3 Ways to Master Angry Words

3 Ways to Master Angry Words

He was in tears and I was apologizing. Again. Impatience and frustration had clouded my judgement for the third time in 24 hours. I retreated to my bedroom and swung in my hanging macramé chair, twisting and twirling as I silently cried out to God asking, “How will I ever tame my tongue? Is it even possible?” Then I heard it. God in his characteristic simplicity whispered into the secret places of my heart:

Stop talking.

As I twirled and swirled in my chair, I rolled the words around in my head and I thought, “What? Like a vow of silence monks used to do in the 1500s? Impossible. I am a busy mama.” But the thought brought a lightness to my heart I could not describe and before I knew it, I had decided I would try it. What I did not know is that I would be amazed.

Raising a family is not easy. Being overstimulated and overwhelmed means you may be short-tempered too. But does that mean life has to be tainted with angry words? That it just is what it is, or is there something more? I vote for more. My God does the impossible and his word says, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength.”

When we use food for the wrong reasons, we fast. When we develop an unhealthy relationship with social media, we pause our accounts and delete our apps. And if we battle an unhealthy relationship with words, we stop talking.

I know this last one sounds bizarre. Especially as it is coming from a mama who runs with five little children all day. But this is such an incredible and simple strategy I had to pass it along to you. Here are 3 simple steps to mastering angry words:

Choose a Time

Create Hand Signals

Stop Talking

Choose a Time

Pick a time that requires interaction. I chose to begin with one hour. Choose the hour before school or before dinner. Your purpose is to interact with your family without allowing angry words to get in the way. Tell your family BEFORE you begin. Be honest by apologizing for using angry words and tell them that you are going to do something new. “Soon I will not be using words and it will be your turn to speak and my turn to listen.”

Create Hand Signals

Life is still in swing and you will need a way to communicate with your family. Luckily, they say 90% of communication is nonverbal. Before you begin, create with your family some basic hand signals to communicate things like, “time to go” or “time to eat” or “bedtime.” Keep it simple. Personally, I tend to talk with my hands so my kids already knew the motion for “hurry up.” Ha!

Stop Talking

Warn them first, then zip it friend. No talking, humming, singing, emailing, texting or journaling. You are silencing your words and that means all of them. Spoken and written. This is your time to receive input, not give create output. (I highly recommend this for prayer, too!)

What should I expect?

Here are a few things that happened while I practiced fasting my words:

  • The kids tuned into my every move. No more telling them to do something 2-3 times, ending in a screamed instruction. They had to watch me for cues and they were so responsive!
  • They handled their own squabbles. Oh, they tried to get me to be judge between them. But since I wasn’t speaking, it empowered them to solve their own disputes. Praise Jesus.
  • The kids were empowered to demonstrate all they had learned. They have been trained well. But for some reason, my kids love to be told every move to make. This was a chance for them to show me how mature and capable they have become.
  • Rest. You may not realize it, but sometimes us mamas contribute to the chaos more than we realize. Choosing to put a pause on speaking gave me a rest from the endless questions, the repeated instructions and the the mental process of always directing and responding. I demonstrated my love through hugs and kisses and saw my family with a new perspective.
  • No regrets! Best of all, God spared my family from my angry words. I distinctly remember 4 incidents I would have prematurely reacted to, but in my silence I had no regrets. My original goal had been one hour, but it was such a lovely experience I ended up doing 2.5 hours.
  • More walking. You can’t yell at your kids to come in, come down stairs, or come to dinner… so there is that. It’s a small price to pay.

3 Tips for Teaching kids about God

“Tell us a Bible story, Mom!”

3 Tips for teaching Bible Stories

Are you looking for new ways to teach your kids about God? Tell them a Bible story!

Any time my husband travels, the kids and I sit at our dinner table grieving his empty chair until a perky, little voice asks for Bible stories! Now I share my stories with you so that you, too, can teach your kids about God!

People in the Bible have the same thoughts, feelings and reactions that we do, and through stories your kids will see how their favorite Bible characters chose to follow God. Christ taught through stories and so can you!

