I have always loved the power of the written word. As an avid reader, the words on a page can transport me to another place or teach me ideas in a whole new way. As a writer, they are a way for me to pass my experiences on to my reader in hope they find encouragement for their life. As a mom and wife, they are a way for me to bless, encourage and share a little wisdom with my family through the legacy of my words to them.
Three years ago, I began the practice of writing each of my children and my husband a letter at Christmastime. This is a tradition I wish I would have begun when they were much younger rather than now as young adults. But let’s face it, busy moms who are working either in the home or out, have little extra time come holiday season for putting the thoughts in our minds onto paper. So I let that idea go, finding solace that I started when I did.
However, if you find this is a tradition you think you would like to start, maybe writing each child and your spouse a letter on their birthday would spread it out and make it not quite as overwhelming. All of our birthdays fall within 2 months of Christmas, so it probably wouldn’t have helped me much!
I may find this practice so meaningful because I cherish the personal, written words I have received over the years … even more than the spoken word. If you send me a card and simply sign your name, I’m sorry, but it is probably going into the trash after a quick read and a smile. But if you take a few minutes to write something personal about me, or my relationship with you, you go into my card box to keep forever.
This may have to do with my love language, or it may have to do with the company I was a part of for almost 26 years. The co-founder, Joan Horner, always wrote and spoke on keeping it personal. It was drilled into us (in a good way!) the value of not losing the personal touch, especially in this current age of technology. I’ll never forget the letters her husband, Andy, shared the year after she passed away. They were adorable letters from when they were courting and he was away in the Navy. Just precious!
My hope is that not only do these yearly letters bless my family, but they will go back and read them and remember just how much they were loved whenever they need encouragement through the years.
So what do I write? Well, that’s personal—haha! But I’ll share with you my general format and then you can decide what works best for the dynamics of the relationships with your family.
I begin with praying before I start writing … asking God to show me what each of them needs to hear and to know. At this stage of their lives, a year can hold some pretty major events, so I will usually share all the positive things I noticed in relationship to that event.
It could have been graduating, job related, buying a home, moving away, having a baby. Whatever it was, I want them to hear what I observed about them in that scenario. I want them to know I saw them, their hard work, their sacrifice. I want them to know how proud I am of them. I want to point out their giftings they may not recognize. I want them to see the positive parts of the challenges they faced.
I also want to help put some of the hard things into perspective from the 25-30 years I have on them in life. I try REALLY HARD not to give advice, but a little always seems to creep in. So I make sure it is wrapped in love and encouragement. Sometimes there are areas of their life I am really concerned about. This isn’t the time to address those. Instead I choose to speak in a way that assumes they have already made those positive character changes—trusting that the words will come to life in God’s timing.
Bottom line, I want them to know they are loved so very much … by me, their dad, and their Heavenly Father.
So I take a day once a year, a few weeks before Christmas, and write these letters to my three children. I also began writing them to my future son and daughter-in-law while they were still engaged. I have lots to say to them as well!! I print them out on Christmas paper and then roll them up with some curly ribbon and add it to their stocking. It’s one of my favorite moments, watching them read the words I wrote to them. They don’t usually say a lot, but their soft thank you’s that are occasionally accompanied by moist eyes is enough for me. My hope is that these letters will mean even more in the future than they do today.
I realize I wrote this mainly about the letters to my children. But I find it to be a wonderful opportunity to also share with my husband all the positive things I see in him, and just how much he means to me. It can be easy as moms, even when the kids are grown, to give more of ourselves to our children than to our husband. It is so important that he also hears those words of love and blessing.
I would love to hear if you have a similar practice or if this has inspired you to start writing your own yearly legacy letters! Merry Christmas!!