SNAIL MAIL BLESSINGS: Christmas in the NICU Edition

This past August, I invited you to join me in what I’m calling the Snail Mail Blessings Challenge to write and send one hand-written note to someone each week. I had the idea because in this age of instant texts and emails, I’ve been missing the special connection of a different kind of correspondence – the old-fashioned hand-written note.  

Well, I’m realizing God also was preparing my heart (and hand) for something special because about a month ago I received lovely note from a woman named Jessika Sanders who has a ministry called “Praying through the NICU” which supports families in the NICU through prayer and other forms of encouragement.  

Here’s her note:

 Hi Laura! I just had an idea come to me and I wonder if it is from the Holy Spirit! We were in the NICU with our son on Christmas 2 years ago. It was so hard. The kindness of a stranger gifting us a baby toy touched our hearts—especially because it was the one toy I hadn’t gotten our son but had wanted to. ❤️

 This year I was thinking of doing something special for our local NICU as well as some of the families in our online community that find themselves in the hospital for the holiday. I would love to gift them a Christmas book to read to their baby. My first thought was your “Goodnight Manger” board book. ❤️ Would you prayerfully consider being a part of this somehow? I know you are a NICU mom and your book is a beautiful blessing. Would you pray about it and get back to me? ❤️ God bless you!

I am indeed a NICU mom. Our son, who is now in college, was born 16 weeks early and spent 105 days in the NICU.  And those days were so difficult — facing the unknown, wondering if he would be okay and what the future might hold. 

But just as Jessika experienced, during that time, God used strangers to comfort us with words of encouragement and prayer.  A teenager and former preemie came to visit the NICU one day, stopping at each isolette and serving as testament to God’s presence and mercy.  A monastery of complete strangers prayed for us. A quilting guild of women I didn’t even know, not only prayed, but made a quilt that we still use. Three beautiful examples of strangers reaching out with God’s love in the midst of the difficult.

So, of course, I said, yes.  And what would my special role be?  Writing a note of encouragement for each book donated. 

I also said I would donate three books and my wonderful publisher, Zonderkidz donated 12 more. Jessika was thrilled and she said could match our fifteen with fifteen of her own.  And we were on our way. She also mentioned that she and her team would have a book drive and so the totals might be a little bigger.  Maybe 75?  Would that be okay, she asked.  Of course, I said. I would write as many notes as needed. 

Well, God has knocked my socks off! The number of copies of GOODNIGHT MANGER that have been generously purchased by kind-hearted souls eager to bless those babies and their families is now approaching 450! 

And in the kindness begets kindness department, and because 450+ notes of encouragement is a lot of notes to hand-copy, I have been blessed with a team of friends and family who have offered to pitch in with the letter writing – leaving a space for me to sign.  These include:

  • an 84 year old former preschool teacher
  • my sister and her two kids, ages 10 and 13,
  • a dear friend who I’ve known for ages (who has beautiful penmanship!)
  • a wonderful friend who is also a NICU mom and was one of the first strangers to reach out to me with encouragement and prayer when our son was first born. (That’s how I met her!)
  • a new friend who just loves and idea and wants to pitch in
  • a lovely steward of a local Little Free Library who I met when I dropped a copy of LOVE IS KIND off there last year.  We have become friends and she is a NICU mom and is eager to pitch in a big way
  • and I have a feeling more will join the team in the coming weeks.


I will send the hand-written, signed notes to Jessika. She will then distribute them to her team to be packaged with the books that have been donated. And it’s not just for a couple of NICUs. Her team is comprised of wonderful NICU mamas who have blessed by Jessika Sanders “Praying through the NICU” ministry. They are the ones who will hand deliver the packages to their respective NICUs in at least four states that span the nation!

Learn more about the Praying through the NICU ministry. Interested in being a part of the Christmas in the NICU book drive?  Press here.  (The book drives runs through 11/15/21.)

In closing, perhaps this post will inspire you to make a list of special people in your life (or complete strangers) that you might bless with a note of encouragement in the coming weeks.

Blessings all!

SNAIL MAIL BLESSINGS: Spreading Kindness the Old-Fashioned Way (Thank You Notes Edition)  

It has been almost two months since I invited you to join me in what I’m calling the Snail Mail Blessings Challenge. I created the challenge because, in this age of instant texts and emails, I’ve been missing the special connection of a different kind of correspondence – the old-fashioned hand-written note.  

Jump in anytime. Miss a week? No problem. It’s not about perfection or pressure. It’s about blessing others through the simple act of putting pen to paper, putting that paper in an envelope, addressing it by hand, affixing a stamp and sending it off. 

SPOILER ALERT: I’ve been a letter writer all my life. At first, it was because my mother and grandmother were in cahoots and made me. And how did they do this? Christmas and birthday gifts. I was informed at a very young that Christmas and birthday gifts were special (which they were) but that I wouldn’t receive them unless I remembered to write a thank you note to each person who gave me one. Writing thank you notes, they said, was like sending a gift back to the giver – but in written form!  What a concept! 

So, from a very young age, I wrote thank you notes. At first, I didn’t like writing them. They took so much time and I wanted to play. 

But my mother was smart and for birthdays she made sure we invited just a small number of party-goers, so that writing those notes as manageable. 

