Letters of Love is a Lenten Meditation for Catholic families with differently-wired kids. Weekly prompts feature Scripture, inspiration from the saints, and flexible suggestions for prayer, sacrifice, and service. Throughout the course of Lent, you’ll build a collection of love letters to God and one another as a keeps
Our oldest child’s first and only year of school was a traumatic, emotional experience. It started with a late August meltdown over the wrong end-of-the-day sticker and cascaded downward from there.
We knew our daughter was unique and unrepeatable; intellectually gifted, she went into kindergarten reading books like The Hobbit on her own. What we didn’t know was the true definition of differently-wired. Her school days were fraught with anxiety, meltdowns, disinterest, and elopements. There were even a few physical altercations.
At least twice a week we’d come home in tears.
No, we didn’t pull her out – not immediately. We waited and instead hoped for some sort of change. I was trapped in a maelstrom of broken hearts and expectations; I couldn’t stay there in her classroom or hold her hand to ease her struggle.
I thought of my father – and I wrote her letters instead.
My dad was a man of letters, and he wrote on anything that didn’t move. He’d leave love notes for my mother on the bathroom mirror; scribble “Yes!” and “A-hah!” inside his faded paperback Bible. Every book he gave me carried an inscription: some were short, like the scribbling you can see in the above image. Others were longer, a glimpse into the depths of his love for us and God:
I couldn’t resist a copy of this book for you – you’re still my little girl and these are the kind of stories a loving father would want to share with his girls. I know it’s premature, but even as an adult I enjoy stories like these. The maxims extolled in this collection are as those followed by your grandparents in the family my siblings and I were blessed to be in. I admire the compiler of these tales, and would hope that you and Dan (God bless him) would want to use them should our Almighty Father bless you with little ones. You have a very special place in my heart and I will always think of you as my baby. I love you and am proud of you and wish God’s blessings for you, always!!
Later in his life, I started to catch him correcting grammar and spelling mistakes in books he checked out from the library.
“You’re a librarian, Dad!!!” I’d holler.
“I am,” he’d respond, dark eyes twinkling, “and a conscientious one, at that.”
Dad just couldn’t help himself. The written word was a vehicle for the deepest expressions of his heart. He lived language, he loved language, and he loved sharing that joy with all of us.
Letters of Love for the Differently-Wired
How does all this fit in with my daughter? Well, communication with differently-wired children can be difficult, often manifesting as behavior first. With every phone call from the principal’s office, each “note from the teacher” sent home in her blue-and-white school news folder, I began to see a cry for help emerging.
She was trying to tell her teachers, the principal, her classmates, even us, her parents, that something was very wrong.
We hadn’t yet gone through the evaluation process, partially due to the hardness of my heart. But I knew something was wrong, and I wanted to help her. So I turned to my father’s method of expressing his deep and abiding love.
Every day, twice a day, for 180 days, my oldest received a note written on a paper towel, tucked into her lunch and snack bags. Some days, they were silly:
I think we should make Pinecone Pie for Thanksgiving. Thanks for the idea, Little Brachiosaurus!”
Other days, they were profound:
Do you know that I sometimes kiss your cheek at night when you are sleeping? Well, I do.
On still other days, they were reminders of unconditional love and behavioral expectations.
You are my sunshine and I love you forever. Remember to ask for help when you need it. Stay with your class!
I couldn’t be in the building with her. But my words could be, and that mattered to our girl.
If I had been on the receiving end of these notes, I would have read them, smiled at them, and thrown them in the trash. But that wasn’t her.
She was and still is, a still-waters-run-deep kind of kid.
One afternoon in the late fall, I was looking through her book bag to find a missing assignment. Down in the bottom among squashed granola bars and broken crayons were scores of wadded up paper towels.
Those lunch and snack notes?
She had saved every single one.
Years later, I have three shoeboxes full of love notes written to my daughter in a time of aching need.
In hindsight, I have begun to see them as more than expressions of love from mother to daughter.
They are desperate prayers for healing, simple words and drawings that remain a record of our journey – our journey to each other, of course, but to Christ, too.
When I stumbled on the boxes again a few years ago, I felt called to renew this connection and share it with the rest of the family. We’d fallen into an afternoon screen time rut, and I felt as though we spent more time tapping and clicking than praying and talking. Our need for lunch and snack notes has diminished as a homeschool family, so I resurrected our family notebook and decided to use it for Lent.
I called it Letters of Love, and I shared the idea with my readers.
I’ve decided to offer it again.
Letters of Love: A Lenten Meditation for Families
Letters of Love is a Lenten meditation for families. It combines simple prayer, Scripture, and the wisdom of the saints with suggestions for sacrifice, service, and family writing activities.
Don’t let the writing part scare you off, especially if you have littles or reluctant writers. While writing is at the core of Letters of Love, it doesn’t always mean forming letters and sentences on paper. Drawing, photography, or other forms of commemoration are fine, too.
When you download the Letters of Love Lenten Meditation, you’ll get a printable packet of handouts for each week. It includes flexible activities, prayers and prompts adaptable to any age or ability level. By the end of Lent, you’ll have a permanent record of your family’s Lenten journey and a notebook full of letters of love.
Each week features:
- inspiration from Scripture and the Saints (including St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Bernadette, and more)
- ideas for living out the three pillars of Lent (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) in accordance with the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy
- writing prompts (with variations) for family letters
- suggested crafts and family activities
Are you with me? I promise it won’t be overwhelming. You can pick and choose what you want to do and modify as you see fit. Sharing Letters of Love is a way for me to pass on the gift my father gave to me: using the written word to grow closer to Christ and to our own beautiful, uniquely unrepeatable families.
I’ll hope you’ll join us as we grow in faith and love.
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