Home » “soft” answers

“soft” answers

by Shawni
I realized this morning, in the midst of snapping at Dave before breakfast, that I have been a horrible example of patience and “shining” lately.

Last night I sent Lucy to bed screaming her head off (she has been extra “stompy” and stubborn lately and I reached the end of my rope).  I didn’t even turn back when she pleaded mid-bawl for her ritualistic kiss and hug.

I had no patience on Saturday as we pushed our way through the heavy crowds at Yu Yuan Gardens to the tune of complaints from my kids (and husband) with scowls on their faces.

It may look fun and picturesque from the pictures (because it IS a picturesque place), but it was an awful afternoon complete with teasing and crying and pinching and drama.  (All in all we are having a grand experience here, but I still need to keep it real!)

Maybe part of my frustration comes because I feel a lot like this lady looks lately:

…except with way more kids and groceries hanging on that heavy arm…oh, and that serene face should actually be snapping at those darling kids.  And there should be smoke coming out of her ears.

Ha! Ok, it’s not that bad, but boy I have been on one lately!

I don’t know if it’s just all the pressure trying to be so strong amidst this adventure we are in the midst of.  I am so grateful for it, sometimes we can almost feel ourselves growing.  But I’ve never in my life had to be as deliberate of a mother as I need to be here.  Never have my prayers been so urgent, so needy, so pleading reaching up to Heaven on behalf of my children.

Maybe my medicine for my dumb Hoshimotos is off balance.

Or maybe it’s just hormones getting in the way.

But for whatever reason, I think I’ve somehow forgotten my favorite scripture from my growing up years:

A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous word stir up anger.” –Proverbs 15:1

I think it was one my dad taught me when I had to have one memorized speedy quick and he knew it was short and to the point.  Maybe he had been thinking about it because us kids needed it’s wisdom.  But for whatever reason, that scripture stuck with me.  It was my automatic answer any time anyone needed a scripture recited.

It came to me this morning, and I needed it.  I need to be softer.  I need to be that “durable object” my sister talks about when my kids get huffy.  I need to roll with the punches a little more easily and calm down my heart when I get frustrated.

So I’m off to figure that out.

Snapping back never helps anything.

After that rough afternoon last Saturday of arguing and fighting through packs of tourists trying to stay together, trying to cram Chinese history into my childrens’ brains, I let go.

I stopped myself from all the pushing and prodding and just let them be.

They wanted to take pictures and just stay in one spot as the sun set and the crowds cleared out.

So we did.

And that’s when things got better.

Max got all the motion shots he needed for his photography class:

…and still ones too.

I sat and thanked my lucky stars that my kids love photography.  Love to share it with them.

When I change my attitude theirs change too.  That’s a lot of pressure as a mother, but I’m sure trying.  Every day I make mistakes.  But at the end of the day what really matters is that they know I love them.

And that obviously can’t happen very well when I’m huffy.

It happens with soft answers and love.

I need to be more like Claire, who looked up at me the other day with a huge smile and said, “I think I have a hugging problem!” and gave me the fourth or fifth giant bear-hug of the day.

Man these kids are sure good to me.

You may notice that I turned the comment section back on again.  I’ve missed you guys and have had a surprisingly lot of requests.  I tried doing moderation of comments but my internet doesn’t work half the time here and it gives me way more emails to deal with so I’m just putting them back on how they were.  

I know there are some people with grievances to share.  I know there are some people who disagree with things we are doing, and by opening up comments I am letting them say what they will.  Most of me is thick-skinned enough to handle this, and often people have really good points to share.  But I do reserve the right to delete any that are openly hostile or that attack my children.  

I have a request for a little experiment: let’s make that favorite scripture work (a soft answer turneth away wrath) and see if we can kill the mean comments with kindness and “soft” answers.  If someone says something not so nice, let’s just fill them with love and “soft answers.”  Let’s all remember that everyone has their own secret sorrows.  I came across THIS post the other day which reminded me once again that I need to look for “signs” in others, ways I can help them, rather than just wishing they could see MY “signs” and give me the benefit of the doubt.


sbu October 21, 2014 - 2:49 pm

Fabulous "real" post Shawni. Hard for all of us to do, especially Mom's, to give a soft answer when so much is going on around us. Kudos to you also for opening yourself up again to the good and the bad with your comment section. There is always a way to soften the blow in the approach. Thanks for allowing us into your lives and by doing so, you inspire me to do better.

