billandmardy

…if it is to encourage, then encourage.

Posted on: March 1, 2014


Hello Friends,

Tahoe 022

Yes, long time no write.  The only reason I’m writing today is that I’m holed up for a solid week in Tahoe, at the foot of Heavenly Ski Resort. I can actually watch the lift reach the top of the mountain from my window. This is a long story of a free trip planned with a friend who had to cancel, and a beautiful room, actually a small apartment, for an embarrassingly low bid – that would not let me cancel.  Bill might be able to join me for a few days, but there are no guarantees as his work schedule is pretty packed.

I feel a little silly being so far from Bill and Joel in a luxurious room all by myself. I also feel spoiled rotten by our son, Dan, who works for an airline and just smiles each time I send him a new reservation request. And by the Lord who has evidently given me fabulous bidding skills on 4 and 5-star rooms, and who knew this week was coming.

So, my new plan is to try to make a really delicious batch of lemonade from this lemon by forcing myself to write.  It’s going to be just me, these gorgeous mountains, hot coffee and my trusty laptop.

So, here goes writing project number one…

…if it is to encourage, then encourage.

It was about twenty years ago that I realized I had a passion for encouragement.  I’d spent most of my twenties and some of my thirties temper-tantruming my way through a series of valleys that felt very unfriendly and unjust.  I ended up angry over things I couldn’t change, and angry at myself for not being able to respond better.  I’d pray, and things got worse.  I’d pray some more, and I got worse.

100thermometer_6I was about half-way through one of my valleys, the seventh year of thirteen living with no air-conditioning in Florida.  Yes, I know this  was a first-world valley, but when every other person in your first world has AC, and you show up to every event looking like you just played center in a very intense basketball game, it gets real.  Valleys always seem worse when you think you’re the only one in your world, first or third, going through them.  By the way, I don’t know where the second world is.

So, imagine Oz’s wicked witch of the North shrieking, “I’m meeeeelllting!” each time another bucket of swamp heat and humidity got tossed on her by the uncaring Florida weatherman and you get the picture.  It didn’t take long for a certain witch with theological leanings to look up to the heavens and ask, “Don’t you see what I’m going through?  And why don’t you help?”  But no answer came.  (Witches also sometimes shriek these questions at husbands who tend to remain silent as well.)

Thankfully for my husband, a light did appeareth unto me upon one of my upward-looking shrieks.  It actually came in the form of a verse I had memorized years before, written by someone who knew about going it alone in valleys:  And we know that God is working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. bible-Sunlight

All things?  Those two words beamed off the page for me.  All things.  Hmm.  Enter a new thought:  If Christianity was to be real in my world, I would have to substitute my personal valleys for the phrase “all things.”  I tried it.

God is working this crummy Florida heat and humidity together for good…. 

I didn’t like it.  Not at all.  Why wasn’t He interested in working that much good in any of my air-conditioned friends’ lives?  I did try to revert to my former theology that God should deliver me from all my trials.  But, I just couldn’t get delivered, no matter how much I quoted and trusted.  I ended up yielding to the light that had been given me thus far.

And thus began my gradual shift from tantruming in the valley to slogging through my darkness with a new battery in my flashlight.

All things.

tumblr_kzjxjrEm8J1qbtxo5o1_500

God is working what, another breakdown in the van?? together for good… 

Weave it into my thinking with yet another crisis, don’t yield to camping in the why’s and why not’s, keep moving forward with this new light.  God can, actually wants to, work all things in my valley together….for good. 

So….God is working judgment from that friend, hurtful words from family, a tight budget with no room for coffee – seriously? together for….MY good? 

I didn’t like it.  But, I swallowed it like a bitter truth pill.

Okay, fine.  I surrender.  I let go of trying to fix something I can’t, and tantruming because You won’t.  Lord, please work this mess together for good.

And to my surprise and delight, the storm began to calm in my brain and my soul, even as the humidity in my kitchen rose.  The shrieking subsided.  Was that a whoosh of gratefulness for my health and family and the grace I felt?

Then, beholdeth, another light beamed-eth upon that verse.  What if the being called according to His purpose part was about how I actually lived in the valley, rather than just getting delivered from it?  Yes, I had been taught that over and over, but somehow I could never make those theoretical connections work in Florida humidity.  Yikes, the thought was risky.  What if it meant I had to settle for this valley for the rest of my days, when no one else I knew was stuck in it, and with no guarantee of getting out of it, ever.   Now, I would be expected to not just stay in it, but also be content with it.  That was a little depressing. But, it was the only light that was beaming from the Word, so I had to move forward with it.  And much to  my surprise and delight, freedom and contentment began to grow.  

flashlightNow if I’d been content to be content, that would have been enough.  But, I became wild with passion to share my path.  I wanted to shout to all the other valley dwellers, “Hey!  I found this amazing battery that works in your old flashlight!  Pop in Romans 8:28!  It’s amazing!  Your view will change.  The path gets clear.  The valley isn’t so dark!”  When the high I felt at seeing someone else find that path in their valley was way higher than my own, I knew it was the gift of encouragement. 

