One Word

One Word

The sun rose red over the palmetto trees this morning as I pointed my car toward the office. This last dawn of the year coasted into day while the waters of the Charleston rivers rested still in their beds. The morning stretched quietly before me. It was a reminder to me of the beginning. … Not the beginning as in a small time notion of a new calendar year, but The Beginning as in when light was separated from the darkness and the Spirit of God breathed eternal life into a formless void.

A movement which spreads from a few pockets in the online/blogging community is to choose a theme word at the start of a new year. Part of the idea is to pick a word to focus on instead of setting New Years resolutions. I have enjoyed participating in this challenge for the past few years, and can honestly speak to the ways I have witnessed the Lord shaping my thoughts and experiences around a particular concept. One year, my word was “embrace.” Another time it was, “new.” One year I waffled back and forth between “believe” and “know,” and I concluded they were definitely not one and the same.

This year, I am centering in on “wide.” Immediately as I type this, the children’s sing-a-long, “Deep and Wide,” begins to echo in my mind. Those lyrics are not a bad way to start off in my opinion. I certainly hope my waistline doesn’t get carried away with this theme, but I do want to spend some time thinking through the many facets of this word in the coming days. Widening one’s reach, widening perspective, wide arms of hospitality, wide eyes of wonder…

Here are some links to some sources of my inspiration:

One Word 365

Sarah Bessey: My #OneWord365 for 2017

What is your one word?

Eyes to See

A woman told me I was beautiful today. When the words crossed her lips, her voice was eager and sure. I smiled and hesitantly thanked her for her kindness.

We were strangers, having talked on the phone only briefly before this meeting, and we fumbled our way through a little bit of small talk until her excitement at having a guest in her home gave way to the formalities of a new reality I was there to discuss. I had come to her on a business matter a few hours after her husband died. His nurse said she was not able to leave their home, so I packed an office to-go and met her in her living room. A few moments into my explanations regarding the paperwork she needed to sign, I realized my new friend was almost totally blind.

She asked me to help her sign some of the forms so I moved to sit next to her on her green couch. I was close enough to see her eyes dance behind her thick glasses. The words she had spoken just seconds before suddenly seemed like a joke to me in the way that generalized compliments sometimes do. I was tempted to discount her sincerity and to brush off the possibility of truth breaching the boundaries of what her eyes could see.

The light in the room was dim compared to the bright sun shining into the windows, but it did not matter much to her. I held my ink pen to the right spot on each page for her as she slowly but deliberately signed her name.

What trust she placed in me to welcome me in as a stranger and to take me at my word for what she was signing. I had met one of her neighbors on my way inside, but there was not another soul to be found. As we sat, she talked of her children who had died long before their time a few years ago. She gave me instructions to place her husband’s cremated remains next to theirs at a family plot in the churchyard. I watched her as she talked, opening up stories of her broken heart and handing them to me as if for safe-keeping. I took notes on what she said, knowing it was up to me to make sure her wishes were followed.

As we wrapped up the paperwork, she offered me a glass of tea. I politely declined citing my need to get going to continue my work for the day. I asked if there was anything I could do for her before I left. After copying a few phone numbers into much bigger writing for her, she nodded with approval and said she could now get to work making some calls.

She walked me to the door and gently kissed my cheek as I said goodbye.

Again she said, “You are beautiful, my dear,” and I looked at her in wonder.

I walked away with a sense of gratitude for her vulnerability and a matching sense of pride in the patience and honesty which passed between us during the time we had together. For today at least, we forged a bond which carried each of us into the next moment; her towards the first night without her husband, and me on to yet another task. We stood as women on opposite ends of our lives; hers beginning to slow down, and mine continuing to quicken in pace. Our paths crossing was something to behold. It was nothing short of beautiful, and I am glad she helped me to see.

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Stories of Scars

Stories of Scars

The man with the beard looked different this morning once his clothes were cut off him. His leather jacket is folded and rests on top of his blood-stained t-shirt and “holy” jeans. He is covered with nothing but a white sheet now. A long, braided ponytail rests beside his head. There is a short incision on his right shoulder from the embalming. His left shoulder, however, bears other marks. There is a black and gray tattoo of a pin-up girl covering his deltoid muscle, and right above her, there is a jagged scar. The scar looks healed over well, but it appears to be from a nasty gash of some type. The girl below it looks unaffected, as if she lives in a bubble, unable to see or hear what is going on right above her head. Maybe she came along after the scar. The scar is uneven, not neat like a surgical scar, and it brings to mind imaginings of some sort of fight or accident. Perhaps this was not his first motorcycle wreck. Maybe this tough as nails man had a battle scar. Whatever caused it had to have hurt.

Other people will have scars form over wounds today too. The harsh truth is that pain is a reminder of an ever aching presence of the limitations of being human.

A surgery goes horribly wrong and the nurses call down from the ICU. He will not make it through the night. His incision is so fresh the doctors do not even sew it all the way shut. It does not matter because there is no physical way it can heal now. The opening will not form a scar no matter how long they wait or how tightly it is sutured. For his family, however, it is not his wound which concerns them anymore, it is their own sudden, crippling grief.

Deep wounds are opened by the raw tragedy of parents holding a still baby. The room is silent except for their tears. The little girl’s skin is perfect yet delicate, almost translucent. Her eyes never opened. Many hopes will be buried along with their baby girl, and many of their thoughts and emotions may stay unprocessed for a long while. A scar is already forming across her mother’s belly from the C-section. It will live on her as a constant reminder of this loss.

A widow is placed next to her husband in the ground and old, tired grief is quieted at last. Her grandson looks down with tears in his eyes as he notices the burn mark on the back of his hand. He was glad he got to have breakfast with her one last time a few days earlier–even if he did catch his hand on the oven as he pulled out the pan of muffins. His scar will bring him good memories tinged with the abrupt finality of death.

Searing pain will give eventually give way for healing to begin. The color and thickness and elasticity of each scar will change over time, but the affected area will never again be the same. Every scar has a story, and standing over them brings questions and fears.

As a fresh, clean t-shirt is pulled over the jagged scar above the black and gray pin-up girl, another scar is laid to rest. It is covered now, and with it goes its story. The pain is no more. All that is left now is a lingering sense of tenderness and a hopeful glimpse of things how they ought to be.