Week 2: Wait a minute, Mr. Postman.

So, yeah.  That's a cow in a mailbox. You know what that means... it's time for a mail art challenge!

Now seriously, if you've followed the blog at any point over the last few months then you can't be all that surprised. So here it is. But this isn't really about livestock going postal (though the cow was glorious.) This is about building on last week's challenge and using an altered point of view in your thinking about another person.

Show of hands, how many of you love getting mail? I don't at all mean catalogs, ads, random mail for people who used to live at your address or the worst of it all... bills. No. I mean real, old school, not-electronic mail. My younger sisters used to send me sticker-covered envelopes full of love when I was in college. When I saw one of their works of art in the mailbox it honestly made me feel remembered.  It was just a piece of paper and to anyone else at any given time it wouldn't have meant as much. But it was me, and was sent by someone who knew me and loved me. Maybe they didn't realize at the time how important their letters were for me. But I believe God knew, and I believe the mail is a really great way to communicate because it shows someone took the time to buy the postage and send something. It gives you something tangible to read and re-read and hold as proof that someone cares enough to put their feelings and thoughts down on paper for you.

Have you ever roamed through an antique store or flea market and stumbled onto old letters or postcards? Even if you don't know the sender or the receiver, there's a connection because you're able to read a moment in that person's history.   There is a permanence to the written word that doesn't seem to die off.  I personally think that with the advances in technology over the past fifteen to twenty years we've lost some of that connection. Though email has its place and benefits, it's an easy out sometimes. And be real - if you love getting fun mail in your mailbox then chances are other people do too, right?

So this week's challenge is two part.  Part one?  I want you to exercise your new-found ability to look at things from different angles until you can find their beauty.  Think of someone who could stand to see a little bit of God show up in their mailbox.  Not someone easy - you're not allowed to pick your sweet, little old grandma or your best friend.  Try to think of someone who wouldn't necessarily make the top of your list if I hadn't suggested it.  Maybe you just don't like them that much (yeah, I said that.  Be real, you don't like everyone.)  But everyone is a child of the Most High God.  Everyone is a work of art created by Him and everyone is loved by Him, regardless of whether we can see why or not.

Why do I care if you send mail to someone you adore or someone you aren't as familiar with or even don't even really like much?  Because it'll be hard.  Because you'll need to go to God to get the love to send them.  You'll need to use that new found ability to alter your point of view and try to see this person the way God sees them rather than the way you see them.  It'll be Him inspiring it rather than your emotions fueling it.  Admit it, it's relatively easy to think of someone you like and wouldn't be too terribly hard to think of something to dash down on a card or postcard and put in the mail.  But we're not doing this because it's easy.    

If that makes you nervous?  Remember this - you don't have to sign your mail love.  It can be anonymous.  Maybe in some situations it would be smarter to be anonymous anyway so your personal feelings don't show through and allow the receiver to just see the God showing through.  Use your best judgement on this aspect.  

So if you're sitting there saying, "but I like everyone!", then I'm going to reply that you need to get over yourself.  I think just about everyone can find an old friend, a relative, a co-worker or neighbor that they don't especially care for.  Send a postcard to that annoying neighbor and tell them how pretty their flowers are.  Send a decorated item to your second-cousin's brother-in-law telling him he's loved rather than how terrible his table manners are.  Find the address of your freshman year roommate and let them know, via handmade card with a funky envelope, that they are a work of art rather than telling them how glad you are that they no longer share your space.  Work that new-found ability to look at things from all angles and find their beauty.  I totally get that you may have to try a lot of angles before you find it.  But even if their beauty only comes from being created by God?  That's more than enough.  Go with it.

Part two is a little easier.  After you've decided who you're going to send to then create something and put it in the mail to them. Make a postcard, a card, write a letter and create the most elaborately decorative envelope ever. Or buy something funky (like a cow) and re-work it then send that. What you send isn't as important as why and to whom.  But I will be honest and say that I bet once you get past who you're going to mail to, you'll actually start to have fun with it.  It's like once your brain realizes you're giving up and getting over yourself, you'll find you'll try even harder to make something beautiful.  I honestly believe it's because once you let go God takes over.  Like a child mimicking a parent, we find ourselves wanting to create a work of art like our Father does.  

Let me say one more thing, for those of you muttering, "But I'm a writer* not an artist" (*insert any other non-artist identity as well.)  If that's the case, use the gift you have to bless the receiver.  Make a basic postcard but put your heart into the message you write on it.  God knows.  And I think it'll show through.

  • Use the U.S. Postal Service website for info on what you're allowed to mail.  Some of this may sound obvious but read through the list (I didn't realize you couldn't make a magnet and throw it in a mailbox!)  Click here to see the list and then click around the site for info and tips.
  • If you need an address you don't have, Google it.  Dig out your old address book.  Call someone else who may have it.  Put some effort into it.  Remember, I said it may not be easy at first!
  • For non-paper items especially, use a Sharpie marker for the address.  If it rains, it won't run.  If you're stamping on something, use StazOn ink or another solvent based ink that won't run if it gets rained on.  You can also brush a coat of gel medium or modge podge over inked parts to seal them.
  • If your post office has a self serve kiosk in the lobby?  Use that.  In all honesty, postal workers are only human and often times will mistakenly give you wrong information and/or insist "you're not allowed to do that."  If your item fits the post office guidelines for size, etc. then use the kiosk to weigh your mail, print postage, etc. then put it in the box.  It's less intimidating.
  • Even if you make a standard sized postcard you should weigh it.  When you make something by hand, even the glue can add a tiny bit of weight and when you're measuring in ounces, it best to be safe.  The lobby kiosk usually has a digital scale.  
  • If you're making anything other than a postcard you'd be safest to write "Please Hand Cancel" somewhere on the item.  In red marker next to the address is always a safe way to go.  This way your item won't be sent through the machine and won't be broken or beat up (even with postcards you may want to go this route if there is anything lumpy attached to it.)
  • Use that same new-found point of view to wander around the dollar store or craft store and look at things with the thought, "How would that look showing up in someone's mailbox?"  Jodi used some serious creative thinking for the flip-flop mail.  And the cow came from the Target dollar spot.  All I did was fancy it up and mail it.  
  • If you put the emphasis on who you're going to send to and why you're sending it, the rest will be fine.  A handmade postcard (or a photo with a note on the back addressed like a postcard) is fine and in some cases, is best.  Pray about it and go with it.
  • Pray over whatever you send before you send it.  Seriously.  It sounds kind of religious-nut like.  But if we believe God works through our creativity then give that piece of creativity back to God before you send it out (it could also use the extra help getting through the mail.)
So, after all that?  Have fun!  Get creative!  I've included some photos for inspiration:

Jodi sent a decorated flip-flop.  And I loved it.

I made this postcard for my friend Amy to show her how beautiful I think she is!

Regardless of what a mean postal person says, you are allowed to mail things like this without an envelope.  Just stick the right amount of postage on it and throw it in a mailbox!

This is a postcard I made for my friend Mindy.  When I grow up I want to be Mindy.

A postcard made out of pieces of corrugated cardboard box with decorated tissue paper glued to it (seriously, you can use anything to make something fun!)


Emily said…
I LOVE this TOO. Okay, so I'm a week behind. So maybe I'll combine week 1 & 2. And I love how you explained it all. You are an inspiration! xoxoxo, Em
Heather said…
I had NO idea you couldn't mail magnets...

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