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Episode 47: Amy Daughters - How writing letters changed my life

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Welcome to the Loved Called Gifted Podcast.  This is your place to come for musings about spirituality, identity, and purpose.

I’m your host, Catherine Cowell.



I'm really delighted this episode to be joined by Amy Daughters who is across the Atlantic somewhere in the US.


Do you want to tell us who you are and where you are?


\\Yes, thank you Catherine and thank you first of all for having me on.


My name is Amy Daughters.


I'm an author and a speaker and I live northwest of Houston, Texas.


//And you were just saying that you have lived in Birmingham.


\\Yeah, for three years my family and I lived south of Birmingham kind of the Bromsgrove, Blackwell area.


We spent three years, we call it the great family adventure, that's how we refer to it.


//Yeah, just to be clear this is Birmingham, UK not Birmingham, Alabama.


\\Right, yeah because I know in Alabama they call it BirmingHAM.


//I think that would work uniquely in your family because most people in the States wouldn't distinguish, they wouldn't pronounce our Birmingham differently to your BirmingHAM.


\\Exactly, we've picked up so many, and three years was a good amount of time, you know, we weren't in an American community, we lived in a village.


As a family that experience and you know years on we still have a special language and a special approach to looking at things from our three years in the UK.


//Anything particular about that that sort of comes to mind at the moment in terms of how you would see things different?


You know as a US citizen and especially as a native of the great state of Texas where we're very excited about ourselves, I think that God just gave us this great opportunity to be a better global citizen, you know, because one of the things that really shocked me when we moved over was, and I was in my 30s, you know we're so inundated with America in America.


There's so much news, it's so focused on us and then you throw Texas into that and part of it's just a numbers game.


I mean there's so much that goes on here, you know, we got dropped off on your island and we're “like wait a second,” one there's a whole nother world out there and that sounds so cliche and simple but literally there's a whole nother world that we need to be engaged in.


And second of all, just because we're the United States and the great state of Texas doesn't mean we got it all right.


We found out so many things that are done better by another culture and the other great takeaway, probably my favorite is that no matter where you go, no matter where you get dropped into life, so many things, you know, really when you watch a lady at a train station in Germany and you can't speak her language but she's sitting there with three kids after work trying to feed a McDonald's and she's probably wondering what her husband is doing and why he hasn't come to help.


We're all basically the same and there's something so wonderful about that that we're connected in that way.




The reason that I thought would be really interesting to talk to you is one of the themes of the Love Called Gifted podcast is looking at purpose and identity and why we end up doing the things that we're doing.


And you've written a book, so your work involves writing freelance, and then you've written the book which was about writing to all of your Facebook friends, and I just thought that somebody who writes for a living and then decides in her spare time to write to all of her Facebook friends and then decides to write a book about the writing to all of her Facebook friends, I thought this probably runs fairly deep for you.


One of the people who wrote back to you said “I'm really pleased to see that you're still blessing the world with your writing and your sense of humour” and I thought, “ah, so my theory that this is something that you've probably had a draw and a calling towards for a long time, might be true.”


When did you first discover that you love writing?


\\Well that was always kind of a hobby on the side and I had an English teacher in high school tell me, you know, “you should write short stories.”


So I began to write short stories and then when I went to university I remember standing with my father at the open day.


So I'd always enjoyed writing, I'd always been drawn to written word and one of the things I like about it, it's kind of like prayer, is that it's so individualized and personalized that no one can really tell you you're doing it wrong, especially if you're gonna keep it all within.


So I'd always written, I felt drawn to it and so we were standing at this University open day and if you walk this way you were gonna be in the journalism school and if you walk this way you were gonna be in the business school and I'd been accepted in both areas so I just had to pick.


I kind of thought my dad wanted me to do the business route because that seemed very sensible but I was kind of drawn to the journalism but I turned towards business and that kind of changed where I was gonna go immediately.


So I got a business degree.


