Criticism & Being a Stumbling Block

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A couple of years ago, one of my mentors told me that you’re never more tempted to sin, than when you’ve been sinned against.

I think it makes a good quote deserving of all caps…

 

YOU’RE NEVER MORE TEMPTED TO SIN,

THAN WHEN YOU’VE BEEN SINNED AGAINST

 

I went to her after I had gone through a time when I was being criticized by a woman running a gossip/slander blog that has now since become private.  Every post I made, this woman found a way to turn it into something to mock… right down to attacking my husband and children.  Other women, even Christian ones I looked up to previously, jumped in on the mocking and gossip, and it was weird to see that even the supposedly Christian ones were doing this.  It lasted for a good half a year before I confronted her at her blog source, only to have the confrontation end in more pain and frustration.  Talking about it being sin with other people was labeled as “gossip.”  It was a very interesting time as I tried to figure out how to handle slander (being called a whore, slut and a bitch by a Christian man) as well as this being tailed for half the year by this Christian woman.  What was even stranger were the other Christian women who regularly commented on these posts mocking what I was writing, yet they couldn’t see they were doing anything wrong.

It’s really sad that we humans operate this way, myself totally and thoroughly included.  It’s part of our “normal” sin nature, but it’s so ugly and harmful, I surprise even myself with how easily I can give in to this temptation.  And rest assured, I’m talking about myself here, having a sin nature is not fun.  It is kind of shocking how bad we can be when we’re not actively guarding our mouths and minds and spirits.  It reminds me of Paul in Romans 7:18-22, where he wanted so badly to do good, but would sometimes find himself backsliding into the flesh behaviors that he hated in himself.

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

I think it’s crucial to be honest that everyone has these feelings and temptations from time to time, even a man as godly as Paul.  I believe that, ultimately, it’s how we choose to deal with the temptations that matters in the long-run.  We have to strive to be like Paul and avoid and flee temptation, repent when we do give in to sin, and then allow for enough grace for ourselves and others when or if we backslide.

Last week I was wondering why someone would focus so much energy on giving in to sinful temptations… specifically, the temptation to engage in destructive criticism about another person (aka: Gossip & Slander).  I did an experiment to try to get someone engaging in it to see what they looked like, and to understand it within myself.  I succeeded in making them understand how bad it looked, the experiment definitely worked.  Overall, it was enlightening… and scary at how once you start (even if you think you’re only going so far) it can quickly go down hill.

I think I’ve found the answer… the root of why criticism can lead to being a stumbling block, and it comes from this quote at the beginning of the post that was told to me by my mentor:  “You’re never more tempted to sin than when you’re sinned against.”

 

Being a Stumbling Block through Criticism

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Romans 14 has always fascinated me.  I’ve written on it before, here , but I wanted to look at it again from a different perspective.

There used to be a pretty benign young woman who commented fairly frequently here.  I always had a feeling that she was trying to get me to change my views on each post I made – she was always so full of constructive criticism and gave it out freely.  Everything about me was up for criticism from this young woman – from the way I dressed to my diet and breastfeeding.  A lot of it was good, and I’d take it and make necessary changes, or try to see if I was getting it truly wrong, but overtime, it started to feel more like purposeful fault-finding or destructive criticism, and I felt myself changing inside toward her as well.

It got to the point where I would find myself starting to see flaws in her posts and arguments, whereas I’d never argued with her before over her writing.  And instead of minding my own business (something I’ve written about before!), I’d feel rightful in pointing them out to her publicly – in a “constructive” way like she did though 😉 .  I knew it was probably not the right thing to do, even if I couched it in “constructive criticism“… it’s a little much to be “correcting” someone all the time so why was she doing this?  I justified my fault-finding habit at her blog by telling myself that well, SHE was doing it to me, so why can’t I do it back to her?  Let’s just say being criticized by her nearly every week affected me lol.  I actually still try not to go to her blog because all I see are the flaws and faults in her biblical arguments.  It’s amazing how the way we act toward others has so much power over the way they in turn feel tempted to deal with us.

Why are humans like this?

I think Romans 14 holds the key to this.  Criticism, especially over issues that don’t really matter that much, make us become stumbling blocks.

“Therefore let us stop criticizing one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”  (vs 13)

Why does the Bible warn us that criticism can be a “stumbling block” to other believers?  I think the answer is that when it’s not done in love, or even when it’s done over and over again in a constructive way, it’s actually sinning against the person you’re criticizing or leading them to exasperation with you.  So when you SIN against that person, you’re TEMPTING them to sin back.  Or if you’re trying to just constantly correct someone on their convictions (which Romans 14 tells us blatantly not to), you’re going to make them tempted to view you negatively.  This is especially true if you’ve been overly harsh or engaged in sinful destructive criticism, you’ve just become a stumbling block for that person, making it harder for them in their spiritual walk.

