Sharing [Encouragement] Can Be Fun

By Jessica Sauer

IMG-1242One of my favorite books of all time is actually a picture book titled, “I Like Your Buttons.”

In this book, a simple compliment from a student to a teacher – “I like your buttons” – travels far and wide, causing a ripple effect of positivity in the main character’s school and around her neighborhood, brightening the day of more than just the original person. Eventually, the compliment train makes its way back to the original compliment-giver in a sweet ending to the book.

Now, I know that not all compliments have the lifespan of an entire day like in this picture book. But I dare to dream about what if compliments did. What if one, single act of kindness, could change the course of someone’s life? What if one, encouraging complement influenced someone in such a way that they adjusted the trajectory of their future? I understand these are big things to hope for. I also know that from deep within my heart, I believe in the power of encouragement.

“How do you know if someone needs encouragement?
If they are breathing.”
// S. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A Founder

Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – needs encouragement. Encouragement is something that every single person who is alive and breathing is in need of. From hospital staff to bloggers, from stay-at-home mommas to those in ministry, from personal trainers to horseback riders — if they are breathing, they are in need of encouragement.

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So what exactly is encouragement? What is this thing we’re all craving, the thing that is in such high demand? Encouragement, simply put, is believing truth. This is easier said than done, and usually requires step number one: acknowledging lies. This is a hard step that many skip over, but it is imperative before moving onto step number two: replacing lies with truth. It looks something like this…

LIE: I’m a failure.
TRUTH: I am brave for trying; one mess-up, one mistake, does not define me or my future; I am not a failure.
LIE: I’m unworthy of love.
TRUTH: I am valuable, I am deserving; I am so worth loving.
LIE: I’m not enough.
TRUTH: I am able, I am capable, I am chosen. Because Jesus resides in my heart, and He is Enough, I am therefore enough.

Awareness of the lies that we are believing is a good first step. Lies are sneaky, they slither into your mind and heart in half-truth ways. But half-truths, fears, and lies are not what we are called to live in. No, we are called to live and walk in the freedom that Christ has called us into!

Fear is such a loud liar, but he doesn’t have the final say.

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Philippians 4:8 (NIV) states: “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

These excellent and praiseworthy things are what we as Christians are to focus our minds and hearts on. I’ll be the first to admit, thinking about excellent and praiseworthy things can be challenging. Gossip, sin, and bad influences are just a handful of the many things that tear me away from constantly thinking of excellent and praiseworthy things. I even made it one of my monthly goals, this past spring, to focus on “EAP” things – that is, Excellent And Praiseworthy things! It was an intentional goal that I had to set in order to train my mind and my heart to focus on what Philippians 4:8 discusses. (By no means have I mastered this goal, but I am, with grace, learning to adjust my focus.)

Encouragement that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy is certainly of the Lord. It is my hope that when I encourage others, they don’t see me but, instead, they see the Lord. My prayer is that others will get a glimpse of God through my encouragement. I am simply a vessel of Christ, utilized by Him to share His light and love through my words of encouragement.

Encouragement is important for artists because of how easy it is to believe lies. Earlier, we talked about lies and the importance of acknowledging a lie and replacing it with truth. I want to take a moment and call out a lie most artists (including myself!) believe: the lie of “enough.”

Sometimes I fear that I am not enough (Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, etc.). Other times, I fear that I am too much (Am I too passionate? Too crazy to believe this idea will actually work? Too forward while marketing my services?). The lie of enough. The truth of the matter, however, is this: I am not too little, and I am not too much. I am enough, because Jesus is Enough, and He abides within me. Hallelujah for His standards, and not my own!

Encouragement is also important for artists to share with others. As creators, it gets us beyond ourselves and out of a self-focused, inward posture. Instead, it fixes our gaze on the good in others in a God-honoring way. This brings about opportunity for collaboration and community, both of which can be done in a Christ-centered way.

Encouragement is not only biblical and important for creatives, but encouragement is valuable for everyone (for the artist and non-artist, for the believer and non-believer).

Encouragement is important because it empowers and inspires in a motivational way, which can, in turn, cause a ripple effect of love, kindness, and joy – just like in the book “I Like Your Buttons.”

