I must admit that Sunday mornings can be trying times as a mom with a quiver full of 4 adorable, yet challenging young ones. With my husband serving on the greeting team at church from set up around 7:30 am til tear down, mid afternoon, that often means that I’m on my own to get our 4 kids (did I mention we have 4 kids? And yes we know where babies come from) fed, dressed, and out the door. On time…well that’s the goal anyway. Some mornings, my “big three” will get along quite nicely, nicely, and pick out their own mismatched clothes with pride, (I choose my battles wisely and am grateful for a flip flops are the “norm” church) and things click along fairly routinely. But for things to go smoothly without hiccups, it’s more of the exception than the rule for our Sundays. Most Sundays before church, I’m often breaking up fights over broken Legos, who ate the last piece of sausage, or who let the baby crawl up the steps unattended. On mornings that are stressful, I have been known to lose my you know what, and briefly, but abruptly scream in the smelly soccer socks strewn mini-van on the way to worship, and threaten to pull over the vehicle before I can’t see straight to drive. Fortunately, within a few minutes, and when they settle down with deer in the headlights eyeballs after mommy just raised her voice, I compose myself, apologize for overreacting (while still explaining the “why” behind my brief madness) and keep driving in the direction we need to go, but it’s not always a rosy picture or a heart focused on the Lord, pre-worship experience. So, one morning, after a rough go at a start to the day of “rest,” I finally arrive, barely on time to church with my brood of 4, hurriedly check them into childcare, and have my brightly colored, yet baby drool stained church tee on and externally ready to “serve” with a smile on my face, and tears hidden to all behind my eyes. And praying that no one asks me, “How are you…REALLY?” I forgot my waterproof mascara. On the outside I’m looking and smelling so recently showered in millennial approved skinny jeans with cuffs rolled, TOMS, and coordinating long tassel necklace, but on the inside I’m thinking, “I am a horrible person. I just yelled at my kids on the way to God’s house of all places, and muttered a few bad words under my breath. Not the worst of the bad words, mind you, but words that shouldn’t be silently whispered across my lips at 9 in the morning, preparing my heart to worship and serve in the Kingdom. Ugh. I am horrible. Lord, give me some sort of encouragement, because I just want to crawl into a hole and cry. Or sleep. Sleep would be nice.” Those are my thoughts as I smile and greet newcomers coming in the door, ushering them to their pre-ordained seats, as the worship band music plays triumphantly, and I grin, nod, and say, “Good morning, we’re so glad you’re here!”, my mind still racing about the terrible morning I just experienced with my miniature sinners, I mean blessings on my day “off.” I think, “Lord, this is my time to reflect on you and your goodness, and your mercy and love. Why does it have to be such a trying time, every FREAKING Sunday??” I’m exasperated. The music plays on with another upbeat song, and I contemplate the lyrics, that He is a good, good Father. He is- and I know He is, but I am still really longing for some of His goodness, right NOW before I have a panic attack walking people to their seats. Then, a friend brushes by me, touches the small of my back, and whispers, “You’re awesome,” and keeps walking. As I stood in the back of the dimly lit auditorium and serve, and fake smile through my coffee stained teeth, with pain and hurt behind my eyes, and greet others to make them feel welcome, I’m awesome. Tears well up more, but this time in the best way possible. And I know that God gave her a word for me in that moment. Thank you Father. Thanks for that word. He is a good, good Father, that gives good gifts to His children, and in that moment, I needed to know by another human, that God thinks I’m awesome. I’m not the perfect mom, wife, or volunteer. But I obeyed, even in my weakness and said, “Yes,” to God when asked to greet on His behalf and for His glory, and showed up to serve in His Kingdom on earth, and I’m making a difference, one, “Good morning,” at a time. And because He’s good, Jesus declares me awesome. Not by my works, but by His spotless life, death and resurrection.
That was just a moment in time, one foggy memory of a Sunday morning, and weeks have gone by now, but the words have stuck with me. “You’re awesome. “ Me. I’m awesome. The Lord wanted to speak to my discouraged, broken heart, that in the midst of this beautiful mess in our hard, but cherished family years, He made me, and I’m enough. I’m awesome. Not perfect. Not without fault, but my Father still sees me for whom He made me to be, through Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, a new creation. Awesome. Wow. Thank you Lord. And thank you Jesus with skin on, my friend who spoke those words into being.