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Wow, right?  Pretty scary how criticism, even when we think it should be “constructive,” can be so hurtful and harmful to our Christian brothers and sisters in damaging their walks with God.

Pretty serious stuff.  Now that I carried out my own psyche experiment on this topic, I think I understand even more so just how important this post was in the past.

Instead of being a stumbling block, why not become a stepping stone to helping build others up on their spiritual journies?  I’m talking to my own inclinations here 😉

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Good food for thought.

Stephanie

 

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Staying Focus: Don’t Let Anyone Look Down on You Because You Are Young

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Babies Babies Babies!!!!!

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Our littlest one is getting bigger (over 11 pounds now!!!) and more beautiful with each passing day!  Oh the joy of getting to cuddle her, hear her coo as she looks up at me, and watch the boys with her… just fills my heart with so much love.

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I could seriously have 100 babies with my husband and still want more with him.

It’s ridiculous 😀

I don’t know what it is, but having his children makes me love him even more deeply and fiercely.

When I was still in the hospital after the birth, one of our friends who came to visit us joked that if we had met in high school, we would have had 10 kids by now.  😛

My husband’s comrades got together and gave us the sweetest, most thoughtful gift for our new baby.  Their card, all signed with their different hilarious messages like, “Congrats on your 12th kid!” and “Get some cable!” among some really sweet messages ❤ will forever be in my heart.

In spite of their funny card, they picked out the most elegant baby gift I could imagine: a Vera Wang silver baby cup with our daughter’s name engraved on it on the front.  Just so special and beautiful.

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Here’s to baby cuddles and chubby giggles!

Stephanie

My Amazing Husband & His Boys

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Snapped this photo when we went downtown to see my husband working our annual city party called, “FIESTA!!”

My husband is an incredible hero.

It’s not just because he wears the badge, although the courage and bravery there are not to be discounted.

It’s his strength, heart, and mind that make him go above and beyond in teaching our sons how to actually be men.

Real men.

The kind that fight for goodness and against evil in our society.

The kind that are God’s warriors and ministers – both at the same exact time.

Words can hardly even describe the intensity with which I love this man so much.

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Spring

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We’ve been enjoying this beautiful weather for a couple of months now since our “Spring” starts so early.  Each year it mesmerizes me with how beautiful Texas is in the Spring.  There’s something about the sunlight hitting the newly green grass or leaves and delicate flowers with a backdrop of the most gorgeous blue sky you can imagine that is just too much!

It’s like the weather itself radiates happiness and joy ❤

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Our oldest found a rock with circles cut out like eyes from a skull LOL!!  Our boys could seriously be comedians… 😀

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St. Patrick’s Day craft making green peeps into little Irish men.  It was so fun!

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Our green Riverwalk dyed for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

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We let our oldest start taking care of some strawberry plants, it’s been fun watching them grow and produce fruit.  Just need to figure out some netting to keep the birds and squirrels away lol!  We recently found one with a bite taken out of it!

 

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This was the first strawberry it produced!  Our son ate it and although he “hated” strawberries before (yet still wanted the plants?? lol) he’s now decided he LOVES them!  (Sneaky parenting 101)

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Sometimes our oldest reads bedtime stories to his little brother.  These are honestly the moments that you live for as a parent.  Just. So. Sweet.  ❤ ❤ ❤

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New kitten adventures.

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HAPPY SPRING!!!

Gardening: Just a Little Bit Goes a Long Way

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Our garden has been flourishing since we’ve started again!  It’s reminded me of so many passages in Scripture that talk about God and gardens, His pruning us and tending to us.  Everyday it is such a joy to go out and tend it.  Even just looking out our window to see it, along with the butterflies and moths that flit around in it, brings me so much joy each day.

My husband bought me a dragonfly light that changes beautiful colors at night to light the garden.  So we’ve nicknamed it Dragonfly Garden ❤  It is so sweet.

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I’ve seen a ladybug on our giant spinach leaves every time I’ve gone out this week, eating away the pests that would harm the plants.  And to my surprise, I saw a blue dragonfly on one of jalapeno plant leaves!!  It sat there for awhile and let me look at it 😀  It was so awesome and gave new meaning to our naming it Dragonfly Garden.

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We have such an abundance of cabbages, Swiss chard, and spinach it is finally helping our grocery bill since we no longer have to buy our salad greens (something we bought weekly) for our sandwiches and salads.  It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to go out to this garden that I and my son have planted together, and pick food for our table and know that it’s bringing in an abundance of nourishing vitamins and minerals to our family!