I was always the girl at work that would reread my emails, you know, think I was funny or you know how good my writing was or so I always and then so I continued to write on the side, and the great story because this completely, the UK completely is why my career path changed because my husband, his company merged with a company in Birmingham and so they said “do you want to move to the UK for three years” and I was working in purchasing where I'd been for probably 15 years, and we had both gotten to a point where we had done well and we were like “well let's go do it” it's, you know, we prayed about it's gonna be a great adventure and so when I went to England I was like “wait, what do I do now?” I mean I had this career, I have kids, you know, what am I gonna do? And people go to school and then I've never had this kind of time before so the first thing I did is I went to the University of Birmingham and took history classes with kind of their ongoing education which I enjoy was fascinating to have someone understand history from the other side of things and that was completely life-changing educationally but then I started thinking “what else can I do?” so I started writing. That's when my freelance writing began. It was kind of the beginning of the internet. Not beginning, but it was past the dial-up, and I started selling pieces and then by the time we got back from the UK I created this little niche for myself as a writer, and so I started working out of my house and two books later and a bunch of articles and a bunch of pieces you know now I'm a writer all of a sudden.


//What is it that you like about it?


\\There is something about writing for me, expressing myself and in that way is almost something that I should have always done because it fulfils me in a way that that nothing else does. I think it is my purpose. I think that's what God always wanted me to do, but I think “well first of all there was the components of being sensible and having a job”, you know, but I think God has used it in ways that I never – I mean in ways for me personally but once I started getting out of my own way I don't even know God just made things happen that shouldn't, and that's what's great about the story of letter writing, God made things happen that should not have ever happened by me just – and I don't think I even did anything, it was so passive on my part and that's one of my favourite parts of the story, it just lends to how powerful, how real the whole story of God in someone's life is.


//Do you want to sort of take us through a little bit how you ended up writing to all of your Facebook fans?


