Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Lips are Concealed

By Cynthia Brown Cooksey

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, But only what is helpful for building others up, According to their needs,That it may benefit those who listen”(Ephesians 4:29)NIV.

I rummaged through my purse in the seat next to me as I sat waiting for the traffic light to turn green. My lips were dry and cracking from the bitter cold conditions, and I was trying to find my Chap Stick for quick relief. The light turned green, and traffic began to move. With my eyes now on the road, I kept blindly feeling for the tiny tube as I accelerated with the flow of cars.

Instead of the Chap Stick, I came upon what I thought was my lip gloss. Thankful for anything that could provide relief to my irritated lips, I grabbed the tube from the bottom of my purse. Still watching the road ahead, I unscrewed the cap and used the sponge applicator to rub the moist balm onto my lips.

At the next traffic light, I looked in the rear view mirror to check my application of lip gloss. Something did not feel quite right, and I wondered what was wrong. To my surprise, when I looked in the mirror I realized that I had applied ivory toned concealer instead of lip gloss. My lips were now the same color as the skin surrounding them!

As I looked for a tissue to wipe away my mistake, I thought about the fact that sometimes it would be best if my lips really were concealed. I recalled many times when being silent would have been a much better choice than speaking my mind. The reflection in my mirror reminded me that I frequently speak harshly to my husband or children and say things to them that I would never say to others outside my home. When stressed or frustrated, I submit to the urge to "say the last word" during an argument. More often than not, the "last word" should be eliminated from my vocabulary. There are other times when the problem might be the tone I use to speak to my loved ones; in other words, it's not what I say, but rather how I say it.

The Bible has many lessons on how we should talk to others and the types of conversations we should be having with them. Here are a few verses to meditate upon concerning our speech:

• “Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning” (Proverbs 10:13).

• “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

• “The lips of the righteous nourish many” (Proverbs 10:21).

• “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”
(Proverbs 15:1).

• “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).

• “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

• “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).

If we hit the pause button on our lips and think about these instructions, we can live more harmoniously with our families, friends, co-workers, acquaintances…even strangers who cross our paths. More importantly, our testimony will not be tarnished by the use of careless words. Stop and think about the visual of "concealed lips" before you snap back with a quick response to someone in your "line of fire." Use words that build up, rather than tear down. You never know when your kind words may be life-changing for someone. Choose to sow peace with your words, rather than anger…my lips are concealed.

The Sandwich Generation: Make the Most of the Meal

By Heather Gearhart

Every day, at the retirement community where I work, I see women speeding around in a frenzy. Cell phones are glued to their ears and organized chaos reigns. One is organizing a bake sale for her child’s school. Another is putting the final touches on a marketing proposal for her job. All are coming to visit a loved one who is ill or disabled. These frenzied individuals are part of the sandwich generation where multi-tasking is taken to a whole new level.

The term “sandwich generation” is the name given to those individuals who are caretakers for both the younger and the older generations. The notion of caring for our children comes naturally. However, the thought of caring for our parents or another elderly loved one may not have occurred to us. When you find yourself in this situation know that the Bible gives unmistakable directive. Psalms 71:9 says, “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.”

Given the responsibility of caring for two generations of loved ones isn’t an easy task. The “sandwich generation” comes in many different varieties. The elderly person can be cared for at home, in a facility, locally, or even hundreds of miles away. Most care givers are women, over 40, married, employed, raising children or helping with grandchildren, and stressed to the max.

Take a look at what’s on the menu. It’s a lot to swallow.

The bread. The kids are pulling from the top for gas money, tuition and new clothes. The adults are pulling from the bottom. They need supplies, caregivers, products, and equipment.

The cheese and the meat. The care giver is the sustenance. You are now caring for two generations of loved ones. The children need you to shape their lives. They need your guidance and boundaries. The elders need support. They need independence and dignity.

The condiments: ketchup, mustard and pickle. These are the spices of life. Of course there will be ups and downs. Just think about what you will have to look back on in the years to come. When the children are gone and raising kids of their own they will have so many memories to share.

The knife, fork, and napkin. Now, you have the whole meal set in front of you. It seems like a lot to chew on, right?

Here are a few tips to make the most of your sandwich:

* Have those uncomfortable conversations sooner than later. Ask about living wills, advanced directives, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders and funeral arrangements. Chances are your loved one has already made these plans or has ideas about them.

• If you need to draft any of the above documents, know that each state has different rules and some documents are not honored if your loved one moves or even travels across state lines. Be sure to consult with a professional.

• Find out if your elderly loved one is making the most of benefits they are entitled to. A good place to start is Also, obtaining a durable power of attorney will allow you to be able to act on their behalf when and if the time comes.

