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“How was your day, Sweetheart,” my husband Keith asked. It was mid-afternoon last week, and he’d wandered into the kitchen along with dogs. A hambone simmered in a large pot on the stove. I was cutting onions, celery and carrots for lentil soup.

“Good, thank you, a balance of writing, research and reading. And now I’m making…”

FreyaKeith2012

Freya and Keith, 2012

“Freya girl, do you want to go outside?” Keith turned his back to me, addressing one of our dogs. “Good girl. Are there critters you need to chase?” He opened the kitchen door to let Freya out.

FreyaFeb2016snow2

Snow today.

As soon as Keith started talking, I fell silent. Chop, chop, chop, chop, I fumed. Yeah, I know I tend to chatter on and on – Blah, Blah, Blah – and Freya is cuter than I am. But I have to compete with a dog for my husband’s attention? Really?

Then I calmed myself and decided to take a leaf out of Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book about Boundaries: “We must own our own thoughts,” they wrote. “Even Paul says, ‘For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?’ (1 Cor. 2:11). What a great statement about boundaries! We have our own thoughts, and if we want others to know them, we must tell them.”

Think before you share your thoughts, Carole, my voice of reason said.

After Keith stopped talking to Freya, I took a breath. “You know, it really bugs me when you ask me a question then don’t listen to my answer.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Please tell me.”

And so I did, with more efficiency that usual.

Case closed? Not as far as the log in my eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

If I’m bugged about someone’s behavior, chances are I’m guilty of the same. But I rarely think about this when I’m miffed – far from it. I react with simmering silence or boil over.

I’ve never given up anything for Lent. But this year I decided to give up alcohol and candy. Like many others, I’d like to lose a few pounds.

But giving up alcohol and candy won’t really benefit anyone except me. To improve my relationships with others, I’m going to make an effort to think before I speak, choose my words more carefully and – most of all – give up my annoying habit of responding to external and internal distractions while someone is talking, to practice listening fully.

So far, it’s been easy to say no to wine and chocolates even on Valentine’s Day. But listening requires a higher level of self-awareness, mindfulness and discipline, as does minding my words. Seeing both logs in my eye and changing my behavior will take prayer and lots of it.

And when I think about prayer, it’s pretty easy to say yes.

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