We All Need a Little Encouragement

by Jodi

I've been reminded a lot lately that a little encouragement goes a long way.
Seriously.  How can you not smile?
Last month I attended a parenting conference (Intentional) and was surprised to learn that a tool to use to discipline our kids is encouragement.  Our kids need encouragement by the wheelbarrow load to not suffocate under all the things we're teaching/admonishing them to do and not do.  We learned that "for every one word of criticism, our kids need ten words of encouragement."  WHOA!

Adults are no different than kids.  We need encouragement by the wheelbarrow load to not suffocate under all the daily expectations and requirements that we (and others) put on us.  We need encouragement in running.  We need encouragement in our pursuit of following Jesus.  We need encouragement in our marriage.  In our parenting.  In our athletic endeavors.  We need a pattern of encouragement in life.

My oldest daughter Katie (Kaitlin Joy) just finished fifth grade and is off to junior high in the fall.  Her name means "pure joy" and Katie embodies her name - embracing life with gusto, enthusiasm and joy.

Katie participated in an all district 5th grade track meet at the end of May.  Her sister Alli came and cheered her on all day long.  When Katie jumped to a 2nd place finish in the long jump, Alli was in the background cheering her on.  
Katie jumping to a 2nd place finish - Little Sister in the background cheering her on.
Katie's last race was the 800 meter race.  By this point she had completed the long jump, raced the mile and raced the 400 meter.  My Katie Girl was exhausted.  She ran the turn of the first lap, saw Alli and I, and burst into to tears.  Sobbing she said, "Mom, I'm so tired.  I don't think I can do this."  

I had a hard time saying anything around the lump in my throat, but Alli started yelling encouragement and chasing Katie around the inside of the track on the turf.  When I found my voice, I joined in the hollering.  

Our encouragement spurred Katie on to finish the race in second place.  She crossed the finish, fell into our arms and we all had a good cry.  There is no greater feeling than knowing you could not have tried harder.  Katie needed our pattern of encouragement at the track to finish strong.  

Sweet Girl finishing the first lap of two.  Little Sister giving encouragement in the background.
Shortly after the track meet, we wrapped up our softball season.  Katie and Alli played on the same team and I was the assistant coach of the Flame Throwers.  Early into the season, we started finishing each game with a relay race against the other team.  The relay race became the highlight of every game and the Flame Throwers were good runners.

We learned to have Bella and Katie - our fastest runners - run the anchor legs.  No matter the deficit, Bella and Katie would make it up for our team.  We were undefeated in the relay race.

Coach Heather took photos during one of the relays.  She sent me the string of twelve photos.  From start to finish, Katie (last kid in line) was INTENSELY encouraging her team to victory.  You can't look at these pictures and not feel encouraged.

"A picture is worth a thousand words" so here's a short video series of all twelve photos.

All this to say:  I remember the encouragement people offer me.  The specific compliments, prayers, Bible verses, and "I love you because ..." all stay in my mind's storage.  When I'm feeling defeated, I draw strength and purpose from them.  This pattern of encouragement helps me have endurance to get through each day and live a life of purpose.

It's easy to just say out-loud the good things we think in our mind.  You never know how far-reaching it will be.    

"You look really pretty today."
"I love that running skirt."  
"Nice time out there today.  You're so fast."
" Good effort."
"You seem a little down.  Is there anything I can do to help?"
"I am so blessed by your thoughtfulness.  Thank you."
"Can I pray for you?"
"I'm so glad you're my friend because...."

We all need a little encouragement to run the race of life well.  Who can you encourage today?

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