I grew up on a farm in the middle of Iowa. We did not have big fancy toys. We did not drive new cars. We did not wear new clothes. You may think I was going to say something like "But we had..." Truth is the word "But" would indicate that all that other stuff was some sort of bad thing. And yeah, maybe at times my parents felt like things were bad. I never did. I never felt like I lacked anything. Here's why. I was encouraged.
I don't think there was a day in my life that my parents failed to encourage me in some way. Maybe it was singing. Maybe it was writing. Maybe it was just a general bit of encouragement about my schoolwork. There was always some kind of extra boost. I never once worried that my parents didn't believe in me. I knew, I absolutely KNEW, that they thought I could do anything. And, consequentially, I believed them.
I know there are a lot of people that think this is an inappropriate way to raise a child. Encourage them too much and they will be full of themselves. And maybe some kids would be. I, as it turned out, needed that encouragement in my life. It made me to be something MORE. Not more than other people. More than myself. More of who God wanted me to be. They gave me His power.
My church family has done the same thing for me in terms of music. I was perfectly content, so I thought, to sit back and listen and not participate in the music elements of worship. And then someone encouraged me to get involved. Said I had a great voice. Said I was good at leading worship. And then I started to feel power. Not my own. It was their strength, poured into me, allowing me to be used by God.
And I know, the second most valuable thing I can give that tiny little girl of mine (the first being how Jesus loved her enough to die for her) is encouragement. I clap when she eats her peas. I cheer when she picks up a toy just a little outside her reach. I sing happy little ridiculous songs about her accomplishments. I give her big hugs when she sleeps through the night soundly. Because I have learned that encouragement is probably the most important thing a parent can do. I don't want to send my child out into the world with her thinking I don't really believe God can do anything in her life. I believe He can. I believe He will. I believe He already has.
Encouragement doesn't have to mean we are giving people permission to use their own power. To me, encouragement has always been giving people permission to see how God is truly carrying them every step of the way.