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage…

Two years ago, I was plunged into the worst valley of my life when we lost our 19 year-old son, Patrick.  My heart was ripped to shreds, and I blogged for a few months solely as a form of therapy, not caring if anyone was encouraged or not.  I had no room in my heart for anyone but the Great Shepherd, so I tried to draw the curtains of my soul and just camp.  That valley is dark and horrifying and never-ending in this life, but I knew the Lord was close by, and that it was right to camp and not trudge on.  I thought of C.S. Lewis’ Aslan with a big tear in his eye as he shared in Diggory’s sorrow, and it comforted me.  Time stood still, and all I did was cry and write and cry and write and cry and write.  And cry.

After months that seemed like years, one day I just quit writing, stopped camping, stood up and got busy.  Very busy.  Doing as much good for everyone in my world as I could.  It too has felt right and therapeutic and healthy for all this time.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph 2:10

Staying busy, especially at loving others, is an effective pain-buffer, and keeps a lot of sorrow at bay.  I still have crying meltdowns at the most unexpected times, but sorrow no longer surrounds me like a mountain.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been experiencing a few bouts of wild passion lately, passion strong enough to spring out of my wounded heart and shout, “Hey, you valley camper!  Come on, get up!  Let me tell you about an amazing battery of truth that will work for you.  Pop it in!  Your view will change!  You will change.  Come on, you can do it!”

images (1)It feels risky to slow down from my contented state of busyness to carve thoughts into word sculptures again, but I think this may be the week to start.  I know I’m going to have to reprocess some pain to start writing again.  I’ve hit some pain writing this, but I survived.  And there’s a little light beaming off this verse for me right now, so I think I’m going to have to go with it.

if it  is to encourage, then encourage. 

We’ll see what the rest of the week holds.

“The gift of encouragement differs from the gift of teaching in that it focuses on the practical aspects of the Bible. One with the gift of teaching focuses on the meaning and content of the Word, along with accuracy and application.  One with the gift of encouragement focuses on the practical application of the Word. He can relate to others, both in groups and individually, by understanding their needs and sympathizing with them. Those with this gift help others to move from pessimism to optimism.” www.gotquestions.org/gift-of-encouragement.html

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17 Responses to "…if it is to encourage, then encourage."

Thank you so much for sharing this with me – I love it; pours such life over me and tears gush from my eyes to read your words. I love you Mardy – can’t wait to hear more of what God has given and will give you this week. I know it will be more precious the silver and gold!

So sweet, Tammie. Thank you! I hope to see you sometime, Friend.

Very encouraging!

Dear Mardy,

Thank you for the encouragement!

Have a wonderful retreat — every minute of it!

Love, Cindy

I am surprisingly enjoying it very much so far! Thank you for sweet note. I miss chatting with you. You are loved, Cindy. Mardy

You are on target and forever a blessing…Keep basking in His glory, Do visit North Central Florida sometime though…

I will come home. I promise. 🙂 See you soon!

Terry, you’re such a sweetheart. You did send me a note in December telling me you wanted to send me a note in November, LOL. It said you haven’t forgotten, and do pray for me. Really thoughtful – thank you! And are grands the best? They fill my heart with joy I can’t even write about. Congrats on finishing out your homeschooling journey, Friend. Love you lots, Mardy

Yes, yes, YES! You *do* have such a gift with words and encouragement. Combined, the effect is very powerful. I recall with great joy and gratefulness (is that even a word?) the weekend retreat you led at Jax Beach years ago. Looking forward to more wisdom and encouragement from you this week. If you find yourself in need of some reading material, may I recommend an ebook? It’s called The Bare Branch by Marcia Lebhar and you can find it on Amazon for a pittance. She’s another wise word sculptor who is a great encourager and friend. They are a collection of short essays I believe you would enjoy for when you need a break from writing and that gorgeous view. xoxo Sheila

Oh my, that weekend retreat in Jax was not my best! I was just starting leader retreats and learned a lot after that one. You are very kind! Thank you for the really thoughtful note. I’ll make a note of your friend’s book. Short essays are what I’d like to publish some day. You are a blessing and joy, Sheila. Love you.

Mardy,

Excellent as always!! I am so glad the Lord has taken you on a solitary retreat: I have found them enormously useful and necessary in my walk with the Lord. I am thrilled you are writing; you do have the gift of encouragement, and you are an excellent writer; I hope you publish all of this one day!!

I pray God’s manifest presence and for you to hear Him during your retreat; for mighty encouragement and healing.

Much love in Him,
Betty

Thank you, Betty. I was looking for a photo the other day and came upon our retreat photos. Great memories. Thank you for your prayers and love. And for the thoughtful words. Love you, Friend. Mardy

Beautiful post, Mardy. I am praying that this week will be a time of refreshing and great creativity. God was not surprised that you have this week alone with Him and He intends to use it for your benefit and His glory. I am glad that you are spending this week in a beautiful apartment, with heat and coffee.

Appreciating those prayers, Susan. Thank you for the note. Miss you!

Thanks for your encouraging words. You are blessed to be able to write of your life and help others in so many ways. Enjoy the time that He gives you and you are not only wise, but so caring to use it to help all of us out here.

Thoughtful note. Thank you so much! Love, Mardy

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