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Affirming One Another

One morning early last week I received this text…

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My friend who sent this is constantly speaking encouraging truths into my life.

It’s very easy for me to hear from her because we’ve led such similar lives.  She homeschooled her children while her  husband had a job requiring quite a bit of time away from home.  She gets it.  She knows what I’m living.  She remembers the challenges.

It was such a timely moment to receive these words as a few minutes earlier we had hugged Andy good bye as he left for an overnight work trip.

When he’s gone and the responsibilities are left solely to me, I oftentimes find myself being shorter with and more critical of the kids than I normally would.

So, as I read these words that morning urging me to affirm my kids, I knew the truth in them could create a more loving environment during our time together… just the five of us.

I found opportunities throughout the morning to pull each of them aside one by one to tell them something I really admired, appreciated, and recognized about their character.  Each and every one of their faces lit up as they sat quietly nestled under my arm as I shared specific words of encouragement with them.

As I was making breakfast and reflecting on the joy that came from affirming them, I realized that I shouldn’t withhold that treasure from the kids.  Each of us should get an opportunity to speak words of encouragement.  To experience the joy that comes in that moment.

In between buttering bagels, pouring juice, and cutting up fruit I wrote each of their names on a small piece of paper.

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As we set the table I stuck one name beside each of their plates.  As the kids sat down to breakfast there was immediate excitement as they discovered a name at their place!  We settled into our seats and I began to explain that they were going to have an opportunity to say something kind to the person who was listed on their paper.  Not only would they choose a sentence or two to encourage each other, they would also recognize an activity that their “buddy” enjoyed.  Later in the day we would make time for the two of them to participate in their chosen activities.  It was delightful for a mama’s heart to sit listening as one by one they shared a characteristic that they appreciated about their brother or sister.

It set the tone for a more loving and grace filled day as they kept in mind the powerful words spoken to them that morning, and it constantly reminded me throughout the day the importance of building them up, as opposed to tearing them down.

The kids didn’t even realize it, but I also wrote “daddy’s” name and placed it next to my plate.  I sat and considered what words I would share with him if he were sitting at the table.

It was very convicting.  I thought of how often criticism leaves my lips instead of praise.

Last year, someone shared with me that one of the most important things a man needs is words of affirmation.  That’s why oftentimes work becomes so appealing to our husbands.  Work can offer the chance to achieve success and lead to the much needed words that build them up.

I think of how often Andy would walk through the door after work, especially when the kids were even younger, and instead of greeting him with pleasant words, I would begin on MY list of needs.

I need the garbage taken out.

I need you to hold the baby while I finish what I’m doing.

I need you to run this errand.

I need….I need….I need…

Who wants to rush home to that?!

A few weeks ago Andy and I were on a date and went to the movies.  Give me chocolate (and hot tamales!) and I’m a happy girl.

(As a side note: If you are local, PLEASE try out the updated theatre at the mall!  You have your own reclining seat.  No more awkwardly wondering which cup holder is yours.  Now it’s very obvious where to place your drink since it is located next to the lighted buttons that control your level of comfort.  You can make sure your feet are raised to just the right height and your back is tilted to just the perfect angle.  I feel it is my duty to tell as many people as possible to go experience this magical haven!  Oh, and they’re so comfortable I fell asleep watching James Bond.  It was after I finished my candy, so it was okay. ) 🙂

Back to my original point.  As we were sitting in the theatre, I looked at Andy out of the corner of my eye and realized I never take time to really “look” at him anymore.  As he was intently watching the movie and I could gaze at him unnoticed, I was reminded what a good man he is.  Fifteen years of marriage has held the highest of highs and some pretty painful lows, but through it all we are still side by side, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I began to ponder the ways in which he is a good man.

He is patient.

He is quick to forgive.

He pursues me in my anger for restoration.

He’s a dreamer.

He’s smart.

He’s handsome.

He makes me laugh.

He is an amazing daddy.

I can one hundred percent be myself with him.

There are other characteristics that I appreciate about him and I need to take time to share those with him.

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Here he is with our curly girl.

She thinks he’s a good man too.  🙂

Before you go believing that affirmation comes easily for me and is a constant in my life, just before writing this one of my kids came to me and was not up front about a mistake he made.  He played it off as if he had no idea how a light was broken and leaning out of the chandelier.  I was able to quickly (like in 1.2 seconds) discern his part in this accident.  It was just that.  An accident.  A boy being a boy.  Throwing a ball and missing his mark.  My reaction was anything but affirming as I lit into him for being so careless.  I went away for a few minutes and when I returned he was sitting in the corner and I realized his spirit had been crushed.  I called him over and he stood as close to me as he could get and I knew instinctively that he needed my touch.  To know it was okay.  As I drew him close I began to share with him my “accidents”.  Telling him I’ve broken a glass seemed to take away the sting but I realized he needed a mistake I’ve made on a bigger scale so I shared with him about rear ending someone.  That certainly got his attention and helped him to realize we all make mistakes.  More importantly it reminded ME that we all make mistakes.

I want to affirm, not criticize.

  I want to build up, not destroy.

I want my words to be pleasant, not distasteful.

Proverbs 4:23 says…

Keep your heart with all vigilance,

for from it flow the springs of life.

I realize that what flows from my mouth is what is hidden in my heart.  It’s a constant reminder that I need more of Him and less of me and the only way I can get that is through time with the Lord.

I don’t need self help books or meaningful sayings (although I’ve definitely gained from both).  What I need most of all is His Word hidden in my heart.  That is what I should run to first.  What should be the priority with my time.

Who is it that needs affirmation in your life?  Is it your family, a co-worker, a neighbor, the cashier at the grocery store?  Take time to speak life.  Build someone up.  Share words of encouragement, comfort, and joy.

Not sure what to say?  Start with “Jesus loves you just because you are you.”

I Thessalonians 5:11

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…”

Your words have power and meaning.  May His love flow from your lips.

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