Monday, July 31, 2006

Listen--for opportunities to encourage

"If you have ears, listen!" Matthew 13:9 (TLB)

Opportunities are often missed because we are broadcasting when we should be listening. ~ Author Unknown

She was unmarried, a single mom and obviously pregnant. It was a busy morning at the restaurant where we usually have Saturday morning breakfast. We struck up a conversation about the upcoming birth. There was a sweet-sour note to her voice and hesitation as she talked of her due date. I, the encourager, was trying to bolster her confidence in facing the impending labor and delivery and began retelling my stories about the births of my children.

Weeks later, we learned that the new mother had been struggling with a decision that was life changing for her and her unborn child. Knowing she could not raise the baby on her own, she had chosen to let him be adopted by a family desperately wanting a child.

In all the Saturday mornings when we saw her, I could have been a better encourager if I had been a better listener. I was broadcasting more than I was listening. I have ears. I just forgot they were for listening.

(copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Initiate Conversation--Blogging to encourage

"[Philip] met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road...He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah...Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, "Do you understand what you're reading?" He answered, "How can I without some help?" and invited Philip into the chariot with him. "
Acts 8:27-31 (MSG)

True interactivity is not about clicking on icons or downloading files, it's about encouraging communication. ~ Edwin Schlossberg

My theme within this SMILE series is encouraging strangers--people we meet along the way with whom we have brief contact but yet can impact their lives by our expressions of encouragement. Many of you who pass this way are strangers to me but in a sense, I have initiated a conversation with you. My goal--to encourage you to encourage another today.

Blogging seems anonymous in a sense but the beauty of it is in the contacts that can be made through the opportunity to comment. A while back on my other blog, Writer's Wanderings, I posted a series of stories about difficulties with our adopted daughter. It led to an exchange of e-mails with a mother who was experiencing similar problems and I was able to comfort her and assure her that she was not alone in her fears, frustrations, and desires. So often courage comes in just knowing you are not alone.

After Philip initiated conversation with the Ethiopian, he was able to explain that Isaiah was describing how Jesus saved sinners. The Ethiopian was encouraged by Philip's words and accepted Jesus as Savior. He asked Philip to baptize him then and there in the nearby waters.

Initiate conversation with someone today who looks like they need a bit of encouragement and let God lead it.

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Make time--for such a time as this

"... And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14 (NIV)

Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know. ~ Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

When our five children were young we made quite a stir in a restaurant. It wasn't that they misbehaved (they weren't perfect but they kept themselves under control). It was just that there were seven of us all together and, of course the kids looked like doorsteps.

We always went out for dinner on Sunday. It was my day off from cooking and I never could get the hang of putting a roast in the oven and having it perfectly timed to be done after church. On several occassions when the kids were really good and we were interacting like a family from one of the perfect family sitcoms from the fifties, we had people come by our table, lean over and whisper how lovely our family was.

Raising children no matter how many you have, is not an easy job. Unfortunately most of us don't realize that until it's too late. We can get pretty frazzled, feel like failures, and wonder about our sanity. I treasured those strangers who were placed in my path and went out of their way to encourage me. I now try to do the same when I see a mom with kids. I figure God places me in their path--for such a time as this.

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Smile--Make Someone's Day

"Jacob said, 'for what a relief it is to see your friendly smile! I was as frightened of you as though approaching God!'" Genesis 33:10 (TLB)

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humaninty. These are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable. ~ Joseph Addison

As a speaker, I often have to stand in front of a group of people I have never met before and begin to talk. Before I begin, I pause a brief moment and smile as I look over the audience. There are always at least two or three faces in the crowd beaming smiles back at me. They have no idea what I am about to say. They do not know if they will like what I say. They don't know if I will be humorous or serious--if I will make them laugh or cry, but they are smiling at me. Those smiles are the encouragement I need to begin and to put aside the fears of public speaking (even seasoned speakers still have them).

I often wonder if the smilers in the audience know how much courage they give to the speaker. All throughout my talk, I will glance at my smilers. I need that feedback. I need that encouragement that something as simple as a smile gives. Are you a smiler? Who are you encouraging today with a smile?

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Extol--Dinner time praise

"Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." Proverbs 15:17 (NIV)

All great change in America begins at the dinner table. - Ronald Reagan

My husband of 38 years has always encouraged me with the words, "Thanks, hon. That was a good meal," before leaving the dinner table. On occassion, it is just a "Thanks for dinner, hon." Those nights I know he didn't like the new recipe I tried.

My children, my boys especially, were witness to this nightly ritual. My youngest, who is developmentally handicapped, has latched on to it. When he comes home to do his laundry once a week and get a "home-cooked meal," he beats his father to the draw with, "Thanks, Mom. G-g-g-ood d-dinner!" It's always followed by a wide grin.

