Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Encouragement Looks Like

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, as in fact you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

It’s a rarity when we can mark a moment in time other than the date on a calendar. That moment that signifies a line in the sand, an about-face, a change of heart or a significant start.

Meeting Cindy was such a time.

Sitting amongst like-minded aspiring writers, Cindy, an accomplished author and public speaker, shared her enthusiasm for the written word. She shared her personal journey, but she didn’t make it all about her, as some might. Rather, she created a homey atmosphere where you imagined it was just the two of you sitting across from one another, sharing a cup of tea.

And her point? If she could succeed, so could you. But, what got me? What etched that day in my memory so that nine years later I can still recall the details? She personally told me I could write. She wasn’t granting me permission to write. No, she recognized me as a writer and called me out—called forth the dream God planted in my heart long before that moment—and I couldn’t hide any longer.

For years following that writer’s seminar, I’d often say to my husband, “I wish I could call Cindy and have her mentor me.” Since she lived but a half an hour from our home he’d answer, “Giver her call.” And I’d quiver in reply. “Oh, I can’t do that! She’s a real author.”

By the time we were reunited four years ago, I’d published my first children’s book and was a contributing writer for two blogs other than my own. And, two years ago, we spent quality time together at the New England Christian Writers Retreat. It was there, I finally understood her true calling. Yes, she is a brilliant wordsmith and talented public speaker, but encouraging is her strongest gift.

Paul mentions the ministry of encouragement in Romans 8:6-8:   

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Cindy definitely has the encouraging gift. And if you think she encourages me only because I attended her events, think again. For here she is, encouraging my heart at my own book debut this past weekend:

L to R: Carol Nicholls, Cindy Secrest-McDowell, Dawn Aldrich, Wendy Coy
And not only is she encouraging my heart, but see those other girls? They’re writers, too, and she’s pouring into their dreams, watering the seed that God’s planted within them.

We all need people like Cindy in our lives. In fact, I believe Paul commissioned all believers to practice and desire encouragement so that we might uplift one another in our faith journey. And, wouldn’t that include recognizing the God-given talents and gifts in others and calling it forth?

L: Akintunde Sogunro, author of Mama Stitches and one God's allowed me to mentor

Do you have an encourager in your life? Are you and encourager to others?

My pint-sized encouragers and that little girl? Man, can she write!
I’d love to hear your stories. Why not encourage our hearts and share your experience below in the comments section?

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