As a teenager I began to notice beautiful monograms and lettering in magazines, which led me to the study and practice of calligraphy, or decorative handwriting. I employed variations of both the Gothic (blackletter) and italic scripts to address envelopes, personalize award certificates, and create frameable wall art.

My dream was to someday create illuminated letters, such as those pictured in the photos below from my copy of J. R. Rosen’s print of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Isn’t the intricate detail amazing in a letter less than an inch tall?




Johannes Gutenberg produced the first mass printing of a book: the Bible. Gutenberg used a blackletter typeface without additional adornment. However, a spacious margin was left so that illumination could later be added by hand.

During the 1970s Donald Jackson, the Queen of England’s calligrapher or scribe, expressed interest in creating a modern illuminated Bible, and he found willing partners at Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota. On March 8, 2000, Good Friday, Donald Jackson drew the first lines of The Saint John’s Bible.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, the Word was God” (John 1:1).

My first copy of the Bible was given to me — and the rest of the third grade Sunday school class — by members of Trinity Lutheran Church. The opening chapter of each book isn’t illuminated; however, there is a beautiful section in the middle to record family history: my marriage, a family tree, marriages, births and deaths. Do you record family events in your Bible?

Family Tree

Besides practicing calligraphy in high school, I undertook typing class. Later, when I was working as a technical writer, a fellow writer mused that the most important skill he learned in school was typing. My husband knows my fondness for lettering, so he surprised me with the gift of a bracelet from typewriter keys.

Typewriter Keys

These days I tap out my words on a sleek keyboard marked with simple letters. However, my screen allows me to display my words in a font of my own choosing. Typography: my new passion for creating beautiful writing.


Notice the letter “I” on my keyboard: no adornment, just a straight line. For someone who admires fancy lettering, it seems positively boring.

“Egotism is an alphabet of one letter.” – Scottish Proverb

How easily I take that insignificant “I” and add flourishes, splashes of color, and even goldleaf to make myself more important. It’s embarrassing…worse than embarrassing.

Let’s go back to the Bible, whether it’s a beautifully illuminated copy or an app on a phone.

“This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit” (Isaiah 66:2, English Standard Version).
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, English Standard Version).

Pastor Dean Johnson taught our congregation humility is rightly understanding who I am in light of who God is — a simple definition but so difficult to achieve.

My friend Nancy told me about a book she was reading by C. J. Mahaney entitled “Humility: True Greatness.” Mahaney introduces his readers to the book:

“So let me make this clear at the outset: I’m a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God” (page 13).

Since learning of the book, I’ve read it twice and plan to read it again. The small volume is divided into three sections:

  1. Our Greatest Friend, Our Greatest Enemy (The Battle of Humility Versus Pride)
  2. The Great Reversal (Our Savior and the Secret of True Greatness)
  3. Our Great Pursuit (The Practice of Humility)

What does humility have to do with making a home? Have you heard the glib sayings, “Happy wife. Happy Life” or the negative, “If Momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”?

At first I thought these were funny. But then I realized how easily I make my family’s home life all about me: my comfort, my convenience, my preferences.

I don’t want to be that cold, stark “I” on the keyboard. I want the beauty of a family represented by all the letters of the  alphabet.

So I will continue in “Our Great Pursuit: The Practice of Humility.”

I: The Loneliest Letter
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Tracie grew up with three sisters and a brother in a farmhouse surrounded by cornfields and relatives. She draws on that early foundation to write about her Christian faith, creative activities, and family life.

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