I have a friend named Ruth.
Ruth writes me letters. Lovely, long, funny, newsy, personal letters.
Amongst other things she watches over a large busy household, opens her home to regular overnight guests, home-schools her younger sons, is hands-on at her local church, crochets for her grandchildren, reads prolifically...and she writes me letters.
And when those letters arrive in my mailbox a few times every year without fail, I feel awash with love and the deepest sense of being cared for.
When I was growing up I had a penfriend in Japan, a boy my age. His name was Takao and I can still quote his full name and address because it was engraved by my pen on scores of envelopes over three or four years.
In our early teens we lost contact, and I don't remember why, but our few years of correspondence gave me such joy, and a good supply of Japanese chewing gum, coins and stamps!
Hand written letters aren't as common anymore. Remember "Little House on the Prairie" when Ma would wait months, sometimes a year, for a letter from her own mama to arrive? That kind of thing is foreign to us these days with our 'instant' electronic mail and popular social media sites for second by second peeks into each others lives (and moods).
For better or worse modern communication is here to stay, but I do lament that quite often.
Especially when I open a letter from Ruth.
My breathing slows as my heart beats at a restful unhurried pace, because I'm not being pulled toward a reply just now...I'm accepting an invitation to sit awhile with a dear friend and enter into her day to day life as though I were there.
But before I delight in unfolding the creased pages of familiar script, I brew the kettle, drop two big spoonfuls of tea leaves in the pot, and take down from the high shelf above my head a cup and saucer once held by fingers much older than mine.
And then, I journey to a friend's home and heart through the melody of her pen.
I think it was a year ago that I first designed and shared the pattern for "Sparrow". I made it in pretty pastels, and framed it in pink wood. Sparrow resides permanently in our home as a reminder that the Lord is caring for us.
A couple of months back I stitched a second version, this time in country colours...
When I'd sewn the last stitch of the verse I stored it away because although I planned to give it to a friend I still wasn't sure which friend that would be. Do you ever do that?
As January rolled over on the calendar the name of the recipient became clear in my heart, so yesterday I added borders...
..and after quilting and sewing down the binding, I wrapped it in paper and tied it with a bow.
Mr Postman has it now and when it arrives at my friend's door I hope it brings a smile to her heart...
(the free pattern for Sparrow is here)
So, I guess what's weighing on my mind today is a desire to stay connected.
Whether it be to someone close or far, it still requires effort to reach out and say "Hi, I'm still here, and I want you to know that our friendship/relationship matters - and that I am so very thankful to have you in my life."
Emails are nice most of the time, but they bring with them a sense of urgency to respond that kind of overwhelms me some days.
But cards? Letters?
They don't require an urgent response. They come with gentle care and a freedom to simply enjoy.
I've gathered all the sweet cards that have been purchased over the years into one place, and today I'll buy a big pack of postage stamps.
This year I will write to one friend or loved one each week on a card. There will most likely not be a long newsy letter included very often, but it will be a message to say they mean a lot to me, and I cherish them.
Ten or fifteen minutes a week, one card, one stamp, a heart made full at the other end...