Letters by hand

KeenaDawnatRita'sThis is Keena. I met Keena  when I taught a First Year Student English course at Messiah College. Keena was 16 years old and entered Messiah College early because she was so advanced scholastically. The course I was teaching was “Living and Working when Cultures Collide”. I had a PhD in cross-cultural studies. Keena spoke 5 languages fluently and had been an exchange student in both Spain and France. Although I’ve studied 4 languages, I am fluent in only one: English, my native tongue. Keena was way far ahead of me in language study, but she really needed an adult to help her through adolescence. I believe God chose me. We are still close friends. She is now 32. I have known her half of her life. One of the things that Keena loves and has always loved more than anything is a handwritten letter. She was raised in the age of e-mails, faxes and twitter, but she longs for snail mail and hand-written encouragements. When she was overseas, I made it a point to mail her one hand-written letter each time. Today she lives in Hong Kong and teaches Spanish and music at a private international school. I always make her a handmade birthday card and Christmas card and write a letter to put in each of them. They are always pure gold to her.

I received a 7-page handwritten letter from a wonderful midwife I have exchanged e-mails with the past couple of years. We are casual acquaintances, but she took me ‘under her wing’ when I lost my maternal-child nursing job last January. She is from Australia and sentIMG_0013 me a calendar of Australia the past two Christmases and once sent me an Aussie snack spread to broaden my culinary experience. With this year’s calendar was the letter. As I read the pages, I began to weep. She had lost her dear husband and she was trying to learn how to live without him. I could not imagine what she must be going through. I wrote her back immediately. Sorrow of this kind demands that the pen go to paper and the lifeblood in the fingers make the pen move. No computer can coax out the angst quite the way a pen in hand can, at least for those of us who are old enough to have used the pen most of our lives.

Two other times this past month I have received two long letters. One from an old friend who wanted to let me know what she has been doing the past couple of years since we haven’t seen one another and the other was from someone I asked a question of many months ago, but who had been too busy to respond. She felt so badly about not responding that she took a long bit of her precious time to send me a private Facebook message telling me just how crazy things have been in her life. Although this was not hand-written, I had the same feeling about the private message as I did receiving the handwritten notes: someone pouring her soul out to me in such depth I could feel her heart beating with each word I read.

Earlier this week my older son, Harry, was talking to me on the phone and shared how much his boys loved to get mail. He said it is the easiest way to give them a thrill. Throw a sticker or a tattoo or some construction paper kisses into a letter and send it through the mail: instant HIT! He said he used to love that when he was a kid, and it is amazing to him how much his own boys love it, too. Here is an excited Max getting my birthday package to him. He’s holding in his hand the homemade superhero card I made for my own little superhero!


All these snail mail happenings make me think how important the human element is: we touch the item we send, we actually form the letters to the words we write and scratch them onto the paper. I am reminded of this in the precious Word of God where the apostle Paul includes this most important phrase: II Thessalonians 3:17 (NET) I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, which is how I write in every letter.” Paul felt it important to have the salutation part of each of his epistles written with his own hand. It was like a proof that it was from him, but I also think it was to show the early Christians he cared. It was difficult for him to write because of his poor eyesight, but he did it so they knew he was the one behind the letter.

God is with us—His handiwork is everywhere. Have you seen the moon tonight?


Tis exceedingly magnificent,



13 comments on “Letters by hand

  1. I don’t know why, Dawn, but I had tears flowing down my cheek as I read this tonight.
    I have always been a letter writer. Early in my High School years, I found it was my only way out of the walls of silence I had built around myself. For two years, I had struggled to find a way to just find a way to thank a lady in my church for a song she had sung that had significantly changed my life. Then, someone gave me a box of the most beautiful stationary with a pen to go with it, and it was the beginning of my writing. I practiced that letter over and over, until it was just right. Then, I put a stamp on it, and with a fast beating heart, I mailed it.

    I written a million hand-written letters in my life, and I still do. Perhaps it is the slow pace that allows the heart to flow through the pen, or to let thoughts sift through the busy-ness and frustrations of the day. I’m not sure. But I still grab a little spiral notebook with lined paper if I want to write a poem or something. The keyboard just doesn’t do it for me.

    No one seems to want to admit it, but everyone loves to get a “real” letter. We think we are “connecting” with facebook and twitter, emails and blog comments. But when someone writes in their very own handwriting “Dear Cora,” you have my heart.
    Thank you for this important post, Dawn. Perhaps you didn’t think it so important, but it is. There should be courses in school called, “The ancient art of letter writing.”

    • Dear Cora,

      How DO you get inside my head like you do? I really did hesitate to develop this because I didn’t think it was that important, but when the long handwritten letter kept coming (and I never get them), and my son talked about how excited his boys were getting mail, well, the preponderance of evidence was just too much so I relented to my Lord. I could just squeeze you for your affirmation. It was like getting dew on my sheep’s skin, Cora…or not, if you know what I mean, lol!

      My how I love you, Dear Sister,

  2. You know, I have just lately been thinking a lot about writing some snail mail letters and reviving that ancient art! Emails eclipsed it, but now FB and Twitter have eclipsed that, and in place of the personal touch, the one-to-one interconnection, we have blips to anyone who happens to be listening, and phooey with the rest of our old friends. Great thing you’re into here, Dawn. I think I really ought to join you. (And this is a stretch for me, because I never was very good at keeping up on that kind of correspondence!) Hm… now how do I get myself beyond the thinking-about-it stage and into gear? 😉

  3. I love this post, Dawn. And I agree with Cora, it is an important piece. I am quite like Cora in that I do so much better at writing with pen and paper than the keyboard. Especially when it comes to poetry. I love how you have learned to give place to those persistent nudges and turn aside to see what Papa is up to.

    And on another note, I am terribly curious to know what other languages you have studied. Do tell.

    Love you girl,
    Andrea Dawn

    • Dear Andrea,

      I am still waiting for the day when I instantly move to the Father’s call…baby steps. The languages I studied were French, Spanish and Latin. I got fairly good at understanding French and could even write simple notes and communicate with French-speaking people if they spoke slowly, but I never got fluent. Language study helped me really come to know English, however, and for that I will be forever grateful.

      Loving my ‘balmy’ Sunday,

  4. The ancient art of letter writing… that would make an awesome calligraphy !
    Oh, I too, love to receive a handwritten letter in the mail… i also love to send them.
    For me it is also fixing a beautiful stamp on it and sealing the surprise inside… all that love sent on the Wings of a Dove to bring encouragement to some of His precious ones!

  5. Dear Susan,

    I used to use a wax seal with my initial till the post office began to frown on them. Now I emboss or use a flat sticker and save the waxed seals for envelopes I don’t have to send through the mail. sigh

  6. This is a good word! I too enjoy handwritten letters and have one college roommate with whom I exchange letters occasionally…always precious!

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