A while ago I had this mammoth piece hauled out of my studio to our church to be finished there, in bigger spaces, and hung to brighten up a bland office wall. It's a giant 8ft. x 10ft. wooden panel that was built up into a relief using repurposed materials. Chopped up Cheerio boxes, UPS packaging, paper towel rolls..... You get the idea! Covering everything with paper mache, we then painted with lively colors to breathe fun into it. Having helpers on this project definitely made work on it feel more like a party!
No matter the language spoken, words have power. The human heart responds to words like a barometer responds to atmospheric pressures. Indeed, our heart longs for encouragement like our lungs crave oxygen. One kind word of encouragement, one smile and one hug at the right time can be life-changing. It's always amazing to me how little it takes to put a smile on someone’s face and raise their spirits.
Encouragement has a way of going straight to the heart. The word itself comes from a combination of the prefix en which means "to put into" and the Latin root cor which means "heart". We all know the affect of encouragement. We also know what it feels like to be discouraged. When I find myself in a slump, feeling bleak and blah, a sure fix is to 'sow seeds' of encouragement into those around me. There's reciprocal power in giving. It boomerangs back.
Whether it's a family member, a grocery cashier, or a Starbucks coffee-giver, it always seems to blow away the gray clouds in my head. Although they have no idea of my secret strategy, t's a win-win for all of us! What a big difference encouragement makes.
To be honest, in my temperament, I'm well acquainted with gray landscapes. It's taken years to learn to navigate through the haze. But it's because of that tendency that I empathize with those around me that fall into the 'slough of despond.'
The following is a list from my bag of tricks in helping others to take heart when the going gets tough and the way feels long. Based on Gary Chapman's book, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES , these suggestions correspond to these 'love languages' : affirming words, quality time, giving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
Think of some words you might offer. When an encouraging thought comes to mind, share it! Say it! Email it! Write a note! It may not have the same effect if you wait. Don't let shyness hold you back. Instead, form a new habit: "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today…" Hebrews 3:13 Another affirm idea is this. When you introduce someone, add a few words of praise for the person's abilities, accomplishments, about how they've helped you or about the nature of your relationship. It's encouraging to be praised in front of others.*
Realize the power of presence. Just being there can be encouraging! When you're with others, you're telling them that they're important. The Apostle Paul closed his letter to the church at Colossae promising to send his friend Tychius "that he may encourage your hearts." Colossians 4:8b
Send some token that reminds that person they are in your thoughts and that you care about them. It can be almost anything. An unexpected tid-bit tucked unto a desk, a small-something mailed to a mailbox, or delivered to a door, is a tangible sign of your thoughtfulness..
4)Acts of service
When someone is discouraged or hurting, offer specific, practical help. If you ask, "How can I help?" the person might be at a loss to answer. It's better to ask, "Would it help if I…" or say, "I would like to…" There's always SOME way to serve. Even if the person is not forthcoming in ideas, putting oneself in their 'shoes' for a few moments usually has the power to unveil a few ideas.
5) Physical touch
A simple gesture of hand on shoulder or a compassionate hug offered in a timely manner, can be just the thing to remind someone of the truth that they are not alone.
When it comes to encouraging others, the sky is the limit. I like to make a game out of it. When I meet someone, I like to make it my secret mission to try to decipher what their particular 'love language' might be! What about you? What are some ways you've discovered to encourage someone you care about? Did you match their particular 'language' with your action? What was the result?
"Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as we see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25
The old proverb, "A shared joy is a greater joy.' is so very true! Over the last several months, I've been sharing my love of painting with a group of awesome kids that make my week brighter every time they come to my studio to paint. It all started when one young girl wanted 'painting lessons' which then led to a whole bunch of kids - all from her same neighborhood!
For anyone who enjoys teaching , no matter what the topic might be, there's great joy in being able to share that knowledge with those who are eager to learn and willing to put in some well applied effort to learn. These kids are so extraordinary, always bringing and sharing their smiles, as they progress through creating such incredible little masterpieces as these shown above.
The 'Gum Ball Machine' was really challenging, with all the intricate shading in those gum balls! But just look how they turned out! And you can see my smile! I'm grinning like a proud mama!
Prints of this image may be purchased by clicking here.
We are hard wired to love super heroes. There's something in us that deeply resonates with helping, saving, freeing those in distress. Regardless of age, our hearts thump a resounding, YES! at seeing evil plots foiled and the helpless rescued. What preschooler has not donned a blanket and BECOME super-human?
Being the 'affordable day care provider' for our grandson has allowed me the joy of being reminded of this phenomena. Attaching the velcro strap around his Spiderman mask, HE disappears. Spiderman is on the scene! Turning a small plastic lawn table upside down, he BECOMES Luke Skywalker. Or pumping his chubby round fists, wrinkling his button nose and grimacing his nose menacing face, he BECOMES Hulk.....
