Pen to Paper. A Challenge. A Giveaway
“One comfort that I relish is a letter from a close friend. The surprise of the letter in the day’s mail, the recognition of her handwriting on the envelope, the ritual of getting settled into my chair and reading and rereading her carefully chosen words.”–Deborah Chappell
I painted our ugly black metal mailbox white and used blue paint to stencil a flower and the numbers 309 on it. 309 Hoover Street in Staunton, Virginia was the first place I began to send and receive #pentopaper cards and letters. We left Ohio when I was five years old. My first grade teacher, Mrs Cobb, who would later be Delaney’s third grade teacher and is now Danica’s third grade teacher, became a pen pal when we moved away. I’d sit on the front porch swing waiting. The mail truck would stop at our house, and I would leap barefoot over the sprawling roots of the maple tree to check and see if there was a letter for me. Soon after I began collecting stamps. Every year for Christmas I would ask for the USPS Philatelic book containing every stamp released that year. A life long obsession with cards and stationary took hold as well, and I began collecting all kinds of paper. Most of all I began a love of slow, thoughtful back and forth conversations written by hand.
If you know me personally you have most likely received a #pentopaper from me. It’s been a priority most of my life, but when I became very sick I struggled with losing the ability to minister in any active way. I began setting aside a day a week to look through my address book, my facebook friends and church directory and mail cards and letters to touch base, encourage or celebrate people. I took the opportunity to pray specifically for each person I wrote. In a world where we primarily follow and respond to one another’s lives in seconds on social media or text messages if someone is very close to us, there is something incredibly intimate about receiving a letter touched by someone’s own hands, written in their unique style and penmanship, envelope licked by their tongue and carried to their own mailbox. They push the flag up as if to say, “Stop here! I have a piece of love to send today.” I’m fascinated with the logistics of the postal service. People complain about the price of stamps, but I still marvel for under fifty cents I can write you a letter, mail it from Ohio today, and you will receive it in California Thursday or Friday this week. I like to think of the journey it takes from here to there.
I have also been the recipient of hundreds of #pentopaper acts of kindness over the years. There are days a letter in my mailbox is the only contact I have with the world outside my home. The thoughts and prayers expressed in my own love language have literally rescued me. I don’t take one for granted. I cherish them all, and I hoard them. I don’t save much of anything I haven’t used in the past thirty days. My life is simple and lean, but when I die there will be my books and hat boxes, shoe boxes and Rubbermaid containers stuffed full of personal mail. The postmarks form the framework for my life’s timeline. Friends come and go. A few have stayed forever. Some people I don’t know at all, but they are praying for my family and I and supporting us. These cards and letters tell a story I love to read over and over again.
As part of my year of listening I have pulled back almost completely from responding on social media. I rarely text. When I feel myself wanting to type a few characters to express my sorrow or joy over something you’ve shared or just wanting to tell you I love you, and you are on my mind and heart, I STOP. I sit down next to my rolling cart full of paper, pens, stamps and stickers and my old fashioned address book, and I write something real and lasting and walk it down to my mailbox with a prayer. On every piece of mail I’ve sent I’ve written somewhere on the envelope the hashtag #pentopaper.
As a thank you to everyone who has taken the time to love me this way and as a challenge to those of you who aren’t really wired or disciplined to send #pentopaper much at all I am hosting a fun giveaway.
It includes the sweetest little set of jewelry with a tiny letter necklace and tiny letter earrings. I can hardly stand it they are so precious. There is also a set of “You’ve Got Mail” notecards with twenty USPS stamps and the book The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication by Margaret Shepherd.
To enter please comment here on the blog or on a social media post about a time you received #pentopaper that made all the difference. I will randomly choose a winner Monday morning, October 3rd. In the meantime think of someone who could use a note of encouragement, thanks or love and find time to write them and stick it in the mail. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #pentopaper. Let’s fill up one another’s mailboxes with kindness.
