Word Letter Responses

To encourage women to connect with one another and with God, Claire DeBerg, editor of Mennonite Women USA, created 365 notes with 365 different words to inspire reflection–one for each day of the year. She passed them out during the MC USA Phoenix convention in 2013 and below are the results of this effort.

We’ll continue to update and add-to as more and more responses to the word letters come in.

From Andra Zerbe


“Hi Claire,

This morning I opened the envelope you had given me marked for this date. It requested that I reflect on the word plea.

Plea, being an appeal or request, reminds me of pleas said in prayer. I have an image in my mind of someone down on their knees appealing to God in prayer. This sort of reminds me of the parable of the servant who pleas to his master about his large debt, then is unable to forgive for a small debt to him.

When I pray I try to include both requests and thanksgivings, or at least I try to remember to do both. I also imagine there are many others who have appeals that if answered may create a much larger or even more positive outcome than mine. Though plea may seem like a thing that makes one much more humble in prayer, it may also be something that makes one more reflective in prayer, so long as plea does not turn into an unthankful request for any small thing.”


From –Kathy Bilderback


“Opened my card on Friday and read this word and had to smile. I miss my dad who died 20 years ago from this Saturday. I remember his tenderness, his laugh, fun, commitment to family, and love for God and the church. I’m so grateful for his gift of life he gave me. I will never forget his big hands but his even bigger heart for anyone who came into his life. And now I’m grateful for my husband who is a wonderful father to our sons. I’m filled with gratitude for ‘Father.'”


From Ruth Kaufman


“My word for August 15 was “seal.” May God place a SEAL on my heart & mind, to seal in the good & seal out the bad. SEALS mean permanence, protection of those things most meaningful & important. From the Song of Solomon 8:6 . Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death . . . (written for the beloved, but surely that may include many).

And, of course,. there’s SEAL, the animal . . . that graceful creature (in the water!) with the distinctive voice (!) & the big, beautiful eyes”


From Nancy Krehbiel


“Tuesday night at small group, a friend shared her experience of opening her card. I have summarized Nancy Krehbiel’s comments here. ‘August 13… The day I was to open my card from Mennonite Women USA. In the days before, I looked at the envelope with fear wondering if the word was going to evoke memories of my late husband (It’s only been two years!), a message of doom and gloom for the family, a challenge to change my ways. I slowly pulled out the card. The word was “oceans.”

Ah, I was immediately taken to my childhood. Before settling in the landlocked center of the country, I lived near the ocean. The word brought memories of good time with my older sister bottling ocean water during the times of the fluorescent moon and falling asleep in the dark closet where we watch the bottle ocean water glow. I remembered days when it was safe to send young kids to the beach by themselves to explore and come home to tell Grandma what was discovered. While the ocean can be brutal and dangerous, it holds a unique beauty. There is majesty in its vastness. There is comfort in the rhythmic whisper of the waves.'”


From Sondra Tolle


“Hi Claire!

A moment has finally arrived to reflect on the word:  Promise.  1 John
4:4 states, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them:
because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
This promise is ours every day from our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
We need to accept this promise and share this promise with others.  We
may share his promise with those who face grief from loss of a friend or
family member; a friend who is in hospice care; a new student ready to
begin school; a neighbor who needs a listening ear; a new hire in the
workplace; or a baby boomer ready to retire.  With God as our loving
Father we may face each day with his promise of redemption and share joy
with others in their unique circumstance. May God Bless You!”


From Laurel Davis


“The word depart is an action word. I believe it is a willingness to leave…a place, a person or a position. To depart is to change direction. It is my choice to depart and that choice may be challenging or exhilarating, difficult or wonderful. It is movement! To depart is to do things differently.”


From Christy Berkey Pickerill


“I was asked to reflect on the word “Redemption”. Should have answered a few days ago, but I got busy. I get to experience this daily by knowing the silly or ignorant things I do are forgiven, covered, and I don’t have to be defined by such mistakes. I appreciate that, and am thankful for the redemption from sin and suffering that Jesus gave us by his life and death.”


From Katrina Schrock


“Wind.  How do you describe it? It’s unseen, yet we feel it working, and
we see the impacts it has. Sometimes, wind can be thought of negatively
– a whirlwind of activity, perhaps, that may crowd out some of the more
important things in our lives. On the other hand, were it not for wind,
nature might struggle to sustain itself. Wind blows seeds from trees,
allowing them to spread from the mother tree and flourish. Wind is also
something we can take for granted, especially if it is windy day after
day after day. We don’t even think about it any more. If it’s strong
enough, the wind may even become a nuisance.