Having my fair share of early childhood psychology under my belt, I totally get the the fact that it's all part of the developmental process. Pretending. Role playing. But I wonder. What if that part where we want to help and defend were nourished ?
Although we tend to think that unless we do some gargantuan feat, we are powerless, it's really the seemingly 'small things' that can be huge heroic acts. Offering a smile, a listening ear, or maybe a kind word can make an affective arsenal.
In my own moments of deep discouragement, I've felt a friend free me with their 'super powers' in the form of encouraging words. In times of pressing demands, I've felt their loving laser of help and service lift me.
Mother Teresa said it best in her response to being asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered “Go home and love your family. That one sentence is laden with all the seeds needed to be a 'super hero' to SOMEONE. Love. We are all capable of THAT super power.
A very special birthday party!
I've 'catered art' for numerous birthday parties over the last several years, but I think the one last Friday night topped them all! Celebrating a 81st birthday was such a privilege! Surrounded by her daughter, two grand daughters and several friends (not shown), this little lady just totally made me happy with her clear, keen bright blue eyes that radiated sincerity and appreciation. Presently facing the limitations of age, she shared with me her life long love of painting. This will be an Art Party that I'll cherish forever!
Over the last seven years, I've lost count of the number of parties I've catered! Serving up paints and canvases, instead of eatables, happy party-goers have gotten to take home their creations as a lasting memento! Leading groups of all ages, in everything from birthday parties, baby showers and retirement parties, facilitating these artful parties has been.... and continues to be a privilege. I love watching the enabling power of the simple step-bt-step approach which gives gentle enough guidance to coax out the creative even in the hesitant! And, do you know what? I find it especially interesting that it's usually the 'hesitant' ones who are the most exuberant over the success of their creations! That makes ME smile every time!
To live on this earth is to be touched by any of the unpredictable amorphous shapes of loss. I know. I've encountered several of those forms. Recently, I've been pondering loss. Wondering if any of its' oppressive gray clouds disguise tinges of silver interiors, I ask myself, if so, then can they be seen by the heart's aching naked eye? Even though the varied shapes in which loss often shifts itself exerts differing jabs of cruel pressures, as Believers, we can choose to consider the possibility of looking through lenses of Redemption.
For me, the lesson that rumbles with the loudest whispers of hope is that of awakening us from our day-in-day-out numbness. to beat with greater, fuller compassion for others and a higher value and honor for life 'today'. It invites us to love more fervently in real-time words and meaningful deeds to the special ones that are all around us now.
I love what C.S. Lewis says about this in 'The Problem of Pain, " God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
As the only living member of my immediate family, the loss of mother, brother and father have cut a few oddly shaped wholes into the walls of my soul that allow ever more illuminating rays of light into my dingy heart's perspective. If there's anything redemptive in loss, it lies in considering it's sting to be a reminder of the blink-of-an-eye temporal nature of our life.
Loss calls us to cherish the relationships that squeeze our lives and to give gut-wrenching effort to communicate love. Loss opens up a door and presents a beckoning hand to go take every advantage that 'now' offers to forgive. Loss holds out a sieve to sift and distinguish between the asinine 'issues' and those that have merit , beckoning us to lay down grudges and extend mercy. Believe me, this exchange is much more effectively done on this side of eternity.
We humans tend to collect little spurs of angst with damning efficiently, don't we? But loss can help us see more clearly. Those briars really only end up pricking our own stubborn hearts. Loss gently coaxes us to pluck off and lay down bundles of bitterness. Our words, if we hasten to speak (or write) them in a timely way, have incredible power both for the speaker AND for the hearer. They can unlock a heart and soothe bruised spots in the soul..
Losing my mom in my mid 20's, now three decades ago, has sharply taught me these lessons. My heart has been thumped into embracing the 'now' and letting go of the 'yesterdays.' There are so many things I wish I could have said to her....and my dad...and my brother. But I now practice these well-learned lessons on those most near me. The kiss of loss imprinted me with a growing capacity for compassion and an ever increasing zeal for communicating love and appreciation. It's a journey I'm continually muddling my way through, but a journey that's worth continuing.
I now know the importance of lavishing appreciation, asking apologies, acknowledging wrongs, and verbalizing respect ....even when it's excruciating. Because I know there will be a threshold over which those words will no longer reach.
What lessons of love or compassion have you learned from loss? Do you have someone to whom you feel compelled to communicate your appreciation of love while you are able to do so?
Welcome! Glad you're here! This little spot is where I share thoughts, writings and verses that fuel my life, my marriage, and my art. My desire is to offer up hope and grace and help make your life feel a bit lighter.