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

There’s Power In Your Story

This was posted on incourage.me on May 31, 2013*

You don’t know me from Adam. Oddly enough, I don’t know you either.

But this I do know:

You need encouragement.

You have a Story to tell.

You are community.

If we had the chance to sit down across from each other over a frappuchino and something chocolate-y {a warm brownie, preferably}, I bet we would be fast friends.

There’s nothing that binds friends so fast as the power of Story. It’s in the sharing of Story that we find community in one another. When I share a piece of myself, you can relate to the real me, raw and exposed. When you speak of your triumphs and struggles, I’m right there with you, celebrating as you cross the finish line and holding your hand when the tears fall.

I’m convinced that Story is one of the most powerful things out there.

Our stories, like dandelions, spread farther than we’ll ever know when we breathe out and share.

You have one, you know? A Story. In the midst of the messy house and laundry piled high, with sippy cups toppling out of the sink and the van door left open, you’re living your beautiful Story.

He’s weaving a tapestry of beauty in your empty nest as you dust vacant rooms and worry about the ones you love that are too far away for your liking.

When you stay up late and rise early to chase that God-given dream of yours, do you hear the melody playing in the background? I can hear the symphony He’s putting together from here.

You have a Story, and as simple or messy as your day in and day out feel right now, He’s weaving pieces together that will tell of His faithfulness when generations to come read the pages of your life.

Laughter rises high in the air as we sit and get to know each other. The coffee has grown cold but our hearts are warm. To tell of His Faithfulness is easy, but to do so we often must show our scars, pull back the veil and let each other see the person underneath.

I found His Faithfulness in a whole new way, but I had to go through my worst nightmare before seeing the beauty of His constant presence.

Whether we realize it or not, we are community for one another. But sometimes, community isn’t all butterflies and sunshine and fairy dust. Sometimes community hurts, and sometimes community takes back-bent and plow to the ground hard, hard work.

Sometimes community breaks apart and breaks our heart in the process.

The Story of His Faithfulness in my life began the day I was born, but I feel like I was stuck in Chapter One until community fell apart and He picked me up. The scattered pieces of dreams and heartache fell into all spaces of my life, but slowly He glued them back together. I bear the scars of broken community, but they tell the story of healing.

When the health issues began, I leaned hard into Him because He had proven Himself Faithful. He used a Story most would never desire to sand off the ragged edges as He walked me through brain surgery, leaving for college, and learning to trust again.

For a long time, my Story simply pointed to Him as my friend, the constant Faithfulness. But in His own time, after writing a few more chapters, turning a couple more pages, and putting the finishing touches on a song or two, He put the gluestick away and with tattered wings I flew into the arms of community. He has given me a song to sing.

As Mary DeMuth said during (in)RL, God uses good community to heal us from bad community.

Sometimes, God asks us to turn the page, but occasionally we get to look back. This week I went back to the hospital where I had surgery. Every room holds a memory, and when I go back for tests I’m tempted to look the other way as we pass the hallway in between scanning rooms, or the railings where I pushed my legs to walk again.

But these pages in my Story are the moments clear when He is more then Enough, Faithful and Strong, and my weak self depends solely on Him. These times of weakness are not a handicap, but a gift.

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV, emphasis mine)

The only way I can walk the hallways as I await the newest results is to remember this truth: these walls give Him glory.

He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers! Luke 19:40 (NLT)

There’s no need for the rocks to cry out when we share our Stories with each other. Tell me of your mess, I will feel less alone. Open your door and allow me to sit and hold your hand as you share bad news. Call me on the phone and we’ll have a dance party, miles away from each other, as you tell me He’s opened another door to your dream.

Share your Story with me, with those around you. The coffee can go cold, the pastry uneaten because we’re so wrapped up in what God has done and what He is still doing.

We are community for each other, and our Stories give Him glory. Don’t forget to share yours, but remember this: He isn’t done writing.

