Tag Archives: encouragement

Dear moms: you’re doing a great job!

It was about 7 years ago. For some insane reason I had taken all three kids out to lunch. By myself. They were about 5, 2 and 2 at the time. I remember my son refused to listen and then started to have a melt-down about 5 seconds after we sat down with our food. So, I did what I had to do and put him in time-out, right there in the middle of the Dairy Queen, pretending not to notice  — pretending not to care — that there were other people staring at me and my temper-tantrum-throwing son. I sat down and started to help my daughters, hands shaking as I cut-up chicken strips and opened ketchup packets.

About 15 minutes later an older woman came over to me on her way out the door and whispered, “you’re doing a great job; keep it up!” I almost melted into a puddle of grateful tears. It was exactly what I needed to hear that day, and I have never forgotten that 5 second encounter.

Tonight I sat in a booth at a local diner with my three kids. They’re now 12, 9 and 9. Going out to eat with them (even alone) doesn’t overwhelm me anymore. They each had a book with them; the younger two colored on the kid’s menus and the older child played on her iPod. Except for a few terse words exchanged between my girls over some serious offense like touching elbows or breathing each other’s air, it was a very pleasant, easy dinner. But in the booth across from us I watched as a young mother and father struggled.

Their son looked to be about 18 months and the very last thing he was interested in doing was sitting in his highchair and eating dinner. He whined and cried and tried to escape the highchair and, later, their arms. He did that lovely thing toddlers do when they arch their back and turn into putty hoping to slip out of their parents’ grips. I overheard his young mother talking to her son, becoming increasingly stressed. The dirty stare from the woman walking past them on her way to the bathroom was the final straw and the mother asked her husband to take their son out to the car.

I glanced over to see her hands shaking as she picked at her now cold food, eventually giving up and asking for a box. And I remembered that day seven years ago and the encouragement and love showered on me by a perfect stranger. As my kids and I got up to leave I hesitated, then I walked over and smiled and said, “Hang in there. It gets better!  One day you will be able to come have a peaceful dinner with three kids! Hang in there….you’re doing a great job.” She smiled in relief and her eyes welled up a little as she said thank you; it was what she needed to hear.

I remember those years with little ones. I remember having to pack a bag before going anywhere. I remember having to carefully time all outings so they weren’t too close to nap or bed time, lest I be prepared for full-on warfare. I remember wondering if we would ever have a meal that didn’t end in either spilled milk, smashed Cheerios all over the floor, or at least one melt-down. I remember vacations that weren’t the slightest bit relaxing and day after day feeling like a captive in my house because it was just easier to stay home.

Of course I worried about all the wrong things then. I worried about introducing the right fruits and vegetables at precisely the right time; about enough tummy time; about strollers versus slings; co-sleeping versus sleeping in their own bed. And most of all I spent way too much time worrying about how the rest of the world viewed my children. Not because I was worried about what they would think of my child, but because I was terrified of what they would think of ME as their mother. Worried every tantrum, every lack of manners, every spilled drink and sibling fight was a direct reflection of me and my success or failure at being their mom. In those days a heavy sigh, or admonishing stare from a stranger could completely unravel me.

But if I could go back in time and tell my younger mommy-self one thing, it would be this: Hang in there! It will get better. You are doing a great job.

OK, so maybe that’s three things. But they are all equally important, and all equally true! And it’s what I longed to hear in those days.

I’m not saying parenting a pre-teen and 9 year old twins is a piece of cake! My husband and I often feel like we’re talking to the wall and then, promptly want to beat our head’s against one. I am often ALWAYS tired. I worry my very last words on this earth will either be “have you brushed your teeth?” OR “for the LOVE, please stop sniffling and blow your nose!” And I get to answer fun questions like, “why can’t I shave my legs” or “mom, what does ‘lose your virginity’ mean?” (yep got asked both of these questions today.)

We definitely have our challenges…they’re just different.

Thankfully, I no longer measure my success as a mother by what other’s think. I don’t care so much what the stranger in Target thinks when one of my little cherubs belches loudly and then the other two burst into a fit of giggles. Because, you know what? They’re kids. They’re loud, they’re silly, they forget their manners too often, and they make bad choices when they know better. Even on the very worst days I know, deep down, that I’m doing a good job…doing the best I know how to do.

And wouldn’t it be great if we moms all reminded each other of that more often?

If instead of admonishing stares we smiled and whispered, “it will get better!”

If instead of sighing and rolling our eyes we laughed and said, “don’t worry, one day the thought of eating out won’t send you into a cold sweat!”

