Friday, April 27, 2012

Stockpile of words

I love written words. In my closet at my parent's house are plastic boxes of my old journals-- from the first purple Garfield one I bought at the Hillcrest book fair to the heavy, square, Quotable Quote one I filled in High School and all the leather Moleskines I wrote in throughout college. I have always felt this pull to write things down, to document where I've been and where I want to go, to write down favorite quotes and make lists with friends and keep track of all the things I love.

And nestled beside the boxes of my own scribblings sit shoe boxes packed with letters, hundreds of them at this point. I have held onto each of them because they brought me so much joy when I first read them. I can't throw things like that away. Some of the letters and cards I've reread many times, others bring me comfort just knowing they're there. Knowing that someone took the time to write each one makes them treasures, more valuable than anything they could have bought.

One of my primary love languages is words of affirmation. I feel most loved when people speak kind words and I often share my love through notes or letters. I realize not everyone's primary love language is words of affirmation, but it makes sense that I'm such a fan of being pen-pals and an avid supporter of love tanks all summer long. When the words are written down you have something tangible you can look back at as a reminder, a stockpile of kindness stored away in a shoebox.

When I was a Brave at Tecumseh I started writing letters back and forth with my best friend Murphy. We'd cover the envelopes in stickers and stuff multiple pages inside covered with our elementary school hand-writing. I have parent letters my counselors wrote about me when I was a camper in their cabin and cards people wrote to me when I graduated for High School. There's the speech my youth pastor Sheila read about me at Senior Sunday and letters my parents have written to me.

There are letters and signs from Lani that she wrote our freshmen year in the dorms. She gave me so much encouragement that first year. I have ring of index cards that all the girls in my sorority wrote before I finished at Hope. I love the cards that Rachel wrote me during college, she always knew just what I needed to hear. There are Casey Dawson letters and lists, easy to pick out with her heavy looped handwriting. My Young Life girls love to write colorful lines of words when they're away on work crew in the summer or as they're feeling reflective in college.

I love all the love tank squares of paper written from Pathfinders and CILTs. My girls wrote the notes during rest hour and before devotions, delivered them to my paper bag mailbox. There are shoe boxes with dozens of letters from Margaret and Mary and Sarah and Grace and so many of my first generation of campers. When I became a counselor I promised myself I would always write my girls back. That promise evolved into a time-consuming hobby that has been worth every hour of writing, every card, every stamp because of the way those letters kept us connected.

Now I have a file folder of letters from my students. All addressed to Miss Wright, there are notes about how I've impacted them, birthday cards, pictures they colored during SLT, letters they carefully wrote and delivered. These words are extra-special right now as I'm still figuring this whole teaching thing out, they give me assurance that I'm here for a reason.

This morning in Bible Study we talked how important it is to encourage one another, to develop a habit of loving one another so that we will do it without even thinking. We wrote love tank notes and finished as many as we could before we had to go upstairs to grab a donut on the way to school. These notes from Haley and Libby and Maddie are precious and their words make me so thankful I am where I am today. I'll tape them into my journal tonight and they'll become part of this ever growing collection of words.

Someday when I'm much older I'm sure I'll still be holding onto these boxes and drawers and crates of all these words. Together they make a chronicle of all the people I've overlapped with in different seasons of my life, each page telling my story and reminding me that I am blessed to have been so dearly loved. And I will keep writing because I hope that some of my words will end up in other people's journals and shoe boxes and closets. Maybe my slanted hand-writing, my letters and love tanks will find a spot in their collection where they'll stay until they need a reminder of how loved they are.

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