole experience for you. We Christians do all we do to please God but nice comments from others can keep us encouraged on life's journey. If we know to do this good thing, it would be wrong not to do it. Gratitude is good for the giver and the recipient.

When in doubt, follow up. 


Mixing Nurture and Admonition: Parenting (Part 2)

[Continued from Part 1.]

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป You are not your child's friend.  Since you are responsible to make choices for his welfare, you have to be the bad guy sometimes.  My heart has longed for my children to "love me" but I have had to make decisions that were in their best interest which sometimes made them upset with me.  My job is not to win their love but to do what is best for them.  Place your happiness in God's hands, not your children's.

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป The goal of rearing children is their independence...from you. Independence FROM YOU. This is one that gets forgotten because we enjoy that close relationship we have with our children and it is hard to give it up. I guess the really scary part is to put the choice for a close relationship in their hands and fearing that they do not want to be as involved with you as you want to be with them. I see parents becoming dependent on the children's affection and company and not wanting them to leave.  I also see parents not teaching independence, making the child unable to function without them.  A baby is fully dependent on his parent for everything: food, warmth, even holding up his head.  From birth on, we are teachers, training that child to do things on his own.  We have approximately eighteen years to get them to full independence. We clap and rejoice when they learn to walk on their own, but are we as happy when they are eighteen and the training is done and they do not need our help?  I use the phrase "Be your own mother" with my students.  You should not need a mother (in the sense of needing a manager and caretaker) as much today as you did yesterday.  You should be able to tell yourself what to do. 

Getting that gradual timing right takes a lot of wisdom. Even with the little taste I've had of my oldest child going to college and interning far away in the summers, I can tell you that it is satisfying to the parent and the child for the child to have the wherewithal to be on his own.  Going away to Christian college has proven to be a good transitional environment between living at home and living independently, for my husband, for me and for our son. 

Sending our children into the world without having trained them with our point of view on how to handle things may leave them vulnerable.  We decided to allow our children to get a Facebook account on their fifteenth birthdays so that we had a few years to train them in how to use it.  We had many limitations on it at first but gradually weaned them off of those to see if they made right decisions.  When they did not, we backed up a step.  This is training.  I would hate to think of the trouble a young adult could get in on the internet by facing those issues on his own.  At least we were there to guide him through it and he knew our reasoning behind what we taught him.

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป Be real.  My children watch me mess up regularly.  It's embarrassing but would be more embarrassing and damaging if I did not own up to it.  There's no need to pretend I'm someone else to my children.  They see me every day, good days and bad days, or I should say when I do right and when I do wrong.  Your children will learn to face reality and take responsibility for themselves if they see you do it. I also want them exposed at the appropriate ages to problems they will eventually face. Seeing their parents deal with problems will give them the tools to deal with those problems when it is their turn.  My prayer has always been for God to use my successes AND my failures to benefit my children.  I just have to trust that He will turn my mistakes into lessons for them. 

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป Keep talking.  Talk about everything and anything. Your listening to her talk about her doll when she is four will pave the way for her to talk about boys when she is fourteen. Our goal has always been that our children feel free to talk to us about anything.  To make that happen, you cannot blow up when they drop bombs on you.  Expect them.  They will know about and wonder about things way before you wanted them to. No question was off limits--always in private but anything was fair game. When those bombs come, you should whisper "Thank You, God, that they are coming to ME with this." If there's a problem, they are seeking your wisdom.  If they are curious, give them just as much age-appropriate information as they need to satisfy that curiosity.  

I've heard it said that your parents are your lifelong friends--womb to tomb, birth to earth. Well, parents are friends to children in that they do good things for them but hopefully you really can be mutual friends as adults. You spend all of their childhood setting a foundation for this potential future friendship.  Keep the airways open and give the advice when asked. Then let the child make his decision about what to do and let him enjoy the reward or pay the consequences himself. This is a good formula for being the parent of an adult.

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป Respect your children. I have always acknowledged the fact that my baby was just an adult in his early phase.  I look at adults as former children.  I see a boy as a future grandfather. We are all our own people.  We just intersect each other's lives at different ages and life deserves respect.  

