When you say nothing at all…

As I write, my man is about to start pouring footings for our new home (as long as the rain stays away long enough that the concrete trucks won’t get stuck in the mud). I can’t wait until he calls this evening, to hear all about how it went.

Waiting for the phone to ring each night, I wonder how I ever went to sleep at night without hearing his voice say “goodnight”. It wasn’t that long ago when we didn’t talk but once every week or so. But I cherish his phone calls all the more now.

I wrote this piece a year ago, in the early days of our courtship. It reflects the way our friendship looked then…

“You say it best when you say nothing at all…” The song sung by Alison Krauss is one of my man’s and my favorites. Which probably explains a bit of why we don’t talk on the phone each night right now. It’s really hard to “say nothing at all” over the phone. And it’s even harder when his siblings flock around him while he talks to me, joining in the conversation.

We love to hear each other’s voice on the phone! We usually talk for an hour or so each weekend. And sometimes we’ll call each other in the middle of the week just to say hi. But there are those quiet pauses sometimes. And as I wrote him, those quiet moments are the ones in which I’m so excited to be on the phone with you that I am thinking only of that, and not what to say next. And then I forget that telephones are for talking, not smiling!

At first it was really hard for me to get over my concept of “girls don’t call guys.” I used to just always call his sisters, then he would steal the phone. But then it became different. I wanted to talk to him, not his sisters. And everybody knew it. But I felt awkward about actually placing the call because I had grown up with the old-fashioned ideal that girls shouldn’t call boys. It’s taken quite some time for Merritt to convince me (and he still has to remind me sometimes) that I’m not being scandalous to call him. It really is okay to call him–I mean, we’re courting! In fact, he often asks me to call him at a certain time. And he has told me to call him whenever I need to.

But we don’t talk on the phone every night. We both live with our families, and out of respect to them we can’t spend all hours on the phone to each other. But even more importantly, I want to practice being quiet when the last thing he needs is a bunch of words. He doesn’t need a girl chattering in his ear on the phone every night after a long day of work. Neither will he need his wife to lay all my troubles before him, and tell him every detail of my day, the moment he gets in from work, once we’re married.

I have a very rare man who wants to know the details, who treasures every word I write to him, who doesn’t want to hang up when we’re on the phone. But I want to keep it that way. I don’t want him to feel like the guys I work with whose girlfriends call them all the time. They never jump up to get the phone. And they always ask, “What’s up?” like “You better have something important to tell me.”

Merritt likes it when I call without a reason. It makes him feel special, that I called just because. But I only do that about once every month or so. I think we appreciate our phone conversations more for their rarity. It’s something we can look forward to all week.

I think a lot of it also has to do with how long we’ve been falling in love (nearly nine years), how long it will be until we can be together forever (we don’t know), and the long distance between us (488 miles). I’m a-thinkin’ I couldn’t survive sanely for an indefinite time with such constant contact.

But truly, we just plain like writing letters best! Merritt has never had internet access, so we’ve never emailed or instant messaged. It’s always been old-fashioned letters…with love stamps. Like Merritt says, though it might be nice to be able to email each other, he’s rather glad that we can’t, because otherwise he wouldn’t have the boxes of letters that he does.

We’ve been writing letters for nearly five years. Writing him has become like breathing to me. I don’t simply think about things anymore; I think about how I’m going to write Merritt about them! As I’ve told him, even if I’m privileged to someday live at the same mailing address as you, I have the feeling I still won’t be able to break the habit of writing you letters.

My man says it best: “You know, as much fun as it is to talk to you on the phone, I really like corresponding via letter, so let’s not neglect to do it, okay? Just think of the times that we’ve waited for that letter to show up in our mail boxes. A phone conversation is great, but as it has been said, ‘A book is a gift that you can open again and again,’ and I feel the same about your letters. Each one is a special gift from a dear friend. And it takes a certain amount of time and effort to write, which means that it must be important enough to sit down and put our thoughts on paper.”