I always wanted to be a woman who had a sustainable garden – a woman who genuinely loved and enjoyed gardening.

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It’s kind of strange to see that I’ve achieved this goal now.  Last year our tomato plants did so amazing we had a production each week to eat off of, so hopefully we can get back up to that again… but I’m particularly happy about our spinach leaves 😀  they cost a lot at our grocery store, and it’s just so fulfilling to be growing an abundance of them right in our backyard!

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For the Lord will comfort Zion [in her captivity];

He will comfort all her ruins.

And He will make her wilderness like Eden (the most beautiful garden),

And her desert like the garden of the Lord;

Joy and gladness will be found in her,

Thanksgiving and the voice of a melody.

Isaiah 51:3

 

And the Lord will continually guide you,

And satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places,

And give strength to your bones;

And you will be like a watered garden,

And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:11

 

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God is the Gardener…

For we are  God’s fellow workers [His servants working together];

you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.”

1 Corinthians 3:9

Blessings for Your New Year!

I can never believe how fast a year can fly by, it always gets to me and makes me appreciate the days even more.  Time goes by too fast!  I want to soak up the joy of being with my children and husband, I really do wish it would just go a little more slowly.

2016 is going to have some interesting adventures, I’m wondering what God will do in our life, what kind of trials we may face or joys that will come?

Sitting here, with our beautiful Christmas tree still up in the dark, peacefully quiet living room, I want to share with you some verses I was reading early this morning, some blessings for your new year 2016!

HE CROWNS THE YEAR WITH GOODNESS:

“How happy is the one You choose and bring near to live in Your courts!  We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple. …

“You crown the year with Your goodness;

Your ways overflow with abundance!”

Psalm 65:4,11

STRENGTH & REFUGE WHEN FACING TRIALS IN 2016:

Lord, I seek refuge in You; never let me be disgraced.

In Your Justice, rescue and deliver me; listen closely to me and save me.

Be a rock of refuge for me, where I can always go.

Give the command to save me, for You are my rock and fortress.

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and oppressive.

For You are my hope, Lord God, my confidence from my youth.

I have leaned on You from birth; You took me from my mother’s womb.

My praise is always about You.  I have become an ominous sign to many, but You are my strong refuge.

My mouth is full of praise and honor to You all day long. …

For my enemies talk about me, and those who spy on me plot together, “God has abandoned him; chase him and catch him, for there is no one to rescue him.”

God, do not be far from me; my God, hurry to help me.

May my adversaries be disgraced and confounded; may those who seek my harm be covered with disgrace and humiliation. …

My mouth will tell about Your righteousness and Your salvation all day long, though I cannot sum them up. …

God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still proclaim Your wonderful works.

Even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me.

Then I will proclaim Your power to another generation (hopefully to our grandchildren!), Your strength I will proclaim to all who are to come.

Your righteousness reaches heaven, God, You who have done great things; God, who is like You?

You caused me to experience many troubles and misfortunes, but You will revive me again and again.

You will bring me up again, even from the depths of the earth.

You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

My lips will shout for Joy when I sing praise to You, because You have redeemed me.  Therefore, my tongue will proclaim Your righteousness all day long, for those who seek my harm will be disgraced and confounded.” Psalm 71

GOD AS YOUR STRONGHOLD FOR 2016:

“I will sing of Your strength and will joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning.

For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.

To You, my strength, I sing praises, because God is my stronghold – my faithful God.” Pslam 59

 

 

Christmas Joy & Excitement!

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This past weekend, our family does the usual tradition of getting all the Christmas decorations out on the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday lol… my son thought that sounded scary, and I guess from what it’s turned into, it is!

Getting the Christmas decorations out, putting up lights, the nativity scene for the kids, getting out my Grandma’s old glass Christmas decorations she passed down to me – telling my son stories about the family he’ll meet in heaven as were admiring their trinkets… it all makes me so happy!!!

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Throw in the Christmas music playing joyfully in the background, and you have a beautiful scene!

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Even though this holiday season has been emotionally difficult, I’m still trying to make it as joyful as possible for our little family.

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My dad is still not completely there mentally, and my brother and I have been receiving some things he no longer wants or uses. 😦   I’ve gotten his camera 😦 and his field microscope, my brother’s gotten the family rifle, and even though he’s excited and loves guns as much as I do, as we sat talking on Thanksgiving in his room (that he no longer really lives in, my baby brother has grown up!!!!) we both felt the sadness of what this meant.

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So we’re still mourning the loss in a way… and trying to be thankful that he is still here, and that we can still enjoy him.  Over Thanksgiving, we had the best times playing games together, talking, and laughing till we cried!

