Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
As I sit down to record this week’s podcast, I am in the midst of adjusting to a new schedule, both for our family and for work. One that is more structured, in some ways, but also more flexible in others. I am trying to juggle the craziness of our family’s schedule and hoping I don’t forget to pick a kid up somewhere or get them where they need to go.
And guys, it’s not even that our life is that incredibly busy. We intentionally limit extracurricular activities. But we’re just in that space where two such activities overlap—one will be ending soon and the other has already started.
My daughter started school more than a month ago, and my son just started at his school. And on Sunday evening when I looked at my schedule, I realized that none of my mornings look the same. Not one of them. I am going to have to be so on top of my game to make sure we get it right!
I don’t know what season you are in right now, but I do recognize that in some seasons of life, we are simply going to have more availability than we do in others. But we looked in episode 20 at how a lack of time can be an obstacle, an excuse we use to NOT reach out to others. This episode was actually during our Courageous Care Challenge, where we identified five obstacles that get in the way of reaching out. If you haven’t listened to that yet, I encourage you to do that.
But in episode 20, we said, “I don’t have the time. I don’t have the time to take them to their doctor’s appointment. I don’t have the time to cook them a meal.” We saw how our busyness can prevent us from caring for others.
So today, I want to walk you through a little exercise that can be helpful when you want to encourage others, but find yourself struggling to figure out how with your schedule.
Now, as we go through this exercise, we’re going to assume that there is nothing in your schedule that needs to change, or nothing that can change. Maybe you are busy caring for little ones at home, or volunteering at the nursing home, or you’re working a full-time job, or leading a Sunday school class every week. And that’s exactly where God wants you to be. You’re confident of that.
Some of you, you might want to pray about that and see if God wants you to step back from anything so you can create more margin in your schedule to help others. But for now, let’s assume that your schedule, your commitments, are what you are have to work with.
Find Open Spaces in Your Schedule
So first, I want you to find any open spaces in your schedule. Do you have an hour while your child is at practice? Does your child take a nap in the afternoons? Maybe you like to get up early and find you often have a few moments in the morning after you’re done with your morning routine but before everyone else gets up.
Or maybe you’re busy most of the week, but on one particular day, you have a larger chunk of time while your kids are at school or a playgroup. Or once a month, you have a day where everyone else in your family is busy and you don’t have any commitments.
Look over your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule and find your open spaces. And then ask, are these open spaces large pockets of time or small? I literally want you to write them down.
For example, I might write down that I have afternoon nap times—at least when my son decides to take a nap. And so I know I will have about an hour or so where he will at least be quiet and somewhat still. I might need to use some of those for work, but I also might decide to use one afternoon nap time a week and set it aside as time to encourage others.
Brainstorm Ways to Encourage in Those Open Spaces
Second, brainstorm things you can do in those open spaces to encourage and care for others.
You can have a specific friend in mind here, or you can just think more generally. And try to match activities to the pockets of time.
So for larger pockets of time, you might be able to:
- Drive someone to a doctor’s appointment
- Invite a friend to have coffee with you
- Make a meal and drop it off to a family with a new baby
For smaller pockets of time, you might be able to do things like:
- Send a text message to a friend
- Write a note to someone from church you haven’t seen for awhile
And friends, I really want to push you to be creative here. We tend to think of the same old things all the time—cards and coffee dates and meals. But how else can you encourage or care for someone else?
Maybe you can let someone borrow your house for a sort of mini-retreat—just to get away from their normal surroundings and have some quiet space away from others.
Maybe you can leave a fun voice message for them when you know they won’t be able to pick up their phone.
Maybe you can gift them a membership to an online community you think they would find meaningful.
Maybe you can give them a book they would enjoy, and even write a personal inscription on the inside cover as a special note of encouragement and prayer to them.
And lots of things that don’t feel like encouragement can actually be encouraging to others. When you are serving out of your gifts or coming alongside someone else, you have no idea how encouraging that can be. If you want to explore that some more, I want you to go ahead and grab the Courageous Care Masterclass. The second lesson is all about finding ways to comfort and care for others in ways that are authentic to us. You can get that at lovedoesthat.org/care.