Here are 3 tips for Teaching your kids about God through Bible stories:

Ask them who they want to learn about

Read the story and pay close attention to thoughts, feelings & actions of each character

Have fun with it! Get into character and make the Bible come alive!

Need some inspiration? Read 12 of my own Bible stories that I have written for adults here and sign up on my Bible Fiction page for new stories delivered straight to your inbox!

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Sibling Rivalry and Squabbles

Are the kids fighting all the time? Being cooped up in the house together can cause a few… shall we call them disagreements? Children fight for their place in the proverbial pecking order by continually cutting each other down and demonstrating their strength over one another. Be it physical, emotional or intellectual this childhood struggle is the source of the many scars we wear today as adults.

However, we are called to defy this natural tendency, to give comfort when we see a family member down. Nature may push us towards self-promotion and self-preservation but God calls us to do family different.

When our children struggle we correct them and then invite them to come near and find comfort and consolation. When it comes to siblings, we teach our children to come alongside and build each other up. Never do we celebrate their loss, nor puff up our pride at their fatigue or grief.

As parents we often find ourselves delivering justice and sorting through the mess of hurt feelings and broken pride. It is an opportunity to correct one while having the other say something to bring comfort or consolation.

We are shaping hearts here. Perhaps some reflective time is needed before true comfort can find its way through. Walk your son or daughter through their feelings. Appreciating and maintaining justice is good, but celebrating someone else’s set back is an issue of the heart that also needs shaping.

By asking the offended party to respond to the apology with comfort and grace, we are training our children to be full of compassion and restoration. We are also preventing shame and condemnation from creeping in. There is no shame or condemnation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Read 2 Corinthians1:3-4, Romans 8:1 and pray 2 Corinthians 2:6-8.

2 Corinthians 2:7-8

Jesus, teach our family to “turn to forgive and comfort” each other so that no one “may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Let us always “reaffirm [our] love for him [or her].”

Beyond the Tides: Book Review

Liz Johnson pens Beyond the Tides, a novel set on the shores of beautiful Prince Edward Island. It is a story of Meg Whitaker, a brilliant scientist who gives up her education and career to come home to care for her sick mother only to find her high school nemesis, Oliver Ross taking over their family business. With themes of sacrifice, grief, and forgiveness, Johnson reminds us that people are redeemable and to be brave enough to cherish what you have before it is too late.

This novel mirrored, too closely, one of my favorites series of all time: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne, the heroine, is strong and brilliant, destined for higher education and career who gives it all up to come home and be a local teacher when a beloved parent falls sick. Anne abandons her opportunity to make it big opting instead to come home to support her parents and help run the family farm. She is then shocked to find her childhood nenemis, Gilbert Blythe, helping her from a distance. Agreeing to lay the old feud aside, the two develop a begrudging friendship that grows into love, which is only revealed through his personal sacrifice for her. It’s an incredible series.

While in Beyond the Tides, Johnson differs from Montgomery with her focus on themes of grief and forgiveness, the basic plot structure is the same. And the parallels between the two made it feel not original. At one point I wondered if Johnson was aiming to modernize the classic but I looked and did not see any mention of it.

Which in turn makes me ask a second question: How did none of the editors catch this? Surely-no pun intended-publishers still read the classics? Or perhaps Johnson loves that story and it inspired her to this one. In which case there needs to be an obvious tribute.

Given the glowing endorsements from other successful writers, my expectations were high. But I give this book 2 stars. Not because it isn’t well written or researched, or because the characters or themes were under developed, but because it felt like Anne of Green Gables rolled up her sleeves and took charge of a lobster boat instead of her farm.

Leslie

Book Review: The Nature of Small Birds

Susie Finkbeiner’s latest novel The Nature of Small Birds tells the compelling story of Mindy. A woman on a journey of healing and self-discovery, who chooses to face her past and search for her birth mother in Vietnam. The story however is uniquely told through the eyes of her three closest family members. Beginning in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam war and the fall of Saigon, Finkbeiner captures a picture of history rarely told to today’s generation.

