7 Ways to Encourage Your Children

7 ways to encourage your children

Everyday, we can make the choice to encourage or to discourage. To build up or to tear down. To make a positive difference or to make a negative difference.

There’s no one more important than our children when it comes to choosing whom to encourage.

The word encourage in Webster’s Dictionary is defined as to inspire with courage or confidence; to promote, foster.

So, how can we, as parents, encourage our children? Below are seven suggestions…

Encourage their character.  “A person’s character is the sum of his or her disposition, thoughts, intentions, desires, and actions.”*

As parents, are we helping our children to develop good character? Are we encouraging them to make good choices? Our kids will be, and are faced, with multiple decisions each day. Helping them to understand why good choices are important and equipping them with the knowledge and practice to make good choices is paramount.

One of the things we do in our home is to discuss with our children what they would do if faced with  a particularly difficult situation.  What would they do if they were asked to do something they knew was wrong?

C.S. Lewis gave the perfect definition of integrity. He said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.”C.S. LewisMy prayer is that my children will have that kind of integrity.

 

Picture 095Encourage their dreams. I love the dreams of little children! My youngest once asked for a pet mongoose. I could have easily told her that there was no way we could have a mongoose and for her to be more practical. However, I chose not to. Instead, I encouraged her dream and we chatted about how fun it would be to actually have a pet mongoose (especially since they eat snakes!), and the tricks we would teach him.

Encourage your children to dream at every age and every stage of their lives.

Encourage their future. I pray regularly for our children’s futures, both during family prayer time and during my own quiet times with the Lord.  I have told my children that it’s exciting to see what God has planned for their lives. We often discuss Jeremiah 29:11 which says: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

Encourage their compassion. Compassion is one of the most important things we can teach our children. One thing we have done is to instill in our children the importance of serving others. For some ideas on how to instill compassion and servanthood in your children, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others. 77 ways

Not only should we encourage compassion for others outside the home, but we should especially encourage compassion within our own families. One of the ways that we do this is to regularly pray for each other and to express our prayer needs daily to one another.

 

Encourage their imagination. As a writer, I am grateful that the Lord blessed me with a creative imagination.  There are several ways I have encouraged my children’s imaginations. For one, I have always read to them. Reading is so important and can take us on adventures we would never otherwise take. When my children were old enough to begin reading themselves, I encouraged them to check out as many books as they wanted at the local library and to even have a “reading marathon” over the summer months. Reading is excellent for the imagination!

Several times, we have spread a blanket in the backyard and gazed up at the clouds. We take turns imagining what animals the clouds look like and which could we would choose if we could lounge on any cloud. The white puffy clouds always win!

My oldest daughter has a knack for art. As such, I asked if she would illustrate a story I wrote. She was delighted and it was wonderful to see her own imagination shining through in her art. I combined the story and her illustrations and asked the local office supply store to bound the pages together. We now have our own special book – not only a keepsake, but also a delightful practice in encouraging the imagination of a budding artist!

325381_piggy-back-rideEncourage their friendships. We talk often about friendships in our home and about the kind of friendships that are important. The Bible has much to say about friendships and what type of friends to choose. For example, Proverbs 16:28 talks of why being dishonest and being one who gossips separates close friends.  Proverbs 18:24 states the importance of a friend who sticks closer than a brother (ESV).  John 15:13 is a profound statement of friendship: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

In our home, we have talked frequently about three different types of friends: gold friends who are there for you through the good times and bad; silver friends who are fun to be with, but you can’t always count on them; and bronze friends who are more like an acquaintance because they aren’t “true” friends.

We also discuss how good choices for friends is critical because of the amount of influence friends have on each other.

Encourage your children to be the kind of  friend that would honor God.

Most importantly, encourage their walk with God.
Are you children growing in their walk with the Lord? Have they accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior? The most important thing we can do is encourage our children to have a close relationship with Jesus. After all, that’s the only thing that will last for eternity.

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*Quote taken from gotquestions.org

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the importance of perseverance

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Life is not easy. It’s full of challenges, and when we face those challenges, we have a choice. Do we stick with it and persevere? Or do we give up?