Encouragement, when genuine, can change the world. Maybe not the entire world, but someone’s world. And isn’t that worth it?


So who am I, and what is it that I am doing? I’m so glad you asked!

mailbox 1My name is Jess, and, as someone who loves (1) writing, (2) encouraging others, and (3) the lost art of a good, ol’ fashion letter, I wanted to do something that could combine all three of these elements.

I have seen the need for encouragement, especially that of personalized, handwritten notes. A handwritten letter of love and encouragement shows the recipient that time was taken, thought was given, and authentic intentionality was shown. I saw a need, and I had the capacity to fill the need, so I thought to myself, “What am I waiting for?!”

“Say ‘yes’ to what matters.”
– Lara Casey –

I began brainstorming what it would look like to send encouraging snail mail to others – family and friends, yes, but mostly acquaintances and strangers from all over the world. And this is what I came up with:

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Sharing Can Be Fun is a movement started and run by me, Jess! I write and send handwritten letters of encouragement to others, once a month, for the course of 12 months. That’s one year of snail mail encouragement, sent with kindness and love, from me to you!

Individuals can sign up to receive letters for themselves, letters for a friend, or letters for both themself and a friend. Once I have received the mailing address(es), you can let me know if you have any prayer requests you’d like for me to discuss in the letters. It’s no-strings-attached and no cost. Simply snail mail encouragement, from me to you, because Sharing Can Be Fun! And because encouragement is so sparse these days – so needed – and if I can do something about filling that need, then I’m all for it.

So, send in a letter request now for both you and your friends. Even if you’re a tiny bit interested, reach out! Direct message me at @SharingCanBeFun on Instagram, or email me at SharingCanBeFun@gmail.com.

Don’t want to necessarily request a letter, but want to get involved? I’d love for you to reach out and inquire about ways you can support the Sharing Can Be Fun movement. Because your small support can actually become a great act of love when we trust God to multiply our efforts – like bread and fish.

It’s about meeting each unique individual where they’re at.
It’s about loving them well.
It’s about no-strings-attached inspiration and motivation.
It’s about discussing the excellent and praiseworthy parts of life.
It’s about complimenting the lovely things about them.
It’s about encouraging them, because they are breathing.

Encouragement is a game-changer. It is something I am so passionate about, because I believe encouragement has so much potential, so much power.

Join the Sharing Can Be Fun movement today!

An Open Letter to Refugees

Republished from www.jessica-walker-blog.com

Dear Refugee,

I don’t know if you can hear me.

I am one voice in a sea of screaming voices.

I don’t know if my words will dare to launch themselves from page to heart, your heart, but that’s where I want them to land.

The world is a mess of war, of hatred, of pointing fingers and wagging tongues.

The violent voices, scream too loudly to give way to simple understanding, wisdom so desperate to seep into their bones.

I don’t know why they scream that way.

I guess they are afraid.

But I want to tell you something.

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I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of you.

In fact, I have been taught to lay down my life for my friends.

And I think you and I could be very good friends.

And even if we were not, I would still value your life, just as much if not more than my own.

I don’t consider my own safety, not at the cost of yours.

I think loving you is more important.

And oh, how I want to love you well.

I ache to grasp your tear-stained face in my hands and look into your eyes.

You are my equal.

And as I envision your trembling and weary frame, my heart breaks.

I want my life to be a welcome mat.

I want you to feel at home with me, to find grace with me, to laugh loud with me.

I want to be a warm, home-cooked meal and a hot cup of coffee on a bitter, negative-four-degree day.

Because when I counted the cost and gave Him my very life, I gave up the right to demand my own comfort.

I gave up entitlements.

I gave up demands.

And I cannot understand the horrors you are facing right now, but I am sorry.

I am so sorry.

I am sorry that pride paralyzes.

I don’t deserve freedom any more than you do.

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And, I know that this letter doesn’t change anything, but I pray that this would provide even just one small degree of comfort to your heart, that you would feel loved by one small person.

My friend, come on in, you’re very, very much welcome.

j. k. walker

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34

“‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brother, you did it to me.'” Matthew 25:35-40

Reflections From My Older Self: On Writing

Words by Kaitlyn Hiltz // Photos by Adam Dahir

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When I engage in the act of writing, it often has this interesting way of transporting me to a slightly older, wiser, more experienced, and most compassionate version of myself. In doing so, it speaks to my present persona, inspires me, and gives me the vision & confidence to be ‘her’.

