Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Encouragement to Encourage.

Ever find yourself browsing Facebook or Instagram, feeling like you are looking for something, but you're not exactly sure what? You open the app, scroll down, think about the people or places you see, tame your jealousy over your friend's amazing vacation, get to the point you last left off, close the app, and feel like something is missing? Or worse, find yourself even more cranky afterwards? I find myself doing this several times a day, despite never finding what my heart really needs.

I am pretty confident I go to these social media outlets looking for confirmation of the way I am living my life. I have a secret hope to receive some form of validation from someone I admire, telling me I am doing a good job, that my work is important, or that I am a special person, with a unique calling. Sometimes I see an encouraging word or hear from a dear friend, but mostly, I leave this time of browsing feeling empty, allowing Facebook to tell me I am not actually important.

It's easy to blame friends and family when dealing with these feelings, to think they are not living up to their role, to think they have neglected to let me know I am valuable. However, it's unreasonable to blame people for not doing the same exact things I am not doing. I cannot look at everyone else, see how they fail to encourage those around them, then fail to encourage those around me. I often grieve the lack of a mentor in my life, feeling disappointed that many of the older women today are not investing in the younger generation. I ask my friend "Where are all the 45 year old moms with high school kids? Why do I feel like they are all too busy for me?" and we chat about our opinions of how it is driven by our economy, World War II, or maybe even feminism. We concede that this doesn't all stem from one event or problem, and she always reminds me "We cannot let our disappointment in a lack of a mentor keep us from being that mentor to someone else."

My friend is right! But it is hard to follow through on this. It's hard to be a supportive friend when you feel unsupported. It's challenging to sacrifice for your family when you feel like they don't sacrifice as much for you. It's hard to devote time to your children when it feels like their demands are ever increasing. While all of these statements are true, it doesn't mean these things cannot be done. It's also very possible you have friends who feel the same way, dear ones who are struggling to serve others because they don't get the help they desire.

We all need more encouragement, but we can't keep sitting around, waiting for someone else to do it. This is where I am going to challenge you, and myself, to take the first step. My husband challenged me in this, after complaining about feeling some angst in a friendship. He said if I spent some time praying for her, my heart would soften to be more gracious, and I would start to truly desire to see her do well, instead of just looking at what I wanted her to do for me. Then, four days later, I read the same advice in a book on friendship. Coincidence? I think not! So, here is what I am going to do, and I hope you will do it with me.

1. Look at several of my friendships that seems a little stale, where I might have some general complaints or hopes for becoming deeper, and pick one lovely friend.

2. Pray for this woman every day this week. Pray for her circumstances, pray for her heart, pray for our friendship, pray for God's Spirit to move in both of us to love each other better.

3. Text or call said friend in an attempt to get together. Ask to get together for coffee, dessert, play-date with the kids, or even having the entire family over for dinner.

4. Write an encouraging letter. Not an email, not a text, nor a Facebook message, but a real, hand-written note. Use a meaningful card, a hand-painted note-card, or even just an ordinary, boring piece of paper. Everyone loves to get mail and practicing writing out encouragement to others will bless my heart as well.

Seems easy, right? But how often do we do this? I obviously don't because I have a drawer filled with unused blank note-cards. But I am going to make it a priority to do this more often. Plus, I will take any excuse to buy more cute stationary. See? I bought some already :)

The last couple years I have wrestled to understand why women's relationships are so complicated, why so many of us simply cannot or will not get along. I have actually had a fairly easy time with other women, and no one usually explodes suddenly at me, but I often feel alone, like my friendships could be better, deeper, and more satisfying. While I don't have a clear-cut solution, I believe these four steps will improve any relationship we have. Any effort spent on understanding your friend's circumstances or knowing more about the her will encourage both of you and will probably leave her feeling genuinely thankful to know you. Don't do this in an attempt to make people like you, but truly turn your heart to God, to your friend, and seek to see how God is using your friendship to shape you for His eternal purposes.

I am going to be doing this each week. I might slip in a few other letters or cards to random friends too, just to practice encouraging others and spread the love. If we put forth effort to fill each other with God's love and His Word, we will all find ourselves a little more filled up, with less desire to find encouragement in places where little exists. You might even find yourself browsing Facebook less and caring more for the other women in your life.

Hebrews 3:13 says "Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

It is so good for us to give each other words from God. Not words on what we hear God telling our friends to do or not do, but words about who they are in Christ. Let's give our friends words affirming their pursuit of holiness, service, excellence, and greater faith. In doing this, we keep each other from sin, we strengthen each other for the tasks ahead, and grow in our love for one another.

So make your list! Choose one friend this week. Pray for her every day. Pray for her family, reach out to her, and make time for her. Trust in God's work and know your efforts will not be in vain.

The book on friendship I mentioned is called A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau. I met her at a recent writer's connection meeting and she is simply lovely. Her desire to have women grow in their relationships was evident as she spoke. Her vulnerability and willingness to share her experiences just confirms how she lives out what she encourages other women to do. I hope you'll buy her book and take her compassionate advice to heart.

Lastly, tell me how it goes for you! I want to know who you reached out to, who responded, and what you saw from the whole experience. I will be checking in, so do your homework and get ready to allow God to add His blessings to your labor.


  1. Replies
    1. Oh awesome! I can't wait to hear about how it goes for you and your friends!