My mom texted me yesterday with the results from her recent MRI. On top of severe osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, scleroderma, a herniated disc in her back, and celiac disease, they also discovered she has a radial capitellum capsular edema and a posterolateral  capsular synovial cyst.

She was recently confined to a wheelchair.

In other words, the pain and debilitating illness she now faces are nearly unbearable.

Some days it feels like too much.

It is a lot for her to persevere in these times of chronic pain, uncertainty, and a rapidly deteriorating health.

Hard for her husband, children, and grandchildren to watch as well.

But she perseveres. And no, neither she nor I will tell you that it’s easy or that she doesn’t struggle at times.

Chronic illness.

A difficult boss.

A challenging relative.

The effort to lose weight for health reasons.

The challenge to bring up your grades.

Working two jobs to afford basic necessities for your family.

Being a caregiver.

Trying to move on after a death or divorce.

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These can all bring about difficult life situations where it’s easy to give up and give in.

The Apostle Paul went through many trials and hardships and perservered for the Gospel. Missionaries today persist in bringing the Truth to people who may never otherwise hear the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Even in families, friendships, and neighborhoods, faithful believers hope to plant seeds. Pastors preach to both believers and unbelievers each Sunday.

Or even the perseverence in raising our child(ren) for Christ in an increasingly sinful and hostile world. Yet, when we continue to instill in our children the importance of a relationship with God, we will someday reap the rewards.

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How do we persevere and why is it important that we do?

By keeping our eyes on Jesus. The second we take our eyes off of Him, as Peter did in Matthew 14:30-31, we sink.

Realizing that He knows the “big picture.” How it starts, the middle, and the ending. Remember that we see the tiny hand-held TV screen of life, while God sees an enormous big-screen TV. Or to look at it a different way, we see one word in an entire book, while He sees the entire book – every word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter.

Remembering that even in times of hardship, He loves us and will never leave us.

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Knowing that He is a great listener…and never sleeps. His “line” is open 24/7/365.

Being assured that He’s got this and was not caught off guard.

Spending time in constant prayer, giving thanks for all He has done, seeking His will for your life, and laying down prayer requests are tantamount to a close relationship with Him.

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Reading God’s Word and learning about the faithful ones of the Bible who persevered. To know we are not alone in our difficulties gives us hope and courage.

Keep going forward…even if you feel like you’re constantly going backwards. 

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Making sure you have a good support system. This can be a loving spouse and children, caring friends, and a faithful church body.

Being encouraged by listening to uplifting Christian music.

Facing each day one step at a time. Set small and realistic goals.

Life is not easy. Everyone has a struggle, or multiple struggles, that they face on a daily or ongoing basis. But with faith in God and perseverence, we can face our hardships head-on and emerge victorious.

 

 

 

 

5 ways to start your day off right

5 ways to start your day

You wake in the morning and fling open the curtains to find another beautiful sunshine-filled day. Perhaps you reach for a cup of coffee or head to the shower before tending to your job as a wife, mom, employee, or all of the above. Whatever your plans, be sure to do the following to start your day off right.

Drink a glass of water. According to the Livestrong website, there are several benefits of drinking water right after waking. And it’s a great way to start toward your daily hydration. I keep a bottled water on my nightstand for that very reason.

Spend time with God. Even before I open my eyes, I spend time in prayer thanking Him for giving me another day and praising Him that everyday His mercies are new. I ask Him to help me to be a blessing to others and then offer my prayer requests to Him. Immersing myself in His Word is my next plan of action.

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Spend time with your spouse and kids. My husband heads to work before 5:00 a.m.,  before I wake during the week. However, on the weekends, we spend some time together before embarking on our day.

As a mom, one of the things I do first thing during the week is to spend a few minutes one-on-one with each of my daughters. My youngest daughter loves to have everything planned out for the day, so that is one thing we discuss before praying and going our separate ways until breakfast. Speaking of breakfast…

Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast. On Thursday mornings, I teach an early cycling class, so time is more crunched than the rest of the days of the week. However, being sure I get a good breakfast helps start the day off right and gives me energy for daily activities. WebMD has an excellent article detailing why breakfast is so important.

