“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
{Proverbs 25:11}

Sometimes, in a burst of inspiration, you come up with an idea that’s too wonderful to keep to yourself.

For almost a year, I’ve been saving something special for (in)courage: a beautiful way to encourage your children or friends who are working for a summer internship or volunteering with a short-term missions trip.

The idea originated last summer after my daughter had accepted an internship in the Philippines. Working with the Center for Community Transformation, hers was a three-month assignment. It’s not forever, but when you have to travel almost 24 hours to get to your kid, days feel the equivalent of eternity and each mile is always just out of reach.

Though this was a gem of an assignment and her eagerness and excitement uncontainable, I knew there would be a point (and probably several) where homesickness would seep in. And even with today’s wondrous blessing of the internet, her location would make email and Skype unreliable and unpredictable.

Even snail mail could be a challenge. Since her time was divided between Manila and a small village, a typical week-plus delivery could turn into several. Plus, even a small package was expensive. Still…

Words would be my ministry.

We know words matter — as evidenced by John’s powerful declaration in his gospel:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” {John 1:1}

I’ll never be able adequately to wrap my mind around all this means, but I know our gracious God lavished us with Himself by His Word, through His Word, and as the Word. As image bearers of our great God, words should matter to His people.

To some of us, words speak a dominant love language. I’m a Words of Affirmation girl, and I know words also speak love to my daughter — herself, a voracious reader and incredible writer. I wanted to send her mail and lots of it.

Thankfully one of her professors came to my rescue: he offered to take a care package to her when making a trip there to visit family and check on his interns.

I wish I had thought of this idea before she left home, though, which is exactly why I’m sharing with you now!

In addition to a few comfort items and gifts to share with her hosts, I wrote 10 letters for her to read, numbering each envelope in the order I wanted them read; not just letter-letters, but a stack of fun, encouragement, and love.

If you have a loved one traveling abroad or gone for weeks (maybe even an extended camp session?), I hope you’ll take my list of ideas below as seed for thought and come up with your own love notes that suit your personality and relationship.

1. A love letter and introduction to the remaining stack of mail. This was full of general questions, encouragement, Scripture, and love, but it also explained the other nine letters. I encouraged my daughter to save them for when she needed a “hug” from her mama, to read them all at one time would likely diminish the impact of each one (kind of like gorging on a feast rather than eating a right-sized meal).

2.  You is . . . Originating from a quote by Aibileen Clark, a character from the book (and movie) The Help, this was a fun, little exercise that allowed me to tell my daughter who I see her to be. Yes, I started with “You is kind, you is smart, you is important,” but I kept going, calling out the beautiful qualities I want Rachel to know I see in her.

3. Name acrostic. Using her first, middle, and last name, I created an acrostic poem, once again describing character and qualities  that described her.

4. A story. Using a “Once upon a time” format, I wrote a little story that interwove Rachel’s superpowers. Things like “being kind to strangers” and “serving others” trumps flight or X-ray vision in my book.

5. A card. Every letter doesn’t have to be an original work from you. There are plenty of cards out there that seem to depict exactly what your heart wants to say.

6. Haiku. These little 5/7/5-syllable poems are dynamite in small packages to me. I love ‘em. Rather than making this a light, frivolous exercise, I wrote a little more seriously, wanting her to gain a sense for my love and affections. I’m sure it was unexpected.

7. Kind Words art printBefore she left, Rachel had seen a bunch of the DaySpring art prints I had — her favorite, not including the two her Mama wrote, was the one featuring Proverbs 16:24. Again, you don’t have to write an eloquent or long letter every time. Sometimes an artistic visual is sufficient.

8. Baby memories. This was a stroll down memory lane, sharing with her some of my favorite memories of her when she was little. I don’t think our children ever tire of hearing the story of themselves.

9. Tiny card. A beautiful 2″ square card; this was a simple reminder of how special she is. Sometimes you don’t need a lot of words to express a lovely, important thought.

10. A “last” letter. In this one, because she was giving her time and talents to work with street dwellers, I used Isaiah 52:7 as a springboard:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness.” 

I also included a letter to the other student who was interning and living with her. It really didn’t matter that we had never been introduced; I hated the thought of Rachel being the only one receiving mail (I actually received a thank you note in return).

And when my baby girl received her care package? You would’ve thought I had sent her silver or gold. And I guess, in one sense, I did.

Do you have a child or have special friends living, working, or volunteering for an extended time this summer? Does this resonate with you?

What other ideas do you have to add to my list? I’d love to know . . . for next time!