In a way, though, wind is like God. Unseen, yet impacting our world and
necessary for our survival. We don’t always have the best opinion of
God – but He is always there, blowing through our lives to bless us in
ways we could never imagine. God bless!”


(submitted anonymously to the MW USA office)


“My word for today was “Encompass.” I don’t use that word very much. But the immediate thought that came was “Everything is covered.” And in thinking about God – God covers everything – the Holy spirit is our comforter, Jesus is our High Priest – so we are completely encompassed by God’s Power, His Presence and His Wisdom. What more could we want or need?”


From Dayle Toews


“TRUST–means to me to keep on going and believing, even when it appears there are no solutions in sight. Trust gives me the hope that is essential to living.

This was my word for February 13.”


From Rachel Ringenberg Miller received March 17, 2014


“It’s Monday morning and I’m tired. Last week was a busy week. It was filled with meetings during the day and evening. The added bonus of last week was the preparation for my children’s school auction. The auction was Saturday night and as one of the chairs, I worked solidly from Thursday afternoon (I took a half day off work to focus solely on the auction) to Saturday night around 11pm. Last evening we had the 2 other chairs and their families over for pizza to celebrate that we had survived. It was 8:30pm by the time the families walked out the door – past our children’s bedtime.  After I had closed the door behind them, I looked back inside our house to see this; dirty dishes, toys on the floor, and the sleepy eyes of my children.  My mind ticked through all the things that needed be done after the kids go to bed, like packing lunches and putting the house back in order. I look at my husband. He says to me, “let’s go to bed.”  Meaning, after we put the children to bed, we then go to bed and leave Sunday evening routines for tomorrow.  I consider saying no; we need to get ready for Monday.  I make routines and live by them, which means leaving things undone is, well, not done. I wait a minute to reply back to him. I’m tired, both in body and in mind. I relent to his suggestion and nod my head in agreement. It’s about 9pm when we get to bed; an early bedtime. I will wake up rested is what I’m thinking when I lay my head down on my pillow. Unfortunately, that is not the case when the alarm goes off at 6 am. My husband gets up to prep for his day at the university. I lay there, willing myself to get up. After about 20 minutes, I do.  The morning routines for the children went about well as one can expect from a 5 year old and 3 year old who went to bed an hour past their normal bedtime. My husband packed their lunches while I gathered other miscellaneous items the children need for school. We were all out the door and into our respective cars right on schedule. It’s shaping up to be a normal day for us.

Now I’m in my office at the church.  My schedule for the week is only slightly less full than last week. I look at the notes on my desk from Sunday that I wrote as people were talking to me and am glad to see for the most part, I can read my scratches.  As I scan my desk, my eyes stop on a red piece of paper which says “openness.” It’s a card I received from Mennonite Women USA at the convention this past summer. Those who attended the Mennonite Women dinner, received envelopes that had dates on them and when your date arrived, you were to open it. I pinned it to the bulletin board by my desk.  Mine was to be opened on February 12. On February 13, the office admin whom I speaking to in my office, says to me, “Hey, it’s February 13” and points to the envelope. I open it after he walks out. I lay the card on my desk. The word “openness” fills me with excitement. I think to myself that I will write something (as was suggested) and send it to Mennonite Women USA.  As it stands, today is March 17 and the card is still sitting on my desk.

I look back at the card today and I’m still filled with excitement. What can openness mean for me, for my family, for the congregation?  I wonder though, it is possible to feel open when your mind and life are full it can be overwhelming?

Right now, we are in the midst of the Lenten season, a time to reflect on our lives over the past year as we together as a faith community reflect on the life and death of Jesus. It has been a full and sometimes overwhelming year. Two events in particular come to mind; my husband’s final semester in his graduate program followed by his graduation and filling in for the lead pastor while he was on his 4 month sabbatical.  These events were in succession and I while I was in it, it was at times, hard to catch my breath. Yet, as I look back, there were moments of when I changed direction and was open to a different way of seeing and being.

This year will not be that different in terms of busyness. That is my reality due the calling I have as a pastor and choices I have made as a parent, spouse and friend.  Yet, I can still be open to movement of the Holy Spirit. Openness is how I ended up on the path that I am on. (I did not plan on being a pastor.)

This will be my focus for the Lenten season, to be open and to retain a sense of openness. This will require me to abandon my routine and make a new one, but that’s okay. I will tell myself, it’s okay. God is with me, Jesus is teaching me, the Holy Spirit is guiding me.”