Lee Ann October 21, 2014 - 2:53 pm

I'm so glad you have the comments on today because I really want to say "thank you" for that reminder. In my prayers this morning I was specifically praying that I would be softer and have more tenderness. I've been feeling like I've been running on empty, and me giving from empty is never good. But His grace is sufficient and I need to lean on Him more.

I'm loving every post. You may have those that are going to say, "you chose this so why are you complaining," but I think that's silly talk. Some of the greatest things in life are HARD. But we can do hard things.

Be soft today momma. And hang in there!

Winter party of Six October 21, 2014 - 3:00 pm

I loved this post! As I was reading it, I thought.. I need to give more a "soft voice" to my kids. I feel as if I am treading water and this post came at just the right time. Thanks for allowing us a glimpse into your life and adventures. 🙂

Amy October 21, 2014 - 3:16 pm

I sure do enjoy reading every single one of your posts! I've been reading for years and wanted to let you know you are a complete inspiration to this mom of three young boys! So, thank you.
(My husband is cousins with Linnlee and was pleasantly surprised to see her in your pictures in a few posts back!)

fillmore family October 21, 2014 - 3:21 pm

thank-you for this post- exactly what I needed to read today.

Melanie Francis October 21, 2014 - 3:32 pm

I LOVED the Cambodia posts!!! What a wonderful experience, makes me want to go there! Then on Sunday, they announced a young man in my ward was just Called to Serve there! AMAZING! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your life and the real moments too, makes me feel normal! 😉 You are a wonderful mother and example!

Melanie Francis October 21, 2014 - 3:32 pm

I LOVED the Cambodia posts!!! What a wonderful experience, makes me want to go there! Then on Sunday, they announced a young man in my ward was just Called to Serve there! AMAZING! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your life and the real moments too, makes me feel normal! 😉 You are a wonderful mother and example!

MegJill October 21, 2014 - 3:41 pm

Your blog is a bright spot in my day. Thank you.

Andrea October 21, 2014 - 3:45 pm

Thank you for linking back to the "Signs" post. I think that was the first post I ever read of yours (it was linked on Pinterest). I love the message in that post and find myself reminded of that lesson so often. Today was a good day for me to be reminded of that post and re-read it.

Cammi October 21, 2014 - 4:11 pm

A good reminder for all of us, thank you!

Rachel U October 21, 2014 - 4:15 pm

I am loving all of these posts! What a dream to be there with your beautiful family! That is my FAVORITE place in Shanghai!! There is a bakery there with the best donuts! haha! You're an amazing mother!

Courtney October 21, 2014 - 4:51 pm

"When I change my attitude theirs change too." so so true. and hard! thanks for being real! and i'm adoring following your family's journey! i think it speaks so much to your heart as a mom..to be willing to do this BIG "scary" thing to give them these opportunities and experiences!

Jill B. October 21, 2014 - 4:52 pm

Welcome back comments! Just remember for every ONE negative comment, there are ONE HUNDRED positive thoughts left unexpressed. 🙂

Angela October 21, 2014 - 4:59 pm

You are such a brave and energetic women to take this big adventure with your family. I am not as brave or energic as you so I love hearing of your experiences and wisdom. Thank you for sharing your adventures in China and as a parent with me. Keep up the good work. 🙂

Irene October 21, 2014 - 5:00 pm

Glad you opened up the comments again, just hope the mean messages will refrain from coming (is that how you say it?). Anyway, even though I have no children yet, I find myself doing the same thing to my poor boyfriend a lot of times when things are not working as I want them to… so lately I'm working on that too, trying to adapt to the context and enjoy the (bumpy) ride.
I'll keep following your family adventures and perhaps comment from time to time even if I might not have a lot of wisdom to offer 😉
Enjoy China, you're making me want to go back and eat dumplings! miss those things a lot!

Jeanelle October 21, 2014 - 5:01 pm

So glad we can comment again – I appreciate hearing real stuff too. Life is never perfect – even if it looks like it is to those on the outside. Oh and I also read Charity's blog and I'm SO glad you were able to go to her wedding…can't wait until you blog about that!! What a glorious day that must have been!

Amy P October 21, 2014 - 5:05 pm

I think you're amazing! And thank you for sharing your frustrations and real feelings. It was a great lesson to read and one that I need to practice too. Being pregnant with baby #5 I have questioned myself again and again as my patience level and soft answers have nearly vanished…enough to make me question why in the world I would bring another little child into our mix. Yikes! Well anyway, thanks for your honest and real openness. 🙂 Your blog is fun to read, not to mention beautiful to look at.

