Share Words of Encouragement

Today, I am thinking of a few specific people who I believe could use a word of encouragement due to life changes, unexpected circumstances, challenging situations, and unhappy or negative mindsets. Maybe you know someone who could benefit from a positive, kind, or uplifting word as well. I’ve created a few memes with various thoughts that I wanted to share with you today. Feel free to share any of them with someone you know.

Build Something Beautiful Never Too Old Second Chance Stay Positive The Best Things Thinking of You You are stronger!

I hope these words and images speak to your heart or give you an opportunity to share your heart with someone you care about.

Have a blessed day!

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Discouraged? There’s Help for Your Heart.

What Your Heart NeedsI am currently working my way through a wonderful new book by Holley Gerth: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days: 52 Encouraging Truths to Hold On To. And I am finding so many words of encouragement that I can personally relate to. In fact, I have already flagged a number of pages that I know I will want to go back to so I can reread and savor the messages on days when I might be feeling a bit discouraged.

Holley is a best-selling writer, licensed counselor, certified life coach, and speaker. I have followed her blog: Heart to Heart with Holley (www.holleygerth.com) for quite some time now and often share her posts or some of her words or graphics with friends and family on my Facebook page.

Holley also works in partnership with DaySpring, one of the largest publishers and distributors of Christian greeting cards (and other inspirational products) in the world. Plus, she is the cofounder of (in)courage, an online “home for the hearts of women,” which I love; I have found so many great articles and bloggers through this site.

In fact, there was a recent post on (in)courage from Renee Swope titled “Words for the Weary” that made me think of Holley and the importance of her newest book. To me, Holley Gerth is the encourager of encouragers.  

Words of Encouragement

If you haven’t heard of (in)courage before, you should check them out.

So, back to the book: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days contains 52 similarly formatted devotions based on the book of Psalms, written in a way that helps us remember that “God is good and we’re all in this together.”

Because there are 52 entries, you could easily use this book as a weekly devotional to be processed over a year, taking your time to read the opening Scripture quote and Holley’s words. Then adding your own words to complete the prayer, which has already been started for you under “What My Heart Is Saying to You.” During the week, you can go back and write in your thoughts under “What My Heart Is Hearing from You,” and at any time, you can open your Bible and read and reflect on the three Psalms referenced at the end of that week’s entry.

Of course, the devotions are short enough that you could also choose to read them as daily devotions. Either way, in this comforting book, Holley invites us “to be filled with the strength, peace, and joy that come from God’s promises.”

She provides real-life stories for us to connect with, as well as encouraging thoughts and passages from God’s Word to help us focus on what’s really important—the internal and the eternal.

All we have to do is be willing to open our hearts and receive.

Open Your Heart

Already a fan of Holley Gerth, her latest book does not disappoint. Not only will you find this book to be soothing for your own soul, but it would make a great gift for a hurting friend or perhaps even a wonderful donation at a women’s shelter. It is also the perfect companion to one of Holley’s other books: You’re Going to Be Okay.

I hope you get an opportunity to read What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days. I will likely be posting excerpts from it in the days ahead.

God Exerts His Strength

“God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.”

Psalm 46:5

“The Lord is my strength and my shield:
my heart trusts in him,
and I am helped.”

Psalm 28:7

 

Disclosure: This book was sent to me free of charge
from Revell for my honest review.

 

Day 9: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

When we come into contact with stress, [for some of us,] our natural response is to push through. We don’t want to be in need or fail to meet others’ expectations, especially our own. We beat ourselves up for not trusting God.

But, God offers us a different response. 

Rest. Kindness. Comfort.

These words are from Bonnie Gray’s Day 9 blog post (part of her 21 Days of Rest blog tour). You can find so many more words of encouragement and heart-to-heart conversations from Bonnie in her book: Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.findingspiritualwhitespace_book-194x300

In today’s post, she shares Three Unexpected Ways to Make God Known: 1) By presence, not project; 2) by nurturing your heart rather than ignoring it; 3) by your ambition to rest.

I think this post can be helpful for anyone, but particularly for those in ministry who tend to care for others more so than for themselves. Bonnie starts her post on FaithBarista.com, but continues it on another website: Catalyst: A Community of Change Makers. (Catalyst is an annual conference for leaders in the Christian ministry. After reading today’s post, you might want to check out their website for other helpful ministry resources.)

Most of us would prefer not to be known for our “brokenness,” but sometimes we find ourselves going through difficult circumstances in our lives that simply wear us down to the point of exhaustion. As much as we may be tempted to push these feelings aside and keep going, there are times when we need to recognize that God may be using these moments to wake us up … to open our eyes to some changes we may need to make.

Restoration

Kyle Idleman, author of AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything says, “… the number-one contributor to spiritual growth is not sermons, books, or small groups; … [it] is difficult circumstances. … it sometimes takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. … Sometimes it takes cancer to awaken us to things of eternal value. Sometimes it takes unemployment to awaken us to a deeper prayer life. Sometimes it takes a broken heart for us to finally let Jesus in.”

Sometimes, when we are dealing with stress or troubling times, we might retreat into ourselves, feeling that we don’t have anything to offer others. But these are the perfect times to be real, to share our feelings and our needs with those we trust. By doing this, we are able to offer them something special—the same thing that “God offers us: space to be real and rest.”

Friendship

“If you’re in need of a startling realization in your life, begin with solitude and silence. You may find that God has been trying to get your attention for a while but you haven’t been able to hear Him. Not because He hasn’t been loud enough, but because you haven’t been quiet enough.” (Kyle Idleman)

Rest—we all need it. Our souls crave it. We need spiritual whitespace.