Four days ago my friends and I shared dinner at a local pub and as we were leaving for a school meeting, an old man stopped us. He was wearing a Vietnam hat and my friend thanked him for his service. As he lit up, I wondered what his return home must have been like in the 1970’s. A sad retreat? A divided nation? Few patrons offering discounts to war heroes? It’s a story my parents do not like to tell. “A dark time in our nation” is how my mother put it. Finkbeiner tells this story.

Whether you were on the anti-war side, the support democracy side, or the nobody has taught me anything about it side, The Nature of Small Birds will pull you in to the roller-coaster emotion families experienced in this often not spoken about decade of America.

This book is moving and pulls you into a heart-felt story. Personally, I found the 3 distinct voices bouncing back and fourth over a period of many decades a little hard to follow. But please do not let this discourage you – I have been busy and distracted. I simply recommend you read this book when you can focus. The diction is also a shift away from standard writing as it is in first-person narrative/journal style. I prefer this in non-fiction but Finkbeiner does a fantastic job with her style. This book is unique and worth the concentration.

Happy reading!

Leslie

Book Review: Come Back To Me

Jody Hedlund writes another fantasic novel. And, it might just be my favorite. Come Back To Me is an intriguing novel about time travel, the legendary healing powers of the Tree of Life and the evil intentions of mankind.

Marian Creighton is a scientist, just like her dad. Searching for a cure to the disease that stole her mother and now plagues her sister, Marian resents the distraction of her Father’s private research. But when he falls into a coma while testing his own research, Marian begins her own journey discovering how time travel and the tree of life may not be so ridiculous afterall. When love unexpectedly touches her heart in an ancient era, Marian must find a way to go back.

Could. Not. Put. It. Down. Then wanted to immediately read it again. The tree of life and all the legends surrounding it is fertile enough gound for a great book, but Hedlund doesn’t stop there. Adding time travel and danger while constrasting the social customs of the middle ages and present day, Hedlund weaves a story of love and danger, sacrifice and healing. Lovers of Outlander will celebrate this redemptive story of adventure, history and faith. Don’t miss out of this story!

Leslie

Easter Decorations

After 2020, I find myself digging deep into the well of faith. This year for Spring you won’t find my house dressed up in bunnies and eggs.

As 2021 begins, I am clinging to what I love most: Truth. Redemption. Love. Mercy. Christ.

I found these railroad spikes for $2 each and an antique hymnal that was falling apart for $4.

Say “Hello” to a fresh start. A new beginning. A new life.

To the One who poured out his life on a cross. The One who conquered sin and death. And the One who gave his life that I might live.

Not Today COVID.

Rockstar.

This rockstar drinking a chocolate milkshake is my Grandma. And I love her so much.

She came to MO in a covered wagon from Kansas as a five year old.

She lived through the depression and wore a dress made from a bright-yellow flour sack material. (Yes, they bought the flour for food and then used the soft material of the bag for clothes.)

She witnessed our nation unify and the young and old sign up for World War II to fight against Communism and injustice.

As a newlywed she lived in a Colorado logging camp that had formerly been used as a German Prisoner of War camp.

She supported Billy Graham from his beginning to end.

She watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.

She has three children, 6 grandchildren and lots of great grandchildren (Sorry family. I lost count of us all. But she hasn’t.).

Before this Christmas she looked pale and weak. So we took her to the doctor and found out she had only 40% of her blood due to an ulcer. Then they diagnosed a UTI. Then they diagnosed COVID.

Yes, COVID. I thought – we all thought – we will never see her again. Barred from the hospital, we prayed we would see grandma again. Hug her one last time. That somehow, this combination of living on 40% of blood, an infection plus the coronavirus would not take her.

My heart cried out, God! She has given too much, loved too many to die alone!

She will be 91 years old this spring and I am happy to say she is still kicking! Which is what I told her. To which she quipped right back, “Ha! Well, I’m not kicken’ very high!”

Marveling at God’s grace upon her, His answer to our prayers, I asked her, “How did you get through it all? It was just so much.”

She answered, “You just do what you gotta do until you get through it. Anytime you face something new you do not have any experience with it, so you just do it. Then, when you make it through, okay now you have some experience. But until then, you just face it and do it until it’s done and behind you.”

