Hey Christians, Your Encouragement Isn't Helping

Please stop encouraging me!

(Scroll to the end for the video.)

Oh, friends.

I've been a Christian now for over twenty years, and I think it's time I share something that's been weighing on me for several years now. 

I am weary to death of encouragement that gives us the warm fuzzies at church on Sunday, and ends there. We sing in varying degrees of passion according to how the message spoke to us, and then the doors are thrown open and the people stream out, into their cars, on to lunch and naps and chores and soul crushing marital dysfunctions and sex addictions and alcoholism and anxiety and depression and doubt and mind-boggling consumerism and food disorders and on and on and on.

We've got real problems, and no solutions

When did encouragement become soft and weak? When did we redefine it to include a Facebook post or a polite, “how are you?” or a pat on the back?

We like to paint Jesus as an encourager. Soft, gentle. Humble. But. I can’t find a place in the gospels where Jesus sang a song to someone. Or gave someone a side hug and said, “glad you made it to our women’s luncheon.” Or cupped the face of an adulterer or prostitute or reprobate in his hands and said kindly, “I love you, just the way you are.”

We've forgotten what "encourage" really means


Jesus looked at the woman, maybe undressed, certainly terrified and helpless before a crowd with murder in its heart; he looked at a woman he shouldn’t have been talking to at a well on a scorching hot day; he looked at a puny, despicable man clinging to the branches of a tree like a child; whether these people knew they were at the end of their ropes or not, Jesus did, and he looked at them like he knew them and with his words he said,“I know where you’ve been. I know what you need. Would you like a way out?”

If you google “encourage,” you’ll find the word means to give support, confidence, or hope. If you keep scrolling, you’ll see it comes from two French words that mean “in” and “courage.”

At it’s root, encouragement is about courage. There’s something really lion-hearted about true encouragement, and we’ve completely lost sight of that.

Real encouragement gets its hands dirty

Real, actual encouragement is not just sunshine and pretty bows and it’s not always “positive.” It's giving a priceless gift to a person. It's what you're doing when you see a friend headed towards destruction, and you grab her face in your hands and say, “YOUR CHOICES ARE KILLING THE WOMAN I LOVE.”

A life of talking without the actions to back it up holds no water--American Christianity has done a lot of been there, done that. But not talking at all is another ship that can’t float. St. Francis of Assisi said famously, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve chosen to shut up, only to realize later how necessary the words were.

It says, let's get you out of here

In a world that’s desperate for healing and hope, let’s stop hiding behind platitudes and smiles and encouraging Facebook posts and Instagram tags. Let’s look at our brothers and friends and coworkers and strangers and inlaws and Instagram friends, and with all the empathy and compassion and hope and humility a bunch of sinners saved by grace can muster, let’s say, “I know where you’ve been. I know what you need. Let’s get you out of here.”

I've turned the comments off on this post, but I want to hear what you have to say. Have you encountered real encouragement lately? What did it look like? Find me on Instagram or Facebook and let's chat! 

In a world that’s desperate for healing and hope, let’s stop hiding behind platitudes and smiles and encouraging Facebook posts and Instagram tags. Let’s look at our brothers and friends and coworkers and strangers and inlaws and Instagram friends, and with all the empathy and compassion and hope and humility a bunch of sinners saved by grace can muster, let’s say, “I know where you’ve been. I know what you need. Let’s get you out of here.”

The Perils of Hair Removal

The perils of hair removal

Linking up here

1. Yesterday, I bought three things at Walmart: band aids, some kind of spray on hair removal product, and Sally Hansen wax strips, "perfect for hair or body!" The women on the boxes were as hairless as newborn babes--which is a silly thing for me to say, as all three of my children were born with a lot of hair. One of my children actually had hairy, wolf-like ears. I will spare that child's name.

2. I brought the miracle-touting hair removal products home, and stood them on my bathroom counter. Having repeated this same beginning-of-summer ritual for countless summers now, I have every confidence that this spot will be their final resting place. It's different brands and new packaging every summer, but one of the things that happens as you approach middle age, is that you begin to realize there is actually no miracle cure for unwanted bikini line hair, and it's really all just lies, and these products will sit, untouched, by my bathroom sink until summer is over and I can go back to growing a jungle in the comfort of my sweatpants. 

3. Maybe hair removal hasn't caused you the inner turmoil and high drugstore bills it has caused me? Let me explain.

I have very dark, thick hair which I'd like to blame on my Hispanic genes, but in an ironic turn of fate, I owe it to my German ancestors. Thank you, Germans. I don't know who (to whom?) I owe my light skin to, but dark, thick hair and light skin are an evil combination. 

