bless her heart

And just for the record, when we Northerners say, “bless her heart,” we really mean it. Like in a nice way. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when you darling Southerners say, “bless her heart,” you’re usually about to insult someone. Or you just have. No?

When I say it, I mean, “oh, that sweet little thing! She was just trying her best!” It’s like a happy little mixture of love and pity. But pity in a good way.

Am I making any ever-loving sense? Maybe there’s really no distinction.

So, tonight was a little rough around the edges. Gabe had a wonderful first day of work (and my day at home was fairly okay too), but like any First Day, it can drain you. So, he was tired, I was tired, and the girls were pretty tired too (Livi got 3 hours of sleep at a sleepover Saturday night).

Anyway, I might have maybe yelled at them while they were getting ready for bed. I had bills and taxes on the brain, and Livi has this thing about money–“When can you pay me the money you owe me? When can we get this? When will we have enough money for this?” So, when she said, “When can we get new toothbrushes? We’ve had these since right after Christmas.” I’d had it.


Yes, she understood.

So, they’re all in bed (together), and I’m reading Acts 2. Lest you think I’m this amazing mom who (besides never yelling at her children) reads Scripture every night to her brood, please know that I started this nightly “tradition” last night with Acts 1, after a long, long drought of no reading before bed.

Anyway, it’s going swimmingly. They’re asking questions about the Holy Spirit. Nina’s questions are a combination of comical and heartbreaking. I read about the people being baptized in the Holy Spirit and Ava says:

“When can I get baptized?”

“You want to get baptized?”


“That’s awesome, sweetie.”

We start to talk about it, and Livi pipes up, “Does it cost money to get baptized?”

Bless her heart.

“No sweetie. Jesus already paid for it. Isn’t that awesome?”

And it cost a lot more than money. It cost his blood. Thank you, Jesus.

26 thoughts on “bless her heart

  1. Tiffani

    Believe it or not, I am with you on the genuine meaning of “bless her heart” and although I’m deeply rooted her in the South, I think it IS a sweet saying!

    But, yes, people do say it before or after a negative comment….

    I’ve had several snippy moments with my young’uns lately and I’m just so thankful for grace.

  2. Kimberly

    Yes, thank you Jesus! Bless her heart means sweet and pitiful to me too. Rarely would it be mean, just kinda pitiful, like aw, her shoes don’t match but she tied her own shoes…bless her heart…

  3. amber

    Love this story. Precious.

    I’m a mash-up on the “Bless her heart.”

    Maybe that makes me just a Midwesterner. With probably a dash more Southerner than Northerner. Because I’m also a big “God love him/her”-er…which is really a big ole “bless his/her heart.”

    And now I’ve confused myself.

  4. missy @ it's almost naptime

    1 – love this. Even tho I simply cannot envision you yelling at your kids.

    2 – Bless your heart is really more about pity than insult. Like, “Bless her heart, I bet she just has no idea that her boobs are just hangin out of that shirt so far that my husband can barely concentrate on the sermon!” But it is just as often very sincere.

    3 – I can’t really relate to this post though, being that I am the perfect mother who would never, like, be giving my son a lecture on how he needs to uses his words to be kind and loving to his sister and then tell him to “shut up” right in the middle of said lecture when he interrupted said lecture. On the way to church. So, sorry, can’t relate.

  5. Sarah G.

    marla, that made me cry. and think. and sob. and seek forgiveness from my own little girl. thank you for being so open and letting God use you to reach me.

  6. meghan @ spicy magnolia

    Love this, Marla! It’s too funny the timing of this. First, I’m doing a small group study and we’re reading through Acts chapter 2 as well, so I loved reading about your kiddos’ questions.

    And believe it or not, today was the first day I’d heard someone explain the phrase “Bless your heart” in its negative connotation!! It was at Bible study and I’d never heard it used that way before…even as a southerner. I use it more the way you described it as a mixture of love and pity. Then I read your post…I had no idea about the negative side of the phrase!! That’ll remind me to keep using it the nice way. πŸ™‚

    I’m glad Gabe’s 1st day went well and hope tonight is a good one for ya’ll. Love to you!

  7. Gail

    I loved this story. And I affirm and encourage you in the reading Scripture with your girls. DeWayne did a daily scripture challenge thing for our whole church for 2009. My kids took it to heart. It’s been really, really good for us all.

  8. Lisa @ fulfilling my purpose

    Love this Marla. Made me cry (the last part).

    I am a Northerner who has lived in the South for 13 years, and most of the time when I hear someone say “Bless her heart,” it is negative. It usually means, “You poor thing, you’re so dumb.” Sometimes people mean it in a nice way, but I don’t like having to interpret what they really mean.

  9. Billy Coffey

    Wow, what a great moment. For you and for her. And though I’ve often used “bless her heart” in a negative way, Southerner that I am, it mean it this time in the nicest way possible.

  10. Becca

    Thanks for sharing this story – it totally made my day brighter πŸ™‚ cracked me up and reminded me of the “cost” all at once . . .

    oh and we southerners (although I’m not REALLY a southerner, since I’m Canadian, I just live here) don’t usually mean it in a “nice” way when we say that πŸ™‚ haha

  11. katie neer

    on one of the Financial Peace videos dave ramsey (who is from tennessee) talks about how his wife uses “bless her heart” as either a compliment or an insult, and how he has to read into it depending on the situation…i thought it was funny….because, like you said, in the north it is always a positive statement!

  12. Kathy R

    “”β€œNo sweetie. Jesus already paid for it. Isn’t that awesome?”

    And it cost a lot more than money. It cost his blood. Thank you, Jesus.””

    I love that. Very good!!

  13. Missy

    Oh, Bless it! That’s what would be said in the heart of the south. Yes, that tone of pity is a part of the “Bless Your Heart” phrase.

    I’m ‘known’ for saying to my little ones that we have plety of money for our needs, but I’m choosing to spend my money on something else today – when they ask for one of those great needs like Zhu Zhu pets.

  14. Rachel

    That’s awesome that she wants to be baptized! How wonderful. I’m sure you feel so proud.

    I imagine it is hard (and frustrating) to make your kids understand your financial situation when we live in a world where people get what they want when they want it. I don’t know how I’ll handle this when Anna is old enough to ask for things!

    Hang in there. You are a great mom πŸ™‚

  15. joyce

    Oh that question is precious. We all have nights like you describe. I love Lamentations 3:22-23…His mercies really are new every single solitary morning…apologies for the paraphrase. Don’t be too hard on yourself…Mothers are people too : )

  16. Laura

    I once saw Shonda Pierce at a conference. She is a Christian comedian etc. She said when a southern girl says “Bless her heart” she really is saying “You’re so stuuuuppid!” After I heard that…I realized how many times I said “Bless Her Heart” I try not to say it too much anymore unless…..I am actually meaning it instead of “You Are So Stupid”!!!!

  17. Keri

    Ah, yes. There was maybe a raised voice in this house tonight with a renewed promise to make devotions a habit after I made a comment recently about the 2nd coming and my 11 year old looked at me in total surprise and said, “Jesus is coming BACK??”. Great……how in the world did I miss that little tidbit in the last 11 years?

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