The Smudge

Ash Wednesday is a weird day in New York.

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Because for really the first time during these blistery winter months, you actually look up and see people.

Now, I know…that sounds bad. Like, what the heck? Who is this girl that she just goes around with her head in the clouds, not seeing people?

  
But it’s true. In New York, people commute –read: walkon a mission. Especially in the winter. You’re bundled up. Hunkered down. And you’re walking with purpose to get to where you need to go, as fast as possible, so you can get in out of the cold.

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Or when you’re on the subway — You listen to your ear phones, look straight ahead, and try not to get in anyone’s way.

Welcome to New York.

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But.

Ash Wednesday is a little different.

Because of a smudge of ash on your forehead.

Maybe it’s curiosity or nosiness, maybe it’s voyeurism, or perhaps a combination of all three, but I find myself looking at people. Really seeing them. Seeing their faces.

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And this really did something to my heart. It convicted me.

I should be truly seeing people everyday.

Yes, the ashes on your forehead mark whether or not you went to church that day…but here’s the truth: regardless of whether we have a silly smudge on our foreheads or not…we are all God’s creation. And each and every man, woman, child, elderly, business man on the subway, mother with three kids in tow, homeless man on the street, teenager at the mall — every single person has an inherent value and dignity simply because of that fact: that they were created by God.

And regardless of a “smudge” or not — we are called to love each other. Show kindness. Compassion. Generosity. To everyone.

We are called to see one another.

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Yesterday was really a wake up call for me. A realization that I need to look up, look into people eyes, and see the precious creation that is in front of me.

Because his or her inherent human dignity demands it.

To love my neighbor as I (am trying/learning) to love myself.

Lastly, walking around yesterday and really seeing the people around me, it made me think about how I saw myself.

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I’ve been very open about my battle with the mirror – first: avoiding it at all costs because my self image reflected the pain my anorexia caused myself and others; and then finally (and more recently): growing to find the beauty inside. But the experience I had today in being intentional with how I looked at each person, reminded me that I need to do the same with myself. Really see the person looking back at me in the mirror. See her worth. Her dignity. Her beauty. Because it’s there. I’m just so accustomed to not look for it. But it’s there. He put it there.

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At the end of the day, it’s just a smudge of ash on our foreheads. And perhaps, I’m not focusing on the point that these ashes remind us that we once were dust, and to dust we shall return. A symbol of humility. A symbol of the full-circle-ness of life and faith.

But this is what was put on my heart today.

Help me to see each person in the compassionate and loving way that He sees each and every one of us: as His precious and beloved children, worthy of His sacrifice.

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263 thoughts on “The Smudge

  1. Beautiful post. We live in such a connected world but it’s like with that we’ve sort of lost our connection with each other, I was thinking this the other day on the train, everyone on the train was on phones, laptops or earphones in, no one on the train was speaking. I only noticed this because my phone battery had died!
    This Ash Wednesday I noticed fewer ‘smudges’ seems church life is slowly dying out over here.
    My wish is that one day everyone can look in the mirror and completely love the person they see looking back! xo

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  2. Driving through back roads from Anderson to Asheville last Wednesday, I realized I would get to Asheville in time for the Wednesday Healing Service at 12:15 On my way, I drove through beautiful countryside: farms, meadows, ranches, lakes, woods, streams, waterfalls, mountains, and the towns of Six Mile, Pumpkintown, and Pickens…talking to Jesus and thanking the Father every mile. When I got to the church, the parking lot had more parked cars than usual for the Wednesday healing service. Entering the foyer, David, the sexton, greeted me with his usual “Hello, little buddy!” I asked, “David, where is the healing service?” seeing that the library was unoccupied. “Oh, they’re having Ash Wednesday in the sanctuary, today.” I was totally caught by surprise, but also totally blessed. Jesus was there, along with the Holy Spirit. Father Bob’s homily was amazing (my favorite and over-used word these days.) After the service, with smudge prominent, I asked Father Gary to lay his hand on my back and “heal me,” which was my original reason for being there. Without hesitation, Gary prayed for my healing. (I have been diagnosed with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Cervical Spine Nerve Compression, and shoulder ‘instability’ which is probably rotator cuff stuff…all because of my moving, falling, falling while moving, and moving while falling.) The whole day was magical. I had to back out my entire groceries purchase because my daughter’s card was declined…the only money we have access to for the next two weeks…but even that provided opportunities to thank God. I am blessed and, as I read your inspired writings, I know you are blessed. Keep on writing, dear; you are doing ‘God work.’ By the way, my pain and symptoms are 85% less than they were before Ash Wednesday. To God be the Glory.

