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YOU - march 2024 - inner strength_edited.jpg

Picture this…a church full of college students, young families, and community members all singing repeatedly Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Alleluiah. Then, when the song is done a boy, around 1 year old, shouts “YEEEEHHHHH!!” The whole church and everyone in it is filled with so much joy that you can almost hear people smile.

That boy cheered for God. God cheers for us. We are called to cheer each other on. Children, especially, need cheerleaders in their life – parents, teachers, counselors, church leaders, school counselors, friends, other parents, and cafeteria staff-cheerleaders can come in many forms. Children soak up what messages they are given both verbally and nonverbally, so it is important to be their cheerleader whenever possible. Whether they are conscious of it or not, children strive to be who God has called them to be, but they can’t do that alone. It’s not about waiting until they perform a certain way before saying, “Yeh!”

The following is a story that illustrates this:

The other night, Matthew and I played a game of Racko. It’s a card game where the goal is to get your set of 10 cards in numerical order. I wasn’t sure if Matthew would want to play it, since he doesn’t like anything associated with math. I was glad that he was interested in it. (As it turned out, playing Racko was a good warm-up for his math homework). Matthew picked up how to play very quickly after watching me do a round. As he was choosing new cards and discarding old ones, he was quickly reaching his goal. That gave me the first opportunity to cheer him on.

“Look at you, Matthew!”

“Yes,” he replied. “I only have, 1..2..3 more cards to get.”

He continues to trade out cards. Upon pausing again to check them over, he doesn’t notice one of the cards that is out of order. So, I said something to the effect of, “Wait…almost.” Those encouraging words prompted him to check again and I cheered him on when he caught it. “Good job!” I would say. When Matthew had them all in order, we both raised our arms and said, “Yeh!”

Excitedly, he opened up his school computer and asked me to help him with his math IXL lessons. As he pulled up his assignment, he said phrases like, “I don’t have a clue,” “I have no idea.” To keep the motivational momentum going, I told him “Well, let’s look at it. I bet you do, but I’m here to help.” Sure enough, it just took me helping by reading the problem to him out loud and walking him through the process a couple times; then he took over, using the strategies I modeled for him, such as reading out loud and taking each part of the problem a step at a time. How he did each problem was a chance to cheer him on!  At one point, I felt so much joy being his cheerleader. I could tell he enjoyed cheering on as well. It was at that point that I realized that the only way kids are going to know how to cheer themselves on is if we cheer them on loud and clear!

Now sadly, this experience wasn’t all smiles. Matthew started rushing through a couple problems and didn’t use his strategy of reading out loud. I could tell by his body language that he was disappointed. So, I cheered him on in a different way by reminding him, “That’s why you think and read out loud.” He kept going until he missed another one. He walked off to take a break, and then came back with glow-in-the dark slime – something he likes to play with. Matthew had reached his limit for that night and that was okay.

What came next was a result of the bond that was created that night. Matthew began pulling pieces of the slime apart and created a design on a sheet of origami paper. He wanted to tape it to this wall, but didn’t know if it was going to stick. Upon testing it out, yeh! It stuck!

Cheering children on creates a bond that is priceless! It actually doesn’t take as much inner strength as you might think. What takes inner strength is fighting the urge to make it all better for them.

If I can follow God’s calling and cheer on my children, so can you!

by Michelle Lynn
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