While I can't be certain, I hope that the other boys have adopted their father's practice. It may seem like ritual but the words still feel good to hear and they encourage a wife and mother.

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Listen--Lend an ear to family

"(Joseph's brothers)Speaking among themselves, they said, 'This has all happened because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his terror and anguish and heard his pleadings, but we wouldn't listen.'" Gen 42:21 (TLB)

I think a lot of our problems are because people don't listen to our children. It is not always easy. They're not always so brilliant that you want to spend hours with them. But it is very important to listen to them. – Barbara Bush

I admire Barbara Bush. She raised some great children. Rather you agree with the politics of her sons or not, you have to agree that at least they have stepped up to the challenge of trying to make this a better world. I suspect that the time she spent listening had something to do with their being encouraged to pursue jobs of service to their country.

Children need to have good listeners in their lives. It's essential to their language development for starters. They need to learn how to use the volcabulary they collect, how to express their thoughts in sentences, how to sequence events for story telling. Later in life, in those dreaded teen years, families need to listen when their teens put down the ipods and actually talk. So many problems could be worked out in those young lives, and probably on their own, if they just had a good sounding board.

Being a good listener is being a good encourager. It gives your talker the courage to explore and solve problems.

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Initiate Conversation--Encourage your spouse

"He was a mighty hunter, blessed of God, and his name became proverbial. People would speak of someone as being 'like Nimrod--a mighty hunter, blessed of God." Genesis 10:9 TLB

With thee conversing I forget all time: All seasons and their change, all please alike. - John Milton, Paradise Lost (bk. IV, l. 639), Eve speaking to Adam

Too often the person we live closest to, our spouse, is the person we most often forget to encourage. Oh sure, saying "I love you" is helpful but showing our love by telling the other of our faith in them, our pride in them, can speak volumes of encouragement.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to praise your spouse in front of others. Not profusely, lest it seem boastful or over done. Just a simple, "[Name] is good at [whatever you want to praise him for]." Or you might say, "I love it when he brings home flowers. He's so thoughtful." It is never a good idea to air disappointments, disagreements, or embarrassing failures in public. That only destroys. It doesn't build up.

I don't know if Nimrod had a wife but certainly if she were the one praising his skills of providing for the family and did so in front of others, word spread making his name "proverbial."

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Make Time--for family encouragement

"When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, 'Next year at about this time you will be holding a son in your arms!' 'No my lord!' she protested. 'Please don't lie to me like that, O man of God.' But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said." 2 Kings 4:15b-17

If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves. - Maria Edgeworth (O Magazine, April 2004)

It was not easy for me to get pregnant. I had to take medication. The first time it worked quickly and we had twins. The second time we tried for months and the dose of medication had to be doubled. I worried about having triplets but we were graced with another beautiful boy. Not wanting to risk another multiple birth and wanting a girl, we decided to adopt. We ended up with a "multiple" adoption. Our girl came with a brother. We stopped at five children.

Time spent with each child was critical to me. I had a mother who was a "cheerleader" in my life and I wanted that for all of my children. It wasn't easy. There never seemed to be enough minutes in the day. I had to make time to spend with each. By this I mean I set aside time. I didn't just take a time out from what I was doing--laundry, cooking, reading, cleaning, TV watching. I scheduled time to be at their school activities, to play together, to read, to talk about what was bothering them, to share in their joys and their disappointments.

I hope in the years to come, they will make time for their children as well. Three of them are fathers. That's not easy for them since they are centered on making a living, providing for those children. But here and there, I see them making time for their children, sharing in their joys and disappointments and showing my grandchildren they are loved.

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Smile--Share one often with family

"...and she always faces tomorrow with a smile." Proverbs 31:25 (MSG)

Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.--Mother Teresa (in her Nobel lecture)

The scripture verse today is from the Proverbs 31 chapter that is known as the model of the perfect woman. Oh, to be that perfect. If you read the whole chapter, you find that this woman is never idle, works with her hands, makes her own clothing, is a business woman, promotes her husband's interests so that he is well-known, She rises before dawn to prepare breakfast and plan the day for her servant girls...WHOA! Servant girls?

Well, I could be more perfect if I had servant girls. But, no matter, of all the things she does, the easiest for us to emulate is the smile. Sure, there are some days that are more difficult to face than others but if we do that one small thing, smile, it somehow makes the day easier to face.

Sharing that smile with the family perks their day as well. It gives confidence, brightens gloom, and sheds love on those closest to us.

Mother Teresa's family was those she served. In their darkest hours her smile brought them hope. Her advice is well-taken. Share smiles with your family--often.

(Copyright 2006 Karen Robbins)

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