The morning of Thanksgiving, my older son (5) and I made a cherry pie together 🙂 I really suck at baking… but I keep trying and adventuring into this realm of the domestic goddess, and at least this pie turned out great!

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And it was even more fun that my son had especially requested we made this kind of pie this year (he was obsessed with cherry pie for months!), and so making it together with him, letting him help me do the dough and create the lattice work, was SO fun and SO worth it, even if the pie had turned out terrible.  So hooray for that!

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It looked beautiful, and tasted amazing!!!  So proud of him!

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Fall

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We are ready for Fall in our house.  My son was telling me how excited he was about Halloween coming up, and I totally share in his excitement!  I can’t wait for the cool breezes and the leaves changing. the cinnamon, apples, and pumpkins.  Sometimes we need a change, maybe that’s why I’ve always loved every season, with it comes fresh, new changes, and growth into new seasons of life.

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I recently instructed a woman in the post My Husband Isn’t Romantic Enough, to keep a gratitude journal by her bed, and every night, to write down something she’s grateful for, and to pray over the list – even with her husband if she wants.  I thought it would be a great idea if I took my own advice and implemented this little ritual into my life.  So, this new season I’ve been keeping a journal that logs my daily activities, thoughts about our kid’s, goals for the day to accomplish and check off, a place to log my emotion (to track depression & what may affect it), spiritual insights from my devotion time, thoughts about our dog (like “vomited in our car today” lol), and then… at the end of the day and at the end of the page, there’s a space for “Gratitude Acknowledgment.”  It really has been a wonderful exercise each night to spend time reflecting on one thing in particular that I’m grateful for – it changes your whole perspective and gives you so much peace before falling asleep.

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I won’t lie though, that first night I tried this, it was hard.  It was a Monday, our busiest day by far, I had been up since 5am, my husband usually does the school run on his own since it’s the only time he sees our son in the day, but that morning, he insisted I had to come.  So we’d already done the school run with the baby in tow, ran a couple of errands together, and then my husband totally surprised me by taking me to a jeweler to order a beautiful Police Wife badge necklace – so sweet!  So unexpected :’) .  I’ve really come to appreciate this new time with him in the morning as being extremely romantic for us – whether it is just running errands together and teasing each other, or having extra time to be intimate when the baby naps.  Even with all this love and us having a great relationship and friendship even, the rest of the day after he left for work took it’s toll on my attitude.  I got the baby down at his naptime, woke the baby up only an hour & a half later (he usually sleep 2-3 hours poor thing), and we had to go pick up bubba (big brother) from school.  Because I let the baby sleep a little extra, I left later than I should have and felt rushed to pick him up on time… something I’ve learned how to handle much better since then!

Picking him up from school is like some kind of marathon when by myself with a baby.  Last week, we were faced with temperatures close to 100 F, and his pickup is on a black top with no tree in sight.  I stay there for about 30-40 minutes, too, so that I can talk and laugh with my mom friends while our kids play together.  It’s the only time I get to see some of these mommies, and even though we were dripping in sweat, our hair even plastered down and wet, it’s well worth it.  After that we make the trek to the car, feeling like we’re crossing some African desert, my huge stroller (that could seriously be a small SUV) holds all our stuff like a caravan traveling through – thank God for ice water!  We then go home, rest, start home work, eat snacks, I let my son watch a cartoon or play, the wild dog 🙂 comes in for some time with us, we dinner, I get him dressed for his sports practice, his little cleats on, change the baby, grab the dog, and travel to his practice for the evening.

Practice is outside, but it’s cooler, and with our dog… there is never a dull moment!  Super loved seeing all the kids, the high schoolers, the people running around the track.  The team we’ve joined is like a family, since they practice 3 nights a week, and see each other 4 days out of 7, you have no other choice 🙂  A 16 year old girl took immediately to Super, and after an hour, I let her take him around – she was ecstatic & so was Super!  He’d fallen in love with her ❤

After getting home, getting my son bathed off quickly and the baby to sleep, I felt like I could barely move.

I wrote my Gratitude Acknowledgement before falling asleep like a baby –

At the end of the day, I feel so exhausted… it’s so freaking hard without (my husband) at night!  I can barely even write! (True, I can barely even read my writing.)  But I’m thankful that I ended well with our oldest son, we had an argument, but I was able to de-escalate it, and keep our relationship loving even though I felt like a zombie.”

Not Ready Yet

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More beautiful vacation….

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So. Damn. Sexy.

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I can’t get over this pic.

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Beautiful sunflowers everywhere in the sand….

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I’m still in denial… still not ready to be back! 🙂