You might not realize that a lot of the planning that goes into a triennial convention and gathering is fueled with chocolate. That’s right, chocolate. Staff consumption of chocolate over a three-year cycle definitely spikes in the six months leading up to a convention and gathering.
At least it has in the past. Now, however, chocolate is off one staffer’s diet, and others are counting calories. What else could provide the rush and inspiration that chocolate has done for us in the past?
I’ve been thinking about that for several months, and back in early December, I hit upon an idea.
Have you seen affirmation jars? They’re also known as inspiration jars or pick-me-up jars, among other names. The idea is simple: brief affirming or inspiring statements are written on paper, then inserted into envelopes, and gathered in a large container.
As the need for affirmation or inspiration hits, an envelope is removed, and the message received. Jars like these are available for purchase all over the Internet but I decided to make my own as a low-cost and low-calorie alternative to chocolate.
I gathered up old magazines, used calendars I’d saved, leftover scrapbook paper, and the like. Then, I pulled together my favorite calligraphy markers, along with envelope templates, glue, and tape. I visited a local consignment shop and found just the right glass canister. And, then I started making envelopes.
A spiritual discipline
It became a spiritual discipline. Most evenings I’d spend 30 minutes or so working on this project. I selected paper from my culled sources, pausing over the design or drawing or photo, appreciating the work to create the paper and the paper itself.
If the paper came from a calendar, I paused to remember the events marked on the calendar, thinking of the people involved. I thought of the staff who would draw from the canister and their ministry within Women of the ELCA, their families, and their communities. With three different envelope templates, I made envelope after envelope.
Then I gathered up quotes to use. I’ve been collecting pithy memes for several years, and that collection offered some good options. I searched the Internet, where there is no shortage of inspirational quotes. Messages came to me through the books I was reading. Drawing again on the paper from my culled sources, I began creating little cards on which I wrote a one-sentence message. I placed each message in an envelope and sealed it with a clear sticker (glue would work too).
Filled with inspiration and encouragement
The glass canister is now filled with lots of inspiration and encouragement, so I’ve brought it into the office. It sits on the coffee table, dwarfing the little bowl of chocolates. This is the way I’ve chosen to encourage the women I work with every day, with handmade envelopes and hand-lettered messages, available in a used glass canister. And with a little chocolate nearby, in case the inspirational messages don’t quite cut it.
You could adapt this project into something for your family, your workplace, even for use in your congregation. Invite others to participate and make the job even easier to accomplish.
Offering encouragement to one another has been on my mind lately. I wrote about it in my Grace Notes column in the January/February issue of Gather magazine. In these days with fewer hours of sunlight, when we often retreat to the comfort of our homes, when there are a whole lot of complaints swirling around, won’t you consider ways that you can offer encouragement to yourself and others?
As Paul exhorted the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:11), “encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
P.S. I wouldn’t have to admit the irony of my having eaten some leftover Valentine chocolates while writing this blog, but there it is, I admitted it.
Linda Post Bushkfosky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.