\\Absolutely, yeah. I was just minding my own business. I was writing. I'd written the first book, it had done, you know, fairly well. I don't know if you're on social media but like a lot of us I was on social media, I was on Facebook and I had worked at a summer camp in the late 1980s and I had met a girl named Dana and we had spent no more than six weeks together. I don't really really remember anything loosely I just always had her name in my head because we both had huge personalities, we both thought we were hilarious, and so I'd always be like “oh what happened to Dana?” and I had heard that she she was in Louisiana, the state next to Texas, and she had had a bunch of kids and she was married to a guy I knew and so I one day the thought of Dana and I was on Facebook, those lines intersected, and there she was. I friended her, she accepted my friend request, you know, but it wasn't a real thing because it's Facebook. Like who would really knows who knows what? So I went, looked at her page, immediately I realized “yes, she did have a lot of kids, she had four daughters and one son and the son was the youngest and his name was Parker. But Parker was in Memphis Tennessee, there's a Children's Cancer Hospital there called St. Jude. It's a well-renowned Children's Cancer Institute, but if he was there that meant that he was fighting for his life and so immediately as a mother, as a person, as a human being, I was like “wait a second,” you know, “this is terrible.” I became engaged in the story but I could feel and I like to tell the story in the frame of like, different levels of me going crazy, and I could feel myself kind of being, you know, “I know this girl” like I knew her, I don't know Parker, but I felt myself getting engaged in the story and our first point of contact that was she started asking for people to pray, and as I said earlier prayer has always kind of been my thing, in the background, you know, I've always prayed, I've always felt drawn to it. So I started to pray. I said nothing to her, I said nothing on her posts, I wasn't interacting at all, and then Parker got better, he went back to Louisiana, he went into remission and I, you know, that kind of went on the back burner. I kind of watched along with her life feeling like those prayers have been answered, and then at the end of 2014 Parker relapsed, went back to the St. Jude Hospital and all of a sudden I'd gone to church one day and it was like a bolt of lightning. I was like “you know what I'm gonna do?” this is the next level of crazy, you know, I had no contact with this person at all, and so I was like “I'm gonna start writing them letters.” They were staying at the Ronald McDonald house, it’s where you stay, you know, when you're supporting someone who's sick. I'm gonna start writing them handwritten letters there. Now I had not written anyone a handwritten letter, I am a writer but it had been 25 years probably, cuz like I, like everyone else, we all wrote when we were younger and then when the internet came along we all stopped doing that, but I'm like “I'm gonna start” and it was totally inspired by God in my opinion you know it's so I literally the next day got up and started writing these people letters once a week. It was to Dana and Parker, like “Dear Dana and Parker, I'm thinking about you, I'm praying for you, blah blah blah blah blah” and this goes on for eight or nine weeks and I just start slowly telling about my life from the inside, you know, out. I'm looking at it telling them stuff that I'm doing because I have nothing else to say, but the main thing was “look, I'm praying for you.” I hear nothing. I keep watching the story and then you see the shift of Dana's post start to like, her posts start to turn, like things are not going well, and so at the beginning of that next year I go to church, I come home, and she posts this long post and it's like “Parker passed away, he's 15 years old and he, and he dies.” And clearly devastating, like heart-wrenching, you know, no good words for that, and so I I start thinking, I'm like, “okay God, what do you want me to do? I know it has nothing to do with me, like nothing at all, I know I'm kind of behaving crazy, like what do I do?” and so about a week later I just got another clear inspiration, that's all I can say that it was, and I was like, “I'm just gonna keep praying and I'm gonna keep writing her letters.” So I did. So like four months, so then I had kind of stalk her, like, “where do I find her at home to write her?” and so I found her husband's office address. I wrote her there and then I got a Facebook message from her saying I could never know what the letters meant and she gave me her home address and I continued to write her, thinking the whole time I was crazy. I continue to pray for her and I knew I wasn't behaving rationally, but then magically like six months later I go out to my mailbox and there's a letter from her, like a ten page letter, and this kicks off this, this two-year relationship, where we all we did with letters, no text, no emails, except for that one Facebook message, we just write to each other, and Catherine, she shares her grief with me. I became like the deposit for her feeling she didn't want to share while she's trying, got her kids struggling, her husband struggling, and I just start writing about my entire life, and we don't know how the other person votes, we know we both believe in God but I don't know if she's Baptist or Methodist or Episcopal or whatever, we don't know all those dividing lines that divide people now, no idea, we just trust each other because we're writing these letters, you know, in 2015, 2016, and I sat back after about eight months of this and I was like, “you know what, if my life can completely be blown up, if God can change my life because this one girl,” because it really changed my perspective on so many things, “then what else is out there?”, so then I took it to a whole nother crazy level and I took all 580 of my Facebook friends names and I shoved them into a box and then I got some stationery made I just started every day drawing a name and writing a letter, and it took me about 18 months but I wrote 580 handwritten letters and mailed every single one of them – less about 10 – and it blew up my whole life.


//Yeah, it was really interesting listening to you talking about Dana sharing her grief with you. There is something really therapeutic about writing isn't there?


\\Right, right


//and actually the fact that you'd continue to write meant that she'd got this space that she might not otherwise have taken 


\\right and I think that you know that speaks to the bigger topic of letter writing but Dana is a great example because she told me after the fact that she would go into a room, let's say, and her – everybody seems like they were doing okay, you know, and she's the mom so she doesn't want to bring the whole room down, so she would go write me it did create this free space of where she could say whatever she wanted to do, and when you drop a letter in a in a red box in your country, you know, in a blue box in my country, you don't know… like if I wrote you today Catherine after this, I wouldn't know when you received it when or if you even read it, so then you wouldn't feel like you had to respond to everything I said and then you wouldn't also, you would be a lot more free to say whatever you wanted to because you wouldn't know that I was gonna have my device right here and say read at 7:32, that would totally be out of your mind, you wouldn't worry about that, and then since I'm not responding directly to everything you're saying and you're not responding directly to everything I'm saying, it creates this vacuum where we get to say whatever we want to and then almost forget about it, and then when you write me back I can take weeks to let your words marinate in my head and so your word ‘free space’ is exactly what it is, it's this free space, we're allowed to express ourselves in this much more meaningful way that puts our stuff – like I don't know if I put Dana's grief in order, but she would write so many times “I didn't know I was gonna say that but I feel so much better for saying it.” It has this amazing capability because when I got through about halfway, right, and all the Facebook letters, I realized there was a book, not because I had planned one, but this this story is, there's so much hope in this story, letter writing is so powerful, that I knew that this, that God had almost given me this story, and now I had to do something with it 


