It's not that I'm a pack rat or even particularly nostalgic most of the time. I just save some things. Special things. Things with sentimental value. Small things that people give me that impact me deeper than they know.
Things like a letter my dad slipped in my suitcase when I went to Chicago for the weekend in fifth grade. He told Shelby and I to practice the Fruits of the Spirit while we were with our mom and Mimi and Aunt Bambi and Bailey and then he put some "American money" in it for his "two favorite American Girls."
Or the bracelet that one of the Brazilian girls pressed into my hand when I was in Village and the letters written in Portuguese, which, even though I cannot read them, I understand completely.
Or the silly mantras that my sister and I wrote at three in the morning or lists that we compiled through years and years of angst and secret crushes or the notes that got us through our boring high school classes or a sketch of a bottle of saline that brings tears to my eyes for the memories surrounding it.
Or all of the letters that my mom has written me over the years, full of encouragement and admonishment and compassion and anger and love, a mother's heart toward her oldest daughter on paper.
Or the playlists written out in scrawling, boyish handwriting, the result of painstaking hours of meticulous choosing and narrowing and deleting songs, subsequently burning memories into my heart just as permanently as they were burned onto a CD.
Or the pictures of Shelby and Bailey and I that I have hidden away... the ones from childhood and high school and then last fall...the ones that are too hard to look at regularly, but that I need to have easily accessible at all times.
Or the silver dollar that Papa randomly mailed to me one day so that I would always remember him, as if he were in danger of being forgotten, the very idea of which is endearing and laughable and heart- warming and -breaking all at once.
Or pieces of my own writing, scribbles on scraps of paper that range in topic from sermon notes to recently invented metaphors to letters to myself, outlining goals and dreams and hopes and desires. The handwriting is familiar, but not mine; it belongs to someone else, a different version of me.
All of that and more lives in a small box on my desk, and what I realized tonight is that it can all be consolidated into one idea -- words. Thousands and thousands of words sit in that box, words from my family, my friends, my mentors, people who have affected my life profoundly without even knowing it. I live on words. I toy with them like playthings and if I don’t get them from others, a piece of me shrivels up inside, like a plant without water. I need them. I need them because they are tangible and permanent and easy to reread. I need them because they connect me to people that I am far from, physically or emotionally or both. I need them because they link the past and the present, because they tattoo memories onto my skin, because they remind me in the hard times that I am loved, I am supported, I am known. Words help me to understand where I end and where the rest of the world begins, but they also give me links and bridges to communicate. I need words.
It makes it even more difficult, though, when I suddenly cannot say what I need to say. I’m sitting here like a captive, joy and heaviness warring for territory in my heart. How do I define this? Who do I turn to? What am I supposed to say?
Times like these make me wholly dependent on the Word, the one Letter that I have that can keep me going. How I define something does not matter in light of the fact that I have the Truth at my fingertips. What I say does not matter when I’m talking to the One who can interpret all of my sighs and tears and laughs and gasps. I am so grateful to be able to turn Jesus whenever I need Him – constantly. How sweet it is to have a Book so precious and valuable and flowing with love and encouragement whenever I need it.
It’s not a quick fix, but it is the best preemptive strike possible. It’s all that I know. It’s all that I have. It’s all I can do. And lately, at the end of the day, it’s all that I want.