As I ponder that moment of encouragement now, I think, why do I not speak more into other’s lives like that? I try, and do sparingly, but not as freely and generously as I should. The Holy Spirit often speaks softly in my ear, and sometimes I listen, and sometimes I obey. One day at a shaved ice stand with our family, He told me, “Hey, tell that mom you like her hair.” What? Why? She has a mix of brunette and gray hair, youth mingled with age. I hesitate and think, that compliment, though well intended, may sound weird to her. “Just trust me, she needs the encouragement, right now. You know who you are, but she needs to hear who she is in Christ. She is beautiful.” As we sat shoulder to shoulder at brightly stained with rainbow colored syrup picnic tables I turned my head and made eye contact with a mom around my own age. The sun was beaming down upon us, melting our colorful iced treats, as our kids loudly slurped, and I sheepishly verbalized a direct compliment about her hair being naturally beautiful in color. Immediately her face lit up with joy. She smiled, touched her salt and pepper hair and blushed, and thanked me graciously. The mom of two proceeded to tell me the story of how she went gray pre-maturely in her 20s and has dyed it for years, battling her roots that had betrayed her, until recently when she finally took the plunge to be naturally speckled and gray. And confessed that she was beginning to love this new found freedom, from the dye bottle, but still felt like she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror. This fellow human, heart pumping with feelings and emotions, said she really was thankful for me noticing, and we exchanged names, children’s schools, the usual suspect mom demographics, and genuine smiles and laughs, and went along our way as our kids licked the sides of their sticky cups. “How hard was that?” says the Spirit to me. I internally reply, well, not difficult at all, and quite a delightful Spirit led exchange, I must admit. “Then do more of this; it’s a free gift to others who need my love and encouragement.” I understood, and we went on with our kid centric day of whines until melt down, then recovery, and creative dinners of “must-gos” aka leftovers, too tired to cook.
Words. Words mean things, my husband often tells our sponge-like children. Well, isn’t that obvious? It should be, but we don’t always live this practice out for the good of the hearer. Words can tear down, or build up. Words are free, but costly. Words have weight to them, for the good or evil. Why are we often so free with using the weighty words on social media, our tongues lashing out through the taps of a tablet, yet we are not as free with our words of encouragement to build others up? We can easily point out what all is wrong in the world, and how someone else should fix it, yet, we are so hesitant to build one another up with our words, both written and spoken. Our words are heavily guarded as if we have only so many compliments, words of encouragement, or positive things to say before we run out. So we keep any positive dialogue close to our chest where it is safe, and we don’t share the words that may be the idea or phrase someone is longing for someone to tell them. We as fellow humans experiencing life together, have this verbal gift, and we withhold. Why? Do we think that by saying something kind, we will somehow have our own invisible super power weakened, like Superman being too close to the feared kryptonite? I’ve found that when I know who I am in Christ, a new creation, daughter of the Most High, dearly loved and cherished, I am free to give. Give with my words, knowing it’s in no way taking away from who I am in Christ. I know who I am, but I am called to point out something beautiful, noble or noteworthy in someone else, that they may be questioning as worthy or not. A lot of times, I believe, we as earth dwellers, are walking around, experiencing life together, wondering, “Am I awesome?” Everyone else may look like they have it together, but we internally wonder, “If someone else sees that I’m worthy, I’d believe it. But until then… I’m feeling discouraged. Depressed. Anxious. Unworthy. Anything but awesome.”
I challenge you my friends, see the awesome. And speak it into being. Listen for the Holy Spirit to show you the things that make someone unique. Know who you are in Christ, so that you may freely give gifts of verbal encouragement. Point out the good you see in others. Maybe you see that someone is a natural with children on the soccer fields, and would make a great coach. By speaking it, you may give that person the confirmation to do the thing he or she is thinking of, to volunteer next season and coach and mentor young kids learning the game. It may be a young lady who always has her makeup done flawlessly. You may assume that she knows she’s gorgeous, good at this art form, but never assume. Speak up and tell her what talent she has in artistically applying make up, and you may be the one to encourage her to go into cosmetology, her passion. Our family saw a young man working at a burger joint with clear leadership skills and an amazing work ethic, every time we went into the restaurant. My husband spoke life into this young man, and told him the potential he had to become a Marine and months down the road, he graduated at the top of his class at Marine boot camp, from those words of recognition as a springboard to success.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- whatever is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
Think life. Then, speak life. See the gray hairs of life, the beautiful imperfections, and verbalize them to a perfect stranger. You never know what may spring forth from your words of encouragement. When in doubt, always let someone know, that Jesus has made them, awesome.