//Yeah, that thing that happens when you send a, like a text message or something and you're waiting for a response, I was really struck by that sort of difference that you're describing in terms of kind of the slowness of letter writing and that kind of communication, which on the one hand is more personal than Facebook or something because it's like it's your actual handwriting with your actual pen




//and it's and it's something you've held and now I'm holding it. It's much more personal but equally it is less stressy.


The other thing I was wondering as you were talking was, I wonder what the fact that you persisted despite not getting any response, I wonder what that did in terms of the freedom that Dana felt to write to you. There was a faithfulness there, quite brave actually, because I'm not sure I would have continued after like, letter number 20 or something


\\right, and I credit that all to God because I really feel like I was I was so committed as I crazily on a level that made absolutely no sense and that's I think that's why we have to credit it was completely God pushing me and and I remember telling her – because once I started writing the Facebook letters I was writing her, I mean we still write each other all these years on, but I told her after like a hundred letters I told her that her and Parker's letters had inspired these letters and I remember at the end of that I wrote “God's love, so real, I can't shut up!” you know and that's kind of what the whole theme is, like it was so real, like I couldn't stop even if I would have wanted to, but you're right that persistence probably gave her, and it also I think that developed, that helped develop that trust between us that's still there.


//And the other thing is that within the Christian community there is sometimes a ‘hope for’ and the ‘looking out for’ the good news to write, so all the while that Parker was ill and in the hospital, there's that kind of “we're praying for you, we're trusting,” you know, and quite often people don't know what to do when there is grief , because we all die at some point, but the fact that you faithfully continue to journey through them right past the point where it was gonna be a victorious Christian paperback 


\\One of the big takeaways about the grief and trying to be there for someone who's grieving, which none of us are equipped to do because everybody grieves so differently, but I think one big takeaway, and the book tells the story, because I had a family live across the street from me, before Dana, which I think God put them there, who had lost their father and husband suddenly and I watched this video that one of the kids had made and he said “one day after, like, several months, the casseroles just stopped coming.” Like it stopped, like the ministry of caring for someone. I think one of the big takeaways from Dana and I’s story is because of God I just was compelled to reach out over and over again and it becomes actually more powerful as the years go on, because I think the need is greater and that the need to say the name Parker and the need to say “you're still hurting and I know you are” is even greater three years than it is six months on and and you know, we can we can make the casseroles and the cards keep coming and that's one way we can minister to each other because we're not gonna have the right words, because there are no words, and we're not gonna really be able to do anything because we can't, but we can continuously, constantly care and just show up.


//Yeah and there's all being there, isn't there, so one of the things about face-to-face conversation is that not everybody is great at listening and it occurs to me that one of the gifts that you gave Dana was that when she's writing to you and expressing herself she's not gonna be interrupted, neither is she gonna feel like it's my turn to stop talking now I must squash what I'm feeling down because I've been talking for ten minutes and this person's gonna be bored.


\\that's such an incredible observation Catherine, because it is such a two-sided intimate conversation in a letter but it is the ultimate one-sided, you know, it is and I I don't know that I that's what I love about you having this conversation with people because I always learn something, but it is ultimately one-sided to the point where you can get it all out, like you said with no interruption, and you know you're being non intrusive too, because if I send you a letter I'm not asking you, I'm not requiring you to do anything and you can read it whenever you want to.


