Letter Writing: A Lenten Endeavor

Dear Karen*,

I have been trying to think of the last time I applied pen to paper to write you a note and realize— it’s been way too long! I would like to pretend that the myriad numbers of excuses I could posit would prove sufficient to my defense, but alas, they remain excuses. Today, however, I am acting on the thought! As I always say, knowledge and action are not the same thing! The proof is in the pudding, not the recipe!

That has been my goal this Lent….to make the pudding, as it were! I find that I am wasting too much time on receptive endeavors and not enough time on productive ones. Letter writing has been the way I am trying to counteract that trend.

I am finding that as the girls get older they need less of my instruction but more of my supervision. Consequently, I spend much of my day sitting at the table and so I was also using most of that time reading articles on my phone. The minute I would walk away from the table to do something ‘productive’ like cleaning, vacuuming, or the laundry, the girls would cease producing. But, I was finding that at the end of the day, I was rather flat and lethargic because I couldn’t recall anything I had ‘done’. (Cooking and supervising/teaching not withstanding)!)

So, this Lent, I resolved to put my thoughts on paper. I have never been a fan of journaling, finding it a bit too much navel-gazing to me- and since I rarely re-read what I have written, they would become just one more piece of human debris following me through this life.

I am however, eminently social and by God’s grace, I have been blessed with a remarkable list of amazing friends, and so writing letters seemed the logical location to direct my thoughts. I find now, that writing well is a bit like playing piano well. (Which I don’t do, by the way!) The piece grows organically and weaves and interweaves between crescendo and decrescendo, allegro and andante. And, there is both satisfaction and a bit of sorrow as the letter makes its way to its conclusion.

The piano provides a feast for the ears and the imagination, but letters can provide a feast for the eyes and the intellect. The modern visual media- the “perma-screens” that are ubiquitous and stifling, tend to remove our individual capacity for thought and force us to ‘see’ exactly what others see and lead us more and more along the path of forced uniformity.

Not so the work of fiction or piece of music…. or the letter. Our intellect and imagination are allowed to play alongside one another and supply the deficit of visual sight with an abundance of interior sight. One can feel the long tentacles of tyranny encroaching on the interior freedom with which God created us because ‘imagination’ is being inserted in our brains through a screen, rather than growing organically through child play and authentic interaction with the world and people around us. We are in a sense being trapped in that very flat screen that is our phone, rather than living in the fullness of the beautiful creation that God has provided for us.

The misunderstood Cartesian philosophy that ‘we are’ because ‘we think’ (an inaccurate reading of his famous proclamation!) has separated us into a person at odds with himself. Body and spirit in opposition to one another rather than being in unity as God intended! And when this division occurs, problems are not far behind. We see them multiplying so quickly, it is sometimes hard to keep up. The slippery slope of the separation of procreation and unity in the marital embrace has rapidly given way to the separation of mind and body and we have moved rapidly from deviance to deviance.

And yet, with all the chaos swirling around us, I find that there is real hope in something as simple and straightforward as a letter. With these pieces of paper, you and I can share a reflection or an insight- a giver and a receiver- the two necessary elements of love. I have found it a profound joy to spend time alone with the silence of my thoughts, watching them flow forth easily (if not neatly, nor elegantly!) from my hand. What a gift it is to be able to write.

This has also filled me with a renewed desire to work on the handwriting skills of my children. There is a real freedom that cursive brings, a freedom to make visible the invisible. Speaking has always come easily to me, but it has little lasting value, for a word once spoken is potentially lost forever- save for the Logos! I find writing is good for two reasons. One it is of far longer duration. A little (or long?) book or letter can be read and reread as often as it brings enjoyment or insight. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it forces the writer to be more introspective and thoughtful because the words can only appear on the page as quickly as the hand allows. That defect of speed can prevent many wounds that might be inadvertently caused by a too rapid mouth!

I think I will end here. All is well with the kids and Kara is progressing nicely on her math facts and reading! Love to Ted et al!

God Bless!

Love you, Sara

Sara Beatty is a wife 26 years, home schooling mother of 10, with a BA in French and International Studies from St. Norbert College. She resides in Akron, OH where she is often to be found sitting on her front porch with a cup of something warm (or warming!) in her hands, pondering the joys and sorrows of life.

*NB Dear friends, I have a treat for you. A dear friend of mine, Sara Beatty, wrote this letter to me for Lent and has graciously given permission for publication on my blog. I found much to ponder in it and thought you might as well.

6 comments

  1. Dear Karen, I loved it! Thank you for sharing. Finally, someone has beautifully expressed my sentiments about journaling! As you said, much is there to ponder. Blessed Holy Week and Easter! Wanda

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Thanks for sharing Sara’s lovely letter, Karen!! Letter writing is a lost art. It’s transformative for writer and reader(s), don’t you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *