3 Words (I Am Trying) to Remove from My Vocabulary

by | May 21, 2014 | Encouragement, Identity


From time-to-time, certain words come with a heap of conviction like sugar bingeing on an empty stomach. When I hear them come out of my mouth I immediately want to take them back and regret is a sure outcome.




Three simple words uttered most often when I’ve lost my way from the effects of stress and over-thinking, or when I’ve entered the complete dark spot in the hallway of a shame cycle. Mostly, I use those three words in scenarios when control is elusive like parenting my teenagers, for example.

Uh huh, I’m going there.


Just be quiet, don’t say anything. Take one long inhale and hold your breath until you’ve dropped him off, then you can rant to the thin air of your criticism.

I’m counseling myself, clamping the steering wheel as my son slides his belt through the loops on his shorts, precariously tucks in his shirt navigating the seat belt and slips a shoe on each foot. I know this, not because I’m looking at him but because a mother’s eyes can assess a whole situation at a slant.

If you are a parent of teenagers, you may also be a professional of nonchalant assessment and the poker face, right?

Getting dressed in the car is a morning teenage ritual at my house. We also practice the fine art of gulping down a swig of orange juice to wash down a bite of cold toast for breakfast.

Self-control often eludes me in the morning. If I’ve only had one cup of tea instead of a whole pot, regret can be heard spewing from my mouth when I’m vulnerable from tiredness. In response to a rebuttal from my child to a reminder about homework, you may hear something like this:  “Well, you seem to need reminders about everything lately.  You are always forgetful and you never seem to follow through on what is asked of you.”

Ten Krispy Kreme glazed donuts for breakfast on an empty stomach — yuck and why did I just do that.

As soon as I hear these words come out of mouth, they are triggers to look deeper and take account. I am using absolutes in an attempt to achieve certainty and control outcomes. I am now the queen of my own kingdom making lofty assumptions and using words as my scepter to pass judgment.

Looking for absolutes in a world of uncertainty ultimately leads to either of two outcomes — the constant turmoil of disappointment or the peace of surrender.  


When my posture resembles squared shoulders, chin lifted and arms crossed over my prideful chest, self-reliance has become faith’s imposter.

My flesh looks for absolutes but my soul longs for absolution.

I’m longing for certainty but Jesus longs for my clarity. Knees pressed into the carpet, palms open and receptive to unknown outcomes.

He can utter “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” through the nakedness of my vulnerability in moments of parenting with complete appropriateness and I am completely undone by it. Because when he says never, it is truth.

He reminds me in dark moments of regret, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” and I am free from condemnation and the failures of my perceived perfectionism. Always is love without caveats.

And because “everything I am and think and do is permeated with Oneness” I can ask my son for forgiveness while he eats a handful of pretzels in the kitchen and talks about homework. And wait for the hope of redemption.


He forgot about our morning exchange. Probably in the first five minutes after the tardy bell rang. The same way Jesus always forgives when I’m repentant and never remembers everything I hold against myself.

Catching my breath in the embrace of my teenager, I visualize how his arms felt as an infant sitting on my lap. And thank God for words that remind me of the frailty of my humanity and the absolute assurance of His faithful presence.

Linking with Jennifer, Kelli, Laura, Emily, Holley and Lyli.


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  1. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Ahhh, Shelly, i’m no longer parenting teenagers but I live with a spouse and we had a conversation about those words recently–especially the ‘never’ and ‘always’ ones. Your phrase about needing ‘absolution not absolutes’ will resonate a while…..
    Thank you as always for sharing your heart and your very honest words.

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s been years of training myself to recognize those words Jody. I guess the training paid off in that I noticed it. Before I was oblivious. Thanks for sharing YOUR heart, you bless me continually.

  2. Kris Camealy

    This is beautiful Shelly. And it won’t surprise you to hear I often use the same three words for the very same reasons. This speaks to me, and reminds me that these words only have one place where they fit best and it is in the Word. Love your heart, my friend.

    • Shelly Miller

      Nope, doesn’t surprise me a bit. We are so much alike its astounding sometimes. Love you!

  3. Katie Reid

    Beautiful post. Thank you. And this, “I am using absolutes in an attempt to achieve certainty and control
    outcomes. I am now the queen of my own kingdom making lofty assumptions
    and using words as my scepter to pass judgment.” Needed to hear this right along with the hope of His “always” and “never”.

    • Shelly Miller

      Katie, I’m thankful for timely words aren’t you? Glad this was one for you this week. I appreciate your kindness.

  4. Natalie

    I loved this this morning, the whole thing. “Self-control often eludes me in the mornings” There are times when I am consistently weak and I love that you have identified one here. It subtly throws out that question: when does self-control elude me and how can I prepare for that? And your statement pointing to the the “flesh that looks for absolutes” while the “soul longs for absolution’. . . Oh my.

