Anyway, they've challenged readers (and dangled the carrot of winning a new T-shirt) to write posts on the topic What Encourages You?
I've been giving this a lot of thought over the past several days, and particularly today. There is so much to be discouraged about right now in the world at large, so this exercise has been very beneficial for me.
The word I keep coming back to is new.
New things encourage me. New people, new opportunities, new environments, new challenges.
Here are some specifics:
1. New neighbors.
On Sunday afternoon, our next-door neighbors brought us a plate of brownies to welcome us to the neighborhood with a note including their cell phone numbers in case we ever needed anything. It is so encouraging for someone to reach out to us. You wouldn't believe how uncommon this is, even here in the South. The first time (and only other time) anyone has done this for us was the first time we moved to Knoxville. While we were busy unpacking, our neighbor, Rose, brought us a plate of brownies. We were so impressed by how thoughtfully simple that gesture was that we have made it a point to pay it forward. Whenever I see a moving truck on our street, I head to the grocery store to get a box of brownies.
But if you are the new person, let me encourage you not to wait around for your neighbors to make the first move. They most likely won't. Do it yourself! It doesn't have to be fancy. In the words of one of my favorite bloggers, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."
2. New environment.
I really enjoy exploring a new territory. My husband calls it "filling in your map." In other words, as you get to know the main streets of a place, explore a little further to discover how they're connected. Get a map of your new (or old!) town just in case you get lost, and just start driving. You may be amazed at what you find, even in a place you've lived for years. If you're in a new place, this is especially important. Few things will make you feel more quickly "at home" than feeling like you know your way around.
3. New opportunities.
Perhaps the very best thing about moving is the chance to start over with a blank slate. How encouraging! While I don't recommend trying to be someone you're not (it won't last very long), it's always good to try to be a better version of yourself. Even if you're not moving at all, you can still make changes every day. Want to be more organized? Start with one drawer (or a shiny sink, a la FlyLady). Want to have more friends? Join a group like MOPS or a Bible study or a tennis club.
4. New ideas.
image from here
This past Sunday was our first time visiting a local church here in Fort Smith. In the Sunday school class, a Messianic (Christian) Rabbi was the guest speaker. (We're Southern Baptist, so that's not common at all!) He showed us things about the Hebrew alphabet and language that pointed to Christ in ways I had never known of before. Having gone to church all my life, it's rare for me to hear something completely new. This captured my interest.
New ideas are encouraging because they keep us from staying stuck in our own ruts and habits. Looking for new ideas? Go to the library. Check out area museums. Sign up for a class at the community college.
5. New mercies.
"The Lord's lovingkindnessess indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Nothing is more encouraging than knowing that the Lord never gives up on me. I can have a clean slate with Him anytime, day after day. Every day is a new day. He doesn't hold my past mistakes against me.
So what encourages you?