Encouraging Children (in “small” ways)

I almost miss them, time and again… small ways I can work at encouraging children… tiny windows of insight into a daughter’s talent… minuscule glances of opportunities for a child to make a true difference in someone else’s life…

encouraging children

When I’m Busy, I Miss Opportunities

I almost missed an opportunity one day when my youngest was eight. She read about these awesome sounding little things called Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) and wanted to learn about them and make them with me. But I was busy. I freelance edit from my home office, and I had deadlines that I wasn’t willing to put in my peripheral vision for an hour. Motherhood chores and typical, rote, daily demands kept that eager eight-year old’s request at bay for months.

I was busy. Three words that occasionally haunt me, now that my children are teens and adults. I was busy and didn’t play Barbies or pretend. I was busy and couldn’t read a picture book for the 89th time. And now our home is Barbieless and that book is in a box in the barn’s attic, waiting for the 89th reading to be to a grandchild. Yes, my house is a little quieter, and occasionally a little neater these days. But I miss the Barbies and the dress up and the picture books.

Thankfully, with the art cards, she didn’t give up, and after she reminded me enough times about her desire, I finally made an effort to figure out what these mini cards were. I pulled out some craft supplies and opened up some inspiration, and we spent hours discovering this fun new outlet together. I am grateful for her persistence. Her interest in those little cards has led to huge opportunities for her to grow, learn, step out of her comfort zone, teach others, and make a difference in many lives.

Tauna asked me to tell you a little bit about my daughter’s ATC project, which all her sisters jumped on board with…

Encouraging children

… which adult mentors enthusiastically joined in on…

… and which children and adults from around the world are helping her with…

So stick with me if you’d like to hear what my now-teen daughter is up to today with those mini cards and even how you and your family can help.

But first I want to reassure you that encouraging children in small ways will have a huge impact. You can find out what passions God is placing on your child’s heart. Pray. Listen. Watch. Encourage. It might seem oh-so little. It might seem glaringly unimportant compared to the pile of work in front of you. It might even seem pointless when sitting beside the more academic goals you’ve made for the day. But ask God to show you the importance of the passions that He’s placed in your little one’s heart, and He will help you see through His eyes. He also might tug on your heart occasionally that some other things–those things that seem official and important– should be put on hold some days. Because your child’s tiny fleeting passion, if you acknowledge it, may have a permanent impact on the way they look at the world. Their minuscule interest, if you encourage it, may lead them to help others in ways you’d never think of otherwise. That small thing may, literally, make a big difference in the world.

There Are No Shortcuts

Turns out I would invest–and still am investing–more hours than I could have imagined into her passion for little art cards. But there are no shortcuts to any place worth going, and this has been a fun ride.

First, I should explain what an Artist Trading Card (ATC) is. She describes them very well in her blog post. Basically, it’s a handmade trading card, the size of a baseball card.

Once she learned the history of ATCs and mastered some techniques, she made some youtube instructional videos and she wanted to do more. While researching about ATCs, my daughters learned that art is therapeutic, especially for children who are battling cancer and other health difficulties. They read studies that show how creating art helps children sleep better (something hard to do in hospitals!) and helps ease depression (something all too rampant in hospitals!). Having a friend who has spent way too many long years in a hospital room due to her fight against cancer and all its side effects, my daughters wanted to make ATC creation and trade available to hospital patients. They started working with amazing mentors on designing a trading website, which they dubbed “SwapShop.”

And they set a big goal for SwapShop… They decided to use proceeds to donate art kits to children’s hospitals, enabling the patients to make and trade ATCs, from their hospital rooms, with children around the world.

As their Facebook page explains…

Encourage a child's passions

“SwapShop is an on-line trading site designed by 4 sisters. When it premiers, it will be the first of its kind-a safe place for kids to trade Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) with others across the country. ATCs are an exceptional kind of trading card because they’re made by you, and no two are ever the same. SwapShop is an exceptional kind of site because the 4 sisters who designed it realize that life is about what you make and who you share it with. “

It’s been more than four years since she first mentioned ATCs to me, and we haven’t “arrived” yet. Her dream of online ATC trading isn’t a reality. Yet. 