I have always said "Would you please" when I have TOLD my child what to do.  "Thank you", "I'm sorry", "Please", even "Yes, Sir" and "Yes, Ma'am" were phrases I used consistently in speaking to my children. Your children will not respect you if you do not respect them, and there is a difference in respecting your position and respecting YOU.  I wonder if the same people who openly mock political leaders are the same ones who are shaking their heads about "these disrespectful kids these days". You teach respect by showing respect.

I am horrified to see children humiliated in public by "adults".  You know, the ones who read a student the riot act in front of the class, the one that posts a picture of his child wearing a sign about what he did wrong, or the very loud mom in the store showing us all how to keep children in their places. That gets you nowhere with a child except to prove to him that you are not respectable.  Humiliation is not a tactic we used with our children, which made it obvious to them whenever some other adult tried it on them.  If they committed an offense, we handled it privately. (Remember, keep private things private.). And, yes, even if they committed the offense publicly, we handled it privately.  Any apologies were made face to face that were necessary, but embarrassment does not pave the way for a child (or anyone else) to soften his heart. Committing a public offense is childish.  Handling it with wisdom is adultish. 

Also, respect the child's dignity. Bathtub and potty training pictures are vault-type pictures. When you are in the baby days and your life is about bodily functions and issues, you are accustomed to discussing that daily. Some of the rest of us are not.  Those details are your child's most confidential information. Be trustworthy with it. Guard his dignity, even as a baby.

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป All children are different.  Even children who have the same two parents learn at different rates and in different ways. They have different interests. Do not compare one child to another.  My children are all gifted in obviously different areas and have their own niches, but even so, I could get an instant tearful reaction if I ever mentioned how one child got it right and this child got it wrong.  You just don't go there.  It really isn't fair. They are different people.  Do not hold one up to the yardstick of another, but speak in terms of doing right or wrong.  And do not forget that they all will not end up living identical lives when they are adults.  They are not who they are because of who you are. They are individuals with a common starting point.


Being a parent can feel like a terrifying responsibility but God never asks us to do something that He does not equip us to do.  Make "Lord, I need Your wisdom" your daily prayer.  There will be times that you have no idea what to do.  Stay close to God and He will guide you through this most important task of your life, and you will be the object of His help in rearing the children He has given to you.

Mixing Nurture and Admonition: Parenting (Part 1)

This is one of those posts that I hesitate to publish. I do not pretend to be an authority on child-rearing and frequently think of things I wish I had done differently along the way. I have three children who all have some great attitudes, but Jeff and I cannot take credit for that. Sure we are pleased with the good things we consistently modeled for them, but they each have to decide for themselves if they will adopt those beliefs and behaviors. 

Every child has a mind of his own. We can make him behave in a certain way but it is his choice as to whether he submits his heart to wisdom. My father-in-law preached a sermon entitled "No Credit, No Blame" which emphasized the inconsistency of taking credit for your child's good decisions but not blame for his bad ones. We should take neither one. We are certainly accountable for how we rear our children, but we cannot control what they do with that upbringing.

Parenting does not produce the person. The person is โ€œproducedโ€ by his own free will, the choices he makes. A child can be raised well, by good people, and turn out badly. Contrarily, a child can be raised badly and turn out well. I call this the Paradoxical Parenting Principle. Parenting and the child/person is not a cause/effect relationship. Parenting is an influence and oneโ€™s job, certainly, is to maximize the positive aspects of the influence, but even the most positive parenting does not guarantee a positive outcome.
— John Rosemond

If you set your sights on your child turning out to be a certain way, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You've heard the phrase "little me". Your child is not a little you.  He is a little him. He may have many similarities to you but be assured that he is his own person.  God designed him to be able to do certain things easily.  He has strengths you do not possess and that you did not teach him. Parents need to remember that we are simply channels and guardians.  While they do belong to us, we are their way of passage into this world and we nurture them until they are able to stand alone.  

Having children makes parents permanently vulnerable. Our children's choices in life have the ability to break our hearts or to make our hearts glad. I've heard it said that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child. The reality is that their adult lives are theirs, just as yours is yours.  It always helps me to remember myself at their ages and how immature, unsure, and unknowing I was, yet eager to tackle life and to make the best of it. They will learn the same way we did--by experience.