So yes, I positively treasure my minutes on the phone with my man. Even when he’s in a silly mood and teases me lots (because he knows I can’t tickle him over the phone!). Even when we’re both so tired we should have been sleeping hours ago, yet we don’t want to hang up. The only good thing about saying our goodbyes is hearing those three little words–I can never tire of hearing him tell me he loves me…

However, wonderful as it is to hear my man’s voice across the miles, I could do without Alexander Graham Bell’s invention. Just don’t take away my mailbox!

“Unlike a telephone call, letters take commitment and concentration.
They’re like paper kisses, some short and sweet, others long and deep.”
-Susan Besze Wallace
in Love & War: 250 Years of Wartime Love Letters

“What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters! You can’t reread a phone call.”
-Liz Carpenter

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  1. This is lovely.It instructs me to patiently wait till God pleases to mature his great love plan for me so I can have a lovely relationship.

  2. In regards to Olivia’s and Natalie’s comments. . .

    The beauty of Gretchen and Merrits story is that it is written by the hand of God and is a sacred story shared between them.

    My story, with my man, is also different. Had it not been for email I probably would not have even befriended my fiance. My own expectations of the type of man I’d marry caused me to nearly miss my Cory. However, in his wisdom he began emailing me and it was in his emails that I was able to get a glimpse of his grace saturated heart. It was this glimpse that caused me to stop and invest in getting to know this brother in Christ when our paths did cross through church and other functions.

    Did Cory and I write letters? Absolutely – I have boxes full to prove it. Did Cory and I write emails? Absolutely, and I have binders full of them as well.

    To be honest, in the version of my love story written by God it is in our long car rides between our family’s homes that we had some of our most memorable and special conversations and moments. My journals and heart serve as my safe havens for those memories, moments, and conversations; and I turn often to them and remember these blessings.

    It is the creative hand of God that paints each love story and this is part of what is at the essence of its beauty. Whether it is recorded through letters, pictures, emails, phone conversations or memories.

    . . .just some of my own thoughts 馃檪

  3. I agree, Natalie. I’ve just heard of and seen courtships conducted through tons of emails and it seems like something is lost in that. — But as you said, if it’s done in a balanced way there are lots of benefits. I’m sure girls 100 years ago would’ve given anything to not have to wait so long for letters to reach their destination. 馃檪

  4. Gretchen, you wrote your courtship story!! *is delighted* Thank you so much; it is really sweet and I can’t wait to read the rest!

  5. Olivia,
    I certainly think Gretchen has many good points and those letters she and Merritt share are treasures! However, I wouldn’t discount the value of email and such when integrated into a balanced whole relationship which also included much “doing life together” etc. It has many benefits as well. 馃檪

  6. What a sweet post. It actually tempts me to set aside email and instant messaging when my time comes. I was actually thinking about this earlier and how much it seems is lost when courtships are conducted that way (via email). But, then, I’ll just have to wait and see how things work out.

    I just know letters are so much more of a treasure than an email.

  7. Jane, to be quite honest, I don’t know how to answer your question. In the ten years I’ve known Merritt, he has always been a friend to me, and at times, it seemed he was the only one I could trust. Through the years I’ve only grown to trust and rely on him more.

    I do know that trust is really a foundational building block of a relationship, and I can’t imagine trying to have a relationship without that trust.

    Is there a godly mentor you do trust who knows the situation whom you could talk with?

    I’m sorry I don’t have any more advice to offer… Other than keep praying so that you can build a foundation of trust that will last you the rest of your life with this man…

  8. Truly letters are a wonderful communication!!!! I feel I can express myself better through a letter, than on the phone.

    Thank you for the post!

    God Bless!

