Encourage Yourself While you encourage others Latrelle P. Fowler, RN, PhD The oak tree limbs outside look like dead sticks. A recent storm swept over our house and left many small gray limbs from the towering oaks strewn all around on the ground. Yet Nature’s dance among the forest prunes and nourishes trees much too tall for us to trim. I am always amazed when these dead- looking limbs burst forth with twigs, pollen wings, and then shady leaves. Winter always gives way to spring. If you find yourself feeling down from winter’s grayness, or know a friend who simply needs encouragement this article is for you. Today’s woman can easily feel depleted as she is giving more than receiving. How can you find energy to encourage others when you feel depleted? I recently read a story that helps me put this into perspective. Malachi 3:3 says: 'He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.' This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study, and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study. That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: 'He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.' She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, 'How do you know when the silver is fully refined?'He smiled at her and answered, 'Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it.' If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you. How can you encourage yourself? First, do something – your action can change feelings. Find someone who needs your listening ear, take them out for lunch, or simply visit them with no agenda but friendship. I have a good friend in a local nursing home. When I visit her, she tells me stories of her family living in the 1940’s and how she and her husband managed with three children. She shares poems that she has written, and I leave with a light heart, amazed at in giving I received a blessing. She also thanks me for the time together. As I drive home smiling, I find courage to face the household projects and family responsibilities that await me. Similarly when I felt the responsibilities of parenting two young boys, I visited other mothers who could offer friendly support. Another way of sharing the cycle of encouragement can happen in ordinary work relationships. I work in a community primary care clinic for indigent persons in Florence County, Mercy Medicine Clinic. As I give nursing care to these needy individuals, I witness God’s provision to those who fall in the cracks of society. I am coming to understand the invisible culture of our working poor, temporarily homeless and those in shelters who need physical, emotional and spiritual care. Recently when we had a particularly busy day providing Pap Smears for women, a Nurse friend of mine came unexpectedly to volunteer her help and we were able to spend more time with each female patient we had scheduled that day. God knows all our needs, and how we can use our gifts to help others. I find new encouragement in my work as I realize that I am part of God’s story book of human life. Faithful volunteers return each week because they know they make a difference in someone’s life – someone who does not have health care except by Mercy Medicine Clinic. Others encourage us by donating their funds to help us care for the poor. Local caring doctors give of their time to see our patients, and I network to find medical specialists to provide needed procedures that are necessary to save someone’s life. I know of no greater pleasure than to see God at work using ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary outcomes! Sometimes we need to talk to ourselves or meet with a life coach to release the worries of tomorrow and regrets of the past. Today is the only day that you can live. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to come, and today is the present – a gift. Trust that God will provide for you to have money for food, gas, college education for kids, etc. Be still and know that God is in control. After all, you are not adding to your life (or your check book) by worrying. Pray about the concerns of your heart. Talk out the options you have to get needs met, and how you can help meet the needs of others. Revive yourself. As negative emotions emerge, let the feeling be real for a short period (7 minutes) and then move into the positive things you have. For example, do you have a home, car, clothes, shoes, work? If so, you are more fortunate than hundreds in your county. Can you read and write and balance your bank account? Then you are more educated than millions in the world. Because you live in America you have choices about your lifestyle, where and when you worship, and how you express your beliefs. Join a local church and find a small of group of believers who offer continual encouragement, this fellowship is very necessary for spiritual growth. Jesus gave us this example as he started his ministry with a few disciples. In summary, Realize there is courage enough for you to share, and you can do it. Refresh yourself by reading, especially the Bible. Renew your heart as you encourage others. Revive yourself on a regular basis so you will not become depleted. The cycle of encouragement begins with a decision to take action, despite your feelings at the beginning of the day. It is in giving that you, too, will receive.
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