5 days to writing (1)

Collecting writing supplies is almost as much fun as getting letters in the mail. But if your goal is to send more encouragement and joy, your supplies don’t have to be expensive or massive. You just need a few basics to make the process easier – and then it’s more likely to get done.

Of course you’ll need addresses, but it’s OK to start slowly if you don’t have many. Ask a few friends for theirs and add them to your address book or contact list. Next week, repeat the process. Anytime I’ve tried to add more than a handful at once I’ve gotten overwhelmed and procrastinated!

Then – and I think this is most important – buy postage stamps to have on hand. Keep them tucked in your wallet, stashed in the junk drawer or paper clipped to your weekly planner because if you have to make a special trip to buy postage stamps, you’re much less likely to send a note when you’re thinking of someone.

If you have the space and the budget, fill a shoebox with greeting cards and pull from there when you need to wish someone happy birthday or send your condolences. Individual cards can get expensive, so I almost always buy them by the box or create my own. I’ve always liked ordering from Current but some discount stores like Dollar Tree and Marshall’s have great prices, too. I love beautiful stationery, but the personal message is always more important.

When I make my own stationery, I often use my sons’ artwork. I buy white cardstock 150 sheets at a time from big box stores like WalMart, and I fold them in half for an instant card that the boys can decorate. Sometimes, if there is a particular piece of art that I like, I use my home printer to make a few extra copies.

If you’d like to get in on the fun of decorating your own cards and letters, you’ll find thousands of YouTube videos and pins on Pinterest to help you. But, if it’s simplicity you want, take plain copy paper and add a row of stickers or draw spirals or arrows with a pen. My favorite? Adding washi tape to any kind of paper. It’s already decorative, you have thousands of choices of patterns and it’s easy to put on in a straight line – which is usually a challenge for me. (Rolls of washi tape range from 50 cents to around $4, so I like that part, too.)

IMG_9160Now, if you’d like a few more recommendations, I do have some I’d love to share:

My three favorite note cards right now are these doughnut-shaped ones, these Russian nesting dolls that can stand up after you write in them and this set from the Library of Congress card catalog.

IMG_9159Also, I often use things that aren’t meant as stationery… like these free journaling cards that you simply download and print at home. They are small, but I like that. Not every letter needs to be long. Since I’ve been watching Downton Abbey like it is my job, I’ve downloaded copies of blank telegram forms to write on as well.

IMG_9166I’ve been experimenting with these disposable fountain pens, and I love these pens because of their vivid colors and fine tips (mine were closer to $5, though).

I may have a slight addiction to sticky notes and washi tape. You can find lots at craft stores, but I really enjoy what I’ve ordered from here and here on Etsy.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about finding ideas for things to write about in your notes and letters. If you’d like to make it easy to follow this five-day series, just slip your email address into the box on the lower left!

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Why I writeI grew up writing letters – so many in fact, that Mama would buy me my own book of stamps to keep me out of hers. That’s what you did in the 1980s when your best friend moved two hours away and when you had a dozen great friends you met at a church camp the next state over.

Then came email and eventually social media, and I went years without sending a single letter, just a few lines in birthday cards and the occasional thank you note. But I missed writing letters. Facebook helped me share widely with my friends, but I wasn’t sharing deeply.

So, I bought two boxes of stationery and I began again. When I needed to talk about being a better mother, I wrote to my best friend. When I missed Daddy and wanted to feel closer to his memory, I wrote to his sisters. When I found something whimsical and sparkly, I mailed it to my littlest nieces and nephew.

And I just kept going.

When others heard about my hobby, they would give me notecards and stickers and it got easier and easier to keep up the habit. This year, after most of the photos of Christmas trees had faded from Facebook, I posted a quick status update about getting cool new stationery as a gift and I asked if anyone wanted a card or a letter. Seventeen people responded.

They wanted something other than bills in their mailboxes, something that would give rather than take. They wanted something other than junk mail, something that told them they were worth treasuring.

That’s when letter writing changed for me – when it moved from sentimental sharing to something holy. That’s when it became a way to serve others, a way to encourage.

