a word in season

The Cup of Cool Water

November 3, 2016

The Letter That Brought Sweet Relief…

It arrived on a busy Saturday morning in May.  A day typically filled with numerous last minute preparations for our Sunday services.

On first glance of the letter, I smiled. My daughter with the artistic flare had creatively addressed the envelope, making for such anticipation of what awaited on the inside.

I decided to wait until my work was done before I would treat myself to reading her Mother’s Day message. The proverbial carrot now dangled in front of me, would be incentive enough for me to finish my projects quickly.

Have you ever noticed how instantly your eyes brighten when a lovely piece of personal mail arrives amidst the ordinary stack of bills and flyers?  There’s really nothing quite like receiving the pleasant unexpected!

The evening finally came. The work was done. And I sat down to rest.

And to read.

a cup of cold water

For those who know me, it should come as no surprise to learn that in my thirty years of raising children, I have striven for utter perfection in my role as a mother.  Though never spoken aloud, my clearly apparent aspiration was to become the rare and illusive maternal being without spot or blemish. A species so rare, in fact, that no one has ever actually seen such a creature.

And time and again, I have found it impossible to live up to this state of perfection.  This has caused me to spend most of the last 11,150 nights, rehearsing all of the times that I clearly missed the mark of my unrealistic expectations.

Let’s face it. Parenting is tough.  Molding and shaping the hearts and minds of the little people who will one day change the world, is a weighty responsibility.  It’s too easy to get it wrong; and if not for grace, pretty difficult to get it right.

If you’ve ever struggled with the feelings of inadequacy that come with the role of parenting, or pastoring, or teaching, or leading of any kind, then you’ve likely discovered that the path of serving others can be a dry and dusty one. You can find your soul withered and thirsting for relief. And most of the time, you’ll plod the path with ne’er a word of encouragement from those who demand the most from you.

As I began reading her grace-filled sentiments, intentionally highlighting all of the things she appreciated in me, I became undone. Visibly undone. With shoulders slumped, tears flowing, and vision blurred, I struggled to read the words that I had so desperately needed to hear for far too long!

A word of good news.

Affirmation.

A pat on the back, for what she described, was a job well done.

Words not written in flattery. But genuine words of encouragement to the woman she knew struggled with the guilt of countless flawed actions and poor decisions.  Words of praise to the woman whose own unrealistic expectations of herself had left her dejected and hopeless.

Her letter encouraged me to stop focusing on everything I hadn’t done well; but rather to look on all of the things that I had done in love and to the best of my ability. And in her own tender-hearted way, she began to list some of my successes and accomplishments in my role of raising four children.

And on that day, as the tears fell, the parched ground of my soul began to soak up the reviving waters of grace. The impact of the good news shared from a distant land was indeed the sweetest cup of cool water. And my soul drank thirstily.

Her words filled with sincerity and love brought a relief that I cannot begin to describe.  It also brought a freedom to accept my past for all that it held. The good. The bad. And the pretty darn ugly.

This morning, more than a year later, I read the letter again. The tears fell. Again.

Another cool sip from the cup of good news.

a cup of cold water

The gift of a letter has the capability of doing that, you know. Unlike a verbal conversation that is heard once and then forgotten over time, a letter saved, can refresh a soul over and over with each passing read.

This is why I’m passionate about the letter writing projects that we’ll explore in this journey found here.

I placed her gift carefully back on my desk, wiped the tears and smiled.

Words of grace.

Nothing’s sweeter.

I’m reminded that I, too, am given multiple opportunities to extend a cup of grace.

You are as well.

Writing the letter to a weary soul is just what the prophet spoke of when he said,

“…the Lord awakens me early in the morning to bring a word in season to him who is weary.”  Isaiah 50:4

May we send refreshing news to a tired soul this week; and may we breathe life into a weary one today.

Question of the Day

Have you ever received a timely word of encouragement during a rough season in life?  How did it make you feel? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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26 Comments

  • Reply Shawnua Wilkerson January 24, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Dearest Teresa, your message arrived at the appropriate time. What a blessing they were to us today. We so appreciate you as well as your prayers.
    Please keep up the great work my Soul Sister,
    Shawnua

    • Reply teresa slankard January 24, 2017 at 5:31 pm

      Thank you, Shawnua. You and Kevin will continue to be in my prayers. God works best in the darkness, where He shines the brightest!

  • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Beautiful Teresa I am so proud of you beginning your dream God has so much for you.

    • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. Truly. They mean so much.

  • Reply Bryan Cribbs January 24, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Beautiful and well written Teresa! You definitely have a gift to write. It reminds me of notes my dad used to leave for me with words of encouragement. They meant and still mean the world to me.

