Tag Archives: letter-writing


Does it bring you joy?

Does it bring you joy? Someone suggested asking this question when paring down my possessions.

After some pondering, I realized that when considering holding onto or getting rid of some possession, I am more apt to ask myself, would letting it go make me feel guilty?

I have been incredibly blessed by generous people throughout my life, and my house has lots of objects I received as gifts. I imagine if I had bought all of those things, it would be easier to let go of them, but so much of what I own has a story and a memory connected to it.

Is it possible to hold onto the memory and the story—and let go of the object?God-spirituality-joyMany years ago, I read a book about holding onto the gifts of retreat.

Retreats can be sacred moments in life, creating space to step out of daily routines, clear my mind of everyday worries, and focus on God and God’s will for me. Retreats offer the opportunity to get some distance and perspective, to look at how I am living and to consider any needed course corrections.

While on retreat, I often talk with God about what in my life needs to go—usually old fears, insecurities, anxieties and hurts.God-spirituality-joyHolding onto those insights from retreat once I am back in my daily routine can be a challenge. Daily prayer helps. Regular meetings with a spiritual director also help. This book suggested asking these questions about everyday situations:

  • Is this what I really want?
  • Will this matter tomorrow? In ten years? At the end of my life?
  • What do I think? feel? need? want?

The second set of questions has been the easiest for me to answer because I can see how insignificant many everyday occurrences really are. These questions have helped me let go of a great deal of hurt and anger. How much energy am I going to give to something that really has very little long-term significance?

The other questions, though, continue to challenge me. Like the question about what brings me joy, asking what I want or need seems somewhat foreign to me. It must be the way I was raised—spend very little time or thought on my own needs; focus more on the needs of others.  This is also the message I take from the Bible.

Of course, I know that I do have wants and needs, and over the course of my life, I have come to see how much healthier I am when I get in touch with them.

So, what is it that brings me joy? The objects in my home? Or the memories attached to them?

It is definitely the memories that remind me how blessed I have been.

Last year, I committed to writing a “love” letter every day in February—a note to someone who had blessed my life and brought me joy. I called it twenty-eight days of love. I thank I will do that again.God-spirituality-joy



Simple Gestures

“That was the first time I got a letter in my mailbox,” said the man who had called me, his voice full of wonder and excitement. He was one of the adult learners in the literacy program where I worked, and I had sent the letter to congratulate him on passing the GED.

How sad, I thought, that this 29-year old man had never before received a letter. Even the way he expressed it sounded foreign to me—“I got a letter in my mailbox.” I would have said, “I got a letter in the mail.”

I thought of all the times I had reached into the mailbox and pulled out a card or letter, the joy in reading a friend’s news and that sense of connection.

The first personal mail I remember receiving was in the summer after second grade. A classmate, practicing her newly-acquired writing skills, sent me a post card when she was at her family’s cottage. Every summer after that, she continued the practice of sending me post cards.

I remember waiting for the mailman to arrive on summer days, anticipating my post card, the thrill of seeing something with my name written on it.

I was hooked; letter-writing became a part of my life, and even in this age of electronic communication, I still love to write and receive letters.

The other day I received two notes in the mail. One was a thank-you note from my niece for her birthday gift. The other was a mystery. The name in the return address was unfamiliar and piqued my interest.

It was from a woman I had met last week. A minivan was creeping along the street and stopped in front of my house just I was leaving with the dog for our afternoon walk. I approached, thinking they may need directions.

The driver explained that she had grown up in my house and she was bringing her mother on a “trip down memory lane.” Her mother related that she and her husband had moved into my house when they got married in 1957.

I shared what I knew of the neighbors—some of them had grown up on this street and are living in their parents’ homes—and I invited them in to see my home.

“Oh, no, we couldn’t do that,” said the daughter. I pleaded with them to come inside, thinking of how much I would love to go into my childhood home. They declined.

“Any time you want to come in,” I said, “please just let me know.”

Her note expressed their “good luck and good timing” that I was walking the dog when they were driving down the street and their gratitude for the updates on the neighbors.

Now that I have her address, I will write and invite her and her mother to come for a visit. I can almost imagine her delight at retrieving my note from her mailbox.