Refreshing Others With Our Words

I nestled into my hammock, a stack of thank you notes on my lap. After five months of study, lesson planning, sermon delivery, and small group facilitating, I was satisfied, yet weary. I began to read the gracious words written by the ladies in my church’s Bible study.

words + photographs EVA BURKHOLDER

Some just signed their name. Most wrote general expressions of appreciation:

  • Thank you for taking the time to prepare and teach us.
  • I learned so much.
  • I am truly blessed by your teaching.
  • We were honored to have you!

A few stood out because they mentioned something specific or personal:

  • I enjoy your stories from your time overseas.
  • I love hearing you speak about your experiences as a mother of two boys (just like me).
  • You are so soft spoken, yet your words are so profound!
  • The verse I got from you was a direct answer to prayer.

Then I opened the notes from my own small group, the women I know personally, my dear friends. Longer and more personal, they quoted directly from the study and referenced things only I would understand.

  • Your wisdom drew us closer to Jesus, our unexpected Messiah.
  • I have learned so much about our Lord and what it means to be a theologian daily.

Lastly, I read the words of my women’s pastor, the study coordinator, and my co-teacher  — those I worked with most closely, my mentors:

  • You’ve been a hidden gem among us, and you needed to be heard. Our weekly discussions proved to be the highlight of my weeks. Your willingness to engage with a new teaching format, share your personal life as examples, and wrestle with new concepts added to my admiration.
  • You are a rock star preacher woman! You never tire of learning and stretching in your knowledge and teaching skills. Well done!
  • You have been such a refreshing gift to my soul.
  • You’re a natural! I love being part of your dream team!

Their words flowed over me and refreshed my weary spirit. They embodied the proverb: “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed,” (Proverbs 11:25).

Eva surrounded by the women who gathered to study and learn from God’s word, week after week.

The apostle Paul also beautifully exemplifies this kind of written encouragement. In almost every letter, he thanks God for his readers — his spiritual family, friends, co-workers. He thanks God for:

Paul also greets a long list of friends and fellow believers by name at the end of two of his letters (Colossians 4:7-15 and Romans 16:1-15). With his pen, he encourages them by calling them dear, outstanding, faithful, fellow servants, friends, mothers and brothers. He also affirms they work hard for the Lord as well as comfort, wrestle in prayer, and risk their lives for Him.

From Paul’s example and my own recent experience, I discovered the greatest cheerleaders and encouragers were those who specifically described how I was dear to them. They recounted something directly from my teaching, illustrating how my words had actually connected with them instead of just telling me they did. I appreciated knowing exactly what they had learned and why.

Of course, the more intimately they knew me or were involved in my story, the more personally they could encourage with their words. The more they could recount how I had touched them.

From now on, whenever I sign a card or type a note, I will try to write something more personal, more specific, telling my reader just what they have done or said or been that has influenced me. I’ll refer to their faith and their love, as Paul did. I’ll pray they are refreshed by my words which will in turn refresh me.

How can you make your words in thank you notes more sincere and effective? EB

Eva Burkholder is an author, missionary kid, wife, mother, former global worker, and a missionary member care provider with Christar who blogs at www.evaburkholder.com

COVER Eva Burkholder meeting with a group of pastors and staff who encouraged and mentored her in her teaching skills.


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