    • Reply teresa slankard January 24, 2017 at 10:58 am

      Thank you Bryan. Your dad has written to me, as well–words that brought life and hope and rescued me in one of my very darkest moments. He’s an excellent role model for you and you are walking in his footsteps with integrity and honor. I promise you that he’d love to read from you, about the impact he’s had on you!

  • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    I didn’t realize that YOU and Dan had studied theology. You write beautifully and with such inspiration. I can just hear you saying all those things…. 🙂 God bless you and thank you for the new blog!

    • Reply teresa slankard January 24, 2017 at 9:58 am

      Yes! It seems like a lifetime ago that we studied in Dallas; yet I feel like I’ve had a renewed push of theological study time in the last year–thanks to a few of my kids who do me the favor of challenging me often! 😉

  • Reply Amy Mills January 24, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    You spoke to my heart this morning! The burden of perfection in my role as a mother and my daily failures attack my self worth. I pray everyday for my children’s’ futures. Thank you for this. Also reminds me how I should bless my own mother with a written letter of gratitude.

    • Reply Amy Mills January 24, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Haha! Didn’t see my previous post go through so I wrote it again! Now you know who ‘anonymous’ is!! 😍 Have a blessed day!

      • Reply teresa slankard January 24, 2017 at 1:58 pm

        Thank you Amy! Your comment means a lot! Please be encouraged! Perfection is NOT the goal. Raising our children to know God’s love for them and our love for them is the best goal we can strive to attain, right?

        • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2017 at 7:57 pm

          Yes, absolutely!

  • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    BEAUTIFUL!!! You are so right, there is nothing quite like getting a handwritten, word of encouragement, in the form of a letter or a beautiful card, where someone has taken the time to write something special to you. In every card or letter that I received from your Dad, he always took the time to write words of love and encouragement. I have kept every one of them and now I can go back and read them and over and it’s like hearing his voice again!

    • Reply teresa slankard January 24, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks mama! I, too, have kept Dad’s cards and letters and how invaluable they have become now that he is gone! I have kept yours, as well. And with time, the words you have written over me, will only grow weightier. “…the words that we leave behind have the ability to ring out long past the time our voices go silent.”

  • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    You spoke to my heart this morning! The burden of perfection of my role as a mother and my daily failures weighs heavily. I hope and pray everyday for their futures. It’s with God’s grace I get up and do it everyday! Thank you for also reminding me what a blessing I could give my own mother in a written letter. Thank you Teresa!

    • Reply teresa slankard January 24, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      The burden of perfection is the heaviest burden I have carried in my role as a mother! There’s nothing like it. Yet this burden does not come from God. His yoke is easy and His burden is light with His grace abounding! PLEASE, I beg you, from a mother who knows, WRITE TO YOUR MOTHER! You can’t begin to imagine the cool, refreshing and healing waters that she will take in when you do!

  • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    You spoke to my heart this morning! I can only hope to be half the mother you have been to your children!! I know the feeling of the burden of perfection as a mother and the guilt of daily failures. This reminds me also what a blessing I could give to my own mother through a written letter. Thank you.

    • Reply teresa slankard January 24, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      I have made more of an effort to write my mother because of the impact my daughter’s letter had on me. Without that experience that Saturday morning in May, I wouldn’t have really known. Here’s the thing…one day, I will hold those letters that I wrote to her again when she’s no longer with me! And I’ll be SO glad that I wrote those!

  • Reply Christina January 24, 2017 at 5:44 am

    You are such a gifted writer. I love reading your words of much needed encouragement.

    • Reply teresa slankard January 26, 2017 at 3:57 pm

      Thank you Christina, for taking the time to read this! I appreciate your kind words, too.

  • Reply Jenn Rugh January 21, 2017 at 12:23 am

    If only my mother were alive to receive such a letter from me. Still, there are others that I may bestow a fresh cup of water. Beautiful.

    • Reply teresa slankard January 21, 2017 at 2:03 am

      Yes Jenn! There are still SO many other parched souls who need our encouragement!

  • Reply Anonymous January 20, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Love it! So touching and you are right….written letters can replenish us over and over!

    • Reply teresa slankard January 21, 2017 at 2:05 am

      I have been so grateful for the times when I have had a letter to go back and refer to and find renewed encouragement!

  • Reply Jacque Garner November 18, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    This is a great start to your blog! So proud of you!

    • Reply teresa slankard January 21, 2017 at 2:06 am

      Thank you Jacque, for all of your help and encouragement!

    Your comments mean more than you think!