Word Gifts

“Your words have power. Speak words that are kind, loving, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and life-giving.”

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
-Mother Teresa

As we enter the season of holidays and gatherings of friends and family, there is a sweetness in celebrating traditions. Especially when they grow from being rituals to become awaited times of blessing and togetherness. If you are yearning for such a time that will bring warm feelings and create memories, and maybe even some healing, read on as I share one of my favorite family traditions.

I love giving gifts. I take giving gifts seriously and put thought into each one. I especially love it when what I have chosen, or made, turns out to be something that visibly hits the mark for the gift recipient. The very best gifts come from our hearts.

Years ago, I was told of the idea of Word Gifts, and since we began this tradition in our family on Christmas morning, we have, each year planned for it, prepared for it, and enjoyed the special time we carry it out. The concept is that you craft a heartfelt message of encouragement, or thanks, and acknowledge something about a person that is special to you. When my family first tried this, my 4 kids were teenagers. Two of them were in college, so beginning a new tradition was a bit risky. The direction I gave was that they were to write each person in the family a note about something they appreciated about that person. They were to put them in the person’s Christmas stocking, and they were to wait to read their Word Gift notes until we were all together at brunch. When we gathered, each person took their little stack of Word Gifts and took their turn to read them out loud.

At first, there was a hesitation. Read them out loud? They felt a bit shy, and at the outset a bit uncomfortable, but as they read note after note of affirming words, funny memories, or heartfelt appreciation, it felt good. It felt VERY good. And when we finished, we all felt filled up, loved, appreciated, believed in, and BLESSED.

The next year, and in years to come, I didn’t have to explain as much, just a reminder to bring their Word Gifts. They always have, and I love how one will choose an overarching theme for their messages. Another will add a watercolor to the card or paper, another will add a Bible verse that relates to their sentiment, or a quote. We have to explain our Word Gifts tradition when we bring in a new family member as my kids have added spouses, but they too have come to embrace our tradition.

There were a few very lean years, when physical gifts were not possible, but what we remember was that we still gave and received Word Gifts that we loved and cherished. They eclipsed the fact that there were few wrapped gifts under the tree.

The person who first told me of the Word gift idea even shared that her family would include even the very young in their family – babies, and they received blessings, prayers, and encouragements, to be placed in a memory book, to show them how loved and included they were even at a young age. They had a place in the family even then.

So, here are some examples of what it has looked like in our family and a couple of thoughts on how you could start a Word Gift tradition in your family.

1. Choose a holiday where you will gather together. (You can include loved ones by Zoom as well).
2. Give your instructions to participants with plenty of time and be sure to remind everyone a few times before you gather. Some need the nudges, but usually only the first time they experience the wonder of Word Gifts. The next time, I find they are eagerly on board.

Here are some examples of some of the Word gifts I have received from my kids:

12/2020 Mom, As I get older and I get to know you even better, I’m more deeply convinced that I won the lottery when God made me your daughter. Your faithfulness (toward Dad/us kids, God, etc.), your sense of fun, and your commitment to just getting the job done are three things I’ve noticed and appreciated this year. I’m hopeful 2021 will hold many more instances of us cooking together.     Daughter

12/2020 – Ann, my word for you this year is prayer. I so appreciate you and how hard you work for this family. I often think of a reminder you once gave me when I was describing a difficult situation: pray. You are a strong woman of God and I admire your faith, especially when faced with difficult and challenging situations.  Phil. 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”   Merry Christmas!      Son-in-law

12/2020   Mom, or should I say Gramma or Mimi? I am so thankful for the support you and Dad have given us as we have stepped into foster care. It is so fun to see you love on Bonnie and how she loves you guys too. It’s been a weird year (Pandemic) but I appreciate your persistence in supporting all of your children and how you have adapted to a rapidly changing world. I’m so proud of you for publishing your book and am excited to see it make an impact on children in foster care.    Love, Son

12/2021 To my Son-in-law-to-be:    My word for you:  Welcoming

Your easy-going demeanor is a welcome mat to others. So many people need this offering. You yourself have felt the sting of a cold welcome at times in your life. Thank you for overcoming and being the very thing we all need. Your welcoming personality can be an extension of your spiritual gifts. Develop it and use it often!

We are blessed that you are joining our family ! I love you.  From Ann 2021

I hope it is clear how very meaningful and fulfilling it is to receive heartfelt words that you may have not heard otherwise.

In our very fast-paced, material world, Word Gifts stop the world for a bit and infuse a healthy dose of encouragement that can be revisited and savored throughout the year. I would like to challenge you to introduce Word Gifts to your most special gatherings this year. You will be blessed and will be a blessing. What could be better?

Check out Ann's Audio version of this post




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