If you missed the Part One, you can read it here.
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” Ephesians 5:1-2, MSG
3. Think outside the box
5. Be brave
These first five steps? I’ve seen them in action over the last month. I’ve seen women who have only met online walk into airport terminals and hotel lobbies, eyes and arms filled with love and grace. I’ve felt the power of a community of prayer-warrior women change my anxiety to bravery. I’ve seen love poured out in gifts of cupcakes, kind words, genuine kindness, and overwhelming generosity. And I’ve seen my heart – broken and scarred by past hurts – healed and inspired by community that puts God at the center.
Last month you were invited to share your favorite (in)couragement ideas, and they were amazing! Today, as promised, I’m sharing 5 more “go to” tips for (in)couraging your community:
When you’ve settled into your new community, when you feel as though you’ve found your spot on the bench, and you’re making connections with your sisters, trust them. Share the good, the bad, the prayer requests with the knowledge that they’ll keep it between themselves and God if you ask them to do so, and do the same for them. As you open up and allow them in, they’ll do the same, and you’ll see opportunities to encourage one another unfold.
Something beautiful happens when you share your story with your community and they commit to praying. It might look like waking up in the morning to text messages, Tweets, and emails checking in to see how you’re doing, voicemail messages letting you know you’re being prayed for, and private Facebook messages filled with prayers for your situation. Online friendships don’t have to be stuck on the computer screen. Join Voxer and leave little prayer messages if you don’t feel comfortable trading phone numbers. Send an email with a prayer if you aren’t able to text. Be creative in your connections. But at the end of the day, remember them in prayer, and check back in to let them know you’re still thinking about their situation.
Maybe voicemail and Facebook messages aren’t in your comfort zone. If you would typically send a “thinking of you” card in the mail to a real life friend, consider doing the same for your online friend. Once you’ve built community and trust, ask your friend if she’d mind sharing her mailing address with you, so you can send her something special. Or if you aren’t comfortable with that, ask for her email address so you can send an eCard!
There will be times when the “thinking of you” card will need to be the “celebrating with you” card. And at times, it can be hard. Maybe your friend got a job that you’ve been longing for, or launched a new blog that was an instant success and you wonder “why not me?” Encourage her. Celebrate with her and rest in the knowledge that God’s timing for you, for your dreams, for you turn, are perfect. When your online friends write something beautiful, share it and cheer loudly for them. You may not see the benefit of it immediately, but one day, she’ll be there to cheer for you, too.
10. Love one another
Jesus gives us a new commandment in the Gospel of John: “love one another.” It’s how we’re set apart from the rest of the world. Maybe it looks like sharing an amazing tip that helped you become better at what you love to do, when the world says you should keep that to yourself. Or maybe it looks like stepping away from your role as wallflower and jumping in to offer a word of encouragement to someone.
I’ve seen women go above and beyond faceless, meaningless online connections and develop incredibly meaningful, Christ-centered friendships. I’ve stood humbly back and watched God put women together in small groups where they feel safe, where they can find encouragement and where “what’s in it for me” becomes “how can I serve you?”
There is something in it for you, though.
When you choose to encourage, when you take the time to commit, to pay forward what God has so graciously given to you, you will be blessed. You will stand in awe as months later these women you poured your heart into now stand behind and beside you as you walk through a season of challenge. It’s the kind of return on investment only God could orchestrate.