Brooke October 21, 2014 - 5:40 pm

There's a quote I've seen on pinterest, but now can't find that says something to the effect of this… we are often the least lovable when we need love the most. I've been trying to remember that when my 3-year-old has a meltdown over getting out of the bathtub at night… haha! I love following your adventures and am inspired by your wonderful family. Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous October 21, 2014 - 5:42 pm

Hi Shawni – I keep hearing about all the political unrest in China lately. Is your family feeling any of the effects of this?

Jess October 21, 2014 - 5:46 pm

Thank you for this reminder–I've been needing it lately too!

Elizabeth October 21, 2014 - 6:01 pm

I'm glad you turned comments on too. Love the "real" posts and all the amazing places you and the family are going! So inspiring! I have no children, but I think I need to work on being calmer and more balanced too in my reaction to things!

Kayla Couture October 21, 2014 - 6:28 pm

Thank you for posting this. It's nice to see that your life isn't perfect and that you actually are REAL people… sometimes (all of us) tend to put on a brave/happy facade for social media/blogs, so its nice to see something that resembles reality. 🙂

Bonnie October 21, 2014 - 6:49 pm

I hope everyone will be positive in their "commenting"! Hopefully they will think about the Proverbs scripture you quoted. I loved seeing your photos of Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields. I too visited there a few years ago. I went with my sister Rochelle (you know her – Sellers) when they lived in Tokyo. It was a fabulous experience – and the Killing Fields were humbling to say the least. As I hear you talk of your adventures with your kids in China, it reminds me a lot of my sister's adventures and struggles when they moved to Tokyo. Navigating a family in a new culture is a giant feat! But it looks like you're doing great – and what a great experience for your kids. My sister's kids are so confident and adventurous and I know a lot of it is from their experiences there. And as far as your frustrations in this post – you have "mom" syndrome! We all have/had it! And you're doing good!!

Katie Jane October 21, 2014 - 6:52 pm

I love when you post something new on your blog! I love seeing your deliberate parenting and you really are shining! Thanks for letting strangers be inspired by you and the choices you feel are right for your family. You are a wonderful example and your journal is sharing the gospel and sharing light. Thanks!

Kelleyn Rothaermel October 21, 2014 - 6:53 pm

Thank you for keeping it real! My husband said we were a horrible family yesterday because he feels like good family never get mad with mad with each other. Not true right! Your a good family, but we all have our moments when things are not all rainbows and unicorns.

Kerstin October 22, 2014 - 4:37 pm

Definitely not true! Good families aren't perfect and so sometimes you get mad at each other. It's normal. Even if it means you've failed the soft voice concept (which is a good one).

Barb October 21, 2014 - 7:08 pm

Sometimes I succumb to that anger or "wrath" and in the moment it can feel so satisfying just let it all out. But I always regret it and it NEVER makes anyone feel better, including me. Learning to school that anger/frustration, although hard, is my goal and my privilege to learn in this life.

The Baker October 21, 2014 - 7:32 pm

I lived what you said about feeling like you have to be strong. And about being the most deliberate mother than in all you life. I just moved across the country and have had both those feelings. I decided that without this experience I never would have had my eyes opened and I needed them open. My kids needed them open. It's a journey, not a destination. Keep on truckin'

The Denning Family October 21, 2014 - 7:40 pm

I seriously cried myself to sleep last night regretting an outburst I had with my children. I already had apologized to each of them….but I just was so frustrated that I let myself go like that. Thank you for your honesty and for reminding me of that scripture. It will be at the forefront of my mind as I do my best to turn away wrath. 🙂

Kimberly October 21, 2014 - 8:01 pm

It's always refreshing to know other families are dealing with the same issues as we are. My oldest is 4 and isn't a huge fan of obeying my husband and me. Throw in a 5 month old that screams bloody murder and we've got a circus. I had a horrible week not too long ago and was at a loss of what to do next. Then I had numerous opportunities to serve come about and my attitude made a 180 and there was semi-normalcy and peace in our home. It is amazing how our demeanor can influence the rest of the family's.

And on a completely different note, holy muscles on Claire's arm! She is one buff girly!

Susan October 21, 2014 - 8:04 pm

"You're a beautiful soul, even when you're cranky". These are the words my boyfriend spoke to me last night. They seem fitting for you today. : )

Beth October 21, 2014 - 8:16 pm

Oh my goodness, I needed this one today. I totally snapped at my seven-year-old when I discovered that he wasn't even dressed for school (he'd been up and dinking around for ninety minutes, so it's not like he was pressed for time) when it was time to go this morning. Actually, I take that back – I snapped when he made that grumpy, scowl-y face at me when I told him to get dressed, like it was my fault that he hadn't dressed himself yet. Did I mention I'd just left my bedroom after personal prayer?? Ugh!

