Back before my dear Elder left on his mission, I was pinning things like crazy to my Pinterest board. I found all kinds of crazy over-the-top things that I thought were worthy of my time and effort. I was bound and determined that I would be the ultimate supreme-o missionary mom out there, winning all kinds of awards and whatnot. This was before he actually got his call, of course. When the call finally came, we discovered that he had only five weeks to get ready to go and that left us in a time crunch. All my plans for what I would do before he left sort of went sailing out the window.
He’s now been out a year and, sadly, most of the things I pinned and planned have not happened. It’s funny how time works. I barely get an email written to him and BING BANG BOOM it’s time to write another email. Time is flying! That’s the good news. The bad news is sometimes I feel like I’m doing a less than adequate job supporting him the way I wanted to. I know it’s just me beating myself up needlessly, but let’s face it, sometimes Pinterest does that to a person.
One of the things I saw when I was madly pinning things were Open When letters. Most of what I saw were letters written by girlfriends to their boyfriends leaving for college, but I did see examples of letters written for missionaries as well. I LOVED THIS IDEA!
What is an Open When letter?
If you’ve never heard of or seen this idea, here’s the premise: You write a series of letters that are meant to be opened under a certain circumstance. If they are having a bad day, there’s a letter for that. Feeling unmotivated? A letter to help get them motivated. You get the picture. I saw a lot of ideas and even found a huge list to choose from.
Some of the ideas I didn’t love—like “open after your first baptism”. Since we all know there are many missionaries out there that will serve a full two years and never baptize anyone, that feels a little risky to me. I also didn’t want to concentrate on him MISSING things and end up making him homesick. One letter that I ran across was for after you’ve done something successful, and it went on to talk about the dangers of being puffed up with pride and how being boastful is bad. Seriously?! I REALLY hated that one–I feel like every missionary out there should feel good about the work they are doing and bask in the glow of even the smallest success.
My Own Personal Failure
As much as I loved this idea, I didn’t get them done. They were supposed to go with him in his suitcase when he left. The idea and the fact that I didn’t get them done has kind of haunted me since. Especially at those times when I hear that he’s struggling and think that I might have done something to lift his spirits.
(Now, before anyone decides to tell me I’m being ridiculous to beat myself up over this, I totally get it. I’m the Queen of putting too much pressure on myself and my expectations of myself are way, WAY higher than they should be. Some days I say I’m trying to change, but that’s kind of a lie. I don’t change…it’s just who I am. Sometimes I think I revel in the chaos that I create for myself.)
Regardless of the fact that I have been sad about not getting this done, I still never did it. Until now.
A few short weeks ago, my daughter decided to write these for her boyfriend that was leaving on a mission. It reinvigorated me, and I realized that it was not too late to write them and send them. After all, he still has a whole year left! I’m sure he will still encounter disappointments and discouragement (not that I’m hoping he will, but per my experience in this life so far, it seems inevitable…). Together, the two of us came up with a list of topics and started writing.
As I said before, I found a list a mile long of ideas for the letters. I whittled that list down to the following ideas:
- You need a spiritual boost
- You need some inspiration
- You are lonely
- You are short a few cents
- You are discouraged
- You are missing home
- You are experiencing trials
- You’ve had a hard day
- You need to feel loved
- You need something sweet
- You need a good laugh
- You are struggling to feel the Spirit
Savannah wrote a few more:
- Your first night in the MTC
- You reach your one year mark
So what’s in the letters?
Most of the envelopes had a personal letter, a card with quotes pertaining to the subject, and a talk from General Conference that tied in. A couple of them had extra things too, if I found anything that went along with it. Like this handy “Spiritual Directory Assistance” list that I included:
I also printed this cute reference card, attributed to Stephen Covey, about how to be happy:
I printed both of them on a sheet of cardstock together, small enough that they could be cut out and would fit in the envelope. I wanted them to be small enough that he could carry them with him tucked in his scriptures, so that was the goal when I sized them.
Just For Fun
One of the topics, “When you’re short a few cents” might seem like a letter that would include money. I’m pretty sure that’s what my Elder expected too, if he’s opened it already. I figured since I am funding his debit card, I already know he’s never short on money and sending him cash didn’t seem like a great idea. So I turned this envelope into “short a few sense”…as in, common sense. This was not so much a letter as it was a list of common sense rules to live by. Some of them were funny, some were serious…for example:
- You should not confuse your career with your life.
- If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
- Your friends will always love you anyway.
- Doing nothing is very hard to do because you never know when you’re finished.
- No one is really listening until you fart.
- Never lick a steak knife.
- There is a fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness”.
- There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
- Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
- It ain’t the jeans that make your butt look fat.
For the “Need a Good Laugh” letter, I threw in some sticky mustaches, some jokes, and some cartoons that I printed on small cards that could be carried around or hung up somewhere. One of my favorites was something I found that some might not think is funny, but is SO appropriate for my son there was no way I could not include it:
Here are some of the others:
(This last one is only going to be funny if you’re a fan of The Last Air Bender, a show my children watched, and are still watching with a religious furiosity.)
And then there is the letter about something sweet. It’s pretty hard to include candy, cookies, or any other sweets in an envelope, especially when you aren’t sure when it will get opened. Instead I included pictures of kittens like this:
Aren’t they sweet? Ha ha! I’m sure he’ll have a good laugh about this. Then he’ll probably go use that debit card I gave him to get dessert, just because he feels slightly disappointed.
I included this pack of letters in with his Halloween package, only because I was shipping it anyway. He wrote me the next P-day and told me he’d had a few rough days and had already opened two of them, and he loved them! It made me feel a little bad that he didn’t have them earlier, but also glad that I finally did it.
Not only did I get to inspire him with the letters, but getting to write them was good for my own spiritual boost too. I read through countless General Conference talks, found quotes that fit, and all the reading, typing, and bundling helped with my own testimony. I have been so blessed to have a son on a mission, and this is just another way that my testimony has grown as I support and serve him.