Dana's husband Jim told me, especially early on when the letters would come, and I had no idea I'm literally sitting in another state writing letters blindly, and they would wait for the letter to come, the whole family would take turns reading it but he said she would always read it first, and she would take it and she wouldn't read it right away, she'd wait until she needed it, and then she would read it, and I had no idea that was happening, you know, and I like what you said too about how if I send you a letter then you're holding something in my handwriting, it's such a personal transaction, and I will I will tell you this, in Dana's case, in the Facebook letter case and letters I've gotten, I didn't realize that here's the way it works: you're gonna create by writing somebody a letter, a card, like three sentences in a card, especially right now in today's age, they're gonna go out to their post box or their mailbox or it's gonna drop through their front door, you're gonna create this moment you didn't know you could create, you know, for the cost of a first-class stamp and I don't know what that cost there now, it's like 66 cents here now, but the person who receives that letter, especially if it's a surprise, they're gonna immediately connect the dots of what it took you to do that, they're gonna be like “Catherine sat down with a pen and didn't worry about her handwriting or her spelling” you know, I'm not saying that yours isn't beautiful I'm just saying it's so vulnerable because it's not perfect, it's not filtered, it's not spell checked, you can't do that unless you want to start back over, they're gonna know you did that. Then you had to find an envelope and then you had to you had to write down what you thought then you had to seal it then you had to find a stamp Catherine, and then not only did you have to do that you know you had to go down to the village post office, or you had to get in your car, what you do in America, because nobody's walking anywhere here, then you had to go and drop it somewhere, there's gonna be no doubt even before they're open it they're gonna say “oh my gosh, I matter to another human being, I matter enough that they took the effort to do this for me” and I didn't know this but 580 times later, oh my gosh, you can blow up people's hearts, you know, you have the power to do that with this little simple act, and that's the story of Dana and Parker, the legacy of the story of Dana and Parker right there.


//Yeah. There's something very unconditional about what you did, and you mentioned that in your book, in the Dear Dana book, when you're talking about that the process of letter writing, or one of the things that you said that was really quite meaningful to me is that you didn't want people to feel obliged to write back to you and as I say after about 20 letters Dana evidently knew that she wasn't obliged to write back, that the letters would keep coming. That really reflects something of God's unconditional love for us and that continual positive regard, you know, continual care that the divine has for us which, I think is really really beautiful, kind of the father/mother heart of God for all of us 




//What it really sparked off in me was some thinking about what relationships are like and the fact that it has to be about grace, you know, the moment a relationship has an element of kind of obligation about it there is something that you sort of lose in that moment, I think. My silly example would be when you're growing up and you're sat at dinner and you're thinking “I'm gonna clear up for mum after this, I think that would really help her” and you’re kind of on your last mouthful and mum says “Right! it's about time you pulled your weight around here”


\\yeah, right, no


//it's exactly the same, what you're gonna do is exactly the same, but it's, suddenly it's not a gift, it's something that you are obliged to…



//and I think your observation that you were sending these letters and you did not want people to feel that they had to write back to you 




//or feel guilty if they didn't I think is is really powerful 


\\yeah, I agree, and one of the things I learned is because of the electronic world, you know, we feel like like if you send me a supportive text or if I send you a supportive text and especially if it says I read it at 7:36 and I don't respond, then you feel like “did I really make a difference?” because that's the world we live in right now and I think we make a difference in so many different ways without knowing it and we don't have to have verification that we've made a difference, we just need to keep going and and that's one of the things this project taught me. My sister-in-law was a letter I wrote early in the project and she told me after she got the letter, she said, “you know, I've had a letter sitting on my desk for like two weeks, it says ‘dear Amy’ and I don't know how to respond because I'm not someone who is, you know, gifted with words” and so she told me something very important, she said “just because you don't hear back from people because they don't know how to respond don't think that you're not, that the letter wasn't everything and it hasn't changed them” that's it, I mean I think that's an extraordinary lesson and I think the other thing is what you said about the letters as an act of grace. you know I had a couple people when I couldn't get an address I'd tell you “I'm writing you a letter” obviously they were like “let's verify, you know, who you are” – but then I think they were looking for my angle, like “what's your angle? like are you gonna sell are you gonna sell me something? is this gonna be a cookie exchange?” yeah they were like “what's your angle?” when then when they found out that there was no angle, you know, that it was just grace, but this is God's grace, it's important to frame this story as an “I'm just a regular person trying to stay married and not screw up my kids over here, I'm a person who God gave a gift to, I'm just the conduit of this thing, I'm just a regular girl” but the letter showed such grace through God that when people realize they were just getting it for no reason except for we were connected in some way, that made them even more powerful and then add in that the letter said something, what are you gonna say when you write a girl you went to primary school with, like what are you even gonna say to that girl? but what you're gonna do is you're gonna start to remember what they did in life, you're gonna look at their life as an adult, you're gonna congratulate them, you're gonna thank them, you're going to offer support for struggles and so then the letters take on a meaningful, so all those things combined that we've talked about it is a real opportunity just to love someone and really the person who walks away the most change is the person who wrote the letter.


