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By Monday, they should be at their destination — delivered to mailboxes, which if anything like mine, will be full of the too-familiar chorus of catalogs and flyers — each shouting for attention with color and bulk — drowning out the rare voice of a personal greeting — like that annual Christmas Carol of mine.

I Imagine most on my mailing list will make quick work of their mail.  Like me, they’ll sort.  Then make short stacks — one to discard now; one to discard later.  And in so doing, they’ll come across that little card. It will stand out because of its handwritten address — not done by computer, made to look handwritten — and the mere sight of it — if they are anything like me — will make their hearts sing.  Oh, the joy — that comes from receiving a piece of personal mail.

My Christmas cards always contain a letter.  The tradition grew out of handwritten notes which in recent years, graduated to being typed and professionally printed.  Many tell of how they enjoy my letters, how they look forward to receiving and reading them —  how my words inspired them to pen their own annual letter.  One friend on my list has a rather small printing:  she sends out one.  And this — I probably don’t have to say but will anyway — makes me feel all-day special —  for many days.

Yet, I wasn’t up to writing and packaging my year in 500 words or less this time around.  So sans letters, I sent out cards..  And in a year where I’ve written so little, relative to others — releasing them into the world without weight of  personal words felt right — in keeping, in harmony, in tune with my year.  And at this moment, in the now, I can’t imagine any will mind.  Most, in the busyness of life, won’t even miss my missive — why, if truth be told, I probably wrote more for myself than any one on my list.

But while at peace with the act of going letter-less, what wouldn’t go away was a desire to make my greeting personal.  And with a wish to put my best face forward —  and other faces in my family forward too — I enclosed something better than a letter — a glossy little card, offering a small collection of six black and white images — each depicting joy, peace and hope, to harmonize with my card’s printed message:

“May the gifts of peace, hope and joy be yours at Christmas and throughout the New Year.”

No need to embellish these words with my own, I thought when I found them.  But how good and right to underline them — to show rather than tell, as they instruct in the world of writing  —  with faces of joy, hope and peace from my everyday life.  And so I did.  The photos were easy to choose.  The first, captured last January — seconds after her birth, almost a year ago now  —  is of my newest granddaughter, Reese Caroline, with her newborn parents.  The second, a cropped photo of our new front porch leads to the third, an already poignant photo of Don this past June — where he sits at his mother’s kitchen table, in front of a lit birthday cake baked by his dying mother — in a wordless poem, her back is turned to the camera.  Four, five and six celebrate the wonders of an October wedding.  And all of these, I pray, let me never forget.

***

Go now, my best bits and pieces of joy, hope and peace for 2011.  Make your way into the world, as I cover you with this borrowed benediction from a favorite pastor:   Today.  Always.  “Go in peace.  Not in pieces.”

Hallelujah!  My little Christmas Carolers.  Handel with care.

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