Chin Up, Buttercup

Well, it’s Christmas Eve – – the last day to scurry around looking for that last or perfect gift. Then to finish wrapping, baking, traveling . . . today a momma’s day goes by quickly and tiredly.

I’ve been thinking about a gift that, aside from unconditional love and the truth of the Gospel, may be the very best present a momma can give her children: the gift of encouragement.

It’s a gift that costs nothing except a bit of time, attention, awareness, consideration, kindness and thoughtfulness.

No matter their age, our children need our encouragement. Daily there are challenges that each one faces. Certainly a day looks different in the life of a twenty-one year old from that of a two year old. But think about it – – – they each need a hug, a smile, a reminder of their unique and special place in our lives and in the world. The words and actions may differ vastly – but the longing is the same.

There is a thought-provoking quote from William A. Ward that is remindful of the life-changing effects of encouragement: “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you.”

Really, I think encouragement is “life-CHARGING” as much as life-changing.  Many, many times we have walked and talked (and texted and messaged) our girls through difficult circumstances.  Whether through challenging friendships, relationships, exams, chores, activities, life-decisions or even the mundane events of life – – – we have spurred them on with hopeful words of encouragement and confidence in their abilities, character and faith. And, yes, in a great number of those times we have said, literally, “chin up.” And, since they are sweet and lovely girls we’ve actually said: “chin up, buttercup.” I don’t know how that would especially work with sons . . . .

Encouragement is such an important aspect of life that scripture deems it a “spiritual” gift. (Romans 12:8) Timothy urges us to: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

We all desire encouragement – – –  daily encouragement.  That doesn’t begin or end at some magical age – it is a life-long craving. It’s a wonderful gift we can give our children – not just on birthdays or Christmas – each and every day. Certainly, correcting and teaching, guiding and admonishing are important and necessary aspects of parenting. But they shouldn’t always take the place of a hefty dose of encouragement.

Sometimes it is difficult to come up with the right answer, the most appropriate response, the most helpful suggestion – especially as the challenges become more serious or pronounced as our sons and daughters grow and mature into an often unforgiving world. That’s when a reminder of your love for them, God’s amazing love and purpose for their life, their unique place in the world, their precious presence to many, how cherished they are, their irreplaceable gifts, talents and dreams is a perfect gift to them. You may not have the solutions, but you can spur them through a difficult moment, day or chapter.

As you go through each day in your “mommyhood” you probably don’t often see yourself as your family’s chief cheerleader. It’s a sometimes thankless and unseen role. But in many ways, and in certain situations, it may be your most important.

Years ago our youngest daughter wanted to participate in Upward Cheerleading.  There were so many kids participating in the Upward program that year that I was asked to be her squad’s coach. Talk about a leap (get it) of faith! I’d never, ever been a cheerleader or anything close. But I jumped right in and had a delightful time with an awesome group of little girls. I was such a “good” coach some of them even cheered in high school . . . . while some switched their loyalties and became amazing basketball players . . . .

Anyway, one morning we were trying to get our three girls moving a little more quickly to get ready for school.  They were not hurrying in the least. They lingered and lounged and fidgeted and lazed. My husband, who was trying to get out to work and was planning on taking them to school on the way, aptly said: “do something.” – – –  as though my cajoling, sweet-talking, fussing, getting frustrated, and (probably) yelling and threatening were not already taking place.

So, in order to “show” him I was taking charge of the situation, I found my Upward Cheerleading pompoms and came through the house literally “cheering” them into action. It was so ludicrous and, I’m sure, embarrassing to them, the proverbial “fire” was lit and they hastened to finish getting ready and were out the door in no time.

That morning served as a life-lesson to me. I am their chief cheerleader. I can’t expect others outside our home and family to love, encourage and “cheer” them like I can. Certainly, others who love them and whom they respect can give them wise counsel and encouragement when needed, but that shouldn’t be our first course of action.

It is my honor and privilege to be the first line of encouragement in their lives . . . to speak truth and love and hope and faith to them – no matter their age or vicinity to me.

So, as you are finishing that last cookie or tying that last bow, remember the gift of encouragement. It doesn’t come in a box or with a shiny bow. Instead, it comes from a momma’s loving heart – and the gentle glow it creates in their lives will last far longer than that last piece of glistening tinsel.

Thought to Ponder:  How can I encourage my kids today and in the days to come? How can I change my words, thoughts and actions to be their chief “cheerleader” and not always their chief “corrector?”



Comments (6)

  • I’m visualizing these images of you with pom poms cheering as teeth are brushed and bedhead is coiffured. I read and laughed tears as my family wondered…This is beautiful!

    • Well . . . . we were all a bit younger . . . but I’m sure it was rather hysterical in it’s own way! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  • As usual wise words of wisdom that I totally agree with and which, hopefully, we’ve applied to our “children” (and now grandchildren) as well. And yes, I would have said, “chin up buttercup” to the boys had I thought of such a thing back then. Thank you Marcia for sharing.

  • Good advice that we sometimes forget in the hustle and bustle of life.

  • Love this reminder Marcia! Thank you for writing and sharing your pondering!

  • And today you were chief cheerleader to all of us! I have done some pretty goofy “encouragements” as mom, teacher, and especially as grandma…it’s fun!


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