//yeah, yeah, I'm really hearing that, and I I took that kind of grace thing has been really sort of thought-provoking in terms of just the way that I think about relationships, and you know like you have connections with people and then you might not speak to them for ages and then you reconnect again and that doesn't worry me at all. Maybe some of my friends think I ought to feel a bit more obliged to keep in touch, but I don't particularly, because I think I think there is something about just trusting that we will have the right connections at the right moments because there are some people that we have deep commitments for and to and we're called to have deep commitment to, but most of the people that we connect with we're not gonna be connected with for always because you can't, we can't be deeply connected with everybody, but there is a real freedom in those connections that you have with people where there is joy on both sides when you reconnect and not a sense of ‘well you ought to have done’ or ‘I'm feeling really guilty because I'm not speaking to you for six months’ and I think there was something beautiful in that actually it needs to be about grace




//and freedom, and it's in that freedom that the love happens


\\right and I think that's like you said that the timing relationships that we have to trust that God puts those relationships the right time and that's another gift of the project for me was I hit on a Facebook friends list and so no I'm not going to keep in touch with all those people and I did have a lot of guilt at the end of the project, I was like “there's no way I can keep up with all these people” nor should I you know, but what it was is as I wrote each letter and considered each person as an individual I realized that I was connected to each of these people for a reason, as you said that they came into my life at precisely the right time whether it was for 30 minutes or for 30 years, whether we danced at somebody's wedding or, you know, we lived across the street for each other for 15 years and supported each other, and there's so much as you said, hope, in that, because it makes us realize that I've just been so blessed relationally, I should be so confident moving forward as God's connecting me to other people like he connected me to Dana in 1986, you know, like he connected to me to all these different people on these letters, there's such hope, and then I realized that this Facebook friends list is not a list of random people, they could be random in 2024 but it's this example of real relationships that I can count on in my life, because stuff's gonna go wrong but I'm gonna be supported, God's been clear on that


// they've woven together a tapestry, haven't they, so I'm just imagining the richness actually of all of that kind of looking back, because each of those people you've connected with at some point and you're going back you looking at the profiles and you're remembering those moments, things that you've kind of forgotten for a while, but they've all weaved together 


\\right, and it's a tapestry like you said, and that's a beautiful beautiful way to put it and I think the other thing that really struck me was a few of the Facebook letters, about 15, went to people in your country, which is beautiful, but I know in in the United States of America right now we're in a very divisive time, you know I wrote a lot of these letters during the 2016 presidential election, which again, God's timing I think is incredible there, because if I if I reach out to someone who I know in a letter – because this happened over and over again – doesn't believe precisely what I believe, doesn't vote the way that I vote, all those dividing lines we have, just entrenched ourselves in opposite camps here, to the point where it's not just about unconditional love, it's like conditional connection, like ‘I won't connect with you or respect you or listen to what you have to say unless we unilaterally agree on all these things’ that's what it seems like it's come to, but the beautiful thing about these letters, through God's love, was that I reached out to a bunch of people who I knew didn't believe what I did, we were on different sides of this whole abyss that we're standing on, but when when you reach out to someone in an intentional and meaningful way that is based in a relationship that at some point or another had an emotion of love in it or shared experience, and then that person responds in kind, and all of a sudden all that stuff that matters just doesn't have a hold on us as much anymore, you know, this person matters more, that relationship, that experience, what that person did for me, what that person has experienced, means more to me than does the fact that you voted for this person, than I voted for that person. It changed my look at everything because of that because now I realized there's there's really nothing that can separate us when we're connected in a meaningful way


