It’s Saturday night. I’m making milk tart.
Step by careful – measured – melted – step.
I need to stir every minute, for ten.
I stare at the microwave counting down and the week whirrs random in my mind like a James Joyce novel as the bowl hums round and I hope the sweet stuff thickens.
I think about what that preacher said. He said, ‘D’you know how to tell if someone needs encouragement? If they’re breathing.’ And he quoted Proverbs: ‘…those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.’ (11:25)
Scott stands here in the kitchen one morning this week in a too-big bright-blue new-school t-shirt. He tells Cam, ‘Jesus will protect you all day!’ He’s the little brother holding strong for the big brother. He’s the little brother suddenly starting Big School six months earlier than planned and it’s his first day and he can’t stop jumping wild and eager. Refreshed. And he thinks to refresh the big brother, too. Small encouragement from a small boy. Yet encouragement is never small when you’re on the receiving end.
Stir. One minute down. Nine to go.
A couple years of formal schooling down. About fourteen to go. I remember the mantra: Boys don’t learn subjects. They learn teachers. Small lives watching big lives are encouraged to become them. Like, even now, these boys of mine – they aren’t learning How to Be a Man. They’re learning Dad. (Click to tweet that.)
I stir some more. Doesn’t seem to make a difference. It’s still very much milk and not at all tart. I stir anyway like a recipe nerd, in faith.
My own dad is building Scott a ‘froggy dam’ in the garden, for his birthday. Because this sweet strong little one – he’s all about the water. Like, to plop stones that splash-ripple-sink – to watch for fish – it’s his worship and wonder. And I hope I’ll always get it – what stirs his heart. Because to encourage someone is to read them well. Cover to cover and between the lines. (Tweet that? )
Three down. Stir. Seven to go.
Taylor will be home later. She’s been with us seven weeks and she feels like ours. She’s nineteen and she flew half way across the planet to play in the dirt with kids who – she tells me shocked – have never seen a puzzle. She’s all grown-up and gung-ho American but I feel kind of protective and also like I’m kind of turning into my mother because I worry when I see that Murray worries that we didn’t hear her come home last night. Because although she’s conquer-the-world brave she needs en-courage-ment. To be engendered with courage. Because the thing about encouragement? It’s the people you think need it least who need it most. The bravest are also the most vulnerable. (Tweet away…)
Stir. Start. Whirr. Wait.
Flip. There are tax returns and swimming lessons and shopping lists and leaking taps and I need someone please to remind me to keep on doing the Next Right (Obligatory) Thing that clutters my desk and diary but that keeps life ticking over balanced and beautiful. Because sometimes we just need encouragement to breathe. In. And. Out.
Stir. Five minutes to victory.
At the let-everyone-have-a-turn athletics day, Cam can’t see the chalked lines and he’s not quite sure when he’ll hit the hurdles but he runs and jumps and throws fervent anyway. So secure. So unaffected by the doings and opinions of others. I want to be that kind of brave. Me who always feels like the uncool mom on the edge of the cool conversations of cool moms who always have great hair and who don’t have hot chocolate spilled down their jeans. And surely I can’t be the only mom who feels like this? So maybe, more often, I should risk encouraging someone who looks cool but probably isn’t.
Hmm. Lumps. Coax them out smooth.
At cell group on Thursday we fling controversy and culture around the room and wrestle Scripture. God’s Word rocks my faith rock solid. But conflict unsettles me. So I love what Jennifer Dukes Lee said: ‘It really is okay to ask hard questions about God, and to wade your way into the theological deep, but don’t forget that love is never out of reach. You can find it in the shallow end of the pool.’ Like, wow. Because charismatic to Calvinist and everyone in between, we need to refresh one another, and be refreshed.
The mix hots up and I wonder how to keep my cool when the boys take. Their. Time. To. Climb. Out. Of. The. Car. Because I just about climb out of myself with go-go-go-hurry but I wouldn’t have to ask their forgiveness as often as I do if I slowed to see each slower clambering from the car as another opportunity for conversation, not criticism. Because being a great mom isn’t having all the right ingredients in all the right quantities. It’s the deliberate patient stirring round and round when it feels like nothing is thickening. It’s about encouragement.
Yes. It thickens sweet like velvet.
Finally my thoughts sink low to friends who have been slammed with disappointment, after disappointment, after dream-crushing disappointment. We talk on the phone. I say that I know that somehow, from somewhere, there will be refreshing. And until then, we’ll sit with them in the dust and know that God’s purpose won’t be thwarted.
And, of course, we’ll eat milk tart.
. . .
So, could you slide a slice of courage onto someone’s empty plate this week?
Thanks so much for stopping by. It encourages me. Seriously.
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Love this Dee! I once heard a ‘definition’ of encourage as literally pouring courage into someone and I am reminded of where is says in James that the power of life and death lie in the tongue. Beautiful and scary thought. Thank you for your lovely writing, always such a pleasure to read!
Yay! Thanks dearest Carol! Tons of love xx
I so enjoy reading your blog? or.. is that the right thing to say? Great encouragement for an older friend. Supper can wait until I am done. Not IT literate to do all the rest. Twitter, etc. love you lots!
Thanks Aunty Judy 🙂 Much love to you