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Why I Keep an Encouragement File

Before England, behind Easter...

Pulling open the heavy wooden drawer of my old 2nd-hand filing cabinet, I thumbed through the alphabetical tabs looking for The Letter E. Before England, behind Easter, ah, there it was. ENCOURAGEMENT. The bulging file folder marked Encouragement was standing guard for such a time as this.

Holding my treasure in hand, I sank into the bentwood rocker in my office. With reverence, I opened the aged collection: letters, cards, notes, even a few photos - Voices from the Past joining with Voices Unseen to say: 
“Keep going! Don't stop! Don't give up! For goodness sake, Don't Quit!”

It’s not complicated. I keep an Encouragement File as a personal resource for times I really need it; I thrive on life-giving words. Darkness, despair, discouragement, even the devil himself flees in the face of encouragement. Whether you and I fall down or get pushed down, encouragement is God’s pick me up when life pushes us down. Frankly, I am mystified by encouragement. Its power can't be measured, but it's effect is just that – powerful

My self-created Encouragement File dates back 31 years. The very first entry came from our dear friend and leader, Dave English. Larry and I were in transition, and Dave wrote a letter of affirmation to us before we moved on. I was unaware of his perspective, and his encouragement sent us soaring into our next role under another leader.

Over the decades, other names have joined Dave’s in my archive of affirmation. There is Charlotte, Ala, Luiza, and Joan. There is Magda, Tanya, and Teresa. And Valerie. Wow, there is Valerie. 

Look. Here is a printed email from my file that you and I can read together. The Context: Upon receiving yet another notice of rejection of my book manuscript from the publishing world, I contacted Karen with the news. My vulnerability spelled it out with the words from Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sad.” Karen immediately responded with the following email, which I share with her permission. 

Ohhhh - I know that's disappointing!

I'm deep into the Willow Creek Leadership Summit at the moment so the first thought that comes to mind is something Bill Hybels said (in talking about the intangibles of leadership), so I'll share a little gem from my notes:

"GRIT!  Leaders who go the distance have grit, which is passion and perseverance - unrelenting, long term tenacity, every last drop of energy kind of determination." The development of grit demands difficulty. The archenemy of grit is EASE! "  

When I think of “a someone” who characterizes this, you easily pop into my mind. God has a beautiful model in you.  Keep radiating, Miss Debby!

Love you!

Oh my! I wept, I praised, and I took courage from these articulate, life-giving words. Karen’s encouragement was like drinking a spiritual Red Bull, infusing me with renewed passion and perseverance for my project. She was a living, breathing reality from Hebrews 3:13: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Her encouragement intervened to guard my heart. Though I still wait, I wait with encouragement.  

So, my question for you is:
Do you have an Encouragement File? If not, how could you begin one today?