Grit. Thats how I sum it up. Her generation has grit.

I asked her what was the hardest part about the last several weeks. She said, “Being alone. It’s hard to be alone. But I see myself back in my apartment and seeing you all again and that’s what I am working toward.”

Hope. Plain and simple. Hope gives us the strength to do what we need to, to grab hold and push foward until we make it through. It is for hope we persevere.

Hope doesn’t beg for relief or whine about discomfort. Hope doesn’t depend on ease. Hope is the joy set before us. An expectation that rallies the soul and urges us on.

What is the hope you are clinging to today? What propels you forward?

Jesus is the hope my Grandma clings to. He is the hope I cling to. Unmoveable. Unchangeable. Eternal. A rock in the storm. A beacon in the darkness.

Grandma, I am excited for more of your stories and to give you another hug soon. And yes, I’ll bring you another milkshake!

Old Christmas Cards

Don’t throw out your Christmas cards!

This year I decided to buy a chalkboard and make my own prayer board. You can too!

This is such a fun idea as we can pray as a family and lift our friends and family up all year long.

Happy New Year!

Leslie

Escape to Egypt: A Christmas Mini-Series

Escape to Egypt

by Leslie Crouse

The Shekinah led the Magi to a humble house in a town mentioned by Herod. When it rested over top they moved past. Surely this was not the house. But the Shekinah did not move with them. It stayed, rooted above the little home. Though small, it was clean and well cared for.

Their entourage had overwhelmed Bethlehem. All the people were terrified. Belteshazzar wondered, Of us? Or of Herod’s retribution? Either way, they settled the soldiers, servants and food suppliers outside the city limits, in the Judean foothills. There were shepherds there keeping watch over their flocks.

As he crossed toward Bethlehem, he saw a shepherd carefully watching him. A wooly man who looked very much like his sheep, but it was the man’s sword that caught his attention. What was it about that sword? Beyond being out of place on a shepherd, Belteshazzar sensed there was something powerful at work here. He must be close. His senses were never wrong.

His servant knocked on the door of the small house and a young, pregnant woman no older than sixteen opened the door. She bounced a baby that was around 6 months old on her hip. He explained himself and she calmly welcomed him in.

Had she expected them? Or, perhaps she simply knew who she held. Her husband also walked in, presumably from work as his hair was covered in wood shavings. But he had a kind, welcoming smile.

Since the home was small, only three of them came in carrying the gifts they had brought. Suddenly, the Shekinah Glory of the LORD filled the room and all the Magi fell down trembling and worshipping. Hours passed as they humbled themselves in pure worship. Then, it was gone.

They slowly arose and looked around. The man introduced himself as Joseph son of Jacob, his wife as Mary and the baby as Jesus saying, “His name means that he will save us from our sins.”

Belteshazzar presented their gifts. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh. Kingly spices used for anointing and embalming. But surely, an Eternal King would have no need of embalming.

He explained, “Outside, there are also horses and wagons. Silver woven tapestries and our best food offerings from Parthia as well. We are here to recognize the true King of the Jews and offer our friendship. If you ever need to call for reinforcements or aid, please call upon the Parthian Empire as it would be our greatest honor to serve the Eternal King.”

Mary approached Belteshazzar and offered he hold the child. At first, he hesitated. It was not done! But this was no royal palace. He wrapped his arms awkwardly around the floppy baby. Then he thought lightening had hit him. So much power! He had never experienced such overwhelming glory! He was undone.

Of all the kings he had met, of all the throne rooms he had stood in, they had all been just men. Never had he lost control. Yet, tears ran down his face and he began to shake with the weight of glory. What would this king grow to become? Would people be healed by simply touching his clothes? Or hearing his voice?

When baby Jesus looked into Belteshazzar’s eyes and his tiny hand touched his beard he saw such intense glory. As if all of Shekinah dwelled in him. Yes! Yes! That is, it! The fire in his eyes is the same living fire that led us here! He would not mistake it for the world. And as he gazed into this baby’s deep brown eyes, he saw the unmistakable glitter of gold flakes as well. The glory they had followed now dwelled in this child!

