Monday, July 27, 2015

Encouragement, A Gift to be Received

In a world when there is so much hate directed towards Christ followers can any encouragement be found? In a time when many behaviors and choices once considered shameful have morphed into platforms for pride and boasting, can any encouragement be found? In an age of longer lifespans and more conveniences we find life more stressful and more of us feel lost and alone. Can there be any encouragement? In the midst of this storm of darkness brewing around us everyday, I was challenged by the women at to write about what encourages me. I am often around folks who spend more time focusing on the doom of our day than the eternal hope. Today I want to share a bit of what encourages me even when all around seems to be falling apart.

Encouragement comes in the mail. It is a big box filled full of a beautifully made prayer journal. My dear friend, Terri, spent weeks pouring her creativity and prayers into this lovely gift. I believe the prayer journal deserves a complete blog post. More on this later.

Encouragement comes as an unexpected benefit from encouraging someone else. I am greatly encouraged when I have been able to lift someone's spirit. My husband calls this a boomerang blessing.

Encouragement is coming home worn thin and finding my husband has prepared a tall glass of ice water for me. I cannot explain it, and he doesn't understand why, but this small, nurturing act is a big encouragement to me.

I am encouraged by nature; all of God's beautiful creation I have ever had the privilege of immersing myself into has always been an encouragement to me. I am calmed by nature and I find myself feeling pulled in closer to the Father while standing in the woods or on the peak of a mountain with a panoramic view below.

Encouragement comes in arms around me. Hugs from those I love is the sweetest kind of encouragement. There are so many hugs of encouragement:
  • the tight hug of my husband with his scratchy beard nestled against my neck
  • being greeted by hugs from my grownup daughters
  • the hug of a friend I haven't seen in a long time, a hug filled with assurance the connection has stayed warm between us
  • the trusting hug of a small child

Remembering encourages me. You may wonder how this can be when our thinking can be overwhelmed with the kind of remembering that drives anxiety to unbearably high levels. I do not know how many times the Word of God tells us to remember, and when I take time to journal about how His presence worked through the difficulty of a day or a week, and brought me to a place I could not have imagined, I am encouraged. Listing blessings, the gifts I've been given outweigh what I think is missing, encourages me.

Encouragement surrounds me, but being encouraged is dependent on me opening my heart to the possibility something good is happening in all of this and I am loved. Encouragement happens when I allow my heart to be open to more than the obvious. And when I pay attention, I am encouraged at how well every single detail of this life is carefully planned out and held together personally by the Father who is greater than creation and yet He lives inside such a small and insignificant being such as myself.
Encouragement comes to me everyday when others break open their lives and tell me how God has orchestrated their stories and helped them face and overcome things I am not sure I could handle. I am glad for the many blogs written by courageous women who have made themselves vulnerable to remind the rest of us we are not alone. Encouraging and inspiring! Just before the disciples would be jolted from their worldly view of the kingdom of heaven by the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of Man said to them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Take heart! Be encouraged! What encourages you? How are you keeping your eyes focusing on eternal hope in this wounded world?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Rainy Day Shift

Three times in the past few weeks I have started writing a post and now I have three different unfinished posts. I can't seem to get enough focused time, at least that it is my excuse. Today the plan was to finish one of the partially written posts, but it started raining. Now you may wonder what raining has to do with completion of a post. Oh but it does; it changed the course of my day.

It doesn't rain a lot in southern California and it almost never rains in the summer, but today we had a downpour. It's great writing weather! I could hear the kids across the street laughing and playing in the rain; I went to the window to watch one of them riding a board down the street in rushing water. My husband asked, “Do you want to take a walk in the rain with me?” That was when everything changed. I don't see my husband as especially spontaneous so I sure wasn't going to pass up his offer.

We both donned sandals and shorts, him bare-headed and me tucked under the umbrella. We waded up the street splashing and feeling a bit like two kids in a world absent of grown-ups out of doors. It was a joyous little jaunt around 3 blocks. It reminded me of warm, summer rains in Ohio. My brother and I would race outside in the rain to splash in every puddle we could find; sometimes we splashed bare footed and other times we sprayed water riding our bikes through the pooled water. I love rainy days.

To think we were supposed to be camping this weekend with my husband's family. I have camped in the rain and I, for one, can say I am so relieved we decided not to go. Unless you are camping in a trailer it is the worst kind of stuck feeling. At least in my opinion.

Several summers back my family spent a rainy week camping in the Colorado Rockies. I had just finished a challenging master's program and we were planning on celebrating. Fortunately the trip wasn't a total wash out; my mom, step-dad and sister's family had rented a small house with a large porch. So while tents sat dreary and unwelcoming in pools of water, we spent hours huddled together playing games, eating, laughing, talking and reading. We spent more close moments together on that trip than on any other. Rain has a way of huddling everyone together in a relaxed sort of way. I love the rain! What do you like to do on rainy days?