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As image bearers of our great God, words should matter to His people. {Tweet this!}

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  • Calvin Zusabel Ibañez

    Wow, Robin! I’m from the Philippines. Glad to know that God has led your daughter to our country. :) And thank you so much for these ideas; my cousin is currently on a six-month firefighting training so I might as well surprise her with my love language–words–and some of her favorite goodies. It’s a good way to share the Gospel to her, too! More blessings to you and your family…

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Hi Calvin! Rachel LOVED spending time in your country; and it was a tiny way for us to see a glimpse of Filipino life, too–through her eyes.

      And, yes! Your cousin would be ever-grateful for a stack of love from you :). What a nobel profession she’s pursuing, so brave. It makes me so happy you’re considering do this for her…even more so if you follow through ;).

      • Calvin Zusabel Ibañez

        That is so sweet of your daughter. Please thank Rachel for us. :) And thank you for the encouragement to go ahead with my plan for my cousin. Sometimes, I need some pushing to do these acts of love/service, being the only Christian in a family where love and acts of kindness are quite reserved.

        • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

          Consider it a very gentle nudge :).

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Robin,
    I LOVE this…and no surprise it comes from You! I relish the idea that we are image bearers of Christ and He IS the Word. How fitting it is to use words of exhortation and encouragement to lift up those spreading the good news of the Gospel. My main “love language” is words – no surprise there – so this is right up my alley. This would also be a wonderful gift for college students, because sometimes the college years can be a scriptural wasteland. My daughter, who has served in Haiti and Kenya, is now a teacher of middle school children. Oh how she could use a gift like this. Thanks for the dynamite under my backside to use my writing gift in a whole new, and creative way!!
    Blessings and ((hugs)),
    Bev

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Bev, I would agree 100%–“words” are your love language (I know I’ve been the recipient of many :) ). It makes me downright giddy to hear how you’re seeing new ways to minister with words. GREAT idea, too, to “gift” this to college students living away from home; I meant to add a note in my post about long-term missionaries, too. Both are perfect applications for this kind of care package :).

  • Wendy Blight

    What wonderful ideas!! Thank you for sharing. SOOO creative. My daughter, Lauren, just graduated from UGA and left a few days ago with a few friends to travel around Europe. She could only take one small bag and her satchel, so I knew she could not fit her Bible or daily devotional. So I created a mini devotional for her. She has a Scripture for each day and it all fit on one sheet of paper, front and back. that she could stick in her wallet or purse. I prayed for the Lord to meet her in those living and active words each and every day.

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Oh, Wendy, what a beautiful gift–wise, and so encouraging. I had to smile, too, that Lauren just graduated from UGA; my youngest is headed there this fall! :)

  • http://www.mywarminghouse.com/ Lisa Button

    Robin this is a lovely post. When my husband and I led a mission trip to Africa we collected letters for our team members – one for each day from family and friends. We gave our team one letter per day for the duration of our trip. It was a sweet moment each day to read those letters from home. I absolutely love the intentionality and creativity behind your letter writing. I will definitely remember and use your ideas in the future!! Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Lisa,

      It sounds like we speak the same language :).

  • Joanne Peterson

    Hi Robin,

    You do have a gift of using your words to encourage other people. You do it right here with us women with your (in)courage contributions. :)

    I like the idea of letters, it can be re-read for a gentle pick-me-up. Also the way you assembled the box would be a gift, two love languages for those whose love language are gifts.

    I know a young lady who is on an assignment for two years in Thailand working with orphans in an orphanage. I will have to do this for her. My son knows her better than I do. But I could still send something as a remembrance of we are thinking and praying for her.

    As I go through my days with my littles, I HAVE to remember the weight of my words. It is way too easy to get cross, and impatient when they have plans other than mine. I know both boys love getting “mail.” I could give them little notes on pretty stationary from “Mom.” It doesn’t matter they don’t read yet, they still would enjoy the stickers, notes, little pictures to color, etc. I know they would relish me reading to them the notes I wrote to each of them.

    This is such a lovely idea for those of us in the trenches yet. I have recently “run across” more grandparents who have adopted, have kinship care, or have legal guardianship of their grandchildren too. It is such a different change from when we were young and raising our families. I could write them a real note instead of an e-mail or facbook. I think a note to open is much more personal.

    I really appreciate this post. It has my mind going of the various ways to just let someone know they are being thought of and remembered.

    Blessings,

    Joanne

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Awww, Joanne, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. You’ve pressed me deeper and in other directions, an encouragement from you, indeed. Blessings to you in this season!

  • http://ChasingHoliness.com/ Brenda

    Your daughter is blessed to have such an involved and loving mother. Thanks for these great tips. :)

    I love encouragement — it costs nothing to offer, but it can be such a profound tool of God’s voice, grace, love.

    Thanks for this lovely post today.
    ((Hug))

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Brenda–you are SO right! It costs nothing beyond intention and kindness! And yet it can be such a significant gift! Glad you pointed out the obvious :).