If you are interested in learning five simple ways that you can write more letters and touch more hearts, visit SimplyFaithful.com Jan. 15-19 (or make it easier on yourself and slip your email address into the box at the bottom of this page). Each day I’ll address a topic like finding ideas to write about, finding inspiration and finding people to write to. I’ll talk about how to work writing into your already full schedule and even recommend supplies to keep it affordable.

Then, together, we can write messages of hope and grace.

 

Wreath InsideChristmas is wonderful, exciting and sacred — and emotional, stressful and draining.

May I offer something that I hope will help?

A few years ago I put together a tiny little devotional that’s designed to be read just before Christmas, when it seems everything is crashing in. And I’d like you and your friends to have it.

Please print as many copies as you’d like. Share it with anyone who could use a little encouragement or a brief moment of peace.

This is designed to be printed (double sided) on two standard pieces of copy paper. Just fold in the middle. Simple.

If you have trouble downloading this, just email me and I’ll send the file.

I pray you’ll enjoy the gift and that it will help you welcome this holy season.

Blessings,

Marketta

See that little spot in the lower left of this page that asks for your email? I’d love it if you’d add yours there, and I’ll send you an email each time I post something new here. Then, just click here to download the devotional: 2012Christmas devotional

IMG_6111Years ago I had a pin that I wore on my coat that said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But the phrase has become a bit worn and faded – not just on my pin but in my heart.

I know I want to keep Christ in Christmas, but I want to invite him in a new way, a way that is deeper than a slogan. So, I started asking others how they made room for Jesus in the most hectic time of the year, a time when calendars and to-do lists are full.

One friend bakes and makes things with her hands. Slowing down and giving of yourself sounds a lot like Jesus to me. Another friend goes each year to visit a living nativity scene so that each year she can see the story come to life. And her small decorative nativity scenes? She places them throughout her house so she has a bit of the Jesus story in every room.

IMG_0591My co-worker buys each of her children three gifts and wraps one in gold paper as a nod to the gifts from the three Wise Men. Others make birthday cakes for Jesus or set a place for him at the table. So often I talk about the spiritual – the unseeable – and there is value in traditions like this that we can touch, see and taste.

Person after person told me that they give to charity as a way to honor Christ, who cherishes us all. I heard of a family that allots a certain amount of money per family member and each person decides where to donate his or her portion. On Christmas, they gather to tell where and why they gave. Can you imagine the joy in the room?

Then, there’s the church that delivers boxes of doughnuts around the community on Christmas Eve. They make stops at places like hospitals, hotels and homes for veterans, and they include a card with a simple message telling people that they are loved. Is that really so different than the message that came to the manger?

I have no idea what became of my pin, but my heart already feels better about Christmas.

 

Can you keep a secret from my mama? I’ve put together a little Christmas present for her and for you, too.

It’s a book made up of my favorite newspaper columns, and it’s called “Simply Faithful: Finding the sacred in everyday life.”

SFbookcoverThe book – and all of these columns, really – happened almost by accident.

I was leaving the newspaper business for something with steadier work hours, something more suitable for my growing family. But as I turned to go, my editor asked if I’d keep writing, asked if I’d share my stories and opinions about faith and what people find sacred.

I was terrified, but I stumbled and started.

I’m so glad I did because in the last six years these columns have become a way for me to sort out what is happening in my heart and a way for me to capture my life with the people I love. If you read the pages of this book, you’ll meet many of the people who mean the most to me, and you’ll know this book is for them… and for you, dear friend.

When I started pulling the columns together I was shocked at how much I had shared about myself in 350-word bits, surprised at how well my readers might know me. It seems I covered everything from fear, comparison and success to prayer, hope and mothering.

This book isn’t fancy or perfect, but then again, neither am I. I just pray that my personal stories always point to the Greatest Story. May you know God loves you more than you can imagine.

If you’d like your own copy of “Simply Faithful,” you can find it on Amazon for $11.99. You can feel free to tell your friends about it, too – just not Mama, who lives 1,200 miles from me in Oklahoma. She’ll be surprised when she gets her own box of books in the mail in a few days, and I’ll finally be out of the doghouse for forgetting to send her copies of my columns in the newspaper…

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