Anyway, learning to keep my cool in times of stress is something we can all do better at! I know I've improved a TON in the almost-ten years of parenthood I've got under my belt, but sheesh, I've got a ways to go. (Before having kids, I thought I was so patient, too! HA!)

Thank you for this post; I truly enjoy your blog.

Stephanie October 21, 2014 - 8:49 pm

Thanks for this post! It's always good to be reminded that we're all fighting similar battles- whether we're in Idaho or Arizona or China! I LOVE that your family gets to experience this awesome adventure and I'm sure it will be worth all the work that you and your husband are putting in. Thanks for sharing your truth with us.

Brent and Lauren October 21, 2014 - 8:54 pm

Thanks Shawnie. I needed that scripture today. Motherhood is hard somedays. With cranky toddlers its hard not to join in.

Mari October 21, 2014 - 10:24 pm

I have often wondered how you manage to do all that you do. It seems that you have more than 24 hours in a day to accomplish so much! It is amazing all you do with your family… like nothing I have ever seen before.

It is very true that motherhood is hard work and can be overwhelming, especially emotionally. When I feel like it is too much I always have to pull back and remember that the most important thing is to LOVE them. Everything else is just details.

My husband passed away 6 months ago, and I have learned how to better enjoy the moment. (At least I am trying!) I have 4 children to care for, and it can be quite the weight to have it all on my shoulders. But I am grateful that I can essentially do my best and then give the rest to God.

I am glad you took your family adventure. You never know when life will change, or even end. It is important that if you have dreams, you should try and make them come true. It may be hard, but I am sure you will never question whether it was worth it when you are home.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, and I love all the beautiful photos!



Rachael October 21, 2014 - 10:35 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this! Your blog is my very favorite and I have learned SO much from you that I'm applying as I mother my five children. It's good to see that you have these kinds of moments too and that you're determined to learn and grow. Thank you for writing!!

Mike, Adi & Drew October 21, 2014 - 10:45 pm

thanks for writing this! sometimes it feels like bloggers lives are all happy and perfect, although i know that isn't the case, it is nice to hear you have many of the same struggles with patience that i have! you are doing a great job, your kids look happy and ultimately, what else could be better?!!

Ludlow's October 21, 2014 - 11:21 pm

Thank you for the great reminder. I had a similar moment last night with my three year old during bed time. Things got better when I changed and created a soft moment by slowing down and singing some songs to calm him down instead of being cranky and moving too fast.

AmandaAnne October 22, 2014 - 12:00 am

Thank you for sharing…we all have good days and bad days. You helped me remember that.

Julia October 22, 2014 - 1:33 am

So, so beautiful. Thank you for this vulnerable post! Such good reminders that I'm going to take to heart this week! xoxo

Melissa and Aaron October 22, 2014 - 2:06 am

I was just about to email you after seeing this post because I'm right there with you!! We live in Mexico City, Mexico right now and it is an amazing experience. We are growing so much as a family, but I'm not going to lie – it is HARD sometimes! I find myself losing my cool with my children (4, 2 and I'm pregnant with number 3) so often. It is often a result of just life being different or more difficult living in a foreign country. However, it can also be because of my hormones or my Hashimoto's (I have it, too!). Anyway, I needed this post. Thank you for the reminder. I need to do some pleading in my own prayers for more "softness" as I navigate this world and try to be patient with myself and my children. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures! It makes me feel so much less alone:)

rachel farley October 22, 2014 - 2:28 am

I have two little ones at home, this is a wonderful slice of wisdom! Thank you for sharing!

Jessica Speed October 22, 2014 - 2:32 am

Thank you for posting this. It's just what I needed. And thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us all.

Cindy October 22, 2014 - 3:04 am

Half of my children are out of the nest and half still at home. I find one of my biggest challenges has been and is knowing when to "encourage" (read: push a little) my kids to have/enjoy some experience and when to pull back and let them have it on their own terms. Sometimes one answer is right and sometimes the other. I can't imagine how much more difficult that is when want your kids to experience so much in such a relatively short time. Good luck figuring it all out!

