The Art of Encouragement

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9 KJV

I have a friend. Her name is Heather.

Heather has a very special gift that often times I lack…she has this amazing ability to remember every special event from anniversaries to birthdays to a job review to a big race day and everything in between, AND she memorializes this brilliant gift by sending a card or care package in the mail by the exact date of such event. Heather has mastered what I like to call The Art of Encouragement.

You see, every time I open a card from Heather, it’s like a mini cheerleader pops out through her words saying, “God is faithful! He loves you so much! You’re awesome! You can do this! Go get ‘em! Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Sketch by my brother Mark (and a teeny-tiny pinch of me)

Then, she will always include the perfect passages of Scripture to encourage me for the day. Her words are always grounded with wisdom and truth, filled with kindness, and they are always oh-so timely. I save all of Heather’s cards. They really are treasures.

Me, on the other hand, well, I’m not so great about doing this. I’m still working on a birthday project for a friend whose birthday was a couple weeks ago. Shameful, I know. However, because I admire this quality in Heather so much, every once in while I give it a try myself, and this is what I’ve discovered….

First, I get all squirrely and excited to make someone’s day special, which is a happy feeling. Second, I like putting stamps on envelopes (uh, I’m not sure why, but just go with me here), which is a happy feeling. Third, I imagine that person being excited when they open their mailbox, which is an extra happy feeling. Lastly, I know that for the moment, I am looking beyond myself and striving to bless another.

Let’s be honest here, blessing and encouraging others is a wonderful feeling. It’s most definitely #1 in my Top 10 Things to Enhance Feelings of Happiness, by Dr. Nikki, cracked-pot, M.D. (not crackpot, folks. Cracked. Pot., ie. perfectly imperfect, broken, permanently under repair, but sometimes useful.) Encouraging others is one of those rare things in life that automatically blesses us in return for taking the time to do. It makes me wonder why many of us, myself included, don’t take the time to write that encouraging note when we are feeling prompted to do so, or make that phone call or write that Heart Sessions post (wink, wink).

Okay, so back to the card thing…

Sometimes when I receive a card from Heather, there’s a twist.

Sometimes, my insightful friend pulls out the big guns and turns the tables on little ol’, unsuspecting me, and she sends me a card with something *gasp* tricky inside. Sometimes, she sends me a card with one of my own encouragement cards enclosed that I had sent to her, often times years earlier.

You see, every once in awhile she rummages through her archives to find a card that I have given to encourage her, and she sends it BACK TO ME, using my very own words to encourage me. Now, whenever I get one of these little babies in the mail, first of all, I smile and shake my head, as if to say, “I should have known.” Then, I’m reminded that sometimes I need to remember my own advice. Brilliant strategy, Heath.

And…99.9% of the time years have passed since I wrote the encouragement card with which she is now encouraging me, and somewhere along the way I have forgotten my very own words. But Heather knows that, like all of us, sometimes, I just need to remember what I already know in my heart about the character and goodness of God. Sometimes, just sometimes…we all need to be reminded that God is still God, that He’s still in the business of moving mountains, that He still hears and acts on behalf of our prayers and the very cries of our hearts and that He is still sovereign over all things, but most importantly that He is still holding us in the very palm of His hand, still loving us when we don’t feel loved, still pushing us forward when we have no strength to press on, and still holding out His hand for that moment when we’re ready to come back to Him. We serve a truly amazing God!

So, when we take the time to remind others and to remind ourselves of all of these powerful and truthful attributes of our Lord and Savior in such a tangible and encouraging way, we can trust in our heart of hearts that our actions of kindness are making a lasting difference in the lives of others, and that every moment we take to encourage one another will ultimately be blessed by the Lord, reflecting the very nature of Jesus Christ to those around us.

Isn’t it incredible to know that it takes so little to bring sunshine to someone’s dark day? The other day, I scribbled one line in my journal, and it was this: Do something new everyday for someone else. I’m not sure if that makes me entirely pathetic in that I have to actually write myself that reminder, but because I truly desire to seek the needs of others, I will write it down a gazillion times if that’s what it takes for me to live it out.

So…for today, my hope is that God will use my life if even in the tiniest capacity to reach out to someone who is hurting or lost or could just really use that little word of encouragement. Today, I write this post for my friend Heather who has walked alongside me through more storms than I care to admit and who I am sending thoughts and prayers to today. I’ll be brainstorming new ideas for tomorrow…let me know if you have any good ones!

May the good Lord send some extra sunshine your way today!

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31 KJV

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18 KJV

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.  John 15:11-13 KJV



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