From Becky Tyson received April 24, 2014


“Following are some of my understandings and experience of the word “gifted” in my life:

  • gifted in the many wonderful rich friendships that are part of my life
  • health
  • family
  • sustaining and caring church family
  • God’s caring wonderful love for me”


from Elaine Kauffman received May 27, 2014


“This word intersects with some recent thoughts…

When we give thanks it is usually for things we perceive… the brown of the recently tilled garden with its bits of green… the smell of the morning’s rain… the promise of life in the springtime… I’m less likely to give thanks for the weeds I know will green the top layer of the brown given a few days of warmth and sunshine… but I still give thanks for the greening and the growing.

How often, I wonder, do I fail to give thanks for things I cannot perceive? Things that are beyond my perception… the working together of biology and chemistry that make it possible for my body to receive nourishment, breathe, walk, talk, stretch, bend, plant and harvest. Thanks be to God for the imperceptible–but-real cycles and interwoven cycles that give us life!”


From Patricia Hershberger received June 3, 2014


“My “take-home” card from MW Phoenix dinner was for this month, June, and the word is “Unite.” I was happy to see this and thought it appropriate and timely to reflect on this as so much is swirling around in MC USA right now. Unite for me says collaboration, coming together, finding a greater strength, a common purpose and goal, interdependence, and seeing a broader horizon (perspective) than only one can see. God created us to live in relationship, may it be so.”


from Janet Lynn Trevino Elizarraraz received June 21, 2014 on the MW USA Facebook page


Yesterday was my date (20th) to open up my envelope given to me at the MCUSA Women’s conference & it was HOLD.

I heard in my heart, ‘hold on’, ‘hold on to what you got’, ‘hold, for what you desire will come in it’s time.’

In life and especially in my life, I’m running. I whole heatedly believe in action & moving somewhere, but rarely do I simply hold, find myself in a holding pattern.

Right now this word came at just the right time as I contemplate how I’d like for growth & change to happen in myself & others faster than it is. Accepting reality as it is is harder than we think! Holding to what is IS a spiritual practice.


from Jill Thompson received Sunday, June 29 from our Facebook page.


My reflection today was Cheer. We were able to bless our pastor and fiance today at our service at Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship in Boise. What a blessing to be part of their journey of love. As a former Catholic, I have never experienced being part of a pastor’s courtship, engagement and finally wedding this week. Cheer is an appropriate word. I also was told that our niece is 10 wks pregnant; our other niece with cancer may have been misdiagnosed. Cheer!


from Jana Oesch received August 5, 2014 via email.


An article in the last Timbrel reminded me that I had an envelope in my Bible that I was supposed to open this summer! I quickly found it and noticed I should have opened it on June 3! Sorry if my musings are a bit long, but it was fun to think about! 🙂

Yoke – The first things that pop into my mind are oxen plowing a field, an old man at church that always requested “His yoke is easy His burden is light” at the church hymn sings and “Don’t be unequally yoked.”

As a kid, when it was explained to me briefly what a yoke was, the oxen in my head were burdened down with this heavy thing on their shoulders that rubbed soar spots. It was a device used by man to make the animals submit to their commands. It wasn’t a very positive picture. But year after year as I heard the words to the hymn, I began to change my mind.

Does the burden seem heavy and rub soar spots even in lives of Christians? Well sure, try as we might to make things look like we are comfortable and in control. It’s hard work, but thankfully we have the greatest “farmer” of all leading us. His discipline is not a burden, at least it shouldn’t be. It is a tool to show love, to train and guide, to walk along beside. And I think as fellow Christians, spouses, parents, teachers, preachers, friends, etc. this is how we should help each other.

As a young person, I took “being equally yoked” pretty seriously. I tried to choose my friends wisely, and when thinking about marriage, well, that’s probably why I went to a Mennonite college, to be honest. There are many Christians in Idaho, but not a lot of Mennonites. I couldn’t marry just any nice, committed Christian. One thing I thought about a marriage partner was that the more you could see eye-to-eye on in the first place and agreed about, then the more time you could spend enjoying life together without lots of arguing and disagreeing. And, yes, I did find a wonderful, committed, Christian, Mennonite guy! (But I actually found him in Idaho!) And we have been “yoked” for 23 years and counting, and we are both very glad to have someone that sees things through the same “lens” as the other. Of course, this concept of being equally yoked is also important in other areas of life such as business, employment, etc.

Thanks for the fun exercise!

Jana Oesch
Evergreen Heights Mennonite Church
Caldwell, Idaho”


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