4. When I was eleven, my mother signed me up for swim team. Why, mom? Why? Why not softball? Or soccer? Soccer players and softball players wear lots of gloriously loose fitting clothes, and certainly don't have to wear swimsuits cut to their hips--swimsuits clearly designed by misogynists intent on the utter humiliation of eleven year old girls who can't get their razor burn under control. Dear Lord. The things that put us in counseling...

5. When it boils down to it, really the only thing that works is waxing. The legit, professional kind of waxing. The kind where you toss back a glass of wine and spread your legs on a small, shaky table, while someone salts down your hoo haw with baby powder and later will ask you to get on all fours. And then they pull out your hairs. All of them. My friend likens it to ripping out tree roots from your vagina, and I feel like that's very accurate. 

6. The last time I got a brazilian, I was 24 and unmarried, and definitely had never born a child. Every so often, I marvel at the memory of my hairless self, and am tempted to grow things out exactly 1/4" and make an appointment. But then I remember the pain, and I compare it to the pain of unmedicated childbirth, and I think about how good my vagina has been to me in the last five years, and--I just can't put her through that. It just wouldn't be fair to either of us. 

7. And so, I wear swim skirts. Or swim shorts. And pray to God the wind doesn't blow my skirt up, and that there are no hairs peeking out at awkward times. 

(I didn't say it was pretty! Now, go read Kelly's SQT--I agree with exactly all of them.)


The Perils of Hair Removal, in Seven Quick Takes



Independent Play: What it is, why your kids need it, and 6 tips for making it work (PLUS bonus download)

Independent play: what it is, why your kids need, and 6 tips for making it happen

My kids are 4, 2, and 1, and I work from home without significant childcare. That is to say, while we have a very available grandmother down the street, I work 20+ hours a week at home mostly with my kids underfoot. It’s wild and it’s amazing how quickly naptimes and evenings disappear. If I’m going to get my work done, I can’t just work during naptimes and at night.

Behold, the marvels of independent play! Children who can play quietly and on their own, without much direction from me? Yes, please!

I’ve nourished independently play in my children from an early age, and it has made a tremendous difference in how much work I can get done now that I'm a mom who works from home. Here are the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years:


1. Start small

You’re not going to transition overnight from children used to having your attention all day, to children who magically love playing on their own. It takes time for them to change their habits--they are used to going to you when they feel bored. I feel like mornings right after breakfast are the best times to try new things with my kids, but whatever time you pick, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the 4-6pm witching hours are probably not the best times. Plan accordingly!


2. Change your habits

I find the study of habits fascinating. My knee jerk reaction when my kids start getting whiny and clingy, and I have work to do, is to put on a show. That might help things when I’m in a pinch (confession/not a confession just the truth: I use Netflix) but it definitely does NOT help them learn to be creative. There are some really great shows out there that teach my kids some great things, but my children are noticeably less creative and interested in playing by themselves when they’ve spent an afternoon watching TV. I’ve found that independent play has to start with me--I have to train myself to not reach for the easy fix.



3. Expect boredom

Boredom breeds creativity. Google it. It’s true. It’s really, really, really hard to get past the whiny clingy stage that kids seem to revert to when they’re bored, but eventually and usually, if I leave them to their own devices for long enough, they’ll find a way to play that doesn’t involve me. Repeat after me: boredom is good, even if it really does hurt me more than it hurts them.


4. Embrace the mess

Independent play is creative, and it’s messy. I think it’s great to teach kids how to pick up after themselves (heaven knows we need more of that in my house), but I think kids also need safe places to make messes without fear of reprisal. They need places to explore, so they can train their minds to explore on a regular basis. Independent play doesn’t have to be messy, but my kids have spent some of their happiest hours running cars and toys through a “bath” in the bathroom sink (towels on the floor, a few shudders on my part, little feet running to the toybox to grab more toys, please Lord not the toilet paper…), or sitting inside the sand table, covering themselves in sand.



5. Too many choices are overwhelming

You know how kids get a little glassy eyed after Christmas, when they’ve opened 19,384 toys? Don’t let your house be like Christmas. Too many toys makes you crazy, because of all the picking up you have to do, and it make your kids crazy, too. My kids play so much more contentedly when I keep the selection of toys down to a small, carefully edited amount. It’s also a million times easier to get the house back into shape--when I can't even see the floor for the thick carpet of toys covering it, I'm defeated before I even begin. I usually rotate out a few things, so I have something fun to pull out when I really need a few quiet minutes.


6. Quiet time is a great place to start

If your kids are past the napping (or regularly napping) stages, quiet times are fantastic places to start learning independent play. Set a timer, increase the time gradually each week or each month, and train your children to stay in their room for specified periods of time. Busy boxes help--search for tons of great ideas on Pinterest.

I would love to know how this works for you. Which tips are going to make a difference for your family? Visit me on Instagram or Facebook and tell me!

Give your home hours of interrupted quiet time!