One morning a man opened his door to get his newspaper off the front porch. He was surprised to see strange little dog on porch with the man’s newspaper in his mouth.
Delighted with this unexpected delivery service, he petted dog, told him he was a “good dog”, and gave him some treats.
The following morning the man was surprized to see same dog sitting at his front door, wagging his tail, surrounded by about a dozen newspapers.
The man spent rest of that morning returning the papers to his neighbors.
A little encouragement goes a long way. We all benefit from it. Encouraging words, especially from people we respect and admire, help to develop in us a spirit of confidence. Words of encouragement can put a spring in our step, propelling us to be better versions of ourselves.
The word encourage literally means to give courage to. A father who is quick to speak words of encouragement to his child, who is quick to offer comments like:
is giving his child a gift that will reap benefits throughout that child's life.
Yet there are many adults who, as children, were deprived of such encouragement from their fathers. They never experienced the satisfaction that washes over a child as the result of a well-timed compliment from dad. They were never on the receiving end of a fathers words of affirmation. And they are starved for them.
Many who have been deprived of encouragement from their fathers often develop an insatiable desire for the accolades of others. Often, their quest for encouragement only leads to more disappointment.
Some make it their life's mission to wrest words of encouragement from the mouths of fathers who are either unwilling or incapable of speaking them. Some eventually conclude that they will get what they need from their fathers so they turn to “father figures”--a boss, a teacher, a friend, a spouse--none of whom are able to give them what they really need.
We are born with a deep desire to be loved and accepted by a father. It is a father's encouragement that we long for. But that is not to say that if we didn't receive affirmation from our dads that we are destined to live empty and unfulfilled lives.
In the absence of our earthly father's words of encouragement we must listen carefully to the voice of our Heavenly Father. God is a Father who constantly speaks words of encouragement to His kids:
Our Heavenly Father satisfies our need for encouragement when our earthly father doesn't. He yearns to give us what we’re looking for. Listen for your Heavenly Father’s words of encouragement for you. He speaks them openly in His Word. He whispers them to us throughout the day.
The man knelt in the cemetery, his eyes fixed on his father’s gravestone.
I sure miss you, Dad. There are so many times I want to call you just to hear your voice once again. The kids talk about you all the time. You wouldn’t believe how they’ve grown. It’s hard to imagine it’s been a year already. I just want you to know that I thank God for you every day. You were such a good dad. Always had an encouraging word. Always there for me—at every game and band concert, at my side when I was having a bad day. Always knowing just what to say to get me through every situation. You taught me what it means to be a good father. You taught me how to love. I am what I am because of you.
At another cemetery in the same town stood a man, his hands in his pockets, before his father’s gravestone.
I don’t even know why I’m here. My shrink thought it was a good idea. I’m not so sure. You never listened to me when you were alive, why on earth would you listen when you’re dead?
How I wish I could forget you. But every day I’m haunted by the memories. The drinking, the raging, the cursing, the hitting; choosing to spend time with your buddies at the bar instead of coming home to your son. I’ll say this about you, Dad, you devoted time to the things you loved most. And now thanks to you I get to go through life unable to trust. Incapable of getting close to anyone. Paralyzed by fear. Always second-guessing myself. Feeling that no matter what I do it will never be good enough. I have no clue what it means to be a man. And I have you to thank. I am what I am because of you.
We cannot choose the kind of relationship, if any, we had with our fathers. I would never have chosen to be born of an alcoholic dad. It would not have been my choice to have a childhood marked by that kind of abuse, heartache, and disappointment. But, as I became an adult, I was led to realize that there are many things I could choose in life.
So I chose not to be a victim.
I chose not to be defined by my father’s alcoholism.
I chose to rise above my circumstances.
But the single biggest choice that started me on the path to wholeness and healing was this: I chose to pursue a relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Although I couldn’t comprehend why God allowed this burden in my life I made a conscious decision not to turn my back on my Heavenly Father just because my earthly father turned his back on me. I chose to find out the truth about Him. And that truth has led to unimaginable freedom.
I now humbly kneel before my Heavenly Father and say, I am what I am because of You.
This is a guest post by my daughter, Traci Meeder. Traci and her husband, Eric, live in North Carolina where Traci is an elementary school teacher and Eric serves in the Marines.
Stare. It’s what I do when I’ve sobbed every tear I can muster. I’m too exhausted to cry and too worked up to sleep. So I stare. And I wonder what I could have done differently, what I should have done differently. I wonder if there’s something wrong with me, and then worry that it will happen again. That’s when panic strikes and I can’t breathe. I can’t let my mind go there. I can’t think about the possibility of losing another baby. I’ve already lost two in the last six months.
Miscarriage. I have a hard time saying it out loud. Typing seems easier because there’s no one here to give me pitying glances. So here I am. Typing about my loss because I need to talk about it, but I can’t in real life yet.