[‘Her’ as in the best version of myself.]

IMG_2529I write predominantly about what I’ve personally experienced, worked through, and/or have overcome by God’s grace. However, to say I’ve got it all down to complete and unfailing mastery would be a BIG, fat lie.

And yet – I refuse to tell ‘her’ to shut up. Even if all the things I aspire to are a work in progress, it doesn’t mean there’s not enough reason to still listen to that higher voice and tune in to the wisdom she’s giving me, right now.

Ironically, we can’t always see where we’re going when we try to connect the dots looking forward. We get so caught looking ahead that we often neglect where we’re at, and even worse – we forget what we’ve already walked through. Far more often, it’s in hindsight – in reflection, that our paths become so clearly illuminated.

I don’t think giving a healthy respect to your history means you’re living in the past. Rather:

“Looking back gives us the confidence
we need to move forward.”
[Krista Williams]

What if we saw ourselves as that older, wiser persona reflecting on ourselves in this present moment?

What would she say? What would she be proud of? What correction would she give? What would you admire about her? How would she inspire you?

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I also think the beauty of being a child of God, is being spoken to as you truly are; and as you’re fully called to be.

In breaking the analogy I’ve been crafting – not only is it your older, wiser self that’s trying to guide and direct you from a place of reflection, but it’s the Creator of the Universe, who’s created and affirmed YOU, and who will always call you by name. He often speaks to us through our intuition and conscience, as they’re the most familiar voices we have. If nothing else, let this be known – we change in the moments where we encounter not just who we are, but who He is.

We are [insert absolutely anything good & worthy here], because He is.

You know those little ‘checks’ you get? The little pauses that really make you think? It’s not just your sixth sense. It’s the Holy Spirit. It’s His divine direction.

We can [and I think we should] inspire and attune our minds through the gifts He’s given us. Whether your pull be to writing, speaking, painting, coaching, teaching, listening, creating, designing, working with our hands, stewarding finances, assisting, care-taking, leading, uplifting people, etc.

In Romans 11:29 (ESV), we’re told:

…the gifts & the calling of God are irrevocable”.

IMG_2537Said plainly – He doesn’t take back what He’s freely given and He doesn’t make mistakes. The Message translation puts it this way: “[they’re] under full warranty – never canceled, never rescinded.”

Does that mean we get to just receive and proceed with those gifts at personal will? No.

So then – what is our role in the gifts and calling?

Seek first [the kingdom]. Embrace it. Be content in the in-between. Innovate. Adjust. Succeed. Fail. Learn. Do over. Be humble. Keep going. Be still.

Our job is to receive and respond in unison to what He’s creating – when, where, and how ever He’s asking us to play a role. Sometimes that might even mean doing less than we’d like.

Because when we’re not always ‘doing’, we become a lot more dependent on Him, and a lot less reliant on our own good deeds.

When I start downloading the DNA of His nature through the process of writing and reflection, any concept of my own personal production becomes obsolete, as I choose to enter His presence in the right posture.

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Personally, writing fires me up because whether it’s pen to paper or key to screen,  it’s a place I can go to experience His presence. It’s an outlet where I can witness His natural order. It’s a fluid motion where I get to experience His divine partnership.

Not a platform. Not a position. A posture.

Which by definition, is an attitude; an approach to life. And it doesn’t come from initially knowing. It comes from being in the work of. It comes from seeking, reflecting, resting, and observing. It comes amidst “#theprocess”.

God shows up when we seek Him first and He does it in ways and places we could have never anticipated. Listen to that older, wiser inner pull – because He’s with you and He’s for you.

Now and then.


Meet the Writer:
Kaitlyn Hiltz

Kaitlyn is a communications professional and the owner of kvh. creative LLC – a freelance studio providing writing, editing, marketing, & branding services. She’s obsessed with catching the meeting point of sun & ocean on the horizon, and spends as much time as possible with her family, fiance, and friends. Join in on her website and Instagram, as she writes about discovering what it means to be whole, in mind + body + heart & soul.