• Check out support services. If you provide in-home care you need to plan for relief. Most assisted living facilities offer respite services for short-term stays. There are adult day care programs that will care for your loved one while you work. PACE (Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a new hybrid that combines in-home care with an adult day program. More information on PACE can be found at

• If you live far from your loved ones, you could enlist the services of a care manager. They are available to coordinate services locally. You can find additional information on care managers at

• Don’t forget about other informal support. Your friends, family and church are there to offer you physical, emotional and spiritual support. Be sure to ask for help. Many times your friends and family are willing. They just don’t know what you need. Tell them.

Do you want fries with that? Don’t forget to save room for rest of the meal. Life can not and should not be a singular event. Life must be enjoyed and appreciated. Be sure to fill your life with side dishes. Take time to take care of you. So, if you need to eat dessert first go ahead. Wash it down with a healthy does of reality. Don’t expect perfection.

Just remember to go slow. Savor it. Enjoy every last bit of it. The sandwich generation portion of your life won’t last forever. Just like that meal eaten too quickly, you will wonder where it went. Chew on each new situation a while. Don’t let problems overwhelm you. Reach out for some assistance. And most of all, remember you are neither a piece of meat caught in the middle, nor are you the sole substance for your family. You are the chef making the whole meal work well together.

Heather Gearhart has a master’s degree in long-term care administration and works for a non-profit retirement community in Blacksburg, Virginia. She enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, extended family and family of friends.

Choosing to Do Good

By Amanda Berry

I’ll never forget the first time I made tuna noodle casserole. It turned out to be quite an ordeal. First, I started on dinner much later than I had hoped and was pretty hungry. Next, my can opener broke and I had to borrow one from a neighbor. But I persevered and the recipe made a gigantic casserole, more than enough for dinner and plenty of leftovers for the next few days.

At the time, my husband and I had a general rule in our house: whoever didn’t cook the meal had to do the dishes. Since I had been the chef for the night, my husband handled the cleanup. Or so I thought . . .

The next morning I awoke and found my 15 x 10 tuna casserole sitting out on the kitchen counter from the night before! All of my hard work had been ruined; it all had to be dumped out. Anger boiled within me. I honestly wanted to take the leftovers and rub his nose in them (both literally and figuratively). But mercy won out. As mad as I was, I didn’t respond as my flesh had craved. I threw my masterpiece in the trash and told him about it later.

As with the tuna casserole, the thought of retribution tempted me after I learned of my husband’s pornography addiction. After the reality of it all set in, I wanted him to pay for his mistake and I wanted him to feel as bad as I did.

But thankfully, God allowed me to play out the scenario and visualize the reality of my thoughts. How would repaying my husband for the betrayal bring any good to our marriage or to our family? I acknowledged that further damage would be done if I responded in my flesh.

When I’m looking for encouragement to persevere in my quest to be a godly wife and mother, I often read Proverbs 31. I often wonder how the Proverbs 31 woman had it all together. Recently, I read the following verses and received fresh insight:

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12, emphasis added).

Wow, all days mean every single day. Nowhere in this passage does it say that her husband deserved good all the time, I’m sure they had their moments. They likely had disagreements about finances, frustration from the children and just got on each other’s nerves once in awhile. And like us, she probably felt tempted to repay evil for evil when things got heated or when he hurt her in some way. But she chose to do good. She acted with grace and mercy, even when it may not have been merited.

The more I think about it, I think I may understand how she responded in this way. It all depends on focus. When I’m focused on the misdeed that’s been done to me, it’s hard to act with goodness. But when I’m focused on God and how He forgives me when I sin against Him, I can then act with mercy and do good to my husband instead of harm.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t rub my nose in the mistakes that I make. He forgives me and He desires that I extend that same forgiveness to my husband and to others — even when my casserole has been ruined or a relationship has been damaged.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
In reading Proverbs 31:12, I see that it’s a deliberate choice I must make to bring my husband good and not harm. There’s a variety of ways that I can do this:

•When my husband does or says something hurtful, I will stop and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide my response instead of acting in my flesh.

•I will choose my words carefully and remember that once I speak them, they cannot be retrieved.

•I will communicate to my husband, instead of expecting him to read my mind and becoming angry when he doesn’t.

•I will remember that God calls me to forgive, even if my husband doesn’t ask for it or deserve it. I will be grateful that Jesus died for my sins and those of my husband. I acknowledge that I am not worthy or deserving of the forgiveness that God extends to me.

•I will pray for my husband and his struggle with pornography. I acknowledge that doing him good and not harm will help to restore our marriage and encourage him in his daily battle of purity.