So think about whatever skills or talents or gifts you have that might be a blessing to others. How might you use those in these open spaces to reach out to them?
If you’re artistic, maybe you draw a picture for them and give it to them—either in person or through the mail. Or you make them a card out of scrapbook paper or paint.
If you’re musical, maybe you play a song they love on the piano or put together a playlist with them in mind. I remember that after my grandpa had been killed in a car accident, his cousin put together a CD of my grandpa’s favorite songs and gave those out to our family. It was such a blessing.
If you’re good with landscaping, maybe you offer to take care of their garden for them if they’re unable to do it on their own right now. Maybe it’s hard for them to bend down, or maybe they’re too busy running to different doctor’s appointments that they’ve not been able to care for their garden like they want to.
Plug Some of Those Activities into Your Schedule
Okay, so we’ve identified the open spaces in our schedule and brainstormed things we could do that would fit those large or small pockets of time. Third, I want you to start plugging some of those activities into your schedule.
To do this, you’ll need to consider if any of these things require you to coordinate with someone else, or if they are things you can do on your own time.
If you are drawn to physically be with the person you are trying to encourage—to drive them to their appointments or to take them to pick up their medicine or join them for a coffee—then look for those larger spaces of time and offer to support your friend during those moments.
“Hey, I have two hours around lunch time on Tuesday and I would love to help you with any errands during that time. Would that be okay?”
Or ,“Hey, when are your doctor’s appointments this week? I’d love to take you to one if I can.”
Hopefully, your pockets of time work with your friend’s pockets of times when they need someone to help them or they are available to meet with you. If so, great. That’s a way you can use those pockets of time to intentionally support a hurting friend.
But if not, don’t let it stop you. You just need to rethink how you might be able to reach out during this time.
If your schedule is hard to coordinate with someone else’s, or if your schedule really is quite busy and only have smaller spaces of time, then look for those things you can do on your own time but still encourage others.
This would be things like sending cards or mailing a gift or leaving a voice message. It might also be leaving them the keys to your house if you’re gone for the day but still want to make your home available to them. It all depends on your relationship with them.
Maybe you use the 10-minute break you have to order flowers and have them delivered to your friend’s house. Maybe you grab a restaurant gift card while you’re already at the store and send it to them in lieu of a homemade meal, so they can order takeout whenever they need a break from fixing supper.
There are so many possibilities here, you guys. I don’t want you thinking that you don’t have time to encourage and support others, because you do. You just might need to get a little creative about it. Or you might need to change how you think encouragement has to look.
So take some time today and work through this exercise.
First, identify your open spaces of time. Second, brainstorm things you can do during those open spaces to reach out to someone else. And third, actually plug some of those activities into your schedule, whether you need to coordinate with someone else’s schedule or you can do them on your own.
I would love to hear how you work through this exercise, what kinds of open spaces you have and how you decided to use them to intentionally reach out to others. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The truth is, we don’t have to let our schedules prevent us from reaching out. We can use them to guide our interactions and make the most of the times that we have.
Okay, my friends. That’s all for today.
Until next time…
ARE YOU READY TO C.A.R.E. COURAGEOUSLY?
Grab the Courageous Care Masterclass at www.lovedoesthat.org/care.
- Episode 20: [Courageous Care Challenge] Day 2: Unavailable – I Don’t Have the Time
- Article: 92 Ways to Encourage and Support Others
Friend, I’d love to encourage you as you encourage others. Here are two ways to get started:
1. SHOP ENCOURAGEMENT + SYMPATHY GIFTS
These are prayerfully-crafted gifts you can share with those you love as tangible expressions of care. Let your friend know she is not alone.
2. GET STARTED WITH SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
Interested in spiritual direction? Fill out this interest form where we can start to talk about what’s weighing on your heart and identify next steps you can take to discern God’s direction.