 

By Kaitlyn, who is stepping out from behind-the-scenes as the (in)tern at (in)courage to share a piece of her God-given Story with you. Let’s be friends? We can grab a virtual cup of coffee and share our Stories in the comments below.

Photo Source: Road Fun

We Are Dreaming For You (and Looking for New (in)couragers!)

This was posted on incourage.me on March 5, 2013*

You may not have known it, but we carried you with us.

When the Behind-The-Scenes team at (in)courage got together for the very first time (!!!) we took you with us to Arkansas.

What? You don’t remember the plane flights and hurt cheekbones that came from smiling too much? How strange…because we certainly carried you in our hearts, there to dream big dreams for YOU and all (in)courage is and can be.

We may have gathered to plan for (in)RL 2014 – and a few big surprises leading up to (in)RL! – but we did it all with you in mind.

In between all the dreaming and scheming planning, we ate too much chocolate, took way too many pictures, and laughed too much – if that’s even possible. We held new babies and celebrated our ever-fabulous Lisa-Jo becoming an American.

For a few days, we got to step out of the online world of Skype calls and emails and instead we did life together in person. You’ll have to forgive the blurry pictures because the few days we had together were full of joy and laughter straight from Him.

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We brought each other little surprises, and Arkansas greeted us with chocolate beauties formerly known as cupcakes.

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We had meetings. We ate food . We laughed. We presented to the DaySpring team. We ate food. We toured the DaySpring headquarters. We paused for lunch and snacks. We sat around planning (in)RL 2014. We ate chocolate. Are you sensing a pattern here? We like to eat. Particularly, we like chocolate  desserts. But instead of making us all hungry, how about a little tour of DaySpring headquarters?

Every office is decorated beautifully, there’s an entire DaySpring store set up inside, and the new card line is displayed in the main entrance.

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The very best thing about the building is that every office, every room, is built around one thing.

At the center of it all is the cross.

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What a reminder as we sat down to dream about the next year for (in)courage! It is humbling and exhilarating to have the honor of encouraging His girls, and we were all so thrilled to not only meet each other, but to share new ways we can love on you, right where you are.

These sheets of paper for (in)courage and (in)RL weren’t blank for long – in fact, they filled up with scribbles and God-sized dreams faster than you can say “pass the chocolate!”

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Now, it would ruin all the fun if we shared those dreams with you right away, but we promise big plans are in the works and soon (so soon!) you’ll begin to hear about them!

In the mean time, would you like to meet the Behind-The-Scenes team? These are the ladies that make (in)courage run from the background.

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Lisa-Jo, our fearless leader and new American (yippee!). Mary, an (in)courage contributor since the beginning, and the editorial wiz who makes sure the main page always has a beautiful new post in the morning. Robin, another (in)courage contributor who writes all the posts for our amazing Bloom Book Club. Crystal, who is also known as a #twitterninja, the community leader for our (in)couragers. Anna and Amy, who keep everything running smoothly for the (in)couragers groups. Sally and Mandy, two members of our team who run all things technical and Marketplace. Kaitlyn (yours truly), the (in)tern who does all things social media (think email, Instagram, Pinterest) and guest posts. Jen, Katie, and Katherine, the girls behind some soon-to-come (in)courage goodies. And we were so thrilled that Holley and Marina were able to join us for a little bit of the weekend!

Phew! What an incredible team!

The only thing missing is YOU.

Yep, that’s right. You can photoshop your face right in here, because as fabulous as this team is, we would be nothing without His call to encourage His girls. That means you, right where you are, writing term papers, changing dirty diapers, or inviting friends over for coffee.

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In between all the hugs, all the chocolate and all the laughter, we thought of you. There were so many conversations where we said, “Gosh, they would love this. You know, I was talking about something like this with Heather the other day, and Tonya said this sort of this would be awesome. We should do this!”

You were there.

In the laughter.

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In the goofy, “let’s play on the swings!”