And my grandmother made letter writing fun because she would answer my thank you notes with lovely notes of her own and, just like that, we were writing letters back and forth. I still have many of them. Here’s an example of one I wrote when I was 10.  (Don’t you just love my frankness in describing my new neighbors?)

TODAY’S CHALLENGE:  I love my mother’s and grandmother’s idea hand-penned thank you note is like sending a gift back to the giver, but in written form.

This has certainly been true for me. I love getting thank you notes!  Some of my favorites have been from students I have visited in schools (and I love that their teachers are cultivating this art with the next generations).  Here’s are a couple of examples from a virtual visit with my friend Tina Cho’s class in South Korea back in 2016:

I also love this thank-you note I received soon after LITTLE EWE released. My father sent a copy of the book to his Great-Aunt Beanie, who he hadn’t seen in decades. It was his special way of reconnecting with her and the note she sent in return was certainly a gift to us.  Here it is:

Will you join me in writing a thank you letter to someone this week?  And maybe you could make this your goal for the next few weeks as well.  Blessings, all, snail mail and otherwise!

SNAIL MAIL BLESSINGS CHALLENGE: The Cursive Conundrum

TRUE STORY! The first two Snail Mail Blessings Challenge cards I sent to my first two young recipients – ages 10 and 13 – had to be read to them by their mother. Why? I wrote them in cursive and they couldn’t decipher the script!

I should have anticipated this. After all, when I sign books at events, I always print the message for the child. And even my own children, ages 16 and 21, have a hard time deciphering the sweet notes their Great Aunt Gayle sends them. In fact the only words my own children know how to do in cursive are their signatures – and they had to really work to master those.

When I taught fourth grade, 20+ years ago, my favorite part of the day (and the kids’ too) was right after recess. I’d have the day’s cursive practice up on the chalk board waiting for them and they’d get out their cursive books and, after reviewing the letter or letter combo of the day, they’d practice while I read aloud to them from wonderful books like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Summer of the Monkeys, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This daily read-aloud/cursive time took up only about 20 minutes per day and we treasured it. And at the end the kids had not only mastered cursive, they also had been enriched by the magic of read-aloud time.

I, too, learned cursive in school as an eight year old. My photo for they day – an entry from my third grade journal- is proof. That cursive has really helped me over the years – particularly when I was taking notes and, now, as I write. Oh, yes, it’s possible, to take notes on a lap top or to type a story directly into a computer. Certainly it’s faster and infinitely more legible. However, there is something about writing long-hand that makes the concepts I am writing about stick better in my mind. And what’s the fastest way to write long-hand? Using cursive because the letters connect and so you don’t have to lift the pen off the page for each letter.

I have two questions for you (and me) as we write our snail mail blessings this week. First, will you use print or cursive? Second, if you are a parent to a child, will you consider teaching them cursive since it is no longer part of the public school curriculum? There are workbooks you can still order to help you. And, it doesn’t have to mean just one more thing you need to add to an already busy day. You can weave it into your read-aloud time! (Because you are doing that, right? You should. It’s a wonderful family practice that your children will treasure for years.)

I regret not infusing cursive into the rhythm of my own children’s days. But I think my daughter might just choose to learn it on her own. She loves the elegant look of cursive. She also is a devoted long-hand notetaker. I hope she does.

Happy Snail Mail Blessing this week! Let me know how it goes and if you use print or cursive.

SNAIL MAIL BLESSINGS: Fostering KINDNESS the Old-Fashioned Way

In this age of instant texts and emails, I’ve been missing the special connection of a different kind of correspondence – the old-fashioned hand-written note. 

Beginning in my tweens through my twenties, I regularly wrote hand-written notes. Some were condolence letters. Some were thank you notes. Most were letters to friends in places I’d previously lived.  Many were letters to my now-husband of 29 years! All were written from the heart and they were my favorite way to connect across the miles.  

Each letter began with a connection point where I reminded the recipient how much I missed them or had been thinking about them. Then I would ask a question or two about how they were doing. Next, I’d share some of the meaningful things that were going on in my neck of the woods, often continuing a conversation thread from a letter I’d received from them.  I’d close with a reminder once again of how much they meant to me and how I looked forward to hearing from them. 

Looking back, I see there was an art to those letters and a special connection built through the bond of writing – an art and connection that I fear we are only a few texts and social media posts away from losing forever.

So now, with September just around corner, I’ve decided to shake the dust off my stationary stash and develop a new habit of writing one old-fashioned note once a week to someone special.

Would you like to join me in this letter writing journey, which I’m calling “Snail Mail Blessings”?  If so, please let me know in the comments section so we can encourage each other along the way.

Getting started is easy. Just grab paper, pen, a stamp and an envelope. Find a comfortable spot to write. Pause quietly for a moment and see if someone comes to mind – an old classmate perhaps, or a special aunt or uncle you haven’t written to in awhile. Maybe you know someone who needs a little boost of encouragement this week. Your heart will tell you when you’ve got the right person for this week. 

Then write the letter and send it the old-fashioned way- via snail mail.  

I hope that this challenge is a blessing to your week, as I know it will be to mine. And be on the look out in coming weeks for more thoughts and inspiration for ways we can bless those around us (and be blessed in return) through the simple act of writing letters and sending them the old-fashioned way.

Snail Mail Blessings to your and yours!

Laura