How To Love Us Well {Just Be You}

This was posted on incourage.me on July 11, 2013*

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I was recently asked the question, “What can 30-somethings do to encourage and build up the 20-somethings in their lives?” Really, what can one generation do for the next one to come?

As a 20-year-old, I’m half-way done with college {craziness. how did that happen?!} and am busy playing “catch-up” with all my friends back home. It’s amazing how much life happens between Christmas break and summer.

Over coffee, a friend and I talked of what God had been teaching us, and where life is headed this summer. For me, I’m continuing as the (in)tern at (in)courage, and am in the middle of spending five weeks serving high school students at Student Leadership University (a crash course on how to be a Christian leader at home, school, church, etc.). For my friend, her summer will be filled with church responsibilities, as she’s interning with our old high school youth group.

We’re spending our summers pouring ourselves out for both our generation and the generation to come.

The coffee was long gone, but neither of us made a move to leave. We had moved to talking about who had poured into us and one name came to mind.

Kelli.

My mentor (and also my friend’s mentor) for many years now, has been a leader in our youth group for as far back as I remember. She and her husband helped hold our youth group together through tough times, and she was (is) always first to volunteer their home for Board Game Nights.

When I think of my very favorite people in the world, those I want to be most like, Kelli is one of the first people to come to mind. She has poured into me more than I can ever give back to her, and even though I’m away at college, she has continued to encourage me from afar.

If you’re searching for a way to love on the college girl at church, encourage the single girl next door, or build up your niece, be a Kelli to her.

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Here are some practical ideas to help you as you work to encourage us (and thank you, by the way, for caring about the 20-somethings. We notice, and we appreciate you.).

1. Invite her out for coffee. Even better, offer to pay for her drink. If she refuses, buy her a cookie to take with her. Chances are, if you’re meeting up with a college student, she’ll already be at a coffee shop studying. But honestly, what 20-something doesn’t like coffee or a cookie? There’s something a little magical about a cozy coffee shop…it just feels warm and casual inside, and it’s a great way to get away from the busy and get to know her.

2. Do you have children? Invite her to tag along next time you go to the park. Everyone needs some sunshine, and it’s a great break from her studying or job-searching. She’ll probably love your kids, and you’ll have an adult to talk to for an hour. Bring an extra water bottle for her to show that you were planning ahead and thinking of her/including her. Not every conversation needs to be serious and deep – relationships are built in the hurts and in the joys. A casual conversation at a park can lift both your spirits.

3. Ask her how you can be praying for her. And then actually pray for her. Follow up, and be specific. Show us that you remember. Write a card and include a bible verse.

4. While you’re at it, won’t you ask how we’re doing? When we answer, listen hard. If we breeze through with an “I’m fine,” ask again. Don’t be afraid to offend with an, “are you sure?” It shows you care and that you’re paying attention.

5. Include us in the little things. Ask if we’d like to babysit while you and your husband go out. Teach us about what you’re learning, and don’t shy away from talking about your own life a bit. We’re learning from you. Many of the biggest lessons Kelli has taught me come from simply watching the way she parents her boys or speaks to her husband. Just do life with us. It doesn’t need to always be perfectly planned out or super special. Call as you’re making dinner and ask if we want to help with the prep and stay for a meal.

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6. Don’t be discouraged if we say no to your invitation the first time. Or the second time. Like you, we have lots of commitments and people depending on us. The difference is, our people can make their own meals and go to the bathroom by themselves. : ) With all our projects and meetings, we’re busy, too. Keep trying. We want to make time for you, so we will make time.

7. Be open about your life. We don’t expect you to have it all together, and we won’t learn anything or grow together in wisdom if your life is perfect. Share your Story with us – it’s powerful, and we’ll learn so much. Share with us details that you can, and we will learn to trust you with our own struggles. This takes time, and we have baggage, too. It’s much easier to open up when you begin to pave the way first. The view from the top will be even better if we face each step together.

8. Step in and be our mom when we need you. Sometimes I can’t hear wisdom out of my moms mouth, but if Kelli says the exact same words – suddenly everything makes sense! This is a tough line to walk, and it’s important to encourage the 20-something to talk with her parents first with big decisions, but sometimes she’s going to need another ear to listen. Remember that she looks up to you, and needs you. She’s reaching out – be there when she calls and when she falls.

9. Remember that you aren’t our mom, and sometimes you might need to step back and wait a little bit. We need you, but we also need our moms. It takes a lot of wisdom to know the difference between #8 and #9, but when you get to know us well, you’ll know when we’ll hear encouragement better from your lips. My mom is my biggest cheerleader, but don’t we all at times think, “well she’s just saying that because she’s my mom…she has to think I’m great!” Sometimes, we just need you to be that cool older sister we always wanted. : )

10. Keep the lines of communication open. Time and again, Kelli has told me I can text or call her any time of the day or night. I’m 12 hours from home, but she sends me care packages to remind me she’s thinking of me, and when I post exciting news on Facebook I can count on her to message me an encouraging note. Something as simple as, “I knew you could do it! I’m proud of you!” speaks volumes.

I hope this list is able to give you a few ideas for how to reach our and encourage those 20-somethings, but most of all just know this:

Don’t try to pull everything together before inviting us into your life, and trust that we want the friendship just as much as you do. We can learn from you, and you can learn from us. When you’re real about your life, it won’t go unnoticed. The best way to build us up isn’t always to sit down for a deep, four hour conversation – though there’s a time and place for that. Just do life with us, day in and day out. Treat as as an equal in this big crazy world.

Most of all, just be you.

And if you can’t remember a single line from this post, just live out this verse: Love us much and love us well.

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Philippians 1:9

 

By: Kaitlyn, the 20-something who (in)terns here at (in)courage. Kelli, this one is for you. I hope one day I can be the mentor and friend you’ve always been for me. And for my mom, my biggest cheerleader.

Original photo source: onetwothree

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