Mary broke the silence. She waved her hand at what they had all seen and said, “In our language, Shekinah means to dwell. We use it to describe God’s glory coming down to dwell among us. Until now, God’s glory would only come for a time and then leave. But now, his glory is here to stay,” she stroked Jesus’ brown hair lovingly, “He is Immanuel, God with us.”

All his life, Belteshazzar had worshiped wealth. Strived for infamy and greatness. No longer. If God had abandoned his throne, humble himself and enter the brokenness of humanity, then so would he. He thought, From now on, I will serve not strive.

Later that night, an angel appeared to Belteshazzar in his sleep warning him not to return to Herod. Suspicions confirmed, he informed the entourage to prepare for the journey home without delay.

~~~~

Herod paced like a caged lion. “It has been a week! Where are they?!” He whirled toward his captain of the guard. “Your incompetence has cost us everything! What happened?” The Captain’s face was ashen with fear. “Sire, we trailed them as you directed. But the Shekinah Glory both went before them and behind them, as a rear guard. We could not see them through the cloud and if we got close our men died.”

Belial whispered in Herod’s ear, “Herod, you were always a worthless counterfeit.” He sneered. “The Glory of the LORD has chosen another king. A Jewish king. The LORD rejected your father Esau and he has rejected you too. You must kill them all. Teach them a lesson they will never forget.” His worst fears had come true.

Herod stroked his beard and thought to himself, I will eliminate this new king. But, the people must be taught a lesson. I am sick of their constant pandering for a new king. Streets will run with rivers of blood from my enemies. I will show them what I think of their LORD GOD and his glory.

Herod called for the captain of the guard. In the morning, he would begin the genocide. When the Captain arrived, Herod said, “I want it done in daylight so all will see the extent of my wrath.”

~~~~

Joseph stared at the gold, wagons, horses, food and other gifts they had left Jesus. It was unbelievable. Where could he hide it all? Herod would find out for sure and come for the boy. He prayed. He sensed danger in his spirit.

That night, Joseph was tossing in a fitful sleep when Gabriel appeared to him and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

Joseph woke Mary. “Come Mary, we must flee to Egypt. Tonight.” He laid his hand on her pregnant belly and said, “I hate to ask a long journey of you when you are again with child, but we must go. There is no time to waste. The LORD has provided everything we need.”

Together, they packed the wagons, horses, food and gold the Magi had miraculously brought the day before. Joseph marveled at God’s provision. The Magi’s gifts would aid in their fight to Egypt and even help them create a home there. Joseph had yet to tell Mary they may be there for years.

As they fled in the night, Joseph paused only briefly to warn their dear friends Hananiah and Evie of the coming wrath. After Mary said her goodbyes, she climbed into the wagon and, over her shoulder, took a final look at the little stable hidden in the hillside.

~~~~

Thank you for reading the finale of my Christmas Mini-Series! I hope you enjoyed each story as much as I did. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Do not miss a single story of this series!

Herod: A Christmas Mini-Series

Herod

by Leslie Crouse

Herod had been born a servant and knew what it meant to be powerless. Yet, through political brilliance he was now Herod the Great. They called him a madman for murdering his favorite wife and her children. But she had been of the Hasmonean dynasty and he would not tolerate any claim to his throne.

He was a violent man but would leave a different legacy through his building projects. Recently, he had completed his masterpiece. Jerusalem’s new temple. Named Herod’s Temple in his honor. It was a veritable circus in the court of the Gentiles, but he had appointed Annas as High Priest of Jerusalem and the man made sure the temple was a lucrative business.

And just this morning, Annas had reported the Shekinah Glory of God was now dwelling over Jerusalem! It had not happened since Solomon’s day. Herod finished another large glass of wine and leaned back giving a satisfied sigh. I am Herod the Great King. Even the God of Abraham recognizes my rightful place on the throne with the presence of His Shekinah glory.

~~~~

The journey from the Parthian Empire had taken about 4 months. Belteshazzar led the entourage of Magi, soldiers, servants and beasts as they traveled. In total there were about 700 of them and the journey had gone slower than he liked.

