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Love Letters to Ketchikan header

When was the last time you received a love letter?

No, not a text message. Not a Valentine’s Day card. An actual love letter. Handwritten. Folded. Filled with words of endearment and appreciation for YOU. Can you remember such a time?

Last summer while on vacation, I was waiting in the wee hours of the morning to see the sun peek across the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. The morning was cold and wet, the Alaskan breeze blowing across my blanket-covered lap as I sat in a beach chair on the top deck of a cruise ship, listening to the ocean waves rise and fall.

The sun’s rays started to shimmer across the midnight blue water and I caught myself holding my breath with anticipation. Slowly the sky brightened, the mountains illuminated against the cloud-covered sky. Each moment was more spectacular than the one before and my heart overflowed with one simple word:



I was struck by an insatiable need to share this feeling with someone, right in this moment. I recalled a novel I had read by Hannah Brencher which described her journey in sharing joy with strangers through letters. Love letters. Yes, I know it sounds romantically saccharine and a bit bizarre, to share such sweetness with a stranger, but in that moment, it felt right. I waited for the sun to finish illuminating the sky, then quietly returned to my stateroom, grabbing paper and pen.

I walked around the ship, searching for a place of solitude which was rather easy to find so early in the morning. As soon as my pen touched the paper, the ink flowed from beginning to end, shaping a letter of love for a stranger I had never met.


I wrote two letters, my ultra-fine Sharpie capturing my sentiments with indelible ink. Thoughts of kindness. Hope. Joy. But most importantly, love.


For you,

While it may seem a bit odd that a perfect stranger is taking time out of their day to write you a love letter, please know that this no accident. For whatever reason, this letter was meant for YOU. Right here, right now, and with perfect timing.

You see, there is a very important message you need to hear. You, my friend, are loved.

Yes. It’s that simple. You are loved. You are important. Your life has purpose and you are meant to move mountains just by being YOU.

I know this life had hardships. Boy, do I ever. But I’m here to tell you that no amount of rain or darkness can dim the beauty and brightness of your spirit.

You. Are Worthy.

There will be mountains along your journey, and the sheer height and scope will make you want to turn completely around, go another way. This letter is to bind you. Grab you. Pull you to the base and lift you up and over that insurmountable hurdle. There may be sweat. There may be tears. But in the end, you will look back and see it was more than a rolling hill,  a piece of a perfect landscape that now showcases part of your spirit.

With love and joy,

A girl from Virginia.”


“For you,

I’m writing this letter today because you are wonderful. Yes – YOU. For whatever reason, I felt that you needed to be reminded of all the specialness wrapped inside of you. Oh, the beauty that shines from your spirit! If you could only see the depth and breadth of joy and kindness that encompass your every being and how that touches those around you!

Maybe you are looking around, searching for a hidden camera, convinced this is a joke, a ploy, a hidden card trick at a small venue magic show. Rest assured, this letter was meant for you. Your life has such grand purpose, which may seem impossible to believe, but it is true.

You. Are. Special.

And… you are loved.

Yes, I know some days you may not feel worthy or deserving of such enormous proclamations, but life is like that. The waves rise, then crash, then pull back and start again. But even in the midst of that repetition, there will be a ray of light from a sunrise that will change the landscape into a radiant sea of sparkle and everything is transformed into beauty and hope and all things good. You, dear friend, are that light. Now go out and shine!

With love and joy,

A girl from Virginia”


Later that morning, we docked in Ketchikan, Alaska a city that receives more than 160 inches of rainfall a year. True to form, a light drizzle of rain coated the streets as we made our way into town. Suddenly the dark clouds shifted, replaced by the warmth of the sun I had greeted mere hours before.IMG_2705

We walked from shop to shop, learning about the culture of this salmon canning town, and I waited patiently, two folded pieces of paper hidden in the pocket of my rain jacket. Who would receive my letters of love?

I saw a stack of t-shirts in an open bin and felt the nudge to leave one there, hidden in the folds of cotton, so I did.



As we walked deeper into the town, I saw a quaint table and chairs outside of a sandwich shop and knew my second letter belonged there.


We were only in Ketchikan for a few hours, long enough to walk around town, buy a few souvenirs, and sprinkle some love on the other side of the world. I may never know who read my my letters, but I know that my words were meant for them.

And maybe my words are meant for you as well.

You. Are. Loved.


Be blessed, my dear friends, and share this story with someone who may also need to feel a little love today!



This week as I was driving my boys home after school, I overheard a fascinating conversation about flowers.  Prior to entering the car, my youngest son picked a dandelion from the grass and proudly held it towards me.  “Mommy!  A flower for you!”

