Postmarked: Dear Jen (10)

Dear Jen,

These weeks pass by so fast, and I always find it hard to believe it’s time to write another letter. This evening was one of the few nights that our oldest four children were all home before 9pm—our 16-year-old has recently started working a few evenings a week, and with everyone else’s activities, we occupy the same space less and less. I’m starting to glimpse how it will be possible for each of our children to ease away and begin a life of their own. It’s a wonderful, scary, somewhat tragic, rewarding feeling. As you already know.

I have to say that I can relate with your parent-on-Facebook story. My Dad, after forgetting his Facebook password, has (multiple times) created new accounts, so we don’t even know who to tag anymore, because there are so many Merrill Smuckers on Facebook! Hmm…social media has splintered my dad into multiple, indistinguishable personalities, resulting in a sense of connection that is not, in fact, genuine…it seems like there’s a parable in there somewhere.

You mention all the extra responsibilities that have come along with publishing books—it is ironic, isn’t it, that the further you get in the writing journey, the more things you have pulling at you that involve everything but writing? There’s really no season like writing that first book, so full of hope and trepidation, unknown, without anyone interested in your endorsement or backing. I can relate with, in the midst of my own busy season, trying to hold onto my why: the love of stories, the passion for the craft, and writing a novel simply because I feel like I have been created to tell stories.

I wonder if this is the beginning of my answer to your question about vocational holiness? After all, if “holy” means “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose,” there must be something about the work we do that sets it apart, and maybe what sets it apart is not simply financial gain or something transaction-based but that the work remains close to the why that drew us to it in the first place.

But I think there is also something about doing holy work that sets us apart, not in a pretentious way, but as the result of accepting an invitation to live and exist differently. This brings me back to all the new tasks we as budding writers are often expected or asked to do—writing forewords, endorsing, reading ARCs, speaking, blogging etc etc etc. Maybe part of our work in attaining some sort of vocational holiness means not being dragged into countless activities we feel pressured to do, but in maintaining our focus on our vocation (which for both of us includes not only writing but creating a home and raising children)? Should I be saying (a polite) “no” to the things that distract me from this work I’ve been given to do?

At the end of the day, though, I think your idea of paying attention might come the closest to vocational holiness, and I have a much less religious reason for that. When I was a kid, running barefoot around the farm where we lived or fishing in the Pequea Creek, I got into the habit of using exclamations like “Holy Smokes!” or “Holy Cow!” or “Holy Cannoli!” whenever I saw something incredible. My dad, as a pastor, wasn’t crazy about this use of the word “holy.” But these phrases always leapt from my mouth when I was amazed, surprised, impressed, or basically caught off guard by something unexpected.

Maybe our vocation attains a level of holiness when we are able to draw people’s attention to something sacred that they haven’t seen before? Maybe vocational holiness simply comes about as a result of paying attention, noticing something sacred, and then drawing the attention of others to that thing?

I found your last letter neither rambling nor whiny—only honest and transparent. Thank you for going deeper into these topics with me. You have given me so much to think about. I wonder, where are you finding vocational holiness, in your writing as well as your homemaking? Any tangible stories to share on the topic?

Kind Regards


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What began as a Twitter conversation between two writers on creative work and family life has become an exchange of letters. Here is a list of our prior letters for Postmarked:

Postmarked: Dear Shawn (1)

Postmarked: Dear Jen (2)

Postmarked: Dear Shawn (3)

Postmarked: Dear Jen (4)

Postmarked: Dear Shawn (5)

Postmarked: Dear Jen (6)

Postmarked: Dear Shawn (7)

Postmarked: Dear Jen (8)

Postmarked: Dear Shawn (9)