With those thoughts in mind, let's consider some specific attitudes we as parents need as we strive to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. These are good for teachers to remember as well.

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป Be consistent. Your walk HAS to match your talk.  Children can spot the difference instantly and nobody respects a hypocrite. Also remember that repetition aids in learning. Be prepared to teach the same lesson over and over.  One child may learn after being taught 20 times.  Another may take 2000 times.  Don't give up. Don't give in.  If it's right, you should keep insisting on it.

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป Set the foundation before kindergarten.  The parent of a small child needs to be on the job in a big way.  The child is figuring out how things work and you had better make yourself clear.  Set aside involvement in your other interests. The time will come later for those but you have a much more important job right now--training that child.  Just the physical work alone is enough to make you exhausted so trying to have other ministries or hobbies will just frustrate you, though you will have to be careful that the child is not convinced that he is the center of your universe. To everything there is a season. You have to be able to be on that job and still have time to maintain your own body and sanity with scheduled breaks. I think if parents were fully focused on the importance of teaching their babies and toddlers, their parenting work would be mostly done by kindergarten.  There have been many times in correcting my older children that I thought "I didn't conquer this when they were little so I am still having to work on it."  You need to be very convincing to your toddler so you do not have to keep trying to convince them for years to come. 

To see a well-behaved, happy child is jaw-dropping to me.  I am in awe like some would be of fancy cars or huge muscles.  It shows that a lot of effort has been expended to make that child so secure in his parents' authority and not fighting for his own way. Of course, the increase is not of us but of the Lord.

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป Mean what you say and say what you mean. I learned early not to make an empty threat. If you are not willing to carry it through to the end, do not say it.  You'd better speak carefully when you say what you will or will not do.  Sometimes I even have to write it down so I remember what I said.  I promise you that they will remember. Many is the time that I have immediately said "No. You are not going to do that" and then wanted to soften my statement after I've heard the whole story but hesitant to go back on my word.  I didn't have to put myself in that position if I would just be slower to speak.  Threats and bribes are not the way to go.  Think more in terms of consequences and rewards.  We are not their bullies or their beggars. They should know that there will be consequences, and rewards are something I have often kept to myself until it was earned.  They have no idea how many rewards they forfeited.  Keep them guessing with the rewards, not the consequences. 

On the flip side, say what you mean. Do not assume they know what you expect. Say it clearly, whether it is a curfew or "I love you." Speaking your heart to someone, looking them in the eye, is difficult for some people. Some would rather praise someone in a prayer or correct someone online than to say it to his face. We should be able to own up to what we say, and children need steady doses of "I love you" and "I'm proud of you," especially from their fathers. 

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป You represent God to your child. You are the justice system in your home. This hearkens back to being consistent.  You must make decisions based on what is right and wrong.  Punishment for a teenager breaking a lamp should be different based on whether they accidentally backed into it or if they knocked it off in anger.  We punish according to the offense (accident or anger), not according to how we feel about it (That was my favorite lamp!).  They shouldn't be punished worse if the lamp broke (though they would need to replace it) than if it just fell over.  You are punishing the loss of control, not how upset it made you. How we handle punishment and reward gives children an understanding of the character of God. 

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป In justice remember mercy.  Remember that thing about representing God?  He is fully just yet always falls on the side of mercy.  There are times that you show love to your child by not punishing to the full extent.  If you show mercy in every instance then there is no justice.  It must be obviously unusual.  They should know what they deserve but we should sometimes let up a bit, particularly when they have had a tough time lately.  There have been a few times when my daughter was covered up with school, basketball, flute practice, youth group, not feeling well, and deadlines that she arrived home to find that I cleaned her room.  Sometimes you just need a little sunshine to help you make it through. It is the goodness of God that brings you to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Being good to a child softens his heart and paves the way for repentance.

๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป Just because they did not do it on purpose does not mean they should not be punished.  Children need to learn that they are responsible for what they do.  If they pinch brother's finger in the door accidentally, they are still the one who pinched the finger.  They should apologize and possibly be punished for carelessness. You will hear many times "But I didn't do it on purpose!"  This is a clue that they have not learned to be responsible for their actions. They should feel sad that the hurt was because of them. 


[Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.]

How to Put Someone in Her Place

Sometimes people get out of line and I simply must do my part in putting them right back where they belong! Where other people belong is in line ahead of me.

From birth we are naturally self-centered. We want what we want and we want it now! However, that is not God's way. He says that the way to true fulfillment is to put others ahead of yourself. 

Philippians 2:3b lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

To exercise this principle is to exercise faith. God can help create in us a heart like His if we will trust Him on this one. In Matthew chapters five through seven, Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. It is chock-full of wisdom from God. In chapter seven, He gives us what is known as the Golden Rule.

Some have joked that the Golden Rule is "He who has the gold makes the rules."  Well, I agree.  God owns the gold in every mine. He makes the rules.

So how specifically do we put others first? There are rules of etiquette that have been the conclusions of many people over time. Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt are authorities on the subject. Understanding the rules of etiquette will give you a good feel for what is tactful and what is not. However, every etiquette tip comes from the Golden Rule. The fact is that once we decide to hold other people's needs higher than our own, the right thing to do becomes obvious to us and we enjoy life in the way God intended.  He is the ultimate example of living for others. He gave His only Son for us.  I cannot imagine loving someone that much. When we show sacrificial love to others in our feeble, human ways, we bless them as well as ourselves. 

There are countless ways to put others first. Here are just a few examples.

Do not call attention to yourself.  
Your liberties end where otherโ€™s space begins.  You are free to swing your fist anywhere up to the place where my nose begins. Being a distraction is rude because you are forcing attention from people who did not choose to give it. There are many levels of this ranging from loud music coming from a car to wearing strong perfume. Other ways of taking someone's attention are cracking knuckles, chewing ice, biting nails, and smacking food at a dinner table. It is distracting because of the sound and because of how crude and out of place it is.  A polite person is given attention by someone's own free will. An impolite person demands attention.

Social media is replete with those calling attention to themselves. Does your selfie accomplish a purpose (like showing friends and family your new haircut or that you are on a trip) or do you just want everyone to know how pretty you think you look today? Are you praising God for what He has done for you or do you just want to let everyone know how great you are?  A lot of this has to do with motivation so let's be sure to have unselfish reasons for our posts. 

Do not take care of private things in public. 
This one is closely related to the previous point but takes a disgusting turn. Scratching, cleaning out your nose, and clipping your nails are all things we don't care to witness. Use your private time at home or in a restroom to take care of your bodily needs. Even combing your hair, putting on make-up, tucking in your shirt or adjusting your clothes is "vulgar" to the keen eye of propriety. You shouldn't feel as though the world is your dressing room. Remember to keep private things private.

This is a constant challenge to those on social media. We can feel like the world is our audience as we have the ability to post pictures of whatever is happening in our lives. Do we need to know every detail? If I had a dollar for every time I wanted to comment "TMI"... Potty-training progress and stomach problems are disgusting, embarrassing, and private! We can pray for you just the same if you say "I'm not feeling well." 

Do not bring up subjects that are painful or embarrassing to the people present.
Someone who has gone through a painful or embarrassing trial is doing well to even show up and hold themselves together.  They need support and time. Leave it to them to bring up the subject when they are ready to discuss it, and it is doubtful that it will be in a group setting, risking a public breakdown. This is an area where you can accidentally (as if you do it purposely sometimes) put your proverbial foot in your mouth. We don't remember that someone just lost a loved one until we make a joke about death, and then trying to make it better only makes it worse.  It will inevitably happen, but let's think before we speak.  The more we purposely choose our words, the better chance we have of blessing others rather than hurting them. 

Choosing our words carefully is even easier on social media than in a verbal conversation because we have a chance to write a post and then think "Is there any way this will hurt someone?" before we post it. A laugh is not worth bringing someone pain.

