It?s all about encouragement

It?s hard to believe that I have been writing this column for seven years. I remember being so excited about the opportunity. As a brand new mom, the ability to write from home had a distinct appeal. And I discovered quickly that every new-parent experience had column potential.

As a writer, I hope that in those seven years I have developed a voice that lives up to the idea behind my column?s name. In case you?ve ever wondered, the name Lipstick & Pearls was intentional?lipstick, to capture life?s fun side, and pearls, to garner wisdom. I like symbolism…what can I say?

Sometimes my columns lean more to lipstick. Remem?ber the purple sprinkles incident? Sometimes, as in recent months, pearls take center stage. Sometimes, it?s just a nice blend of both.

As in the beginning, I remain excited for this opportunity to share my life with you, and as we added blessings to our family, my column inspiration multiplied.

But, as I was processing a completely different situation with my daughters? principal earlier this month, I was reminded that the story of this column was almost ended before it began.

It was my fifth column as an ?official? columnist. It was my feeble attempt to have a political opinion. But it wasn?t the political side of things that made someone mad. It was my admission that I purchased diapers from an online website. I had no idea that something that made my life easier with a new baby would bring offense to someone else.

After my column ran, I received my first column response?and it wasn?t pretty. In fact, for months after that, I re-read my columns over and over just to make sure I wouldn?t offend someone else.

I wrote my words in fear, which wasn?t much of a voice.

Rejection frequently stifles.

But encouragement? Well, that?s a different story. And it was precisely there that Mr. Yoder and I left our conversation. Children, in their humanity, feel rejection…but often don?t have the tools to process hurtful words and situations in a healthy way.

I was an adult who received a negative response to my column, and it made me cower. So, how much more does rejection harm our children? I know that a few negative things that happened last school year to my oldest hadn?t encouraged excitement for the start of a new school year.

She was hurting. And as I put the pieces together, her anxiety all made sense. Our family is taking steps to encourage her. So is her principal. And now, just a few days before that first day, she is wearing a smile and showing excitement over going back.

And her newfound confidence is doing wonders to encourage her little sister, who will start kindergarten this year. It?s also encouraging to me. I?m a mama who loves to have my kids around, and I miss them tremendously during the school year. But seeing excited reactions helps in the transition.

With all this said, I propose we start this school year with intention. A friend made the connection recently that anything we set out to be intentional about takes discipline. By making a disciplined effort, those intentions can become habit…and when it?s the right thing, habit is a good thing.

So what do I propose to be intentional about?

Encouragement.

There are many facets of our educational system that need encouragement. The students. The teachers. The administrators. The support staff. The school board. The substitutes. The parents.

As a community, let?s individually and corporately discipline ourselves to be intentional with encouragement. I?ll let you be creative with the method, but if we all commit, I?ll just bet that our school system will begin to thrive with smiles of excitement and a healthy voice.

Malinda Just was a proofreader for the Free Press for several years, but has chosen to invest that time with her family. She can be reached at malinda@justs.org.