The power of words is what has moved Blythe Daniel to devote her life’s work to helping others shape their words, specifically how they write and speak. Watching her mom deal with her grandmother’s anger and spewed words of disapproval helped shape her relationship with her mom and the necessary adjustments they needed in their relationship, learning to ask forgiveness, not giving unwanted advice, and forging a new path in communicating, even in harder times that the two share in their book, Mended. I invite you to open your heart to the words they share and welcome Blythe to the farm’s front porch today…
I have always loved words. I used to sit and tell my dolls what to say. I would intervene when they weren’t acting like they were supposed to.
Words have found me. I suppose that it’s a little easier than speaking face-to-face at times.
The way many of us communicate today is by email or text. It takes the face out of our space of words.
It’s necessary, we say, so that we can get to everyone and everything pulling on us.
But what about the words in our heart that we never get to speak? “They won’t really understand. They won’t be able to respond to me, or even hear me.”
Sometimes we hold within what we are too scared to live without.
We’ve held onto hurt – possibly for a lifetime.
What we really want is the bounty of rich relationships with each other.
I’ve seen this in the context of mothers and daughters perhaps more than anything because I’m a mother and a daughter.
I’ve had the opportunity to invite women into my home where we talk about these delicate relationships.
Many of them have experienced hurt layered upon grief, layered upon disappointment that they have lived within the rigid walls of performance and protection, living without the affirmation and love that a mother, by nature, is to provide to her daughter.
And that a daughter would respond warmly to a mother.
My mom, Helen, was one who sought to please her mom but ended up feeling torn apart. Brushed past in words. Words that hurt so deeply that she didn’t feel she could do anything right or that she didn’t have enough of what her mom was looking for to accept her.
Words between them were few after her mom would ignite her disapproval.
My mom didn’t know how to speak back; words failed her. She didn’t know how to make it better.
She longed for a mom who she could share memories with rather than the distance of their differences.
I didn’t know what to say to my mom much of the time.
I didn’t really see what was going on in me until my son Bryan, and then a year later Blythe, went to college. I knew things had been difficult but I wasn’t connecting the dots as an adult.
I realized the issues in our family were serious because I was so profoundly sad and experienced a deep sense of loss.
I had to begin to take a hard look at my issues and I knew I had to choose to change my relationship with my mom.
Even though I’m not able to speak with her today because she’s no longer alive, I would probably say something like this to her: “Mom, I want us to do well. We’ve hit a hard place again, and I’m not sure what to say.”
I didn’t know how to ask her to talk to me. Maybe unraveling her story would have helped her.
Mom probably did need my validation as a way to show that she mattered, but I didn’t how to give it when I felt so isolated from her.
Talking or addressing issues are huge gifts to relationships if we do them well.
But so many times we think the easier thing to do is not address it so as not to bring on more discussion and possible hurt.
Ignoring has a place when we are overlooking something we are not called to discuss. This might be someone’s own issues they need to take ownership of that you don’t have responsibility for.
When you know you need to discuss what’s between you or respond to your mother or daughter but you don’t know what to say, you can say: “I don’t know what to say, but I care about you.” It’s open and humble.
Another sentence I have often encouraged mothers and daughters to say is, “I don’t know what to say or do in this difficulty. What do you think we need to do to make things better? What role do you see me playing?” The initiation of questions is powerful!
You don’t have to be the one to know what to say – you can invite the other to speak.
Part of being wise is knowing when to speak.
Silence can be golden but not if we are mute at the wrong time. We don’t want to talk too much, but we don’t want to seem uncaring by our silence.
Another really good thing to say is, “How do you see me helping you?” You can’t force yourself in, but you can offer.
It may be the opening thread that helps tie your relationship together at some point down the road that you can’t see right now.
I’ve made the mistake of bringing up a conversation with one of my daughters at precisely the wrong time (before school, during gymnastics practice, you know, the places that are hurried, not graceful space).
And you’d think I would learn to hold my words closely as much as I think about words!
But how easily I slip into thinking that if I just tell them now, I get it off my pounding chest and they’ll have a heart to receive it. Perfect harmony doesn’t follow; and in fact, it typically creates distance between us.
Make sure your need to talk isn’t more important than your mother’s or daughter’s need to hear it.
Isn’t it reassuring that even when we don’t know what to say or what to do, God has already provided a way?
The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:12).
Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).
We come to Him in bold prayers, asking Him to speak through us. And to help us hear His words more than the words coming out from our mother or daughter.
God is not a substitute for when we don’t know what to do—He is the one who sets all of life in motion.
He is always ready to give an answer when we ask and help us give an answer to those we love.
Continue to seek the Lord about how you can implement an honest posture of “I don’t know what to say” into your conversations.
What are you seeing about how He wants you to recite His scripture when you don’t know what to say?
How will you use this to season your speech at just the right time?
As mother and daughter, we have learned the value of asking if it’s okay to give feedback to the other or make a suggestion, and to assure the other that if it doesn’t meet with their spirit, to let it fall to the side and not pick it up if they don’t discern God affirming it.
This gives much freedom in the relationship because we don’t feel that either is forcing their words on us.
We’re free to listen and to take in what feels right.
This can become a healthy practice you model for others as well.
Blythe Daniel is a literary agent and marketer. She speaks at writers conferences and writes for publications like Focus on the Family. Her passion is helping authors share their unique stories. She is the daughter of Dr. Helen McIntosh and co-author of the book Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters.
Dr. Helen McIntosh (EdD, Counseling Psychology) is a counselor, speaker, educator, and author of Messages to Myself and also Eric, Jose & The Peace Rug. Her work has appeared in Guideposts, ParentLife, and HomeLife magazines.
Mended walks readers through the steps to reconciliation and guides mothers and daughters toward openness, grace-filled confrontation, and restoration to put relationships ahead of the need to be right, confront past hurts with humility and grace, and use hard places in the relationship to seek closeness with God and each other.
Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters addresses the self-examination, prayer, and effort needed to replace damaging generational patterns with new, healthy patterns for your family. Blythe and Helen want to inspire hope that those relationships can be healed and the knowledge of how to initiate that healing. Mended explains how Christ’s restoration can extend to mend wounded mother-daughter bonds.
[ Our humble thanks to Harvest House for their partnership in today’s post]