A Mother–Daughter Conversation about Words [Excerpt]

An excerpt from Between Us Girls by Trish Donohue

It’s hard not to giggle at someone repeating a tongue twister. Her mouth contorts, and her words clog up like cars in a traffic jam. Let’s try one: “toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy boat.” Go ahead, say it. Now say it faster. Now try, “rubber baby buggy bumpers,” or “freshly-fried flying fish.” Are your lips turning inside out? Words are just groups of letters, but when we put them together in a certain order, they do surprising things.

The Garden

Consider all the work our words do each day. We use them to encourage, ask for help, sing, complain, tell stories, relay facts, read aloud, lie, express joy, snap at our siblings, whisper “I love you,” and maybe even sneeze if we actually yell, “Atchoo!” Words are an enormous part of our lives.

In middle school science class, I remember a friend informing me that my purple eyeshadow looked ridiculous. Why can I still recall those words? Why can I still remember my mom, each night as she tucked me in, saying, “Good night, I love you, sweet dreams”? The reason is that words are powerful. They can sting or soothe, hurt or heal, and God wants us to use their remarkable power for good.

Moms: What specific words do you remember from a moment in your childhood? Why do you think you remember them?

Girls: What are happy words you remember being said to you? Are there any unhappy words that have stuck in your memory?

Sometimes we shrug off the importance of our words. “They’re not that big of a deal,” we tell ourselves. But God’s Word disagrees.

Read Ephesians 4:29.

That’s a pretty tall order. When God gave us the gift of words, he had big plans for them. He wanted them to be used to strengthen, support, build up, and spread grace wherever they went, like a flower girl spreads rose petals before the bride.

Speaking of sweetness, read Proverbs 16:24.

Girls: Describe the sweetest concoction you think you could create. Use no more than five ingredients and make it yummy.

In the days this verse was written, a honeycomb would have been the most sugary food imaginable. Think cotton candy, ice cream, and Pixy Stix, but maybe not all piled together. Did you know we can actually bring sweetness to those around us using our words?

Encouragement is a good example of this. Girls, when you think you’ve written a horrible paper and your teacher scrawls, “Excellent job!” on your paper, that’s a mouthful of chocolate ice cream to your soul. When you’re sick of emptying the dishwasher, and your mom tells you how much she appreciates your faithfulness and hard work, she’s feeding your heart cotton candy, and the job is a little easier. We all feel weak and discouraged sometimes, and that’s why God wants us to use our words to encourage each other. In fact, let’s practice.

Girls: What is one thing you’ve seen your mom do really well this week?

Moms: Where have you seen your daughter grow in the past year?

Our words can be sweet in other ways too. We can pray for a hurting friend, thank someone for how he serves us, or answer a sharp comment with gentleness. We can use our cheerful voice to set a tone of joy wherever we are. Remember, words are more powerful than we think.

The Weeds

I have to admit, sometimes my voice is not a honeycomb. Sometimes it’s an old, sour lemon slice with mold growing on it.

Moms: What rough words do you find yourself saying? Ask your daughter if you need some help.

Girls: When we have the opportunity to be sweet, why do we often use our words to discourage, complain, or tear down?

To find the answer, read Luke 6:45.

Whatever is in our hearts spills out into our words. If a well is full of clean spring water, it will bring refreshment. If it’s full of muck, well, you can guess the result. Our hearts work the same way. What’s inside comes out. If our hearts are full of kindness and trust in God, then our words will reveal that. If they’re full of self-pity and jealousy, people around us will be splashed with the “muck” of our words.

Because sin has polluted our hearts, selfishness, anger, and ungratefulness bubble up far too often. Is there any hope for us to be the sweet communicators God wants us to be?

The Hill

God tells his people in Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.” When Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, he was also buying us a new heart. When we ask him to forgive us and cleanse us, the power of sin is broken in us. That doesn’t mean we won’t sin anymore, but it does mean that we are no longer slaves to sin. God’s Spirit can give us hearts that overflow with honey.

My girls and I have a code word that we sometimes whisper to each other when our speech needs a little sweetening. It won’t be a secret any longer, but I’ll tell you anyway: It’s the word honeycomb. And when I hear that word gently whispered in my ear, I know I need to run to my Savior for help and say, “Lord, sweeten my heart and words.” And then I try again because God loves to give us second chances.

Psalm 19:14 gives us a great prayer to pray about our speech: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” That’s a prayer we can pray as we get out of bed in the morning, before we even open our mouths to speak.

The Field

  • What secret code word could you use to remind each other to sweeten your words?
  • Is there something in your speech that you need to confess to the Lord and ask for help to overcome?
  • Who in your family could you surprise with words of encouragement this week? What could you encourage them about?
  • Who, outside your family, could you bless with your words this week? Could you invite a lonely girl at school to join you and your friends? Could you write a kind note to an older woman at church who doesn’t have family close by? The options are many. Pick one.
  • If you have an electronic device or access to social media, what ways can you use it to promote sweet speech? What ways can it tempt you to make bad choices with your words?

Excerpted from Between Us Girls © 2016 by Trish Donohue. Used by permission of New Growth Press. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the express written permission of New Growth Press. To purchase this and other resources, please visit www.newgrowthpress.com.