Meet the Photographer:
Adam Dahir

Adam is a photographer and graphic designer located in Reno, NV (available worldwide). He a strong believer that there is such a beauty in the silver lining of where photography meets passion; which is where he likes to sit. He has a consistent passion for travel and for the people that fill this world, and he can’t wait to see where he ends up next. To view more of his work, please visit his website or Instagram.

Writing Faith

The Bible tells us that the righteous live by faith, not by sight, but that is easier said than done; after all, it’s easier to trust what we can see than what we cannot. Some reference this verse as basis for the claim that faith is blind, but it isn’t! Living by faith, doesn’t mean we close our eyes and minds to what we are able to see and comprehend; it simply means that in addition to acknowledging the visible, we also believe there is more beyond it and choose to live for and according to that larger reality.

img_9542But the truth is that even what we can see isn’t always trustworthy, mainly because we don’t see everything. Sometimes things stay hidden for a while—or forever—and other times we just stop seeing. We can be looking at a deeper truth—be in a face-to-face stare-down with something previously hidden but now revealed—and never see it, because we have allowed ourselves to believe that what is apparent on the surface is all there is to see, and so we simply stop seeing. But faith tells us there is actually more, and living by it requires us to train our mind’s eye not to settle for what is visible, but to go digging for what is hidden behind, beneath, on the periphery, or in any of the minute yet infinite spaces in between.

img_9547Consider those Magic Eye images that were all the rage in the 90s. You remember: the ones that look like random 2D computer patterns but that actually contain 3D images only visible to those who are able to consciously shift how their eyes focus (on the “distance” behind the surface pattern rather than on the pattern itself). The ability to override the eyes’ automatic focus reflexes does not always come easily; in fact, some never master it, mainly because they give up. But that doesn’t mean the hidden images and scenes cease to be there. Because they are there, whether or not we see or acknowledge them. Knowing that and choosing to continue trying to train the brain to take over conscious control of an automatic muscle function—well that is an act of faith, a choice determined by what is unseen rather than what is presented at first sight or first effort.

No, faith is not blind. It is simply a different kind of vision, one that requires a lot of intense training over the span of a lifetime. That training comes, more often than not, in the form of a choice, forced though it may be: the choice to walk wide-eyed into each moment expectant and in search of the hidden things that will eventually be revealed only after we take the step. It is the choice to say yes to the hard stuff that will be required of us in our search for those hidden things, even when we have no inkling that they even exist, let alone what they may be. Faith understands that first-sight is not only-sight and that it may not even be accurate, and it requires a suspension of judgement and a divine level of patience that bring us face-to-face with our own insufficiency.

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Art challenges our sight, our vision, our paradigms for interpretation. Creating art, on the other hand, challenges our faith. It propels us into the battle for the hidden things in our own lives. At least that has been my experience with the creation process, especially with writing. When I read what others write, I am challenged to reconsider my conclusions about life, my paradigms, and my preconceived notions about the human experience; I am challenged to see what they see. But when I write, I am challenged to see what is still invisible in my internal landscape, and then to make it visible.

Writing is where faith rules and trains my sight to see the truer realities that exist beyond, that inhabit the space underneath, behind, above, on the periphery, and in all those in-betweens.

I could easily accept the surface-level narrative offered to me for what it appears to be, but if I want the real story, then I must go to battle for it on the page. I must fight to get past what I see with my eyes to immerse myself in the vastness beyond the limitations of my human nearsightedness.

I have been told that to be a writer, one just needs to write. Write, write, write! Write what you see; write what you feel; free write, journal, jot down thoughts and half-thoughts. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad or good, just get it on the page or on the screen. Exercising the writing and imaginative muscles is what strengthens them over time and theoretically equips a writer to eventually produce good content. And I agree with that theory. Until it’s time to make myself sit down and actually put it into practice.

img_9541For some, the activity of writing is more enjoyable than for others, and for some, the biggest dilemma is which of their many ideas to explore and flesh out first. I know I’m supposed to write—Pops has made that clear—but it isn’t usually enjoyable for me; it’s more like a battle. And my biggest dilemma hasn’t been that I have too many ideas. In fact, until recent months, it was that I really had no ideas at all. So making myself sit down to do it is really hard, almost scary: What if I really don’t have any ideas, and what if I can’t get any words out? Then suddenly a story appeared in my mind, and it came out fairly easily. Whether or not it is good writing is always debatable, but that isn’t really what’s important to me right now. The important thing is, I wrote something. I walked into the battle being waged between the visible and the invisible, and I won. The words on the screen document that fact, and regardless of what anyone else thinks of that story, I think it’s breathtaking because of what it took to produce it and because of the invisible realities and truths it brings to sight.