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In all of it, you were there. We are beyond excited for what God is going to do in and through (in)courage. And let’s just go ahead and put it out there: (in)RL is going to be awesome.

Thank you for letting us dream for you. It is an honor, and we are blessed to take care of the behind-the-scenes so that God’s words can reach your computer screen and encourage you each morning.

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Speaking of sneak peeks, behind the scenes, and exciting times at (in)courage, we’d love to invite you to join us to (in)courage the women of (in)courage! We’ll bring the cupcakes and chocolate, all you need is a heart for serving your sisters in Christ. We’re looking for new (in)courager leaders and if you feel called to lead and pour into the lives of like-hearted women for our Fall Session (starting September 16th), you can apply by clicking here. Applications are due Monday, August 26th!

By Kaitlyn, the (in)courage (in)tern. For more photos from the trip that became a hashtag (#inDaySpring), you can visit this page. Bonus? She’s giving away a DaySpring Redeemed necklace (today!). Feel free to stop by for a visit.

You Make A Difference

This was posted on incourage.me on March 5, 2013*

In case you’ve wondered if you’re making a difference…

In case you’ve questioned whether you’re impacting anyone…

In case you’ve wondered if your prayers or giving changes anything…

The answer is yes.

A few weeks ago we began our Book Club study on Prayer by Richard Foster and we asked if you would come along side us and help a sister out. There were many who truly couldn’t afford the book but wanted to participate in the study – and you stepped in and filled the gap.

Forms were filled out, books were shipped, and the emails began to roll in. And since you prayed over these women, these books, and because many of you were in a position to buy a sponsored book, we want to share some of these “thank you’s” with you – we can’t keep this goodness to ourselves!

Thank you so very much!  I feel big things brewing in me and this is a major step in this process.

I so genuinely want to thank you for fulfilling this!  I am thrilled that I will be able to participate and am looking forward to the book and the group study!  I am thrilled!

Oh, my goodness!  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!  I can’t wait!

I do not have words to express how grateful I am for the copy of the book.  Your kindness means so very much to me.

These women, they are just like you and me. They might be going through a tough time, but they want to dig in and learn more about Jesus and this life we’re called to live. Some of the women who emailed us shared a little of their own story…and since the power of Story is undeniable, we’re going to share a little of that with you, too.

Wahoo! Thank you so much!! This comes at a time where my husband and I are struggling on the home front, but looking fine on the outside…Really thankful and appreciative!

Thank you sooooo much! This means so much to me, especially now at this time while my husband is going through kidney failure, and I need this more than ever! God’s timing is always perfect.

Thank you so much!  I have been sick and in and out of the hospital since September and lost my job in October due to being gone.  It’s hard enough to try to pay my mortgage and bills.  I really appreciate it.

I am a stay a home Mom, and one income is at times a challenge and Mama’s are the first to be ok without the extras, I am truly touched that you all offer this to those who may not have the extra right at the right time to participate!  Thank you so much, I feel very blessed!

I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for this amazing blessing!  I have been hearing about this book a lot lately from a lot of unrelated areas and felt like I should get it, but as a single mom I was not sure I would be able to get it.  I saw that it was offered as part of the Bloom book club and felt like trying.  I knew whatever God willed, would happen.  It was such an amazing exciting blessing when I received this email letting me know of this huge gift.

Does that not just blow your socks off?! 220 women received books and many of those came from you! Y’all stepped up and gave and prayed, not knowing the hands that would hold the book.

Whether you’re participating in the study or not, whether you were financially able to buy a sponsored book for an unknown sister-friend or not, let this be an encouragement to you: Women around the world are hungry for God’s truth. Life is hard, worries weigh down, and things get a little messy for us all, but we cannot forget thankfulness.

Your prayers made {are making!} a difference.

You are community…

…and we are thankful.

*You can view this post here. All words are my own. The photo can be found here, but I added the text.