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I often wonder what kind of humor God has calling someone to the ministry who always fails at prayer no matter what she’s tried. Prayer is the least of it. Spiritual journaling bores me. Being quiet and still is not possible. And don’t ask me about reading the Bible. That would take an entirely other blog. Yet I am committed to the *idea* that Lent is a time to get serious about spiritual practices. So every year I try. In the last decade I’ve had moderate success, but nothing that has transported me to a greater mindfulness.
This year I had my first Lenten Epiphany (and I am positive my last): letter writing. I am going to write forty letters of thanksgiving and love (I’ve already written 5) during Lent. 40 letters, one each day, sent in the mail with a beautiful stamp, to those who would not expect it or maybe haven’t heard from me in quite some time.
I love writing letters. I love receiving letters. I love stationary. I love plain white paper and a crisp envelope. I love stamps. I love waiting for the mail. And I love it all even more since the art of letter writing has almost been lost to quick texts, emails, and wedding invitations that come via paperless post.
My love affair with letters began when I met my lifelong friend at sleep over church camp. We met at the end of the week in the girl’s bathroom of all places. I loved her immediately. When I spoke of how disappointed I was that we met at the end, she quickly suggested becoming pen pails. We wrote letters nearly every week from 6th grade through our senior year in high school. Those letters document my adolescences: drama, boys, real overwhelming feelings and questions. Every single one of her letters is bundled and boxed in my attic. Those letters cemented a lifelong friendship. With paper and pen, Sara and I discovered who we were and the transformative love of friendship.
Something magical happens when writing a letter. The recorded words are for only one person. The grammar and spelling is less consequential. Instead the meaning and feeling behind the words is what matters most. The words are authentic and often raw. The unpolished imperfection has its own beauty.
My 40 letters will undoubtedly hold misspellings and cross outs. They will not express perfectly the deep well of thanksgiving from which they have emerged. Yet, I am trusting, that somehow between the time the letter is placed in my mail box and it arrives in someone else’s, God will have transformed that simple letter. I am trusting the intention of love will be articulated far beyond my limited language. And I am trusting that God will be working on my heart as I write these letters, searching for authenticity, not perfection.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.