I didn’t make the greatest decisions in high school. I really wanted to be a part of the “cool” crowd. I didn’t think about how my words or actions could affect someone else. I was incredibly selfish, manipulative, and generally not a very fun person to be around.
Jen was in my English class in 10th grade. She was part of a completely different social group than I was. I don’t remember our first interactions, but they probably weren’t very encouraging. For some reason, Jen took an interest in me. I’m not sure exactly what she saw, but she saw something worthwhile. She started writing me little notes and cards. I still have most of them today.
Eventually, Jen invited me to church at CedarCreek. I made excuse after excuse. I had never been to church before and had no interest in attending. She invited me to a concert that CedarCreek was hosting. I remember calling her with an excuse, then going to a party instead. She brought me an autographed CD from the concert the next day. She invited me to youth group … more excuses. This went on for months. Finally, she invited me to a car wash the youth group was hosting, and for some reason—I still don’t know why—I went. The car wash was a fundraiser for a leadership conference in Myrtle Beach, and I had so much fun. The rest of the kids there were just like Jen; I felt appreciated and encouraged.
The car wash was on a Saturday, and the youth group left for Myrtle Beach on the following Thursday. The youth pastor (Ed Bellner) invited me to come on the trip. And even though my boyfriend’s parents were going to be out of town this entire week, I still wanted to go to the conference. At this point, my relationship with my parents was pretty rough. When I told them about the trip, they wrote the check mostly to have a break from me.
This trip changed my life. I felt like I had been searching for something, but I never knew what it was. I tried to fill that void with parties, drinking, boys, etc., but those things were never enough. I asked Jesus into my life on the third day of the leadership conference. I had little to no understanding of Jesus, grace, or what it meant to be a Christian, but I knew it was what I had been searching for. I wrote a letter to my parents telling them that I wanted to change. They cried when they read it.
I ended up becoming a leader in the same youth group after college. I met my husband there. (Ed Bellner married us!) We have two beautiful children, and I have an amazing relationship with my family. It took a lot of hard work, many apologies, and lots and lots of prayer to get to where I am now. It hasn’t all been rainbows and butterflies, but I would take the hardest day as a Christian over the best day as an unbeliever any day.
And it all started with some notes of appreciation. If you want to give a gift that really matters this Christmas, give the gift of words of appreciation. They literally have the power to change someone’s life.
What makes you feel appreciated?
Is it hard for you to receive the gift of appreciation from someone else? Why?
Reflect on the positive impact that someone’s words have had on you, and tell them about it. Let them know how their gift of words changed you for the better. Follow up with your progress on the goals you listed on the chart.
God, thank you for placing people in my life who encourage and appreciate me. Please help me to show genuine appreciation to my family, friends, co-workers, and you. I appreciate the grace and love you offer me every day. Amen.
This post was written by Meghan Yarnell. Meghan is an art teacher and artist. She is married and has a son and daughter.
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