Don’t let doing become more important than being. Don’t allow challenging times or desperate feelings to define you. These are but temporary things. Add joyful moments, comforting rest, and kindred spirits into your journey, and you will discover the courage and strength you need to get through the days ahead … one day at a time.

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Comfort and Joy

I’ve been thinking a lot about “comfort” lately, not because anything is wrong in my life, just that I find it fascinating to explore the various things, places, people, and situations that many of us turn to for comfort depending on what we are experiencing in our lives. Many people turn to comfort foods, which can either physically comfort us (like hot soup on a cold day) or provide us with a sentimental or nostalgic feeling that links us to loved ones or reconnects us with happier times or places. Enjoying comfort foods is not a bad thing in and of itself; however, according to Wikipedia “Comfort food consumption has been seen as a response to emotional stress and, consequently, as a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity in the United States.”

Made to CraveAs Lysa TerKeurst explains in her book Made to Crave: “Craving isn’t a bad thing. But we must realize God created us to crave more of him. … Many of us have misplaced that craving by overindulging in physical pleasures instead of lasting spiritual satisfaction.”

For example, there are those who find comfort in alcoholic beverages. As a former alcoholic explains it: “alcohol gives [me] a false sense of being at ease … it blurs the hard edges of life and gives [me] a false sense of courage. Alcohol helps a person forget his/her problems for a while, but it doesn’t help resolve them.” However, for those who don’t over-indulge, enjoying a glass of wine, a beer, or a mixed drink is simply part of their winding-down process. In situations like this, a drink can be a comfort, but not a cover-up. And that’s okay; I’m not judging here, just following a train of thought. 🙂Glass of Wine

For those who DO use food or drink as an escape, I am drawn to these lines from another blogger that I recently read: “If we hide from our pain, we don’t need a healer.  If we hide from our faults, we don’t need a redeemer. If we hide from the fact that we are lost, we don’t need a savior.” Are you hiding things in your life? Are you looking to the wrong sources for comfort and answers?

When sharing about her own personal journey, Bonnie Gray shared this: “I decided if I was going to make it through this hard season of my life, I needed as much comfort and beauty for my soul that I could find. Even if it was whisper thin, even if it brought my heart pain to long for it, I would nurture that desire in me. Beauty reminded me that the real me was whole and present inside me. I didn’t know how to begin. But, I knew I needed to begin.”

2014-05-15 11.55.08

What are some things (or places) that bring you comfort? Not necessarily in the midst of catastrophes but when you’re dealing with the everyday blues or when you’re just not feeling your best for whatever reason? I definitely look to nature as a source of comfort – it almost always provides me with a spiritual pick-me-up. Do you have things that you consider comfort wear? I’m not talking about sweats or yoga pants that you wear because they are comfortable. I’m talking about things that, for whatever reason, seem to make you feel just a little bit better.

Have you ever heard of prayer shawls? There are many groups around now that participate in this, but the basic idea is that individuals knit or crochet shawls, which they pray over, and they give them to those in need of comfort and solace. Janet Severi Bristow, one of the founders of the ministry in Hartford, CT describes it this way: “Shawls … made for centuries [are] universal and embracing, symbolic of an inclusive, unconditionally loving, God. They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace, mother, hug, shelter and beautify.” I just love this idea. Imagine wrapping a shawl of prayers and blessings around your shoulders. Close your eyes and feel the arms of the Father (and those who were involved in the making and distributing of the shawl) giving you a much needed hug.

I don’t have a prayer shawl, but I have a couple of shirts that I consider comfort shirts. One is this flannel shirt pictured below that I’ve had for probably 20 years. The other is a Tigger T-shirt that I may have had for just as long. It has small holes in it so I don’t wear it out anywhere, but sometimes I put it on when I’m having a down day. Or if my husband is out of town, I like to put on one of his shirts to feel closer to him. It comforts me to feel connected to him. I also have a quilt that my older sister made for me. I use it at night when it’s chilly, but I also like to cover up with it on the couch when I’m not feeling well. If you don’t have “comfort wear” already, why not pick something out … something that reminds you of happy times or a particular person or place. Next time you are feeling a little blue or lonely or sick, reach for that shirt or wrap or blanket and give yourself a hug. And be sure to also take some time out for yourself – time to rest and recharge.

I've had this flannel shirt for probably 20 years. It's thin and worn so doesn't really provide much warmth, but it's familiarity brings comfort.

I’ve had this flannel shirt for probably 20 years. It’s thin and worn so doesn’t really provide much warmth, but its familiarity brings me comfort.

This is the quilt/comforter that my sister made for me. I love it.

This is the quilt/comforter that my sister made for me. I love it.

If what you are feeling is stronger, deeper, more than you can handle alone … reach out. Call a friend or family member (we don’t know you are hurting unless you tell us), go to church, or find an opportunity to forget about your own troubles and help someone else. Helping others is a sure way to find not only comfort, but joy.

Lysa TerKeurst reminded me (and thousands of others) in a recent Facebook post: “Be joyful: Intentionally look around for measures of joy each day. There is joy in simply being alive and in being redeemed by God. Remember, joy is a choice we make, not a feeling we hope to get from our circumstances. It’s good to look for the good, to celebrate it even in small ways. Doing so is a moment of victory!”

Bella running with pure joy!

Bella running with pure joy!

No matter how unpleasant your current circumstances might be, don’t cover up or hide from the realities of your life. Don’t cower in shame for your weakness or allow your fears to debilitate you, but boldly reach for comfort whenever you need it. You are not meant to live in fear or to suffer alone. Actively pursue comfort and joy, and you will surely be moving in the right direction!

I will send you the Comforter.

I will send you the Comforter.

 “If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you.”

John 14:15-16 (The Living Bible)

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