Chace and Rivka October 22, 2014 - 1:15 pm

Our little family is currently having an adventure abroad, too–three little maids 4 and under in Italy! I've read your blog for a couple of years, but I'm especially loving following your recent goings on. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs, and for being an uplifting and humble example! And on a maybe slightly creepy note: while telling someone about your blog the other day, I involuntarily said, "I have a friend who…" Later when my husband asked which friend I was talking about, I realized that I had spontaneously referred to you, a perfect stranger, as my friend! My husband thought it was pretty weird, but I just laughed and thought you should know, because I'm sure I'm not alone in that sentiment. I haven't commented before, but I just wanted to say, you're doing a good thing here! So thanks, friend;)

The Hulls October 22, 2014 - 3:07 pm

I have been reading through many of the comments to this post…and can I just say diddo! I want to "Like" every one of them. I can relate so much to this post. Thank you for sharing and letting us in on your great adventure!! Sending lots of love from Nevada:)

Jenny (also) October 22, 2014 - 5:52 pm

Poor Lucy. I get VERY grumpy and stompy in the heat and humidity too so I can totally relate. Bet she'll be super happy to return to her AZ swimming pool!

Anonymous October 22, 2014 - 6:54 pm

All the kids will no doubt be super excited to finally come home to start life in their new home!

Pennie P October 22, 2014 - 7:00 pm

Love the REAL post! At a church group I was at this morning someone said to me " you sure are having the time of your life. Always happy and doing fun stuff". I just chuckled and told her " On facebook I am 🙂 ". We all are real, have real issues and sometimes it is so hard to let others see that side of fear of being judged. I tend to think it gives us all a sigh of relief to know we are not alone in this motherhood thing! LOVE the verse you posted! I will have to print that one out and keep it in sight. I also went off on my 8 year old this am and quickly had to apologize. It is so hard some days. But what keeps me going is " I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength". He WILL give you strength for this amazing adventure you are on. He WILL give you strength on those hard days of being a mom and wife. You are awesome and I hope you know that we may be states apart, but I look up to you so much and want to let you know that all we can do is continue to do the best that we can. Hugs!

Sessa Daily October 22, 2014 - 9:37 pm

YAY! Comments are back! Love this post….I'm finding myself trying to catch my tone these days too.

April October 22, 2014 - 11:51 pm

So glad you shared your Cambodia trip with us. My parents have been missionaries over there for the past 17 years (they left when I was a junior in college). They come back on furlough once each year, but I have had the opportunity to visit there twice (but it's been about 14 years since the last time. They have taken us to most of the places you visited. They live in Phnom Penh and go tot he Russian Market. They also took us to the Killing Fields, Tol Sleng (one of the death/torture camps that used to be a school), and also to Ankor Wat. I fell in love with their fruit, mangosteins, and wish I could get some over here. …But could definitely live without the Durians. It was so great to see your post because it just reminded me of my experiences over there and of my parents who are working hard to serve the Khmer people. Thank you for sharing.

Crystal October 24, 2014 - 10:20 am

I tried my first durian a couple of months ago in the Philippines….oh man!!! so bad! ; )

Jess M October 23, 2014 - 1:53 am

Thank you 🙂

Anonymous October 23, 2014 - 2:50 am

DIDDO. I can comment as fast as you can delete, Shawni. And thanks for responding to the unrest in China question… or does reality interfere with your site-seeing?

Kerstin October 23, 2014 - 4:58 am

The demonstrations are in Hong Kong, the family is in Shanghai.

Kerstin October 23, 2014 - 4:59 am

But I am sure it would be interesting to witness!

Sue Baltes January 11, 2015 - 6:33 am

Madam Queen, what is your problem? You are so rude!

Morgan and Holly October 23, 2014 - 3:41 am

I have read your blog for years now. It's the only one I read on a regular basis besides family…I just love it!! And this post was perfect for me today. I have a 19 month old, 3 month old, my husband is in dental school (i.e. gone a lot), and we are packing to move in two days…so I have been a little on edge with everyone around me. I, too, feel like that woman in the drawing. But the reminder about "soft answers" is golden advice. Thank you!

Pam October 23, 2014 - 4:57 am

So totally in this same boat lately … For some reason I have just been snappy with my kids. And it is true, when I am happy everyone is way better off. I appreciate this post…makes me feel less alone in this (what sometimes feels like a monumental) task of being the tone setter for my whole family. Thanks.

Mary Beth October 24, 2014 - 8:27 pm

Your posts and pictures about family bring me great joy. Thank you!

JSL November 13, 2014 - 6:59 am

thank you for this post, it spoke to me today.


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