Do some gentle stretches. Stretching relieves tension and prepares you for the day. It also helps with circulation. As one with a former ankle injury, I always integrate ankle rotations into my morning stretches as well. (Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program).

And if you need some fun music to get you going while you are doing stretches, check out Good Morning by Mandisa.

So embrace every morning and remember that each day is a gift and a chance to start over!

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leaving a godly legacy

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According to Webster’s Concise Dictionary, the word “legacy” means anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor.

Several summers ago at my grandpa, Papa’s, funeral, I was asked to write a lifesketch and speech in memory of him. As I began to work on the speech, I was convicted once again of the importance of the legacy we, as parents, leave behind for our children.

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Papa had so many people who loved him. In writing my speech, I gave a lot of thought to legacies and what they mean.

Why is leaving a lasting godly legacy important? What is a Godly legacy?

I once heard a quote from Austin L. Sorensen that went like this: “A child is not likely to find a father in God unless he finds something of God in his father.”

Austin Sorensen

Wow, that’s a powerful statement and something we, as parents, should take very seriously.

How can a child find something of God in his or her father? For example, are Daddy’s arms always open whenever there is a problem? Is Daddy a refuge in times of trouble? Is he a shield from the bad day at school or the fight with a best friend? Is Daddy loving, caring, and full of grace? Is he forgiving? Does he put the needs of others first? Is Daddy someone his child can trust? Is he an encourager, is he patient and kind?

God is all of these things, and these are just a few of the glimpses of God a child can see in her father. To see such things in her Daddy helps her to see that God is all of those things and more, only to perfection.

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Parents (and grandparents!) don’t realize how important they are in their children’s lives and this is just another testament to this fact. I can testify as Papa’s granddaughter that I saw him exhibit traits such as being a pillar of strength, protective, loving, and caring. He was a hard worker, provided for his family, and desired justice, yet not revenge.

When I consider Papa’s legacy, I am inspired to consider my own legacy that I am building in my children.

In the song “Legacy” by Nichole Nordeman, she sings about her desire to leave a godly legacy.

As a mom, I want my daughters to remember me as someone who was compassionate, loyal, kind, one who loved Jesus above all else, was a faithful prayer warrior, a woman with a servant’s heart, and a fighter for the underdog.

Huge steps to fill. I pray I will achieve those lofty goals, but most of all, the eternal goal of sharing with them the priceless gift of our Lord’s sacrificial love.

When you reach the end of your life, will you have accepted the grace offered by the Lord Jesus Christ? Will God be saying to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

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I am thankful for the blessing of Papa and the many years the Lord gave him to us. And I’m thankful for the glimpses of God that we saw in him.

Whether we are moms or dads, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, or grandparents, may we all leave behind a legacy that speaks of Christ and His saving grace that lives within us.

 

 

 

 

 

the importance of mentorship

The importance of mentorship

I was fortunate as a child to have my extended family living nearby.  Not only was I blessed to have parents who loved and cared for me, but my aunts, uncles, grandma, and grandpa were also hugely instrumental in my life. As a teen, a dear woman named Marge spoke into my life about the love of Jesus.

Why is mentorship Important?

When we take the time to mentor others, we show them that we care. That we are there through the difficult times, and that we are committed to helping them become the best they can be.

Mentoring makes a difference in every life. No matter what our age, if we have someone invested in our lives, it makes an impact for the better.

Anyone can be a mentor, but an effective mentor is an encourager, they are available, and they set a good example.

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Life can be challenging. Mentors see the end result, not the here and now. They help the one they mentor to achieve those goals that are important to him or her.

We all need a mentor.

In our church, I have mentors whom I look up to – godly women who are examples in their knowledge (and application!) of God’s Word, the way they love their husbands, and the way they truly care for others. Most of these women are much older than I am. They have life experience and are mature in their faith.

My teen daughters and I have had many great discussions about who they would turn to (besides my husband and me) if they were going through a difficult time. Brainstorm with your kids some godly adults that they could call upon if times were tough. Someone they look up to, can be honest with, who will pray for and with them, and who will provide wise counsel.