Do not be nosy about the private lives of others.
In all Christian love, it is none of your business where they were last night or how much money they make. We can show interest in people but it is up to them how much personal information they share, and consider that information confidential unless they give you permission to share it. Money matters, contact information, relationship statuses, pregnancy--these are just a few things that are personal and take care in discussing. Let the owner of that information decide if they want to share it. If they do not then we should respect that. If Person A asks me for Person B's phone number, I ask Person B first if they mind if I give it to Person A. Just because someone shared information with you does not mean you have permission to share it with others. If someone is not involved in a situation, they do not need to know about it. That only gives temptation for them to draw conclusions when they have insufficient information.

We should never share information or photos on social media that would reveal more about a person than they wish to reveal. If there is any doubt, you are always safer to ask their permission first. Using your power to decide for them only shows that you are not a loyal friend and should not be trusted. Also, do not ask about private matters publicly. I saw someone ask recently on social media if a couple decided to take a position which was a change in employment. That was sensitive information and no doubt put the recipient in the position of having to make the decision to remove the comment or to answer before they were ready to make it public knowledge. At the very least, they stole the couple's thunder. There are ways to privately message people if your post might not be for everyone to see.

Do not compliment one person to the exclusion of others.
I see this happen all the time in person and online and usually without the perpetrator even realizing that they are doing more harm than good.  "Mr. Sunday School Teacher, you are the godliest man I know." She just hurt her dad, grandfather, pastor, and every other man she knows. "Mrs. Friendsmom, you are the world's best cook!" Well, that rules your mom and grandmother out--you know, those two women who have cooked for you your entire life? "Muffy, your dress is so gorgeous!" Biffy and Tiffy are suddenly self-conscious about their dresses.  There are ways to compliment and honor people without making it a slam to everyone else.  Your teacher can be ONE of the godliest men you know. Your friend's mom can be a great cook.  You can tell Muffy when you are alone with her that you like her dress, or say "Look at all these lovely girls in their beautiful dresses!" Of course, if someone has something obviously new such as a new hairstyle, it is fine to comment on it in a group, but if someone is "the best" at something, be sure it is the one who rightly deserves that title.

Strive to make everyone feel welcome and valued.
You know that "left out" feeling, like when someone tells a private joke without explaining it to those who were not a part of it. I felt completely unimportant when I greeted a graduate at her reception and she ditched me when she saw who was in line behind me and demanded to have her picture made with them. I wanted to say, "Okey dokey then. I see how it is. I'll just disappear now." We should never make someone feel that way. 

Do not mention parties or gifts youโ€™ve shared. It is much easier when those invited were all of a group but much more difficult when people were singled out. If the whole class was invited to the party, we can see how they chose who to invite.  However, when there are Facebook pictures of your close group of friends going out to dinner together and you were not invited, that's much tougher to take. Mentioning something someone invited you to or gave to you just announces that they did not do the same for others. Everything does not need to be announced. 

Think twice before declaring your personal opinion.
You can obviously get into embarrassing situations by saying something negative about someone who overhears it. You should be embarrassed saying something negative about someone else at all, but even saying that you don't like things such as institutions, music groups, songs, and fashions can be hurtful. When you mock something that someone likes, that is easily taken as disregard for their opinion. If your opinion must be stated, acknowledge respect for others' choices if it is not a matter of right and wrong. Developing a habit of saying positive things will help eliminate this problem. It is better to voice what you like than what you do not like.


On the receiving end of unfortunate situations, we need to give grace and try not to be sensitive. Sometimes that is difficult when there is no other way the comment can be taken and someone's true feelings have been revealed. These suggestions are not meant to make us walk on eggshells but to reduce any hurt we might cause one another. A truly gracious spirit toward everyone will eliminate a lot of these problems. If we use our common sense, we can stop committing these common sins.

Being kind is all about showing honor to another person. It is hurtful to let someone know that their feelings are not being considered. A truly considerate person is a delight to be around and it all comes from showing respect to our fellow man.

๐ŸBe kind.

The MayBe๐Ÿ Game

Have you ever been driving behind another vehicle that was going slowly and you thought, "What in the world?!"  Well, when this would happen when my children were younger, I would play the Maybe Game with them to not only turn a frustrating time into a fun time, but also to teach them patience with others.  The game would go something like this:

Evy:  Why are they going so slow?!

Mom:  Well, maybe they aren't sure where to turn. Or maybe they lost their dog and they are looking for him.  Can you think of any other reason they might be going slowly?

