Who spoke encouragement to you?

Compassion International has challenged bloggers to share a story of a time during your childhood or teen years when an adult spoke words of encouragement to you.  Several times stand out to me, but the most memorable was during my senior year of high school.  At that time John and I were seriously dating and already talking about marriage.  We were in the same physics class, taught by a man named Mr. Burton.  Great teacher, very encouraging while still having really high standards for conduct in the classroom.  John and I both had a ton of respect for him.

When you’re a senior in high school and already talking about getting married, people are not necessarily thrilled by the news.  You tend to get a lot of cautions and warnings, and have the general feeling that people aren’t so sure your ideas are good.   Now that I’m a mom, I fully understand the place from which those warnings and concerns come.  Marriage is hard, hard work, and should not be entered into lightly or hurriedly.

Near the end of the school year our physics class took a trip to eastern Idaho, to what was then known as INEL (Idaho Nuclear Engineering Laboratory).  On the bus ride John and I sat together, talking about dreams for the future.   I remember feeling miles from the other kids mentally.  Others were clowning and flirting around, talking about partying in college.  We were talking about whether or not we’d really be able to afford rent after we got married.

Somewhere along the way, Mr. Burton got chatting with us, asking more about our future plans, and we ended up telling him the whole thing.  Yes, we were both planning on college, which of course pleased him.  But we were also seriously considering getting married, probably within a year or two.  I think we were both wincing as we told him this, expecting him to give us more of what we’d already heard from adults:  why such a hurry, wait awhile, get through college.

Instead he listened with respect, nodded a lot as we shared our dreams, and then spoke words of affirmation and support to us.  He thought we could do it.

He really thought we could do it.

Truth be told, we thought we could do it too.   But to hear that vote of confidence from this quiet, wise, logical man– it was an indescribably powerful moment.  John and I walked off that bus sure we could take on the world.

We ended up getting married about 16 months later, after our first year of college.  By that time our parents also were nothing but supportive.  The wedding was delightedly, whole-heartedly celebrated by both families.

Getting married at 19 doesn’t work well for everyone.  I like to think that Mr. Burton was able to see past our ages, past any preconceived notions about teen marriage, to see something within us that told him we were going to be alright.  More likely it was just God speaking to his heart, telling him to bless us with his words.

But whatever the reasoning behind his words, I will always be grateful for his words of confidence and affirmation.

And you know what?  He was right.  We celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary next year!


Got a story of your own?   I’d love to hear it.  Check out links to more stories on twitter (hashtag:  #tellusyourstory)


  1. As a child I struggled to learn how to read. I was put into a Title One reading class in second grade and remained there through fifth grade. I remember wanting to be a good reader more than anything in the world. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Borsavage, was someone who encouraged me to keep trying and work hard. She made me feel good about myself, and this is a time where I did not feel good about myself at all. She encouraged me with reading by giving me the book The Pokey Little Puppy. It is a book that I still have and one that means very much to me.

    I remember one night when she called my house. My parents were furious that a teacher was calling them and my dad had me at the kitchen table ready to discipline me, figuring that I had been misbehaving, while my mother talked to my teacher. It turned out that my teacher was calling because my reading had really improved over the year and she wanted my parents to know how hard I was working and how good I was progressing.

    Even though, my parents clearly over reacted, the fact that my teacher had called my parents to let them know how good I was doing and that she noticed that I was working very hard is something that meant the world to me. It still does. It was the encouragement that I needed to keep working to become a good reader.

    I went on to become a teacher myself. When I was in the classroom, I worked hard to learn how to help struggling readers like myself. I have always been on a mission to learn as much as I can about how children learn how to read and what can be done to help children that reading doesn’t come so easy. I have also worked to let students know that I notice how hard they are working when something didn’t come easy for them. I did this through notes, phone calls home, and kind and loving words.

    Mrs. Borsavage, my fourth grade teacher, will never know how big of an impact that she made in my life and how the confidence that she gave me has lead me to help other children who struggle with reading. Even now as a stay at home mom, I volunteer at the local school and work with 3rd and 4th grade struggling readers and enjoy watching them grow and blossom in their reading skills. Whenever I get down on myself, I think about Mrs. Borsavage and say, oh yes I can and then I work my tail off to do what I thought I might not be able to do. I pray that the love and teaching that I give these struggling readers will be passed on by them in some way during their life.

  2. All my life, I wanted children. I was 30 when my first child was born, after having fertility treatments and a miscarriage. I had babysat from a young age and had always worked with young children, eventually becoming a special education teacher. I knew babies, and I felt comfortable around them. Or so I thought.