If instead of silently judging we walked over to the next booth and poured love out on a perfect stranger and reminded her that her success or failure as a mother was not defined by that moment right there, and we told her:

“you’re doing a great job!”

photo credit: DSC_7277 via photopin (license)

Guest Post: If looks words could kill

This month’s guest post comes from Christy Pearce, who runs the blog Faith Like Dirty Diapers. Christy and I met a few months ago through the Compel writers group run by Proverbs 31 Ministries. Right away I was struck by how open and honest Christy is in her writing, using her own life experiences so that she may encourage others. She has a real passion for ministering to women, particularly through their marriage and parenting struggles.

Today she shares with us the power of words…

Proverbs 18:21

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a dirty look is worth a thousand sucker punches. I had the art of nasty facial contortions NAILED, and Momma always used to reply to my facial expressions—“If looks could kill, we’d all be dead.”

That was before I found the power of my mouth.

I was always a very timid and shy girl. I had LOTS of opinions, but lacked the boldness to voice them. Until, I got a little older. Then my mouth opened a little wider.

Older Not Necessarily Wiser…

In my late teens and early twenties I began shedding the inhibitions that once left me holding my tongue. I began to explore the power of stating my mind. I realized it felt good to get the truth off my chest. And standing up for myself or my opinions felt even better.

That is…until I was saved by grace.

You can’t shoot your mouth off in anger or be brutally blunt without your conscience gnawing away at you once you understand the grace of God.

But it didn’t stop me completely. I felt a lot like Meg Ryan’s character in “You’ve Got Mail.” Suddenly saying everything I ever wanted to say didn’t feel as good as I thought it should. It felt bad, and usually didn’t even result in winning the other person over to my side.

No matter how emphatically I stated my case, I could NEVER control people with my words. All I could expect in return was anger and hurt. I certainly didn’t want to go around spewing death in my conversations with those around me.

I still don’t want that. Yet, I still struggle with how I sound when I speak. I still struggle with what to say. But if I have learned anything, I have learned this:

Oh, can you ever influence people when words are “fitly” spoken.

Proverbs 18:21

Beautiful Words, Wonderful Words of LIFE!

I am a blogger and I participate in a few weekly linkups with a fabulous community of writers. One of them is #LiveFreeThursday with Suzanne Eller of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Suzie gives a prompt. Then on Thursday we share what God has laid on our hearts by linking up our blog entries on her website.

One week I didn’t get my post linked up until late on Thursday. It had been a busy week. I had bitten off more than I could chew, but I really love this community of women and didn’t want to miss out sharing together with them—not even for one week.

I eventually got the post done. It was later than normal, but I finally made it.

Once I posted my link, Suzie replied with five simple, but beautifully encouraging words: “I was waiting for you.”

It was almost like she knew I was thinking to myself, “No one will notice if I don’t link up this week. It isn’t “required” anyway, I could just skip this week.”

But instead of giving into that thought, I pushed on and got ‘er done.

Those simple words had such power. To know that I would have been missed if I didn’t link up made me feel valued. Those words made me think my writing may matter after all.

But more than that, her words made me want to share life giving words with others. I wanted others to know the feeling of encouragement that I felt.

Word Matters

Our words matter. All of them. The “power of life and death” resides in our words. Sometimes, we don’t realize how very badly our words hurt, and other times we miss how wonderfully amazing they can be to the hearer.

Just like Suzie probably had no idea the impact her simple statement had on me. (Well, now she does!)

Let’s set our mouths to speak life! We reflect Christ when our words are an offering of love and kindness to those around us.

And above all—

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:2-3, 6 (ESV)

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Christy PearceChristy Pearce is a wife, stay at home Mommy of 3, writer and speaker. Her passion is to proclaim God’s truth and make Jesus known! While Christy admits that she is far from perfect, she desires that Christ would be preeminent in all she says (writes) and does. Her blog, “Faith Like Dirty Diapers,” was born out of God using every day events—even a diaper change—to strengthen her with words of life.

You can connect with Christy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/christylouhoo  or on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/christylouhoo

photo credit: Confunsed via photopin (license)

Small moments, Big impact

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, “what is my legacy? How am I making a difference in this world?”

I think for some people it’s very clear. Pastors, missionaries, humanitarians and aid workers — these people can see how they are influencing lives and doing God’s work on a daily basis. For the rest of us, it may be hard to look at our lives and know how/if we are leaving a mark. Sometimes the way people touch our lives and impact our spiritual journey is bold and immediate, like a large rock being thrown into a pond, making a huge splash, and maybe even displacing us. But more often I think it is the small interactions, the bits of encouragement or truth that are said in passing, that end up staying with us, like quiet raindrops on the pond, slowly filling us up and over time changing our core substance.