Capers: Maybe they are running out of gas.

Colton: Maybe they don't know how to drive.

Mom: Maybe they are transporting a wedding cake.

Capers: Maybe their brakes went out.

Evy: Maybe they LIKE to drive slowly.

Capers:  Maybe they are going to the dentist and they don't want to.

Mom:  Maybe they had foot surgery and it hurts to press the gas pedal.

Colton:  Maybe they want us to run into the back of them so they can collect the insurance money.

Evy: Maybe it's a solar car and it's just not sunny enough.

You get the idea.  We would come up with every possible explanation for why someone was behaving in that manner.  This just pointed out the one fact that we knew for sure: we DIDN'T KNOW why they were driving slowly.

There are lots of times that I hope others are playing the Maybe Game with me: those days when I really just can't manage a smile, or I didn't have much time to fix my hair, or I really needed to stay in bed but had a responsibility at church.  There are lots of times in all of our lives that we just aren't 100%.  We need to be especially understanding of each other during those times. 

I remember visiting a friend in another state a few years back and, for a couple of hours, I was obviously out of sorts.  I was emotional and not very cheerful.  My friend put her arm around me and told me she didn't know what I was going through but that she loved me and would be glad to talk with me about it when I was ready. Then she walked away and gave me space.  Knowing that she had an understanding heart and that my mood didn't change her commitment to me as a friend made me feel so much better.  The problem eventually was resolved and I don't even remember what it was now, but I do remember that my friend had a "Maybe Game" attitude and I was reassured that our friendship was there whether I was friendly at the moment or not.  She could have reacted differently, playing a different type of game in her mind.  She could have played the "Forget Her!" game.  She could have thought, "What's her problem? She comes all this way to see me and treats me like this? I'm doing my best to entertain this chick and she acts mad? She's not much fun to be around."  If you know anyone for any length of time, you will eventually see them on a low day.  Friends help each other through those times. That's the beauty of friendship.

There's another use for the Maybe Game. It's not only for when you have NO idea what's going on with someone.  It's also for when you have SOME information and are tempted to draw a conclusion. This is how we judge others when judging others is not our place.  That's God's job.  When I am tempted to decide about someone's motivation based on the supposed "evidence" that I have, I just hit the pause button on my brain and tell myself not to think one more thought about it.  I do not know everything there is to know about the situation and it's not my job to decide about it anyway. 

If you play the Maybe Game when you see a picture of someone with a new car, you could come up with these possibilities:

He is rich.

He is now poor because he just spent all his money on a car.

He had just enough money to make a down payment and get in big debt paying monthly payments on a new car.

His dad had a dying wish of being able to buy his son a new car in his lifetime and the son is smiling in the picture knowing it made his dad so happy.

He has done without many things in order to save for the purchase of a new car.

He's just showing off.

He could have bought a much more expensive car but bought a modest one instead.

It's someone else's car. He is just posing with it.

Do you see how there could be many possible explanations for any situation? The fact is that we seldom have all the information we need to reach a right conclusion. Only God has all the facts. If we are not an authority in that person's life, we do not have to know why someone did something. 

It says a lot about the condition of my heart if my initial response is that they had some evil reason for what they did, OR if my tendency is to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Even when things look bad, I should be eager to think the best of someone. If that person finds out that you assumed they were out of line, it will be difficult to win that person's trust again.

I have made it a practice that I will not believe something bad about someone until I get verification from that person or a very reliable source.  Too much false information and ill will can be mixed in with bits of truth for me to take someone else's word for it.  We can easily get into judging someone's motivation when only God knows someone's heart. It is our job to be patient, to love, to forgive, to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep.

Let's have an attitude of graciousness. Assume the best until proven otherwise. If someone has never given you reason to doubt them, do not instantly assume they are guilty. It should be easy to give someone a break if their behavior is very unusual for them. If you have to make a decision about an issue, do not do it until you have heard both sides. This is how to be a true friend and to give out some of that grace that has been so generously given to us.


Piano Lessons: 10 Life Lessons the Piano Taught Me

PC: Evy Beach

I have been enamored with the piano since I was a little girl.  Both of my parents played and all of us children had lessons.  I remember watching my mother's hands as she played and just could not understand how she knew which notes to press.  