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When we mentor someone else, we help shape their lives for the better. John C. Maxwell sums up mentorship in a nutshell when his quote: “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.

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Who has been an important mentor in your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the importance of aligning our actions with our words

aligning actions

Have you ever met someone and were astounded to discover that they were a believer? Perhaps they live a life contrary to that of a Christian. Or perhaps they act flippant about Christianity in the presence of unbelievers.

To be clear at the outset: our actions are not what makes us Christians. Rather, the only way we can become a Christian is to put our full faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, believe that He died for our sins, and repent and turn from our sins. (Romans 10:9-10; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 10:13; Acts 2:38-39; Romans 6:23; 1 John 1:9, etc.)

However, actions are important. After we become Christians, our desire is (or should be) to please the One who gave His life for us. A changed life and the continual desire to become more like Jesus everyday in our actions and in our thought lives are two ways we can show our gratitude.

What are some other ways we can align our actions with our claim of Christianity?

  • Model Christlike behavior with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are all sinners. Only by His help can we achieve such things as honesty, kindness, compassion, and gentleness. Only with His help can we be sure to guard our speech.Colossians 4 6
  • Continue to grow in your walk. This can only be achieved by spending time in God’s Word, in fellowship with other believers, and spending time in praise and worship. Our goal should be that we strive to be more like Him this year than we were last year.

 

  • Give others the benefit of the doubt. This can be a tough one. In our culture, it is popular to think the worst of others without knowing anything about them. This shouldn’t be so for those of us who claim to be Christ followers.

 

  • Embrace humility. We all make mistakes. Everyone has things we struggle with no matter how long we’ve been a Christian. Be humble and own up to your mistakes and shortcomings. Seek the forgiveness of others when you have wronged them.

 

  • Practice discernment. Our society glorifies things that counteract what we read about in the Bible. We live in a culture that places a great emphasis on feelings and opinions. Those in and of themselves are not bad, but when we turn to the only Truth Meter – the Bible – we are told what we should put our focus on.

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  • Show grace and mercy to others. It’s been said that those who have been shown grace are more willing to show grace to others. Haven’t we been shown much mercy and grace by our Lord? Shouldn’t we extend that to others especially when they don’t deserve it?

 

  • Love others. This can be a tough one. As I sit here typing this blog post, I can think of someone I know who is extremely difficult for me to love. However, we are commanded to love others as ourselves and to place their interests above our own. Such love for others is a testament of our love for Him.1 Corinthians 13 1

We should be different. We should be set apart. We shouldn’t blend in with everyone else, but rather we should stand out. It should be plain to others who we strive to live for. Nothing temporary. Nothing that perishes. But the One who is eternal.

May our actions align with our words. May we give no reason for someone to doubt our authenticity.

 

 

 

 

not everything is as it seems

not everything

My husband’s friend, Mario, brings a large box of fresh oranges from his farm in Texas to our family on a regular basis. These oranges are like nothing I’ve ever tasted from the grocery store. They are sweet, juicy, fresh, and delicious.

However, by the outer appearance of this citrus that our family refers to as a “Mario Orange,” you wouldn’t think it would taste good. On the contrary, one might think it was squishy, sour, old, and moldy.

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Obviously, we can’t judge a “Mario Orange” from its outer appearance. With its bee stings, mottled appearance, and pale color, it isn’t what it seems.

People are much the same way. Some of the nicest, kindest, most gracious people I’ve ever met would not be considered the most attractive. On the other hand, some of the most mean-spirited,  rudest, and malicious people I’ve ever met have been the most physically attractive.

There are many beautiful people who are also kind and many “homely” people who are inconsiderate. However, an important thing to remember is this:

Not everything is as it seems.

That’s why it’s important not to judge someone based on their outer appearance. Instead, we should look to important virtues, such as:

  • God-fearing
  • honest
  • kind
  • loyal
  • trustworthy
  • faithful
  • generous
  • selfless

And the list goes on.

Proverbs 31:30 tells us that Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

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What if we saw people through God’s eyes? What if we saw people as being made in His image?

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Our worth does not come from appearance. Our true value does not come from how others perceive us.

If we realized this, we could see things as they really are.