Over the last 15 years I have been a youth group leader, confirmation teacher, Sunday school teacher, and led adult small group Bible studies. I can’t say that in any of those roles I’ve witnessed anything I said or did causing a big splash in someone’s life. But I certainly pray that my words, or perhaps even just my mere presence have contributed drops of hope, encouragement or truth that has stuck with them.

I know there are several instances of these small blessings in my life that have had a lasting impression. They were seemingly insignificant  at the time. Simple conversations or gestures that likely the givers don’t even recall. But they have had a huge impact in my life and stayed with me.

small raindrops

I’ve already written about how my dear friend Mary gave me my very first Michael W. Smith cassette tape when I was 13, which began my 25 year love affair with his music. It might sound silly, but that gift really changed my life. It came at exactly the right time to get me through an incredibly difficult period of life, but more than that, it introduced me to the world of contemporary Christian music and how good music can have a significant impact on the worship experience. I am not much of a musician — despite 7 years of piano lessons I can’t really play anything more difficult than Ode to Joy (the easy version), and the three years I played clarinet I spent as the perpetual third chair — but I know and appreciate good music. I know that it can change the entire worship experience, and can surpass language and cultural barriers to bring people together. I have experienced the Holy Spirit through song. And my most profound worship experiences have been set to music.

Today, I have the pleasure of working with the worship leader at our church to recruit and schedule musicians, evaluate potential songs, and help plan and create additional creative arts elements that go into our services. Despite my inability to sing on-key or play an instrument, I have a way to influence and support the worship experience because of my love and understanding of music, and it all started with that “Go West Young Man” cassette.

When I was 17 and a senior in high school I was eagerly planning for college. After a trip to Appalachian State to interview for some scholarships and tour the campus, I came home and excitedly relayed to some friends all the reasons college was going to be totally awesome! (said in my best 90’s voice) As I told my friend Cara, who was a year younger than I, about the campus and the facilities, she asked,”did you look at any churches while you were down there?”

“Well, no, I didn’t get a chance to do that yet.”

“Don’t you think that is important? That you find a church you can attend while you’re there?” Cara was clearly wise-beyond-her-years. While I had been so caught-up in the campus life, looking at dorm rooms, checking out the football stadium and the coffee shops, I had not once considered looking at churches or finding a Christian student-group.

After that conversation with Cara, I contacted the school about the Christian student groups and ultimately joined the Lutheran Student Association (LSA), which had a HUGE impact on my spiritual formation during those four years. I also found the local Lutheran church to be my home-away-from-home. The pastor and his wife became like family to me, and in 2000 I was married in that church.

I’m sure my friend Cara didn’t know the impact her simple question would have on me, and probably has forgotten it ever happened. But 25 years later it still remains in my thoughts.

The last story I’ll share is more recent. In my 15 year career as a marketer, I’ve had the joy to work with some fantastic managers and mentors, many of whom have become personal friends. When I first started working at my current company I had two managers, one of which was in South Africa. Soon after I started in the new role I got to travel to Johannesburg to meet her, and we spent a good bit of time getting to know one another on that first trip . Ironically, we shared bits about our personal lives that might not have come up so soon if we worked in the same office. Over dinner my second night there the topic turned to our personal beliefs and we found out we were both Christians and our faith was a big part of our lives. This bit of early knowledge, I believe, really shaped our professional relationship and personal friendship because we could be very candid and honest with one another and didn’t worry about crossing any professional boundaries.

I recall one conversation in particular, about 5 years ago, when I was considering going back to school to get my Master’s Degree. I was lamenting to her all the reasons I was afraid to make the commitment. She said to me, “Yes, but God does not want us to have a spirit of fear. We are called to trust in Him.”  Wow! Convicted, this girl right here, thank you very much!

Again, that one statement –that little raindrop — struck me to my core and has stayed with me. Whenever I start to get caught-up in the fear and worry of branching outside of my comfort zone, I remember Jo-Anne’s words and I turn to God to take away my fear and give me strength.

This past weekend at the She Speaks conference, keynote speaker Lysa TerKeurst reminded us that it is not about our words, it is about The Word.

His word.

When we speak the truth to all who come across our path, God will use it to change hearts, encourage the hurting, and create a lasting effect — whether it shows up as a big splash or a tiny drop. I try to remember this and trust God that He will use my words to encourage others and shine a light on the truth.

Do you have a similar story? I would love to hear how someone has said or done something in your life that’s had a lasting impact on your spiritual journey. Please share either through the comments section or on my Facebook page.

“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” – John 7:18