Encouragement

 While visiting my sweet friend Mary Ann in Florida, I saw a small book tucked into a basket near the daybed that was mine while in her home. I’m not sure which drew me first: the sight of the word “encouragement” in the title on the spine

or the little trees on the cover.
But, I pulled it out and began to leaf through it.  It took me only minutes to head to my laptop to order the book on Amazon
I think this is the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen. ever.
The book is named Encouragement and is written by John C. Maxwell.Encouragement by John C. Maxwell
It speaks to my heart. It stirs my soul.
It is a book about encouraging others
and is decorated with images of maple, oak and pine.

So beautiful!

I received my copy in the mail yesterday and can tell that it will be a slow, intentional read. It’s not that the book has pages filled with deep theological questions to ponder, but that I want to take it in slowly … like warm cup of flavored cappuccino, I will wrap my hands around this “mug” and be warmed.

Oh the words …. “The heart of encouragement is to communicate a person’s worth.” Look at that page above.  Look at the words that move towards you on the page:
COURAGE
TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
TO COMMUNICATE A PERSON’S VALUE
MOTIVATED

As long as I remember, I have felt it important to speak worth into the lives of others. I have felt sending cards and letters are important, because they say, “You are important enough that I took time to speak to you in written form.”  I’ve written here about slowing down to take time for people… especially people in our family.  Encouraging others by investing in them through the written word, a listening ear or simple touch are important … because they say, “You matter.”

And so, I read and am enthralled.

I know the feeling of hopelessness.  I remember one point in our lives when I felt that I had hit “the bottom.”  It was a time when I felt no hope. I believed that I was not beautiful, or worthy or important. I didn’t have the energy to make a difference and I saw no end in sight. We lived in a single-wide mobile home on the edge of a cotton field in a town that was unincorporated. The property was owned by a man who said he was a Christian but was Indian by birth and culture.  While he claimed Christ as Savior, he still held to many of his cultural rituals.  The move to put our personal home on his property, far from work and church was one that I didn’t embrace.  Right after we moved in – in mid-summer, our home was hit by lightning which took out our air conditioning unit. Around the same time, our second vehicle’s engine blew up. We lived thirty miles from our church and had no friends in this little place. We didn’t even have enough money for a phone for several months. While we lived there, our cat had a serious accident and our home almost burned down. Even then, my marriage was very weak. Every day, when my husband would drive off to work … I would be left at the end of a dirt drive to homeschool two small children …. isolated and alone. I truly felt unwanted, unloved and, most of all hopeless.

I am thankful for that season. As hard as it was to walk through, it was a time that taught me what discouragement looks like. I can spot it now. And since I can recognize it, I can offer encouragement and hope to those who are sitting in that tough place …. wanting to give up and thinking nobody cares.

And that is where I live: looking for a life that needs a spark, hope, value, encouragement.

Sometimes the desire is almost overwhelming for me.  But, every life, every situation has limitations.  So, for now, I live in a traditional neighborhood, spend my time going to school, driving an old brown grocery hauler and loving on my kids. I run a pre-teen taxi, spend time at the skating rink and we pick up Burger King for dinner on busy afternoons. Nothing about that sounds radical. So, I look for opportunities to make a difference.

I encourage the boy down the road to behave in school.  He’s one “write up” away from being sent to an “alternative school.”  He’s from a home that is broken. “DFAS”, “court date” and “angry” were words in our last conversation.  But, he’s musically talented and I have this idea that he’s bored in school because he’s bright.  I want so much to encourage him to look for a place to make a difference.  I’m working on him, not like a “project” for me to fix …. but a person of value and worth that I want to help see that within himself.  I am encouraging him. He’s a wonderful child … who is struggling.

And I yell at my Joy as she gets up in the morning or when I first see her after school.  I holler with enthusiasm, “I LOVE YOU! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!!” Before she leaves the house, I yell “Use your drama for good!” and “Be a blessing.”  I go to school and sit with her teacher and she tells me little stories about how Joy reaches out to other children and includes them.  She has struggled.  She can relate.  She is making a difference, in her quirky, dramatic way.

And I took a little basket of goodies to Joy’s teacher at school.  It was just a little $1. basket from Target with a few things in it like a sticky note pad and some Autumn Hershey’s Kisses.  I threw in some Little Debbie Fall cakes  and a little plaque that I picked up at Michael’s for .75. The important part in the basket was the card that I penned my words of thankfulness for all that she gives to her class. It didn’t cost me much. But it was WORTH so much.

Last year, Joy told me that her teachers weren’t given Christmas presents. *wrinkles brow* That is just hard for me to understand. When I was in school, we always collected a dollar or two from the kids and bought a present for our teacher.  I can’t imagine NOT giving a gift to a teacher.  They need to know that they are appreciated!  So, I try to make a little something at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day and end of the year.  It’s never much – just enough to say, “We are grateful for you.”  Because I want the teachers to know that we appreciate them.  I want to encourage them. I want to offer hope to continue because they know that they are making a difference.

And so I spur you on to look for the discouraged and broken hearted. They’re all around. They live in the house next door, stand beside us in the elevator, sit beside us at school or church, walk past us downtown and break in front of us in the line at the mall. Everybody needs a smile. Everyone needs a pat on the back. We all need a hug. We all appreciate an “atta boy.”

And you’ll find that when you
offer encouragement,
you, too, are energized and encouraged.

For, yes, it is in the giving of any gift
that we most richly and overwhelmingly receive.

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