{A Basket of Letters from many people, but mostly from my mother.}

When I was a little girl, about the age of 8 or 9 years old, I began reading through a series called The Mandie Books. I have fond memories of pouring over page after page of these exciting stories of Mandie and her friends. Now, thirty years later, I am reading them to my daughter and she, too, is enthralled with them! As a young girl, I was amazed to find that the author, Lois Gladys Leppard, based many of the incidents in the stories on real life accounts of her mother’s life growing up in North Carolina in the 1900s. My favorite genre of books are undoubtedly Christian and missionary biographies, so its no surprise that even at a young age I was drawn to read about stories based on true accounts.

I remember there was a small Christian bookstore down the hill from our home and I would ask my mother often, if she could take me to the store to check if the next book in the series had been published. I walked the aisle, my heart pounding, the bookstore smell so sweet as it was, and the excitement of seeing the newest book on display. I would hold it in my hands, absorbing every detail of the cover illustration, the chapter titles and return to the counter to pay for my book. The store owners wrapped it in a small brown paper bag and stuffed a cardboard bookmark inside. I could not wait to get back home and read it. And then I’d have to wait months until the next one was published. I even remember one day that I was sick and home from school. My mom had bought the two newest books for me and I am sure I read them both that day! Oh the joy of reading!

I remember the day I told my mom I wanted to write a letter to the author. She checked over the letter, helped me address the envelope and then off it went. Although I never heard back from the author, it was exciting to write to her. I’m sure she received a lot of fan mail especially from the east coast of the United States where the books were probably more popular. But there, in the southwest corner of British Columbia, Canada, her books were making an impact on at least one little girl.

Fast forward thirty years later.

This past year, I’ve had an unexpected journey with books and authors. I have written  about the book, God in the Sink, by Margie Haack. After reading on her blog that I could purchase a signed copy of her book by emailing her, I did just that. She wrote back to me an encouraging and heartfelt letter. She wrote about her joy in receiving my letter, the common ground we have in our husbands having both attended this seminary, her own memories of growing up on the border of Canada, and words of blessing to continue to follow God’s plan for my husband and I, and our future. For an author to take the time and write back was a real privilege and an honor.

{email letter and a postcard that came with the book, photo of Margie’s childhood home}

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that I had recently learned more about the life of missionary, Lilias Trotter, from biographer, Miriam Rockness. After commenting on one of the articles, I had the privilege of hearing back from her, not once but twice. She even took the time to share her words of encouragement about my own writing and blog, noting even about our common love of specific books, authors, and musicians. She even gave delightful descriptions of their hallway of books! It is those little personal touches that mean so much.

She wrote: “I wish you God’s continued joy and blessing as you write (and sing) out your life and faith.” – Miriam Rockness

Whatever is your field of ministry in the Kingdom of God, it is of incredible importance to search out older women who can pray for and encourage you in your work and calling. Sometimes the encouragement is from peers who are doing a similar work as you. Building a network of like-minded friends can go a long way to building one another up and creating a safe place to spur one another on.

“If you want to write good books, good songs, good poems, you need some talent, yes. But you also need good friends. You need fellowship. You need community.”
Andrew Peterson, The Rabbit Room

For the past several years, ever since I heard a cassette tape recording of Tim Keller speaking on the topic of marriage whilst staying at Swiss L’Abri in 2007, I’ve been following the ministry of Tim and Kathy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.  Every once in a while, I read a book, an article, listen to a podcast or like last month, get to see them in person at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference!

This afternoon, as I was resting from a busy day, I picked up my iPhone and thought of Kathy Keller. I randomly found an interview with her on Christianity Todayrecounting her correspondence with author, C.S. Lewis! I was engrossed in this interview as I had not known that she and him had written letters to each other for two years before his death. Here was a woman whom I greatly admire who had corresponded with an author/theologian whom I greatly adore. It was another example of writers writing to writers and the impact it can have on a single life.

“He did send me letters. I gave copies to the center at Wheaton College. At one point, I saw a book called “C.S. Lewis’s Letters to Children” and sure enough, mine were there. What was humiliating was seeing some of the letters other people had sent. They were so thoughtful and interesting and deep. I just wrote him of the small doings of my world, “I’m keeping house; my mother is sick.” He was so gracious.” – Kathy Keller, Christianity Today

Years ago, Sandra McCracken shared an essay about her experience writing a letter to Wendell Berry and the visit to his farm in Kentucky that followed. The entire experience being a dream come true for her.

“The exercise of writing my letter to Wendell Berry was, after my procrastination, a very gratifying experience. Just knowing that my official “thank you” was sealed, stamped, and on its way to Port William — I mean, Port Royal — gave me a feeling of deep satisfaction and joy. This would have been enough, but then a few months later, he wrote me a reply. I read his words of appreciation on a simple note, typed on simple stationery. I was thrilled.” – Sandra McCracken, Arthouse America

As I sit and think back to the correspondence I’ve been encouraged by this past year from several different authors, including having one of my articles being featured at Story Warren,  the new friendship I’ve made with a missionary mom in Taiwan, and the correspondence with a good friend from the Northwest who has now left to become a missionary on the other side of the world, I’m reminded of the simple joys of life, friendship, and correspondence. I’m reminded of how important correspondence is. Like Sandra, I was thrilled! It was the fulfillment of that wonderful quote by Sandra written many years ago to which I often come back to at the dawn of a New Year:

“I want to make house calls. I want to waste time on things that matter. On things that leave a mark in this world and the next. I want to carve out time to stop and boil the water. To bring out the china and the silver. To ask good questions of myself and my neighbors. And to listen patiently for the subtle answers…” – Sandra McCracken, Arthouse America

Each of those letters written to me this year has left a mark and has unexpectedly impacted my heart. They were a gift from my Lord. My blog has been silent for a few weeks. Summer has been full, full of many good things. I’m allowing myself this quietness here, mostly because I have no energy at the moment for piecing together words and sentences. So I find my creative energies are put to use searching out little woodland creatures behind our home, taking pictures of them, creating vignettes in my head about their comings and goings. As I pick up the pace just slightly again with my writing and working on my craft, I am reminded of the words of these authors who have been pivotal this year in the Lord’s work of shaping my craft. And I am thrilled!