Words of Life
by Erica Wengerd
This article first appeared in the Winter 2017 print edition, Shelter, of Daughters of Promise. To see more content from this issue click here to download a digital copy.
In this age of technology, where everything is designed to be quick and efficient, it seems that we think our communication needs to fall under this category as well. There are many times I am thankful for this technology since things like Skype, FaceTime, and email have introduced a wonderful avenue to stay in contact with our friends and family that live miles away. But sadly, our reliance on technology seems to be crippling our ability to communicate with those we love using our very own heartfelt, handwritten words. Instead of finding words to describe our compassion, love, or joy, we quickly send a text with the words, “Congratulations”, “So sorry for your loss”, “praying for you”. Then off we go, rushing back into our day, with little or no remembrance of our friend’s joy or sorrow. That may not happen in all cases, but I fear it happens far too often. Is there a beautiful, deeper way to correspond with one another which has seemingly been forgotten over time? God has created us with a desire for communication. One way to satisfy that yearning is through the written word.
My appreciation for hand-written encouragement likely began around the time of my father’s death, when I was the young age of eleven. Cards, letters, and notes filled our mailbox, and a year after his death we sat down, reread them, cried, and marveled at the love and care that was shown to us. We counted the large basketful and to our surprise it contained over 1,200 cards. My mother has kept every single one of those cards, because each one is like a touch from God, reminding our family that He cares.
More recently however, the precious opportunities we have to communicate through words became even more personal for me. Our oldest was born six years ago, his brother followed three years later, and then a sister joined the crew in 2015. Throughout the last six years, we began noticing that our children responded to situations differently than many other children. Eighteen months ago, my husband and I decided to do some genetic testing for our two oldest children. The waiting period for the first set of tests seemed to drag on and on, but it was only a little over two weeks. The tests for the boys came back positive for what we suspected. Back to the doctor we went to do blood work for our little girl. I kept hoping for a different outcome, but deep in my heart I knew she had the same syndrome. Thirteen days after that blood work was done, we received the call that yes, she too had Brittle Hair Syndrome - AT.
After receiving the diagnosis, we began to understand a little more why our children were not speaking clearly, struggled with frustration and anger, and had low muscle tone. Life would never be the same, and for that I am grateful, because God has placed many wonderful people in our lives. Some of them specialize in helping us teach our children what emotion they are feeling, naming that feeling, and responding correctly to that emotion. We also started speech therapy for our two boys and started a type of physical therapy for our little princess.
Every day for the last year and a half, I’ve done my best to work with our children to help them with their speech and their responses to various situations. We practice words by playing games and singing songs. We work through their frustration one moment at a time. Because they struggle to communicate with words, it has become extremely important for me to use words correctly and to speak clearly. While trying to teach them the correct way to say a word, my heart’s cry and prayer was that through this God would also teach me the correct way to speak, write, and communicate.
One morning I felt a very strong urge to study what it means to be intentional in my communication as a Christian, and I noticed a few parallels with our speech exercises and my spiritual walk with God.
1. That I, as a woman, also struggle with using my words correctly.
2. It takes daily prayer, practice, and reading God’s Word to control my tongue.
3. Words are a tool that God intended for us to use to communicate in a beautiful way.
As I studied God’s Word to see what it has to say about a Christian’s speech, God took me to Ephesians 4:29 and the verse has transformed the way I see the use of words: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29 KJV) I pulled out some key words in the verse and quickly found their definitions with the help of Google.
Corrupt: having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly for personal gain.
Communication: (a) the exchanging of information or news, (b) a letter or message containing information or news.
Edifying: providing moral or intellectual instruction.
Minister: attend to the needs.
Grace: free unmerited gift.
I reread the verse and was struck with wonder at how my words are to be shared with others: “Let no dishonest and selfish words proceed out of your mouth, but only those which will provide good instruction, so that they will show care for others’ needs as a free undeserved gift.”
This was something practical that I could change in my life. With God’s help, I could use written words to speak encouragement and spread His peace and joy instead of getting caught up in the latest gossip or spreading negativity. It is not something I have perfected, but just as my children must practice with their words, God has given me lots of opportunities to practice the way a Christian woman should use her words, for His glory. Do you have any idea the impact you could have on a friend’s life by taking the time to write a personal note of encouragement? Not because you need to, but because you care.
“The beauty of the written word is that it can be held close to the heart and read over and over.” – Florence Littauer*
Here are just a few things I have learned in letter writing and card making:
1. Make it Your Own a. Let your imagination and creativity take over! b. Use fun materials and writing tools.
2. Be Personal a. Share specifics about how this person has added value to your life. b. Share a favorite Bible verse or quote.
3. Be Genuine a. No need to be stuffy or formal. b. Say how you really feel from your heart. For example, the messages, “it’s ok to not be ok” or “you are loved” say so much in just a few words.
4. Most importantly, seek God’s heart, ask Him for the words this person needs to hear.
*If you wish to learn more about edifying speech and how it can positively impact others, Erica recommends reading Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer.