Lori Heinen is a mother of six.

When her children were young, she felt the need to instill the value of encouragement in her family. She was already working hard to help all of her children communicate well and talk about their feelings, and through this process she came up with a new strategy to help her family members encourage one another.

It started on one of her children’s birthdays. As everyone sat at the dinner table, Lori said they were going to try something new. The people at the table all had to say one thing they loved or appreciated about the birthday boy. Lori continued this tradition for the other children’s birthdays and even bought a red “You Are Special” plate for the honored child to use.

Instill The Value Of Encouragement

At first, these birthday encouragements were not well-received. Lori would sit down to dinner and say, “Okay, let’s all go around …” and her children would respond with disappointed “Aww”s. But, over time, Lori’s children slowly grew to appreciate sharing (and hearing) what their siblings and parents recognized in them and valued about them.

The tradition has continued and morphed over the years. Some 15 years later, it’s still going strong in Lori’s home. On every birthday, each child gets to hear how much she is loved and valued. Lori has also extended the tradition to other holidays. Her family has found this to be an especially great tradition to use at Thanksgiving as they go around the table and ask each person why he is thankful for the members of his family.

I got to experience this tradition for the first time in high school. I was having dinner at Lori’s house, and the family was celebrating my birthday. After all the food was placed on the table, Lori said, “Let’s all go around and say what we like about Krista.” I was confused and a little embarrassed, but the family began nonetheless. All of the people in the family looked me in the eye and told me why they felt I was special. I was overwhelmed by the love and care that I felt that night.

This is a tradition that I know I will continue in my family, because I am now a Heinen. I married the eldest of Lori’s children. He is a man of encouragement in part because of the tradition started by his mom. The members of the Heinen family know that they are valued because they’ve been told this time and time again. They can be secure in who they are because they know that those around them recognize and treasure them as people. In the same way, we can be secure in our identity as God’s children who are valued and treasured by our Father.