5 Practical Ways to Love People Around You

I wish I knew what to do… Let me know if you need anything… I’ll be praying for you…

Have you ever said those words? You know the person before you is hurting or has gone through some major life transition. You know they need to be shown love, to be encouraged, to be uplifted. But you have no idea how.

Me too.

Recently, there were four deaths of loved ones among my colleagues. A friend is adopting two special needs daughters from overseas. One of my sisters-in-law had an emergency hospital visit.

What can I do? I’m just a new wife, working more than 40 hours a week, and as busy as ever. I want to help; I want to show them the love that Christ has shown me. But how?

I asked a few friends about what would show them love and encouragement during a stressful or hurtful time, and I wanted to share these five practical ways to love people with you.

Write a Card

Hannah of The Young Wives Club shared with me that, in the midst of her miscarriage, the most helpful thing she received was handwritten cards. She treasured the encouraging words from people who loved her and from women who had been there. I like making my own cards, but you do not even have to be creative to send a thoughtful card. It just takes a moment to write a word of how much you care. Your words and even your written prayers could mean so much.

Bring a Meal {or more}

I’m from the south, where potlucks and casseroles are a way of life. I usually think of bringing someone a meal first. However, I did not realize how impactful it could be. My husband’s family suffered the loss of my sister-in-law before I knew them. My mother-in-law says she wishes she would have allowed people to keep bringing them meals. A couple weeks is not long enough for a mother to be willing and able to cook for her family again. In fact, bringing a meal or two a couple months later is such a blessing. You can even pick up simple things like toilet paper at the grocery store at the same time! My friend Leah of Shelemah wrote a post featuring my mother-in-law’s 15 Ways to Help a Family Grieving the Loss of a Child. I encourage you to read it if you are looking for more practical and thoughtful ways to minister.

Use Your Talents

Serving others is not just for good cooks! Naomi, the adoptive mom and blogger at 127 Living, challenged me when I read her post about supporting foster and adoptive families “for the long haul,” as she puts it. God has given you unique talents that you can use for a variety of purposes – why not use a few of them to minister to others? Can you babysit? Teach or coach? Help around the house? Mow the lawn? How has God gifted you and how could this gifting be used to help others?

Be Careful with Your Words

I love Abbey’s advice in her post on loving women who have dealt with infertility and loss. She challenges her readers to be careful not to speak incessantly about babies and pregnancies, as this easily alienates women who are suffering with infertility. I find this to be so true: Women are more than mothers. Motherhood is a wonderful, amazing thing, but a woman is no less complete without children than with them. Abbey also relates how important it is to be there for your friends who are struggling, but to allow them to determine what they need. Allow them to set the tone for your help, and don’t request that they talk about it before they are ready.

“Put Yourself in Their Shoes”

…says Heather Hart in this post on three ways to practically love others. Consider what they might be feeling or how they might be affected. If this happened to me, what would I need? This enables you to show love, grace, and empathy to those around you who may be hurting, stressed, or going through significant changes. It is important to keep in mind, though, that you probably do not know exactly what this person is going through. Avoid saying things like: “I know exactly how you feel!” Instead, humbly come into the situation willing to learn how God would like to use you. Prayer is a mighty tool for sensing how best to respond in any situation.

I found that these bloggers and friends ended up encouraging me to continue loving people as they struggle with whatever they may be facing. I hope they did the same for you. As we are the hands and feet of Jesus, we are called to practically love and serve. Perhaps you have gleaned some ideas, like I did, for some great ways to do just that.

What are the best ways people have served you in your times of heartache or transition?

Five Practical Ways to Love People Around You courtesy of Grace Upon Grace Today www.graceupongracetoday.com

Not Easy

Well, I’ve come full circle. Again. I have a project due tomorrow for the first year teacher’s program at my school and I am cleaning, organizing, and blogging in a feeble attempt at procrastination. This reminds me of college so much, except that I am listening to rain instead of Mumford.

I’m also coming full circle in a different way. This summer, I will be moving. Again. With a doubt, I am overjoyed to be moving. I landed my dream job with an amazing support system. I have a potential housing situation lined up. I will no longer be living 3.5 hours from my amazing boyfriend… I am so excited about what is to come.

The existence of excitement does not preclude the existence of fear, exhaustion, uncertainty, uncomfortability, insecurity, or difficulty.

In fact, excitement and uncertainty have often gone hand in hand for me. Excitement and exhaustion are two words that describe my overseas travel impeccably – often at the same exact moment. Excitement and fear define my first year of college in a nutshell.

So here I am, putting on my big girl panties and moving to another state. For a boy. For a job. For a better living situation.

