The power of beautiful words

Two and a half years ago, I made the somewhat obscure decision to buy a collection of hand-lettered items from a stranger on the internet named Ali. I didn’t know her personally, but I had recently started following her on Instagram, and she offered a collection of her work for sale. I bought it, not knowing what to expect, and was immediately enthralled. I continued to buy these collections as they evolved into a monthly mailing. And now, two and a half years later, saying goodbye to her mail, this mail that I look forward to most each month, feels like saying goodbye to a dear friend.For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a word appreciator. This quality came from both of my parents – my mom, in her desire to bring people together over hymn sings and poetry readings, and my dad, in his ability to quote long poems at random, his need for books contributing to the constantly overflowing bookshelves in our living room. Words have always been a part of my life. I struggled when I found out that a guy I was dating didn’t read. I’m usually that person at parties that asks people to bring a quote or poem to share. I believe in the power of poetry. There is no greater gift to give or receive than a book, inscribed with a message on the inside cover (just ask Iceland). So as these envelopes of inspiring words started appearing in my mailbox, my love of words evolved. My eyes were opened to the impact that the perfectly selected set of words can have. 

I started incorporating these hand-lettered words into my instagram photos, taking snapshots of my table and enjoying the process of curation along the way. This became a new creative outlet for me, largely thanks to these words from Ali, and continues to be something I deeply enjoy. These photos provide a glimpse into my life, into the way I interpret the world, into my strivings for appreciating the art of slower living.

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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Bold and courageous women have been a constant presence throughout these mailings. Words from Amy Poehler, Anne Lamott, Shauna Niequist, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Maya Angelou, among others, stand as beacons of strength and wisdom amidst the din of lies and misguided advice so prevalent in our world today:

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do. [Eleanor Roosevelt]
Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. [Anne Lamott]
You attract the right things when you have a sense of who you are. [Amy Poehler]
If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. [Maya Angelou]
I have absorbed the words from a Jim Brandt quote into my eternal collection:
“So much of this life is lived in-between, between the now and the not yet, between arriving and departing, between growing up and growing old, between questions and answers. Lord help us not to live for the distant day when the in-between will be no more, but help us to have the courage to step into that sacred space of the in-between knowing that is the place where life is transformed.” [Jim Brandt]
This one has been living in my wallet for the last two months:
Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to. [Alan Keightley]
These seem relevant in our current season of life:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. [Antoine de Saint-Exupéry]
Kind people are brave people. Brave is a decision, it is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd. [Glennon Doyle Melton]
And an all time favorite:
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’ [Mary Anne Radmacher]

These beautiful words have infiltrated my life completely: they cover my tables, they sit in my drawers, they live in my wallet, they hang on my refrigerator, they flood my instagram. These words encouraged me to improve my photography and styling skills, prompting me to take clearer, brighter photos. These words have been the benediction and encouragement to dear friends: I gave these words as some of my favorite people moved to Ecuador to work in community development, I gave these words to my beloved friend when she had a miscarriage, I gave these words to friends when they experienced death in their families, I gave these words when my friend changed jobs, I gave these words to some mentors as a thank you for their teaching, I gave these words to a boy I was dating when he ended it by saying he wasn’t willing to be vulnerable, I gave these words when my friends adopted the most darling set of twin girls, I gave these words alongside Christmas presents, birthday presents, baby gifts, and wedding gifts, with notes to new friends and old, grandparents and cousins. These words have hit home as my family journeys through cancer, these words spoke comfort when my grandma died, these words gave strength and courage in the midst of quitting my job and pursuing true vocation, these words have brought light to dark places, these words brought to life the simple complexity of language and the perfectly chosen quote.

So as I proceed into the coming months without a recurring envelope of new words, I must continue to gather these words for myself. I will listen just a bit harder for them, I will seek them out, I will write them down in my notebook, I will think about them and memorize them, I will say them out loud to myself, I will put them into my eternal collection to draw from as needed. Forever shall I be indebted to Ali for her art that opened my eyes to the power of beautiful words.


My name is Elisabeth Fondell. I quit my corporate retail job in May of 2016 and have been on a self-appointed sabbatical ever since. In the pursuit of reclaiming my life, I’ve spent this sabbatical filling my days with travel to illuminating places, thought provoking words, poems, pottery, and the pursuit of wholeness.
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