Lisa RomieSeptember 26, 2016 at 11:40 am (7 years ago)
The best pen to paper note that I have ever received was from my friend. She sent me a nice note when I moved to my new apartment……. My friend is the best pen to paper writer…. She has written hundreds of notes to her church friends, family, and strangers…. I would like for you to say a prayer for my friend. She will be leaving this world soon…. She will be at peace finally when she reunited with her Daddy and her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…
MonicaSeptember 26, 2016 at 12:24 pm (7 years ago)
I will pray for her last days to be peaceful and for all of you who love her dearly to be comforted as you let go. I had a friend who died from cancer a few years ago. About a year after her death her mom was going through her things and found a card written and addressed to me that was never mailed. Imagine opening your mailbox and finding your friend’s handwriting and heart so long after she was gone! It was amazing. Much love to you.
Lisa RomieSeptember 26, 2016 at 1:21 pm (7 years ago)
Thank you this is not an easy thing to go through… Lisa
Martha HutchesonSeptember 26, 2016 at 1:44 pm (7 years ago)
Monica, I remember the pen and paper notes you have sent to me that have blessed my heart and soul. You sent me a cd of music to encourage me as well. I have not sent the #pentopaper notes/letters through the years since my car accident and diagnoses of Chiari, EDS, TCS, IH, etc., due to the struggles I have with writing. At times, I have typed notes, but I have not done this as I should. My friends have sent me notes with Bible verses to encourage me to keep my eyes on the Lord Jesus and His Holy Word to have the strength to keep going through the trials of these conditions. I am unable to shop since I am homebound. I have the supplies to make some simple cards. The Lord has laid this challenge on my heart for a year to begin writing letters and notes again. I have only done a few! Thank you for your story and example because you struggle like I do. I had already set a goal to do 1-2 cards a week to re-establish friendships that have dropped by the way with my being disabled, etc. This is a way to focus on the Lord and others and to be an encouragement. Thank you again for this challenge for us to join you in this wonderful way for each of us to be a blessing to others! I greatly appreciate you, and I pray for you and Danica.
MonicaSeptember 26, 2016 at 3:44 pm (7 years ago)
I love you Martha! There have definitely been periods when I couldn’t hold my head up or put sentences together. Often that’s when my blog has gone quiet too. I feel like so much we say here digitally gets swept away. I guess I’m trying to fight that in some small way.
GraceSeptember 26, 2016 at 4:09 pm (7 years ago)
My favorite #pentopaper was when a friend sent a note along with a bouquet of peonies as a thank you for loving her family through a hard time. Little did she know that the peonies was something I had been longing for and that it was just what I needed at the time.
VickieSeptember 26, 2016 at 9:40 pm (7 years ago)
To say I love this idea would be an understatement! As a child I loved getting letters from a pen pal that I had never met but became a dear friend from the written word – sadly I hadn’t thought about her in years! I have never met you but a friend posted this on her FB page and I am so glad that she did! I will be praying for you and yours and hope to someday have shoeboxes of love letters from “friends”.
Diane McElwainSeptember 27, 2016 at 12:08 pm (7 years ago)
I’m late to reading this, Monica. I remember my Mama telling me I had measles and chicken pox at the same time. I recall being so tired in school, I laid my head down on my desk. My teacher was so compassionate. That summer I received a postcard in the mail from her vacation spot. Cherished! I still love mail and this very morning I was telling my husband, Sherm, that I haven’t written to anyone in a while. I need the pen and paper out! Bless you, girl.
ChristySeptember 27, 2016 at 1:09 pm (7 years ago)
Dearest Monica, My girls giggle when they open the mailbox to see your handwriting on an envelope – knowing what joy it will bring. I cherish every letter that you have sent to me and save them in a special KRR box. We have talked and written about so many topics over the years – but I didn’t know about our shared stamp collecting or pen pal hobbies! I will send a letter to you and enclose a few pictures. Thank you for touching my family’s life and the lives of so so many others with your beautiful gift. I love you and pray for you, Dan and the girls every day!
Amy SmithSeptember 28, 2016 at 12:37 pm (7 years ago)
Oh how I agree. Being so sick, mail really has that unique ability to cheer. I have often been refreshed by a dear friend who took the time to send me mail. It certainly ministers to my heart in the way not much else can, and like you, I keep so much of what I’ve been given, taking time occasionally to re-read and reminisce.