Even years after my husband confessed his addiction, I still experience painful reminders of the betrayal. They often spring up out of the blue and send my emotions whirling. But lately when I find myself in this place, I recite Proverbs 31:12 in my head, “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

Writing under a pen name, Amanda Berry desires to see women and their marriages restored from the devastation of pornography. Connect with her at

What Can I Afford?

By Rebecca C. Bradshaw

I always knew I was destined to be a business owner, but the only business experience I had was that of selling cosmetics and plastic containers for a few months. This time was going to be different. I was going to be successful. However, my definition of success and God’s definition are different. During my experience at an unsuccessful attempt of trying to own my own business, I learned about something even more valuable. I learned what I cannot afford.

I had noticed a “tugging at my heart” for several months to open my own business as a Guardian ad Litem. My work would focus on providing recommendations to a family court judge for the placement of children in custody cases. I volunteered for 10 years during my career as a paralegal. Because of those experiences and the marketing research I conducted, I knew I was making a sound business decision and would be able to manage every aspect of my new business. I also knew success was definite because, after all, I was being obedient to God.

I gave my two weeks notice at work and started immediately. After intense training at the state level, it was not long before I received my first three cases. Although I experienced fear, I knew my new strength was coming from the Lord. The excitement and heartfelt joy I experienced in helping the children also kept me exponentially inspired.

Things were going well and I was happy to be completely obedient to God for the first time in my life in the area of finances. I knew my paychecks were going to come from the parents of these children I assisted, but I did not realize that two-thirds of them would end up not paying me at all. Unfortunately, in some instances, these parents did not have the money to pay their electric bill, let alone enough money to pay me for the work I provided. After several months of intense work, the funds I expected were nowhere near sufficient to offset my costs.

I asked God all my questions, but no answers came. How can God clearly tell me to start this business and it not thrive? Was I completely wrong in hearing from God? Did I quit my job prematurely? I started to doubt my relationship with God and seriously doubt my faith. With every passing month, I got deeper and deeper into a financial mess. Frustrated and with no answers, I reluctantly took a paralegal job which was unexpectedly offered to me, to temporarily ease the burden.

Despite my efforts to return back to my Guardian ad Litem work, I never got any additional cases. I finished the ones I had started and continued with my paralegal job. Confused and exhausted, I believed God was still with me, but I could not make any sense out of anything. I continued looking to Him for guidance in order to meet my expenses.

One night, while sitting at the dining room table after planning the budget, tithing and paying the bills, I realized I had no money for gas. I had only a quarter of a tank in my car so I knew that by the end of the next day I would need to do something. At that point, I just poured my heart out to God. With tears in my eyes, I explained to Him that I get paid monthly and that meant two more weeks of waiting. “I just give it all to You, God. Here it is. Here’s my budget, my checks, my priorities and my bills. You tell me how I can make it work,” I pleaded between bitter sobs. I went over and over the figures, but I had made no mistakes. I looked upward with empty out-stretched hands and then I put my tear-filled budget calendar away, and went to bed.

The next day I went to work with the same pleading, pondering heart. How long would it be before I would know what to do? I caught myself trying to take it all back as I so often do after giving something to God. That morning, I was asked by my boss to come in for a meeting. When I got there, he apologized and said when I was hired he had forgotten to give me a gas card which he had always given his paralegals after the hiring process. As he handed it to me, my hand and chin trembled simultaneously and with tear-filled eyes all I could say was “thank you.”

My boss was telling me about the parameters in which I must use the card, but all I could do was think about how humbled I was beyond words to be so assured that God was with me and taking care of my every need. How could the God of the universe care about where I get gas money? How could He answer a prayer with such distinction, clarity and creativity for ME?

That day, God’s financial plan for my life started to unfold, which was far better than anything I had ever imagined. Learning to trust Him and resting in His peace has brought me ultimate joy, which goes beyond my human comprehension. Within six months, He moved me into the job I still have today. The last six years have been an incredible journey. I have been able to go back to school and will finish my Bachelor’s degree in three months. Every debt but my mortgage will be paid off within this next year.

Progress has come in small steps, but I have been able to do things and help people in life-changing financial ways that, without God’s guidance, would have been impossible.

Sometimes in our total states of failure, God shows us His plan for success in our lives through Him, and He guides us with a gentle hand and a whispering voice. Looking back, my own direction almost cost me everything. I learned that I cannot afford to overlook God’s priceless guidance in any area of my life. Can you?

Rebecca C. Bradshaw became a Christian during her sophomore year of college. She lives in South Carolina, and will be celebrating her 25th anniversary with her husband David next month. A writer for many years, Rebecca enjoys using the “power of the pen” for God’s glory.