//yeah, it reminds me something you said much earlier in this conversation about seeing the German woman on the train station and feeling, you know, we're all different but actually we're all the same, you know there is so much commonality in our experience 


//right, I think of one person I wrote from high school who I mean absolutely in different camps we were, there was animosity for, I mean I feel like I'm more because of all this, I don't care almost at all about any of that, but – and I think that's a gift from God – but if she was to walk into a room right now, I mean we would give each other the biggest hug and I guarantee, I don't even believe in crying, there would be tears because of this one intentional act but again to me it just speaks to we all have this power, we don't have to write 600 letters Catherine, but just doing something intentional, personal, non intrusive, and it really can, it really can, I think God inspires us all to go about different ways, and I think it's supporting each other and encouraging each other to do those things, we really can turn the tide here


//so how has this shaped and changed you, this adventure?


\\I think my life pivoted on this whole thing, you know, I've written a speech about it, now I want to go and start a letter writing movement, but I think that while that's part of my intention I think we could do this, we can all do this in our own unique way, but I just look at people differently, I feel less heavy with, I don't know, judgement. I don't think I was ever a big judgement person but I think I just feel lighter moving through life because I have so much more hope, and just enthusiastic about sharing the story. I have a best friend for life in Dana, and as much as the story can be framed as ‘oh look what Amy did for Dana and her family’ her – Dana's – family has done more for my family than I ever will do for them or we will ever do for them, but there's just such hope in knowing that 30 years ago I was connected with this girl, 35 years ago, and 35 years later God's gonna do this with it, and it just makes me look forward to whatever God's gonna do next, like, “let's go” you know “I'm ready”


//yeah it is a real preciousness isn't it, and those connections and those relationships that we have with people, even if they're sometimes fairly brief, somebody who I would count as a friend came to my wedding back in September. We'd first met at a weekend event like 11 years before we met again and had a real connection and then we ended up at a similar sort of event 11 or 12 years later and as you'd sort of described your connection with Dana over the years that sort of hadn't gone away, she'd sort of still been there in my mind, but it was incredible that it didn't matter, the decades in between didn't matter


\\and it's amazing, and we're making those relationships now or they're gonna come back up and no matter what happens in life, because that's the thing, and we said this like with Dana, you know, Dana lost her precious son, they all prayed that Parker was going to live and and and Parker didn't, and so that fracture in that relationship with God, I think that's part of the reason, I don't know, for our relationship in prayer, Dana's and I's, but one of the takeaways is that no matter what happens to us, God is gonna put people in our life to take care of us 




\\and help support us, because as we all know as human beings, things are not all going to go well, it's gonna be tough and we're gonna struggle, but the hope is that people are gonna walk beside us, God's gonna put people right next to us, and I'm speaking that for people in my life as much as anything I've ever done for anyone. 


So yeah, the intention of the speech that I'm giving is to encourage people just to write one or two letters, one or two cards, and see what happens next. Just based on my experience of is, you can create this magic that I would have never thought possible, with really about 15 minutes of your time, and about a dollar or a pound. you you could you pretty much have the power to make someone's day. You know when the book came out, Dana actually went with me on the book tour, we went to 17 different cities in the United States and every single place we showed up there was at least one person who had received a Facebook letter, you know, they were concentrated in places where I had lived, but people would come into those book events with their letter in pristine condition, like they were a rock star, and I was always shocked by that because you know when I wrote those letters, Catherine, there was no promise of a book or a speech and I wasn't gonna go talk about it somewhere, but they said yeah.


The biggest takeaway, like the most common thread and the responses were, and this was proven by them showing up with these letters, “I'm going to keep your letter in a very special place for the rest of my life” 


//no pressure!