  • https://www.facebook.com/marinajanbromley Marina Bromley

    Yes. Yes. Yes!! Wonderful idea that we share with family and friends of short term and long time workers.
    We even send them over with people to be hand delivered to long-term global workers, and put on the front of the envelope the certain days to be opened (Birthday, Anniversary, Open on a Difficult Day, or When You Need a Giggle…etc).
    This should have been shared a month ago, as many summer internships started over Memorial Day weekend… but it’s GREAT that you’ve shared it!! :)

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      :) Maybe we’ll make sure to re-share it NEXT May! I love your idea for opening on special or needy days. GREAT idea to give, but also for the writer to write!! Thanks, Marina!

  • http://www.perceptionsandpassions.blogspot.com Kaitlin_Perceptions&Passions

    I think it’s a wonderful reminder to those of us who are blessed with words to use them in ways beyond the obvious (our blogs, our emails, etc) and get back to pen and paper and make some people encouraged and happy!!

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Pen and paper are a rare commodity these days. That’s what makes ‘em so special :).

  • Penny

    For me, the gift of meaningful words is like no other…….

    Your idea is so thoughtful Robin and your daughter will be able to hold on to the memory throughout her lifetime.

    Thank-you for sharing your idea with us….
    Have a blessed day,

    Penny

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      I guess those of us whose love language is “words” believe that to our core. Others maybe not so much, but it’s still a lovely gift no matter when :).

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Robin, I loved the great ideas you used to convey love to your daughter! My husband just returned from a 6 week business trip abroad. I bought six cards and wrote letters in each of them. Some cards were funny, some more serious . . . all conveyed some aspect of my love for him. I was also able to write notes based on what I thought he might be doing. :) I dated the envelopes for when I wanted him to open them (I”m not a control freak . . . really! :) Okay, not always).

    I love how you showed your girl how she bears the image of Christ. I’m going to have to try that with my boys.

    PS—I had the privilege of going to the Philippines on a missions trip years ago. Some of the most life-changing days of my life happened there.

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Jeanne,

      Yes!! What a precious way to “be” with your husband while he was gone. Working abroad for an extended length of time can be lonely. I just KNOW your words were a sweet ministry to him. So wise and thoughtful.

  • Suanne Salley

    My daughter is in the Peace Corp in Morocco for three years (she extended an extra year) and prior to that she went to South Korea for a year. I faced the same issue, mail would take too long to get there so I sent her with a stack of cards with instructions on the envelope to “Open When,.. you are discouraged, need a word of encouragement, to celebrate, just because, whenever you want and so on. She had the card she needed when she needed it. For her it is one of the most meaningful gifts that she has received. When I send her a care package I include another stack of cards to replenish the ones she has opened.

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Suanne,

      Beautiful. I would’ve probably doubled my letter stash if I had thought the way you and several others have mentioned :).

  • Anna

    What a wonderful idea! This would be a great idea for a wedding gift/bridal shower gift/ baby shower gift as well! Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Ahhh, cool additional application of the same idea.Thanks, Anna!

  • Kat

    This idea can be turned around as well. One of our youth is in Zimbabwe for three months. She knew her mother was going to have a hard time having her half way around the world. So she wrote letters and cards and left them with her mother to open at specific times. Her mother carries them with her all the time, opened and unopened. I know they mean a lot to her.

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Oh my word, Kat. What a WISE, BRILLIANT youth member! Yes–I treasured every word from my daughter, but that kind of gift would’ve been GOLD.

  • Beth Williams

    No surprise this email is written by you miss Robin! You always know how to encourage people! I totally agree that we should send “care/love” packages to people on mission trips, college students, military, etc. Everyone needs to hear that they are loved and thought of.
    Blessings :)

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      We DO, Beth…we do! Every once in a while I’ll receive snail mail from someone that almost feels like it’s from God himself (b/c of the timing). I’m really trying to be a better letter writer/card sender in general these days…

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Oh, what fabulous ideas to bless just about anyone who could use a dose or TEN (!) of encouragement! Thank you so much for sharing. What fun for the giver as well as the receiver! Thank you, Robin!

    • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

      Nancy,

      Like I said, I’ve been “sitting” on this post idea since I did it. :) Maybe I SHOULD have written it for April instead of May… Oh well, gotta believe “someone” read it right when they need to, right? :)

      • Nancy Ruegg

        Absolutely!

  • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

    A wonderful idea for a departing college student or child leaving home for an out-of-town job (kind of expensive and bulky to mail :) ). An intentional idea!!

  • Angel1111

    Recently I was at a local pharmacy. I watched a little girl standing on her tippy toes watching the photo technician. I struck up a conversation with the little girl’s mother. It turns out that the little girl was making a photo book for her grandfather who was going overseas for two months. I thought that was a fantastic idea.