    When my son was born my mom came to stay for a about a week-she took care of me and the house, and I took care of the baby. But when it came time for her to go home I could not stop crying. I did not want her to leave and I did not think I could be a mom, let alone a good mom. She looked me straight in the eye and said “you will be fine, you are a good mom, you know what to do, I would not leave you if I was not sure.” And with that, she walked out the door. I cried and cried, and then I got up and took care of my baby, just like she said I would.

    And for 21 years, with all of the extreme challenges I have had with my children, especially my special needs son, whenever I think I can’t do it any more, I hear my mom say “you are a good mom, you know what to do.”

  3. Oh Mary I LOVE this story! In part, I am sure, because I was only 20 when I got married.

    What a fun writing prompt. I’m going to give this some thought!

  4. Stephanie says:

    I am not really posting a word of encouragement, but sharing my own story of an early marriage. My husband and I met when I was 17 and he was 20. We ***knew*** that we were going to be together forever. Just 4 short months later, he asked my father for his permission to marry me. The support from my family was wonderful, and I was so pleased that they loved and respected this wonderful man as much as I did. Long story short, We were married when I was 18, he was 21, and that was 15 years ago. We are still each other’s best friend and greatest support. And I think that the overall understanding and belief from my family that we were ready made it even better.

  5. Christine D. says:

    Oh, Mary! I have a Mr. Burton story as well. I got to know him well during 7AM Pre-Calculus class junior year. I even had his phone number memorized because I was constantly calling for help after dinner. He was always incredibly patient with me, much more so than I was with myself. One afternoon, after school, I sat in his classroom frustrated and on the verge of tears. He wrote the letters I-A-L-A-C in a column on my paper. Needless to say I was yet again stumped to know what to do with those variables. After I finally asked what the letters meant, Mr. Burton filled in “I Am Lovable And Capable.” Wow! He didn’t need to encourage me at all, but he did and I am so grateful. Those words have stayed with me to this very day.

  6. I was nineteen too, when we married twelve years ago, and you are so right – having wiser and older folks who didn’t think we were crazy was refreshing.

  7. My words of encouragement came from a Sunday school teacher, which you might expect to be a usual source of encouragement, but this was above and beyond. The summer following my first grade year my parents divorced. My Mother took the three of us children and moved in with her parents for one summer. It was a glorious summer, but that is another story. We attended the little country church where my Mother grew up and where most everyone was related to us somehow. My Sunday school teacher was Mrs. N- and was not one of the relatives. She was different than the other people, not really an outcast, just not as accepted. She had a daughter who, although grown to a teen in body was a very young child in mind and ability. These things fascinated me as a child, but now as an adult they make her contribution to my life all the more meaningful. She had a lot on her plate, she could have crawled down into her life and counted it ministry but instead she choose to make a difference in my life. At the end of that summer we moved away. I ended up in a one room country school house as the only second grader in a school that was 16 students K-8. It was a good year to heal, but I was lonely. Mrs. N- sent me postcards. Every week of that whole year with out fail. On the postcard she wrote out her prayer for me in place of a letter. Even now I can see the script on the back filling the page to the very edge. I’m not sure I understood the significance of those prayers on postcards then, being so young. I do remember enjoying getting mail. But even now, those prayers, the time she spent, the fact that she remembered me when she didn’t have to. It has spurred me on to better ministry my whole life and given me an example of love I will never forget.

  8. Love this story Mary! I love the word encourage – to give someone courage, to strengthen them. Encouragement is one of the best gifts we can give to anyone, from our family, to friends, to a stranger who just may need a kind word.

    Thank you for encouraging us!

    x Claire

  9. I have been following these stories from Shaun Grove’s blog. So inspiring!
    I like this story in particular because I love hearing stories of others who met their spouse in HS and it worked out — so often people are amazed that they do. But why shouldn’t they? We meet at a time when (most) haven’t been scarred, when we’re still growing, so instead of becoming independent and “hard” we grow together as couples, melding together the way I think the Lord intended marriage to be. The “dating scene” just brings brokenness and pain. . .why go through it if God has laid your future spouse right in front of you? Anyway, thanks for sharing the story and for all those who shared theirs too 🙂


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mary Ostyn, TulipGirl. TulipGirl said: RT @owlhaven: #tellusyourstory.http://www.owlhaven.net/2010/11/02/who-spoke-encouragement-to-you/ Speaking encouragement to kids […]