\\it just goes and it's not about me being a great letter writer, but it just shows the power of these letters, you know, it and the first paragraph of every single letter I said “here is why I'm doing this, I'm writing every single person” and over and over people are like “you picked me, you chose me” I'm like “no, I didn't choose anybody, I just picked your name out of a box” and then there was time people like “your timing was perfect” and that's God, you know, because I'm just randomly talking, so now I want to start a letter writing movement, only because I just saw it over and over and over again what it could do. I still write someone a letter every day, just in the underground, I'm not gonna write a book about it, but it just it's an adrenaline rush and I realized that if I can't do anything today Catherine, I can write one letter and it can make a difference 


//yeah, yeah I'm just wondering, who's getting your letters now? you’ve written to all of your Facebook friends! 


\\well now what I started this year was, you know how we when you're on social media you see somebody else say “oh I got an award! or somebody'll say “oh my mother passed away” or somebody will say “my kids get married” or “I have cancer” or… and so I just got a notebook and I just started tabs in it and so every day I pick one of those people, I write their name down and I've got their addresses now Catherine, because I've got this master database of addresses, so I just write that person a note and just say “congratulations” or “thank you” or “I'm praying for you and I'm thinking of you” and so they you know it's… we see those things on Facebook and you feel a whole lot less isolated when someone – I know I do – when someone tells me “I heard what you said and I'm reacting to that”


//yeah I'm just mentally adding ‘admin skills’ to the gifts God has given you


\\yeah I'm a numbers spreadsheet girl too so you're right that was, God intersected a lot of things, I also like how God used a lot of my weaknesses like he does it in all of us, because if you would have told me that I would have like, I think ministering is a strong word, but I've taken care of this family that had lost their son, I would have been like “that's… I'm absolutely the least appropriate person to be in that role” but but God uses that and our personalities mesh together with people's in a way they shouldn't, so 


//yeah, God uses what we can do, not what we can’t




//so you can write, God will have you writing, he won't have you going around to fix the garden gate if that's not you


\\right and that's well said, but there's hope in that though too, I mean, I think that's where trust comes in and it's like what it's like what you do God's got you helping people in the space where you're supposed to help them, that's why it's humbling to be on your on your podcast, I actually went through and listen to some of your things like I said, and I read it and I always think “okay so like what, am I gonna be on here??” you know and it's just, what a gift to be connected to someone like like you and your ministry 


//thank you very much, it's a great joy, and there are similarities in that one puts out a podcast, you got no idea who's listening or what they think of it 


\\right, right, no, and that's why I think, you know, the stories like this being linked, it's important to encourage each other to keep doing that good that you're doing, because yeah, it is a lot like letter writing, like you're wondering what's actually happening on the other, the receiving end of all this


//yeah but I mean, I listen to stuff and I know that sometimes it touches me deeply, so I can trust that –




// –some of what I say will be meaningful to people 




//yeah it's been an absolute joy to hear your story and to chat and to kind of get to know you a bit, which is one of the great privileges of doing this kind of thing that we would never have had this conversation 


\\no, and and for me you know I think this is the first thing I've done for the UK with either book, so this is a great joy for me to be reconnected to people, I always will feel connected to, what a special country you live in, with such loyal people 


//thank you. So importantly tell us what your book is called and where people can find it 


\\all right, the book is called Dear Dana: that time I went crazy and wrote all 580 of my Facebook friends a handwritten letter – the longest subtitle in publishing history I believe – and it's available on Amazon. My website is and that's got links to it's there's Kindle, there's audible, it's available in all those formats, and my email address is also on my website and I'd love to hear from people who want to talk about letter writing or connecting or anything we've talked about, I'd love to hear from you


//Brilliant, and presumably the stuff about your movement if people would like to jump on board and let you know that you've inspired them to write letters


\\Absolutely if they want to discuss best practices for letter writing I'm happy to jump on and chat or email or however they want to do it


//brilliant, do you feel like there's anything you want to say that we've not talked about?


\\I think we've covered so much, I really enjoyed it 


//That's brilliant, thank you so much for your time



Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Loved Called Gifted podcast. If you’d like to get in touch, you can email You can find a transcript of this podcast at and that’s also the place to go if you’re interested in the Loved Called Gifted course or if you’d like to find out about spiritual direction or coaching.

Thank you for listening.


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