    • Shelly Miller

      Love the way you think Natalie, you ponder beyond the surface which is actually quite a lovely gift. Thanks for being here this week, thinking of you as we walk toward Sabbath this week. Just went over to catch up on your posts but I didn’t have time to comment. Praying for you!

  5. Nancy Ruegg

    Maybe you’ve hit on the reason God made teenagers the way he did: so that we, the parents, might understand more fully the frailty of our humanity and learn to rely upon him more consistently. Guiding our teens on our own is almost impossible! His wisdom and help are not only necessary for them, but for us, so we can control our own actions and reactions.

    As an empty nester, I can attest to the absolute faithfulness of God. He redeemed my parenting failures and produced three fine young adults–in spite of me!

    • Shelly Miller

      I think you are absolutely right Nancy. I often say that I’ve learned more about myself through parenting than anything else. They keep me humble and on my knees. Thanks for your confidence and the hope you’ve given me, I appreciate you much.

  6. Lisa notes...

    My teen is very black and white; all or nothing. Sometimes it can work to my benefit, but usually not. ha. Thanks for the reminder to drop those 3 words unless absolutely true.

    • Shelly Miller

      I have one of those too Lisa, it can be a positive and negative can’t it? Thanks for stopping by this week, lovely to see you here.

  7. DeanneMoore

    Luke always leaves his boots on the rug by the dining table or his Chacos, except he won’t always leave them there…like at the end of August when he packs his bags. And it is well with my soul….oh how I want it to be…you are wise Momma, my friend, leaving the outcomes to our always loving, never forsaking God.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know, I know, I’ve had those same thoughts this week as I humphed through all her piles around the house and cleaned up her room this week (to which I got steely eyes and deep sighs and ‘tude). I’ll miss it, I know I will. And then I’ll probably repent for my ‘tude. Love you!

  8. Positively Alene

    Oh how I remember those teenage days. And that was a season God truly refined my way of speech. Great encouragement here. Our words are so powerful!

  9. Jeri@got2havefaith

    I am a mother of a tween…close enough. And I have a wicked poker face, use ‘always’ too much, and am too critical of said tween. Why do I always do that?

  10. Kimberly Sullivan

    How I love the way that you re-look at these often misused words. May I only use them the way He does…

    • Shelly Miller

      Kimberly, I actually gasped when I saw you here friend. What a treat. Hope you are doing well, miss you much!

  11. Pat Baer

    This is lovely Shelly. Daily struggles keep us close, don’t they. I’m grateful for his gentle voice I’ve heard through you today. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Pat, and yes they do. I’m thankful for the hardships but usually in hindsight if I’m honest.

  12. kelli woodford

    Oh, how they point to more, these words. I get that. The grasping for absolutes when trust has become a foreign language. Thank you for the challenge inherent in your story, Shelly. The encouragement to listen to ourselves deeper and move softly back into surrender.
    Always glad to see you at Unforced Rhythms, friend.

    • Shelly Miller

      You have an uncanny ability to get to the root of things and “see” the mystery in ways that often astounds me Kelli. You are somethin’ my friend. Thankful to know you.

  13. Mary Bonner

    These words – when used by and about Him, oh so very good and reassuring. When used by me – rarely are they good and reassuring. Especially when used in connection with members of my family. Thank you, Shelly. A lovely, gentle reminder that speaks volumes to me.

  14. Steph @ BeEmbraced

    Such a great reminder to me too. “Everything” is “always” stressful at the same time so I feel like I “never” get things accomplished… Thanks for reminding me to speak the truth instead!

    • Shelly Miller

      I say those same phrase Steph. My husband often sets me straight about ALL THE THINGS I never get done . . . meaning there is a long list of what I do accomplish but I often can’t see them for the NEVER part.

  15. June

    It’s been awhile since I’ve visited here. I’ve missed you 🙂

    I think sometimes it would help me to have a mirror in front of me, because if I really saw myself acting the way that I act sometimes, I would be mortified! I need to remember to put that imaginary mirror out there and check to see who I’m reflecting: self or Christ, and adjust my attitude, and mouth, accordingly!

    So thankful that when God uses absolutes, He means them! Wonderfully thoughtful post, Shelly!

    • Shelly Miller

      Aw, thanks June. It’s lovely to see you here friend. I think sometimes if I held up a mirror to see how I talk to myself internally, I think it might be a little (or a lot) convicting. “You always . . you never . . .” ick.

  16. bluecottonmemory

    I’ve been working this year on how to break ineffective communication habits developed from sons 2 and 3 (“Is your work turned in?” How are your classes?) – to more idea communication that doesn’t invite lecture but invites discussion. It has worked much better with sons 1-5. It’s tough when they’re teens – and they discover their moms miss it – maybe that’s how we learn true forgiveness – because we so want our children to forgive us! Your post went straight to my heart! I’m right there with you!

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