When a “milestone” birthday is looming in someone’s future, there is often an accompanying sense of dread.
Rarely is someone saying “Oh, yay, another year older! I’m hitting the big one!”
As children, we can’t wait for that next birthday celebration, the thrill of getting a learner’s permit or (legally) ordering a drink! Yet most of us seem to stop being quite so excited about birthdays around the ripe old age of 25.
But turning 40? 50? 60? 70? 80? Ugh.
A person might be experiencing regret about mistakes that have been made, disappointment over dreams yet unachieved or heartache over unanswered prayers. Physical infirmities often provide stark reminders of the years that have passed.
Truly, there is no better time to affirm someone - in writing - about the difference they have made with their life than for a milestone birthday.
Granted, this can be a bit of an organizational challenge, but assembling a book of birthday letters will provide a lasting, loving gift of inestimable value. This gift will be cherished for years to come.
How can I say that so confidently? Because I’ve been the recipient of that kind of love.
Five years ago, on one of those (ugh) milestone birthdays, I received a scrapbook filled with letters from friends and family. My daughter had done an incredible job of reaching out to people from many different chapters of my life. Often, the letters were accompanied with photographs of us together. And oh, were those letters humbling and meaningful.
At the time, I was overwhelmed by receiving that much love and encouragement in one binder. I read through the letters and thought that my heart might just burst with joy.
Surprisingly, over the next few years, those letters became even more impactful in my life.
As painful, unforeseen events happened and my life was rocked by shattered dreams, I returned to those letters. I was reminded of the deep and loving relationships I shared with so many.
Reading of the positive impact I had made over the years reminded me of the great joy I experienced from encouraging others. Each letter reenforced my sense of worth and provided emotional rebars that strengthened me with the truth that I was treasured and loved.
Truly, those letters provided me with healing and hope. They provided a lifeline reminding me, again and again, of the woman God created me to be.
Does someone you love have a “big birthday” approaching? Here are a few suggestions:
-Gather email addresses of those who might want to participate.
-Send an email message requesting letters with a target return date several weeks in advance of the birthday. Encourage that the letters highlight aspects of the person’s character that have most influenced and impacted the letter writer.
-Realize you'll need to send one gently-worded reminder to most as the target date approaches.
-Some might want to send a hand-written letter to you, others might scan a handwritten letter, others might prefer to just send an email. Give people flexibility.
-Go to a craft store (Hobby Lobby, Michael’s) and buy a scrapbook. There are many types of background paper which can be inserted into the scrapbooks. The letters can be printed on similar paper for consistency. Whether you choose to be creative with the assembly or more straightforward, remember what matters most are the sincere and affirming words in the letters themselves.
-If people need help with writing the actual letter, encourage them to get a PDF copy of the Leave Nothing Unsaid workbook.
This is a gift worth giving. No one needs more “stuff.” But to remind a person of their value, worth and impact and of the difference they have made with their life? Yes, please. You'll never know the impact those letters might make.
(And to all of you who wrote me birthday letters back in 2016, please know that I am forever grateful!)
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
Proverbs 16:24 NASB