Fierce Encouragement

The last day of school had just ended, and Molly and I were waiting to say good-bye to her fifth-grade teacher.

The following year, my little girl and her sweet bunch of classmates would be heading off to middle school. It would be a huge transition, for sure.

Molly’s teacher, Mrs. Miller, was retiring after many decades of faithful instruction, so big changes were coming for her too. For now, though, she was making the most of her final moments with her students.

The kids—some of whom practically towered over her—clustered around the front door of the building, waiting for their chance to receive one more hug from their beloved teacher. Many of the children at the school came from less-than-stable homes, and she had been a powerful influence in their lives, to put it mildly.

I watched as Mrs. Miller grasped the arm of one of these girls and spoke directly into her ear. Her urgency was almost palpable—it was as if she knew she had one last chance to speak life into this student’s heart, and she wasn’t going to let go until she was finished.

Mrs. Miller is an unassuming, soft-spoken woman, but when she encouraged her students, she was intentional. Intense. Unwavering. Fervent.

In a word, she was fierce.

And though she’s no longer my daughter’s teacher, I’m still learning from her example.

People everywhere are desperately in need of affirming words. I see it in the topics that resonate across the blogosphere, by the things people say about their struggles—online and off. I recognize it in my own quiet communications with loved ones—I wouldn’t call them cries for help, exactly, but they might possibly classify as subtle hints.

But even in this season of life when my own heart longs for encouragement, a phrase from Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way, keeps returning to my mind: “The best way to de-stress is to bless.”

I know what I need to do. And thanks to Mrs. Miller, I now have a name for it.

Fierce encouragement.

It doesn’t matter if they’re young or old, rich or poor, educated or self-taught, married or single. The people who pass through our lives—at church, at work, in the produce department, on the soccer field, in the dance school lobby—have gifts, abilities and traits that are worth noticing, worth pointing out, worth praising.

And if we have the opportunity, we should take it.

Not in an annoying, look-at-me kind of way, but in a way that refuses to let them minimize who they are and what God has designed them to do. In a way that will not accept answers of, “Oh, it was nothing” or, “I could have done better” or, “Oh, this old thing” or, “But I’m not very good at …”

No, I think when I get this kind of response. You are good at that. I know, because I am not good at it and I see what you’re able to do.

Sometimes I say these thoughts out loud, sometimes I keep them to myself. I think I should vocalize them more, though, because they are worth emphasizing—repeatedly if necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be intentional about speaking life to people. I want to go first, to be observant enough to sense what I need to praise, to not back down if people try to dismiss my words of truth-filled affirmation.

When it comes to encouragement, I want to be like Mrs. Miller.


P.S. I’m linking up this week with #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, #HeartEncourgementThursday and Grace & Truth.

28 Responses to Fierce Encouragement

  1. Linda Stoll says:

    He is risen indeed!

    Have a wonderful Easter celebration, Lois …

  2. Brenda says:

    God bless Mrs. Miller. Such a gift for a child to have an invested teacher. — Great phrase — “Fierce encourager.” What a sweet legacy to leave. I want to be that too, Lois. 🙂 Happy Easter, friend. ((xoxo))

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Mrs. Miller absolutely was a gift, Brenda. For both my girls AND for me. She once shared some wise words about how kids understand math that literally changed the way I parented through homework struggles … I’m so grateful for her influence in our lives! Hugs, friend!

  3. Precious story. I love that phrase. Fierce encouragment. I’ve known some fierce encouragers- and they have a power for tremendous good. So thankful for them- and now a word for this! Thanks for sharing about Mrs. Miller, Lois!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Yes, fierce encouragers absolutely have a “power for tremendous good,” Bethany. I like how you put that. I’m thankful for them too–for the difference they’ve made in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. I hope you are having a wonderful Easter weekend, my friend! 🙂

  4. I want to be like her too! Fierce encouragement is what we all need!

  5. KellyRBaker says:

    Fierce encouragement. Love it! #HeartEncouragement

  6. Love love love this! That affirmation is SOO important and you’re right, we never know who really needs it!

  7. Trudy says:

    Your daughter and the children in her class were so blessed to have such a nurturing teacher, Lois. Fierce encouragement. I love that. We certainly need that. I do see it in you, my friend, in your posts. 🙂 Have a joy-filled Easter! Love and hugs!

  8. Lisa notes says:

    Fierce encouragement. What a powerful phrase, Lois! Love this! I want to be one of those people, too, who speak life into others, not death. Thanks for spurring us on today.

  9. Laura Rath says:

    I remember encouragement I’ve received–people who believed in me before I knew to believe in myself. I want to offer that same kind of encouragement to others. I’ll bet Mrs. Miller’s students will remember how she encouraged them for years to come!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I do too, Laura. And yes, Mrs. Miller made a lasting difference in her students’ lives, that’s for sure. My older daughter, who is now a freshman, still counts her as one of her all-time favorite teachers. And she only had her for math class! 🙂

  10. Lois, your speaking my language. Encouragement is so important. Those life-giving words speak to the depths of a person sometimes, don’t they? Your daughter was so fortunate to have a teacher who knows the value of words of life.

    It is tricky to know what to say when someone dismisses my words of encouragement. Sometimes I push, and other times, I let them rest. I don’t know how God will allow the words to burrow into their spirits and take root at some point in the future.

    Great exhortation to be life-givers through our words. Thank you, Lois!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Jeanne, I know what you mean about trying to discern when to push and when to leave it up to the Holy Spirit. It frustrates me when people don’t seem able to receive encouragement–I want to take them by the shoulders and look them in the eye and say, “These words are true. I wouldn’t say them if they weren’t. Believe it!” But then I remember that everyone is on a different place in their lives and try to trust that God will use my words some how, some way.

      I’m so thankful for your words of encouragement here, my friend. And I hope you are having a wonderful Easter weekend!

  11. Heidi Petak says:

    Amen! You are a fierce encourager, Lois! Thank you.

  12. Lesley says:

    I love the idea that encouragement can be fierce. I agree, there are so many people who need us to speak life to them by offering words of encouragement. It’s such a simple thing to do but it can have a huge impact. Mrs Miller sounds like a wonderful example.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      She absolutely was a wonderful example, Lesley, to BOTH my girls. And yes … words of encouragement don’t cost a thing but make such a difference. Sort of like your comments on my blog. I appreciate that you pushed through the spam issue and kept commenting even when it didn’t work how it was supposed to! Happy Easter to you, my friend!

  13. Fierce encouragement sounds contradictory to me at first, but then I think about motive and intention — and I ask myself if I am putting my all into the encouragement of my family. It’s a matter of the heart, and my genuineness of conviction will come through.
    Such a sweet story, Lois. Thanks for sharing it.

  14. Don’t we all need some fierce encouragement too?
    God Bless Mrs. Miller.
    I too have learnt from her example.
    How are you Lois?
    Great to join you here today, after a long while.
    Happy Easter in advance.
    God Bless

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