When It Feels Like You’re Swimming Upstream in Molasses

It was the dreaded question. “How’s your book coming?” I sighed and confessed to my friend, “Some days when I write, I feel like I’m swimming upstream in molasses.” There’s a reason it’s called writer’s block. You feel like you’re moving—or typing—but not getting anywhere.

The next day, a writing partner threw me a pebble that rippled a lifeline into my molasses stream. She texted me a one-hour writing challenge and offered to pray for me. That afternoon, I wrote like Michael Phelps swims, my hands skimmed swiftly across the keyboard and the ideas overflowed. Her pebble made all the difference.swimmer

Years ago, when battling through a particularly dark season of my life, the postal carrier delivered a box with a butterfly on the front. My friend knew about my trial and remembered how I’d seen beautiful butterflies nearly every day—God’s creatures of transformation, a reminder of our new nature in Christ. I opened the butterfly box and discovered a huge stack of index cards inside (like 40 or more). On each one she’d hand-written a scripture dated with when she prayed it for me! That small box of encouragement still ripples truth into my life and I remain forever grateful for this extreme act of encouragement.

Before You Throw, Consider Who

The butterfly box was significant because words matter to me. As a communicator and writer, I adore words and my friend knew that. So, before you pick up your go-to pebble of encouragement, consider who you’re uplifting and how they are wired.

cookiesFor you, agape love might come in the form of a plate full of warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies. But how does the person you’re encouraging best receive love? Do you know their love language? If not, find out. A words of affirmation person might want a long note, but a quality time person might prefer a quiet walk together. Your acts of service friend might appreciate a homemade meal more than words can say.

Be Specific

My friend is wading through an extremely difficult chapter in her life. I asked her, “What’s the best way others have encouraged you?” It didn’t take her long to answer.

“Those who helped most were specific in their offers to help.”

Instead of:“I’m so sorry for your loss. Let me know what I can do for you.”

They said: “I want to give you a break next week. Could I keep your children so you can take a walk, have lunch with your mom, or get your nails done? I’m free next Tuesday if that works for you?”

love hands photo courtesy of Farid Iqbal Ibrahim

My hope for this blog is not to simply talk about throwing pebbles but to inspire you to act. So here’s my “molasses challenge.” Take a moment to think of one person who’s in a dark season, knee deep in molasses. How can you ripple some light into their darkness? I’ve started a list of ideas, but I’d love to hear from you. Please share below and I’ll draw from all who leave comments and send the winner a gift card!

Keep it simple:

  • Pray for them and then send a text/e-mail to say they’re on your mind
  • Phone them and offer to listen without offering advice
  • Hand write and snail mail a card or note of encouragement. Remember that humor can be just the right anecdote in the midst of pain
  • Hit the kitchen and whip up a home cooked meal or swing by your favorite take-out place. Even a simple entrée offered in love can make the heart smile.

woman thinking with penFor all you crafty people:

  • Purchase or hand paint a coffee mug and insert a Starbucks gift card, or a bundle of tea bags with a cute spoon and tag: “When the storms of life are stirred, we all need a moment to sit and sip.”
  • Pray and ask God to show you a special scripture just for them. Spend an evening creating a scripture doodle. Roll it up and tie it with a bow, or mail it to them.
  • Decorate a tin can, fill with flowers, and attach note: “ONLY GOD CAN: turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, and a victim into a victory.”
  • Tie a note on a bottle of 7-up that promises: “I will be UP-lifting you in prayer for the next 7 days. Have a blessed week!”
  • Leave some Mentos or a tin of Altoids with a note of “encourage-mint”

Now it’s your turn …

10 thoughts on “When It Feels Like You’re Swimming Upstream in Molasses

  1. I accept your molasses challenge! It didn’t take long for me to think of a dear friend, who traveled out of state to be with her dad in ICU. Her husband and children will be needing a meal.

  2. Maresa,
    Thank you so much for this today. I was feeling like I have been “swimming upstream in molasses” with a new project I am working on and a friend spoke words of challenge and affirmation to me which so encouraged. I could tell her words of experience were from the Lord! Maresa, I love that you love words as I am so blessed by your blog even when I don’t have a chance to respond. May God continue to pour forth words through you to bless others!
    Cindy Casey

    • Cindy, Thank you for taking time to respond and share how this post gave you a boost with your project. You threw a pebble into my world today with your sweet words and kind phone message. I hope you do continue to read and share the blog and I’m thrilled that in some small way it’s making a difference in your life.

  3. My sister sent me a lifeline this week. She knew I was facing a terrible fear and she texted me all the stanzas to “He Lives” and instructed me to sing it aloud! She had already sung it and prayed it for me. To have the words right there on my phone, even though I know them by heart, was such a gift! It somehow made His promises concrete, and it made our separate voices- one voice.

    • What a beautiful picture of how His body operates. I love that your voices formed one voice. I’m grateful for your sister’s encouragement in your life and thank you for sharing it here!

  4. What great ideas! I am helping a friend with a “battle plan” for prayer. It’s a spiral notebook with 10 scriptures and a prayer incorporating it. I need to finish it and send it ASAP! Thank you for putting a little fire under me to get it done and mailed!

    • Wow. What a great way to encourage your friend, Andy. Nothing better than giving the gift of prayer. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving!

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