But, the sword-shaped Shekinah had led them steadily. By day it looked much like a cloud sparkling with golden flakes. At night, it appeared as a pillar of living fire. It was a fearsome sight to behold and any who got too close died.

Belteshazzar was excited. He was here, witnessing history being made. There were bad relations between the Parthian Empire and Herod. Herod was an Edomite who hated the Jews and he had stolen the Hasmonean throne with Roman assistance. He was deceitful at best. A maniacal murderer at worst.

Belteshazzar knew Phraates IV was all too eager to recognize a new king and rebuild the bridge with Judea. They were there to be ambassadors as much as to celebrate the birth of the new “King of the Jews.” And Phraates IV was adamant they use that very title, “King of the Jews” when referring to the new king.

He could see the walls of Jerusalem. Soon, he would know if Herod would be friend or foe.

~~~~

“Your Majesty, I have an urgent message from your Captain at the wall.” Herod set his wine down and extended his scepter allowing the man to continue his report. “There is a great entourage approaching Jerusalem. Our scouts are reporting it is of Parthian origin.”  

Herod froze, wine halfway to his wet lips. The Parthians? They hate me. I murdered their precious Hasmonean heir and the princess and her children. “How many?”

The man bowed and continued, “Between 600-800, oh Great King. There are many soldiers and Magi.”

Herod thought for a moment. How can he maneuver this to his advantage? His armies were away, reinforcing a Roman battle. Now was not the time for teaching Parthians lessons in submission. Perhaps they have seen the Shekinah Glory of the LORD and come to recognize me as the rightful king.

Herod replied, “Prepare a feast for them. I want all the best entertainment present. We will welcome them as friends and find out what their purpose is.”

~~~~

That evening the Parthian entourage marched through Jerusalem with much fanfare. The people were terrified it meant another war. Given the number in this entourage, Herod too, was nervous. His armies were gone, and this was a large number of soldiers. What is their intent? He wondered.

The Chief Magus, Belteshazzar, approached his throne and bowed low. “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star,” pointing toward the Shekinah Glory of the LORD, “when it rose and have come to worship him.” For a moment, Herod simply stared.

Belial slithered up the throne and whispered, “Who dares make a claim to the Jewish throne when you are the one who has conquered this country?” White hot fury filled Herod.

Always the master of political diplomacy, Herod smiled, “My friends, how my heart rejoices at your arrival! I welcome you at this time of celebration. Please, before we discuss this further, I insist you rest from your great journey. Come, my servants will show you to your rooms.”

Belteshazzar bowed and said, “You are gracious, Sire.” Herod, though extremely joyful at this news, had avoided revealing any information. Belteshazzar looked into Herod’s joyful eyes and reminded himself that this was a madman and not to be trusted. Used to being put off by kings, he bowed low again and allowed Herod’s servants to usher him and the other Magi to their prepared rooms.

Herod called for an immediate assembly of all the chief priests and scribes of the people. He inquired where exactly the Christ was to be born and all information about him. Annas reported “In Bethlehem of Judea,” and went into a long Jewish prophecy.

Herod paced in his chambers. He hated the Jews. This hope for a messiah they held on to was foolishness. It fuels rebellions and has been the cause of several false messiahs. He was ready to squash this Jewish hope once and for all. But the Parthians were a new dynamic and that sparked a fear he did not like to recognize. Why are they involved? The Shekinah led them here? The LORD’s manifest glory is not for me, but for another. Again, rage consumed him.

Several hours later, Herod summoned Belteshazzar and the other Magi to his private quarters where they discussed the Shekinah and the time it first appeared. Then he shared the information about the Messiah. Who he was and how they all had waited so long for the Eternal King.  Herod finished saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word that I too may come and worship him.”

Belteshazzar knew something did not add up here with Herod. If he had been waiting for this King, why did the Shekinah come to them and not Jerusalem? Why would Herod not search for the long-awaited king himself? Did the king expect the Parthian Empire to do the work for him? And what would they find? This journey was turning out to be very interesting indeed. Dangerous.