In the meantime, although there are no short cuts to places worth going, we can make the most of the ride. So they’ve been assembling and delivering mini art kits, using donated ATCs (from children and adults, from countries around the world) and donated supplies (from families, neighborhood groups, and even girl scout troops), and delivering them to children’s hospitals along with mini booklets that explain how to make and trade ATCs.

Encourage A Child

And they’re hosting a YouCaring fundraiser to raise a small amount to pay student coders to (hopefully) finish building the website (because even students need to eat).

If you’d like to help, the possibilities are numerous:

  1. Pray for our efforts. The goal has always been, from the beginning, to follow God’s leading and give Him glory. He has done so much to prepare the vineyard, and my daughters long to see it bear much good fruit for many years to come. (Isaiah 5)
  2. Share the project in any and all ways you feel led. (The social media choices are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, youtube, and pinterest.)
  3. Create some artwork to share! (Check out those instructional videos if you need some inspiration.) Every mini art kit that we deliver includes at least 2 handmade ATCs, as a gift to the recipient. We love donations from both children and adults. Feel free to list your first name and what state you live in, and even a brief note if you’d like, on the back of your ATCs. But make sure you do not include any personal information, such as last name, email, or address. To follow COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) regulations, we can’t give away any artwork that has personal contact information included. 
  4. Donate some art supplies (here’s a list of items we are always in need of), or feel free to donate funds for supplies (here at SwapShop’s YouCaring site).
  5. Consider assembling your own kits and delivering them to children’s hospitals in your neck of the woods. We’ll forward you everything you need to know to get started! (You can contact my daughters via their Facebook page, or any social media you prefer.)

Parenting Is Hard, but it’s Not in Vain

But if you gain nothing else from my musings today, please know if I, of all people, can succeed at encouraging children in difficult, grandiose projects, trust me, so can you. I am a failure as a mom. Most days, I make a mess of most things. But God is gracious. He hammers home the important points time and again and waits oh so patiently until I follow His lead. In no area of our lives is following His lead more important than parenting. He has created your sweet children with latent, God-given, heaven-appointed abilities and passions. He just asks you to pay attention. Listen. Notice when those interests surface, then help those talents develop. (If you feel ill equipped for the task, don’t worry, read here about how your children can succeed even when you are a failure.) And notice those tiny windows of insight into a child’s passion, gift, or talent. They will surface one day, and as an encouraging mom you can help them make a big difference in the world through their sometimes seemingly small passions. If you’d like a place to start, here’s a list of 5 little ways a parent can encourage a big passion for philanthropy in a child.

It is hard work, this thing called parenting.

When my family makes our semi-annual East Coast trip from New England to the MidAtlantic states, we always stop at the rest stop just south of New York city, named in honor of the infamous football player and coach, Vince Lombardi. My favorite Lombardi quote reminds me that parenting (the hardest “work” I will ever do) requires lots of effort before we see success. Vince said,“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.” And when we know this job is one that God has ordained, we know we can “stand firm and remember that my labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Cor. 15)

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Oh this touched me so. My 7 year old is always full of ideas that I don’t seem to have time for. The Lord has been tugging at my heart about priorities lately. Thank you for this post. And your daughters are inspiring!

    1. Thank you, Stacy. It is so very hard to find time to devote to our childrens’ passions, especially when it means reprioritizing our days… and when their passions don’t appear as all-that-important. It’s a work-in-progress for me. I love Psalm 90:12, but am still trying to truly take it to heart: “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” I actually have a handwritten/colored sign of it in my office, made by the same daughter who inspired the trading card excitement.

      I’m grateful that my words encouraged you, and I hope you and your sweet son do something today that is totally unimportant in the world’s eyes yet kingdom-changing in God’s eyes. 🙂 <3 in Christ –Michelle

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