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Months passed, and then suddenly another story came—a continuation of the first one, which surprised me, since I believed the first was just a one-off. This new one was shorter, simpler, yet significantly harder to work out. Hard enough to make me cry actual tears, but important enough to the training of my faith that I could not walk away from it. So, once again I went to battle. Wounds were exposed, but safe places were also established. The battle I fought once again lives on the screen in words I can see with my physical eyes, and the victory contained therein astounds me even more than the first did.

img_9558A few more weeks passed, and again, when I was certain this sudden spurt of story-writing was still just an anomaly, Pops said, “There’s more. Go ahead, my daughter.” Only this time, I know it won’t be a one-off, and I know now that what seemed like isolated one-offs were actually parts of something bigger. He has not given me the entire outline, but instead has invited me to journey through it with Him one step, one scene, one battle at a time. And I have a choice to make. I know my heart will bleed, I will shed tears, this will hurt, and it will be hard. Do I run away? Or do I put my hand in His and jump into the vast as-yet unseen?

Writing is becoming my trust fall. It’s where I work out my salvation with fear and trembling. It’s how I learn to walk by eyes-wide-open faith and to defy the limitations of status-quo, surface-level living. Writing is also becoming my fight song. The hardest step to take every time I am beckoned back to the page is saying yes, but every word already birthed is a reminder that the yes is worth it, that choosing faith over sight is worth it.

And so I write. I write to find the life preserver, to cling to my Rescuer, to peer beyond, to defy limitations, to exercise my voice, to walk by faith and not by sight, to uncover the life of freedom I’ve been promised and live it indeed.

Written by Amber Crafton // Photos by Lindsay McMullen

Broken Hearts, Broken World

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“Christianity affirms that at the heart of reality is a Heart — a loving Father who works through history for the salvation of His children. Man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of all things and humanity is not God. Bound by the chains of his own sin and finiteness, man needs a Savior.” // Martin Luther King, Jr.

Romans 12:15 urges us to rejoice in times of rejoicing, and to mourn in times of mourning. We are heartbroken over the loss of so many lives in recent days, weeks, and months. Between corrupt politicians, many injustices, and so much death we are seeing that the days are indeed evil. Ephesians 5:16 affirms this but we are also given a command: make the most of every opportunity.

IMG_8389Another great quote by MLK Jr. tells us how we can do just that: “We need to pledge ourselves anew to the cause of Christ. We must capture the spirit of the early church. Wherever the early Christians went, they made a triumphant witness for Christ. Whether on the village streets or in the city jails, they daringly proclaimed the good news of the gospel.”

This is our purpose, friends — spreading the good news. Recent headlines prove that the heart is desperately wicked and beyond cure on our own. Many devastated people are asking why? They are seeking answers for peace and so some point to gun control, activism, and other human means to remedy our broken world. If you are in Christ, we hold the answer! We have a hope within us that we should be ready to share. We have a Savior that bridges the gap between us and God! He is the healer of hurts and the embodiment of love. Oh, let us mourn. As the church body we should cry alongside the world – for lives were wrongly taken – but let this spur us on to greater love.

We have promises of a day with no more tears or pain. Let our light shine and our love pour down on men, women, and children of every color. The greatest way we can show love is to point others to the Gospel, to Love Himself.

Written by Dianne Jago, founder of Deeply Rooted Magazine.

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“Made this yesterday, not even dreaming of what
could’ve happened last night.

My Father is constant and faithful. He will never change, no matter what the circumstances. I weep for this broken world, a world that desperately needs Jesus. he is mourning with us. he is the same, yesterday and today and forever.”

-Charlotte Pell

 

Photos courtesy of Charlotte Pell. Wall hangings ↠ Etsy Shop.