Photo Apr 17, 6 29 38 PM

I accepted the yellow sunburst as if it was the most beautiful tulip, shining in the sun.  “Thank you so much!  I love it!”  Moments later I heard my oldest son sharing his own words of wisdom, gleaned from his vast 10 years of experience on this earth:

“I don’t think girls like dead flowers.  That flower was alive when you saw it, but now that you pulled it out of the ground, it’s gonna die and girls don’t like dead flowers.  Next time you might want to give her fake flowers. Girls love fake flowers because they last forever.”

Such words of wisdom.  It took everything in my power not to interject with advice from a girl’s perspective.  I simply chuckled to myself and made a mental note to share a conversation with  my son before he asked a girl out on their first date, scouring the bins of Michael’s craft store for the most beautiful fake flowers money could buy, lol.

His comments did resonate in my brain, however, and gave me pause to think.  What is it about live flowers that have such a great appeal versus fake flowers?  Is it their brilliance in color that cannot be replicated?  Or maybe it’s their temporary presence, blooming only for a short time, reminding us all to enjoy beauty while it lasts.  I believe it’s a little of both. Artificial flowers, while pretty and everlasting, can’t quite compare to the real deal.

Which brings me to my 100th RAK blog post.  I wanted to do something extra special for this RAK and suddenly it became crystal clear what I could do.  But first, I needed to buy some flowers.  I wanted to visit my Grandma.  🙂

Today was a beautiful day for a drive.  Leaving the city behind and traveling where the green hills roll and white fences stand was blissful even in itself. Two dozen fresh tulips sat in the floorboard of my car, their subtle magenta petals starting to spread.  A folded garden flag  detailing daffodils and butterflies accompanied me on my journey along with a small bunny figurine. The drive was long, but peaceful, as all country drives should be. Within the hour, I arrived at my destination to deliver my flowers and gifts.

The ground was soft as I made my way from gravel to grass.  I could hear the birds chirping in the trees as they announced their pleasure at the return of spring.  The sky was a flawless blue, not a cloud to be seen, and the sun’s rays streamed down, warming me as I walked the short path to visit with my Grandma.

Photo Apr 17, 3 38 14 PM

Now I could spend the next five hours telling you stories about my Grandma, about our family plot in this cemetery, about how she battled ovarian cancer for 6 years, about her unselfish love for me and all those she knew.  But this RAK wasn’t just about bringing flowers to my grandma and tidying up her grave.  This RAK was actually about Shelby Ann.

Many years ago, 27 years to be exact, my Grandma and I were in this same cemetery together, two spots to the left, changing out flowers on my Great-Grandma Chick’s grave.  Since this cemetery is shared by several families, we are always aware of “someone new” being buried here.  A small marker stuck out of the ground and said simply “Shelby Ann Menard 1984 – 1987”. My Grandma had heard on the local news that there had been a fire in a trailer home and a little three year old girl lost her life in the fire so we assumed this was where her body was put to rest.  We were both saddened to think of someone dying so young.  As we stared at the fresh mound of dirt, so small in length, my Grandma walked away and returned with a few flowers from the arrangement we had brought for our family member.  “She needs a few flowers.  She’s part of our family now.”

And so began the tradition of bringing Shelby Ann flowers, too.

Years and years of flowers have been brought to Shelby Ann, sometimes they remain and sometimes they do not.  We have never met her family during our visits, and for more than a decade her death was marked by nothing more than the initial marker provided by the funeral home.  We were surprised on one of our visits to discover her sweet name engraved on a plaque, shiny and new.  She was loved!  Oh, how wonderful! That joy was turned to sorrow when another visit revealed the corner of the plaque broken and chipped, apparently the unintentional victim of a lawn mower.

Have you ever wondered about the stories that a simple headstone can hold?  We live.  We die.  How many stories are lost with that final departure?  Who is left to tell Shelby Ann’s story?  Who will be left to tell mine or yours?  Weighty questions best saved for another day.

Today, for my 100th RAK, I brought flowers to my Grandma and a girl I never even knew.  And despite my son’s wonderful advice, I went with real instead of fake.

Photo Apr 17, 3 45 17 PM

A sweet bunny for Shelby Ann

A sweet bunny for Shelby Ann

As we enter the Easter season, reflecting on the sacrifice Jesus made for us, think for a moment about a sacrifice you could make for someone else. Is there something you could do for another?  Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice, dying on a cross, and no one can ever come close to that.  But you know what?  You can still give of yourself.  Your time.  Your compassion. You really can be the change you hear people talk about.  Even if the only “change” you do is bring flowers to someone’s grave.

Every act done in kindness matters.  🙂

Be blessed my friends and thank you again for sharing in my journey. Here’s to the next 100 RAKs!  Cheers!




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