I started piano lessons when I was nine years old and have been a student of the piano ever since. I'm no virtuoso, but I really enjoy playing.  It is a gift my parents gave me that I reopen almost every day. I even get to play in church frequently. However, there have been many times even as an adult that I wanted to give it up, but it is never long until I find myself right back on that bench again.  It is my relaxation and my communion with God.  Even if no one ever heard me play, it is mine to enjoy.

I have gone from piano student to piano teacher. Ha! "Piano teacher." I've never taught the piano a thing, but it sure has taught me a lot.

Lessons the piano taught me:

1. Don't dwell on mistakes. Keep going.    
"What just happened? B flat is right, isn't it? I can't believe I missed that! I am ruining this worship service!" These are my thoughts after a mistake as I continue playing the rest of the song. Being paralyzed by a mistake causes me to be unprepared for the next thing. Mistakes should be like a glass of cold water in my face--now on full alert and focused on what is next. There will be time for reflection later but now it's time to get it done. God's mercies are new every morning.

Don't let the past debilitate you. Move on.

2. I can do hard things.  
I could give up on a piece after the first try saying "It's too hard for me. I can't do it." But I have seen too many times what consistent work can do to let something difficult stop me. The first time is the hardest. Once that's behind me, it gets easier and easier...and I become a stronger and stronger musician. As a Christian, I can call on God to strengthen me and He does for me what I could not do on my own.

Let God surprise you with what He can do through you.

3. Just because I am focused on my mistakes doesn't mean everyone else is.  
I have felt like a failure after playing less than ideally in church and those are the times people tell me they were so blessed, and not just because they felt sorry for me -- they honestly didn't hear anything wrong. I wonder if God does a miracle on people's ears and allows them to hear right notes when I hear wrong ones. I have learned to just thank them instead of trying to convince them that it wasn't as good as they think.

Be glad for the good you did.

4.  The journey is more fun than arriving at the destination.  
How I enjoy playing the piano at home preparing to play in church! It's fun. I worship. I cry.  I express myself to God and am focused on Who He is. I think through problems and feelings. The creative juices flow. When it's time to play in church, I am just sharing with others what's been going on at home and hoping they hear my heart. However, sometimes I get this "can I get off the roller coaster at the top of the hill" feeling when it is time to approach the bench, and I feel relieved when it is over. I still enjoy it, but the most enjoyment was in the preparation.

Enjoy the process.

5.  Performance is a mind game.  
If I'm thinking about who's listening, that my shoe is squeaking, my leg is shaking, someone just sneezed, my nose itches, I hear people talking, I should have trimmed my nails, and so on, I will lose my place or not be ready for the hard part or even botch the part I never missed before. Focus is the challenge, and it is a life skill that helps me perform.

Be in the moment.

6. It is rarely as good in performance as it was in practice.
An unfamiliar piano and nerves are two challenges I didn't face at home. Also, there is no need to think I will get it even mostly right this one time if I haven't done it perfectly right many times in practice.

Your private performance must surpass your public performance.

(By the way, did you ever realize that pianists are musicians who rarely perform on their own instruments? We have to adjust during performance to an instrument that we have had little to no experience playing. The touch, the pedal, the music stand, the sound--it's all different than the many times we practiced. At least we don't have to put it together, tune it, and worry about it being lost or stolen everywhere we go.)

7.  I will miss it if i don't anticipate it.
Here comes that tricky part. Flag it. Write a note. It will trip me up every time if I am not  expecting it. In practice, I have to comb through the measures to pinpoint the problem. This works a lot better than just playing through the whole piece the same way over and over.

Deal with problems head on.

8.  When there is too much to do, I must leave something out. 
When accompanying, the beat goes on whether or not I play every note.  Maybe I can put them in once I get more familiar with the piece, but there is no sense in sacrificing the whole piece just to say I played it all. Moms and students, I hope you get this one especially.  This can take the panic out of your life.

Are you going to do the important stuff well, or are you going to do everything? 