  9. Hey Gretchen,

    I have a question for you too, if that’s okay. Would appreciate it if you wrote back. I have been courting my man for about 6 months now. However, we actually met 2 and a half years ago and things weren’t always so rosy. Due to past experiences (not involving him) I find it difficult to trust him, even though he has never given me any reason not to do so. Naturally this is weighing heavy on our relationship as I am always suspicious, paranoid etc and it is hurting him as we’ve known eachother for a fairly long time. One problem is that we see eachother all the time because we are at the same university and church. We were also (randomly) placed in the same dorm for two years which also resulted in regular contact. I was just wondering if you had any advice regarding this matter.

    Jane, 21, England

  10. I never had thought of letters as a book before and how you can keep a letter but not a phone call. I shall bear that in mind for the future 馃檪 Thanks for that lovely post Gretchen.


  11. Lauren, in answer to your question… I’ve known for nearly ten years that I wanted to marry Merritt. We both knew, for sure, well in advance of the beginning of our courtship, that we were made for each other. When Daddy said yes to our courtship, Merritt and I both knew that while it changed nothing for us, it changed everything…because we could finally shout from the rooftops that we loved each other. 馃檪

  12. A quick question, Gretchen, if you don’t mind: When Merritt started courting you, did you both know definitely that you would marry? It seems that it was almost like an engagement. Or was your courtship a time to seek the Lord concerning His will for your marriage, and find out if you two were supposed to marry?

  13. Gretchen,

    What a lovely post! It put a smile on my face. 馃檪 It must be such a blessing to be able to have the letters you and Merritt wrote each other, and for so many years. I eagerly (and dreamily) look forward to the day when I have a man and we write each other letters.

  14. Thanks for the post, Gretchen. I love hearing about your courtship and especially appreciated this one for the mixture of good sense and fun romance. Merritt sounds like a wonderful man. Congratulations again. 馃檪

  15. What wonderful sentiments about the art of letter writing! I have been visiting this webpage since last month when a friend told me about YLCF, and I immensely enjoy the uplifting articles.=) Handwritten letters are such a joy to receive(and send!). In 2003, I began corresponding with the troops overseas who rarely/never received mail from home. Three years and almost 200 soldiers, sailors, and marines later, I have learned that even if the words on the card or letter just tell about a trip to Wal-Mart, a new litter of kittens, or a birthday party, the words are eagerly read again and again. Tears come to my eyes whenever I receive a letter from a soldier stating that, “Letters from home are sometimes the only things that get us through the tough days.” How powerful and uniting that crisp sheet of paper with its pencil-scrawled bits of news, and 39 cent stamp are to the human race!

  16. Nine years! I guess love is different for us Christians. Non-christians never get to cherish the fact that you’ve found someone that loves the Lord as much as you do and that you get to love the Lord together, and that you’ve found the one person who will love anywhere near as perfectly as He does. What a blessing to be in love, to be loved, and love the Lord together.

  17. It’s somewhat bittersweet to read your post. I am really happy for you and I am glad the Lord has blessed you– you will make a wonderful wife. I delight in the Lord, but I must admit my heart aches for the day when God will grant my desire to be a wife and mother. I trust that He has placed this desire, however, and that He will one day fulfill it. May our Lord bless you both abundantly.

  18. Gretchen, thank you for the beautiful post! And thank you for giving us a lovely glimpse into your courtship. Please keep it up! :o)

  19. Excellent post. I agree. Actual letters still are far superior to everything else. 馃檪

    9 years… No wonder you are so giddy in love! That’s marvelous.

  20. Oh Gretchen! It makes me want to cry and smile at the same time! How wonderful that God has blessed you with such a beautiful relationship! It makes me look forward to the happy day that I am so blessed!


  21. Love the post (no pun intended!)Gretchen!

    Thanks for sharing with the rest of us bits of your relationship you treasure with Merritt. :o)


  22. Aw, Gretchen. What a precious love you and Merritt share. What special letters you’ll keep forever. I can’t wait until I have a man. 馃檪
    Thanks for that lovely post. Truly, letters are a wonderful thing! God bless you.