I know, without a doubt, that this is what God has for me. I know that it is good. It know that it is His plan. I know this because it has worked out perfectly in only the way that He can work things out. I know this because the guy who lives there loves me with safe, sacrificial, challenging love that blows my mind. I know this because God has proven himself again and again. I know that it is God’s plan for me to move to this new state and city and community.

Regardless, I am still afraid. I am still tired, uncertain, uncomfortable, insecure, and preparing to face difficulty. “Being in God’s will” (whatever that means) does not mean that everything is peachy. Following God does not make your problems disappear.

This morning in church, my pastor explained that with good couples, one partner has strengths where the other has weaknesses. The opposite is true as well. In moments of alignment, they complement each other. In moments of misalignment, they complain: “We’re so different from each other! Why are we even dating/engaged/married?!?” But that’s just what makes couples work. We’re supposed to be different from our partners. They complement us.

If we take difficulty (like the example of the complaining couple) to mean that we’re in the wrong place or God is punishing us or we should leave, we’re understanding difficulty inappropriately. Sometimes we are in the “wrong” place, and God makes that clear to us while calling us to a new place. But we should not run away from difficult situations. We should work through them, only leaving if proven necessary. That’s why we should not break up relationships or get divorced over difficulties. We should work through them and figure out the real issues.


One reason I am afraid is that I don’t do “new” very well. I am a hardcore introvert who loves dependability. That’s one reason it’s hard to be around a lot of people. Other people often do things that are unexpected, and that leaves a lot of newness and inconsistency to deal with in a group setting.

However, I have realized that I need people. Shocking, I know.

I was reading an article from Donald Miller that discussed introversion and extroversion. One person commented: “…it takes me several days of complete solitude to recover [after a big social engagement]. I used to apologize for it, but now I just plan for it.” I think that summarizes the introvert’s needs perfectly. It would be wrong of me to constantly apologize for the weird things I do because I’m so introverted. However, it would also be wrong of me to pretend I didn’t have a need for “recharge” time. Like the commenter said, I should plan for those things and give myself grace to work through them.

It is great to acknowledge and utilize an understanding of personal traits like introversion and extroversion, but we cannot let the labels dictate our lives. Introverts cannot eliminate community time any more than extroverts can eliminate solitude time. It’s necessary to have experiences that shape and stretch us, and both community and solitude are essential for spiritual growth. My old youth pastor used to tell me that ministry (and a lot of life) is 80% what you want to do and 20% what you don’t want to do.

As I think about moving and making new friends, developing relationships, seeking mentors, exploring a new city, and learning a new job, I know there will be difficulty. I know that a lot of the tasks I must accomplish as I move are challenging for someone who is 98% introverted like me. But life is not about “easy.” It’s about becoming more like Christ, which is anything but easy.

I’m ready for it. I know I will feel afraid but I also know that God is with me. I know I will feel insecure, but I also know that he has brought me here. I know I will face difficulty, but I also know that this is where he wants me. I’m ready for this new adventure because I am taking my adventures one step at a time.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

The Discovery of Failure turned Success

Physical distance provides clarity and objectivity.

I wrote that earlier this week, and I’ve found it to be true, even in the three short weeks I’ve been here in Chiang Mai. Yes, being away from everyone I just spent seven semesters of college with is a challenge. Being away from my family and my best friends and all that is familiar and comfortable is difficult.

But it is also providing me with clarity and objective thoughts. I am reminded of how much I am truly am loved and how incredibly blessed I am to be here and how precious community is, but I have also been graced with the insight that comes from distance, both distance of time and space. And it is beautiful.

I’m seeing that maybe what I had perceived as failures in my past might actually be successes.

Maybe God is taking situations in which I felt like I had completely messed up everything and turning them into examples of his grace. Maybe God is taking moments in which I did not act like a child of His and using them to demonstrate his power. Maybe God’s ways are higher than my ways and maybe his thoughts are higher than my thoughts. And maybe, just maybe, he is working all things together for my good.

Okay, so it doesn’t sound like any big discovery, but it took moving halfway around the world for me to see it.

I worried for months about a situation that happened last Fall. A couple weeks ago, it finally dawned on me that God knows what he’s doing even when I don’t know what I’m doing. He has a plan I will never hope to understand.

I can trust him. I can depend on his provision even when I’m not exactly the person I want to be. Because if God’s power and love stopped when I failed, would he even be God? 

Granted, there are usually unfortunate consequences when we make decisions that don’t reflect God’s best for us. I know those all too well. But God’s love is not reserved for saints, or people who think they are saints. It overflows for sinnners like you and me. We once were lost, but now we’re found, and we keep striving for that which is God’s best because we know, in the end, it will satisfy us in ways no sinful choice ever could. We are blessed beyond measure by our patient God, and when we mess up, we try again.

Because, ultimately, God is good. He turns failures into successes, after all.