9.  When I am solo, no one is controlling my tempo but me.  
There is no need to go faster than I am able to go.  If I am the only one playing, I can play the speed I want to play. I will get there eventually, but it might be better if I get there at a slower pace.

Don't get ahead of yourself.

10. A modest success is better than a fantastic failure.
I can play advanced hymn arrangements. At home alone. On my instrument. On my best day. After a ton of practice. But add one listening ear and I am no longer at the top of my game. Therefore, I should take one step back and perform intermediate or early advanced pieces in public. Playing an easier piece well feels better than quivering through a harder one.

Know your strength level and shine there.

PC: Evy Beach

I am finding that the things in my life that frustrate me the most and tempt me to give up--playing the piano, being a wife, being a mother--are the things that are instruments of my greatest growth and joy. I'm (figuratively) screaming "I QUIT!" in the same breath that I'm (literally) whispering "God, help me! OK. Let's figure this thing out." There is something magnetic about these challenges that has my mind programmed to keep on with it. Try again. This is my life and it's not going away.  As much as I wish I could escape the difficulties, I jump right back in and keep working at it. 

You see, once you love something, you don't WANT to give it up. I'm talking about a committed love that says, "Good or bad, I'm here to stay." And honing a skill, being a wife, and rearing children are all worth the blood, sweat, and tears. Easily.

Faithfulness. Going on in spite of difficulty. THAT is what the piano taught me. And THAT is the key to success. 

๐ŸBe a Lady

๐ŸžThe word "ladybug" is ironic to me.  In my mind, "lady" and "bug" do not go together. I'm a lady and I have been known to scream at the sight of a bug. I have a man to take care of bugs for me. Men are handy to have around for that purpose.  I do confess that, of all bugs, ladybugs are the cutest. Ladybugs are plentiful, but ladies are more of an endangered species today.

My children have asked, "Mom, did you hear that lady yelling at her children in the store?"  I reply, "That was no lady.  That was just a woman." You see, you might grow up to be a woman, but that doesn't automatically make you a lady.


Being a female is a matter of birth.
Being a woman is a matter of age.
Being a lady is a matter of choice.

Adapted from a quote by Ben Kinchelow


The same goes for male/man/gentleman.

We have to be careful that feminism doesn't creep into our thinking.  God ordained a regal position for us as women. We are privileged to be in a place of honor. Why would we try to be masculine or to raise a defiant, clinched fist, as is depicted on the feminist logo?  I've been thinking about starting my own movement:  the feminine-est movement.  I want to be the feminine-est that I can possibly be. Not just because I enjoy being a girl (well, most of the time), but because God chose well when he made me who I am. He is all-wise and knows the best way to do things. I want to live according to God's plan for me. I want to be whoever I am to the hilt. I want to be a lady with all my might.

A lady is a woman who is polite, well-mannered and refined (freed from impurities). 
Being a lady does not mean being a snob. It is not about acting like you are better than other people. Being ladylike simply shows confidence and respect that puts others at ease.


Being a lady is where refinement and kindness meet. 


That sounds like a delightful person to be around, doesn't it?  People should be able to tell that we are steeped in wisdom, and that we've given attention to ourselves. Proverbs 31:26 says this of a virtuous woman: โ€œShe openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.โ€

I could write a sermon on all the things a lady is and isn't, but this one phrase tells us keepers๐Ÿ what to keep:

PC: Evy Beach

This phrase has helped me many times to know what is appropriate. I find that our society decays when private things are allowed to be made public and sacred things are not held in their proper places. Things about your body and problems you have with other people are private. Every topic does not need to be brought up to other people. There are things we shouldn't show in public. A lady knows which things to keep private. She knows that talking about body functions or someone else's personal problems is not appropriate. She knows that nobody should see her scratching or grooming. She knows that special things aren't special anymore if they are paraded in the street and shared with everyone. Think about it. Do we really want to make our world a place where anything goes?

When there are no rules, private things are public and sacred things lose their meaning. A lady insists on living by a standard of decorum and self-control. And a Christian lady has every reason to promote decency and order (1 Corinthians 14:40). She is a representation of God.

Set a high standard for yourself. You don't have to be a girly girl to be a lady, but every woman, young and old, should desire to behave appropriately.