We found out just before Thanksgiving that we were going to have our first baby. It seemed fitting at the time to celebrate a pregnancy in a season of thankfulness. That’s how we felt. Thankful. We wanted to start a family. I have several friends who struggle with infertility, so I know it’s quite common for pregnancy to take a long time. But it didn’t for us. We got pregnant right away. For that, we felt thankful.
We told our families at Christmas. This was going to be Eric’s parents’ first grandchild and my parents’ third. There was much celebrating and talks of baby names and baby showers. The family was already making plans to visit at the end of July after the baby was born. There was morning sickness, headaches, and very small bump beginning to form. It was all starting to feel very real. We were going to be parents.
It was the next week that I had the ultrasound. The tech was silent as she maneuvered the device and took pictures. She didn’t even look at us. I could already see on the screen that there was nothing there. We were ushered into the waiting room, then into an examination room where we waited for over an over for a doctor to confirm what we already knew: there was no baby.
I’d had what’s called a blighted ovum. The fetus implants in the uterus but never becomes an embryo. By that time, the body is already in pregnancy-mode and continues to produce pregnancy symptoms. It’s sometimes called a “missed miscarriage” because women typically don’t have symptoms of miscarriage until long after the baby has passed. That’s exactly what happened to me. I had no reason to believe there was anything wrong with my pregnancy. That is, until the silent ultrasound. I was thirteen weeks at that point and fourteen weeks when I finally had to get a D&C.
Eric and I decided we’d try again after his training in April. That would give us time to grieve and give my body time to heal. My sister in law asked if I felt ready emotionally. I told her I didn’t think I’d ever feel ready emotionally. Getting pregnant again doesn’t undo the pain of losing a child. I knew I’d be more scared, more cautious, more anxious the second time around. But I also knew we were ready to be parents.
Again, we got pregnant right away. We were so excited and so relieved, but we didn’t want to get our hopes up. It was still very early. We decided not to tell any family until after I’d been to the doctor and had an ultrasound.
I had blood work done on Saturday and again on Monday. When you’re pregnant, your hormone levels double or triple every couple of days. My levels dropped 75%. I have a doctor appointment today at one, but I already know what he’s going to tell me. I’ve lost another child.
He’ll probably tell me it’s not my fault, that I’m perfectly healthy and there’s nothing I could have done differently. But I won’t believe him because this has happened twice now. It’s happened twice and I can’t accept him telling me that everything is okay, that I’m okay. Because I’m not.
The pain is fresh and washes over me, leaving me gasping for air and grasping at hope that appears just out of reach. It comes in waves that I never see coming. Sometimes it’s a song or a sermon. Sometimes it’s a baby or a pregnant belly. Sometimes it’s my husband. I look at him and know he will be the best dad in the world. He has a big smile and an even bigger heart. He is filled with such love, kindness, patience and an affinity for Legos. He should get to be a dad. He’s meant to be a dad.
I know God is here, but I’m not ready to pray just yet. My only question is “Why?” and there is no answer. So I cry until I can’t cry anymore and trust that God is crying with me. He’ll be there when I’m ready to talk.
I know there are thousands of women who have been in my shoes. Honestly, that doesn’t make me feel any less alone. It doesn’t make my heart ache less or calm the knots in my stomach. It doesn’t help me sleep better or cry less or hope more. This is my grief and I don’t know what to do with it.
So I stare.
And I wonder when it is I’ll breathe again.
Pray for me. Pray for others who can’t pray for themselves just yet.
I have often found myself standing at life's crossroads, asking God for His divine direction. Do I go this way or do I go that way? Or could it be I'm not supposed to go either way? Maybe I'm just supposed to stay put. Then again, it could be that the way I'm supposed to go hasn't even been presented to me yet.
Having grown up in the church, I learned the importance of submission; of looking to God for the answers to life's questions; of seeking His will and setting mine aside. So, whenever I am faced with making a major decision, I have prayed. I've waited on God. And sometimes I've waited and waited and waited. I've waited for Him to make His way clear. To give me a nudge, a poke to the ribs; to spell out His plan in the sky or, better yet, in a downloadable PDF file.
I liked to tell myself that by waiting for God to give me the answer I was being deeply spiritual. But, truth be known, it wasn't my faith that was leading me to surrender my will. It was my insecurity.
Fear would whisper in my ear, What if your ultimate decision is really what you want to do and not what God wants you to do? What if you fall flat on your face? What are people going to say about you? What if you choose poorly and have to spend the rest of your life living it down?
More times than I would like to admit, I have asked God to show me what I needed to do because I had little confidence that I could make the right decision. I wanted Him to make the decision for me. So I would wait for Him to take charge.
Then one day it dawned on me. What if, while I'm spending all this time waiting on God, God is waiting on me? What if, as I've been asking Him to spell it out for me in vivid detail, He's been saying,
When faced with making important life decisions, rather than looking for God to act as a commander who gives us a clear plan as to what to do and how to do it, we would be wise to see Him as more of a counselor, equipping and encouraging us to do what we already know we need to do.
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I am a speaker, author, and blogger. I help wounded souls find safety in the arms of a Heavenly Father where they can experience the hope and healing He longs to give.