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    • Wow what an incredible, or –amazing 😉– story! Seriously though, that’s awesome and I’m so glad you had that experience. I don’t doubt it at all! God is totally capable of healing your CTS. Praise be to God. Thanks for sharing this beautiful reflection. And for your kind and heartfelt words of affirmation. It means a lot. Hugs and love to you!

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  3. Love it! I used to live in my own dream world (head in the clouds) until I had my daughter. I find myself so focused on her reaction when we’re walking around our neighborhood or just out and about. She looks each person she sees in the face and says “Hi!” to them with the biggest and sweetest smile. I feel like her unconditional love for strangers has really opened me up to try and see them as she sees them: Children of God. Thanks for sharing!!

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  4. Thank you for liking my post… With that said I went into your post and this the first one that popped up… This is so beautifully written. Really wished that we spent more time into seeing deep into who people are and to not take things for granted or to just judge… You are so awesome with your words… Thank you for reminding me to be who I really should be 😊

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  5. Deep, very deep. Everyone matters but we are so caught up with ourselves. We really need to take out time and smile at that janitor, look at our parents or kids in the face when communicating. We really might not know what the next person is going through till we care enough to look them in the eyes. The face carry a whole lot of message. Thanks once again for the insight.

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  6. Beautiful post…we all need to reflect on this idea of really seeing people as we go through our day. It’s not only a “big city” problem…I find myself doing the same thing in our small town, avoiding eye-contact, not wanting to engage with people. Thanks for reminding us to really see them.

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  7. Enjoyed reading this! Totally agree that God calls us to actually see the people we pass every day through his eyes, instead of just passing by without a second thought. God bless!

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  8. We live in a Selfie generation, our eyes ever on our own. Beyond just noticing others though, we miss so much beauty by keeping our faces pressed into screens and phones. God has made a beautiful world for us to enjoy, to take in. In all things, the God who gave us our senses cannot have intended for us to ignore them.

    The shallow existence provoked by our culture is not the call of the Christian. We need the depth that comes from cherishing every moment. Taste, don’t just eat. Smell, don’t just breathe. See, don’t just look. Listen, don’t just hear. Feel, don’t just touch. Live, don’t just exist.

    As for seeing others, it is impossible for us to love those we do not see. A doctor cannot heal the wound he or she does not see. That aside, joy is found in others. An old pastor once told me that the secret to joy is found in its acronym, J-O-Y. Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. Never once have I found him to have been wrong.

    Lovely post. Keep your head up and those eyes open.

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    • Wow what a truly beautiful and heartfelt reflection. Thank you for this incredible perspective. I want to give a standing ovation! You’re so right-JOY! we’ve gotta live it. Everyday. Because you’re right: God DID make this amazing world for his children to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by! Hugs and blessings to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s so easy to look through strangers and not see them. It’s frightening when you stop, think and then realise how little you know even of your neighbours lives.

    Sometimes, we don’t stare at others through fear. Some people act aggressively to the attention.

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  10. “but here’s the truth: regardless of whether we have a silly smudge on our foreheads or not…we are all God’s creation.” loved this line! A beautiful post! 🙂

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  11. Thanks for this. It reminded me of a picture that was recently posted of me on FB and several people commented on how great I looked and all I could see was that my stomach looked pouched out and my teeth were crooked! I am 56 years old and still worried about all of that – thanks for this reminder to see myself through God’s eyes also!

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  12. Pingback: The Smudge | christy•walter

  13. Great. Back here in Nigeria, especially the North where I live, Ash Wednesday is a day when people who have not been in the catholic church in ages to reacquaint themselves with their roots. I for one did not go to church this year but on getting to a store saw a lady with the Ash on her forehead and I felt so guilty. Nice one. Thank you BeautyBeyondBones.

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  14. Love it! I distinctly remember moving from New England to a small WI suburb and being uncomfortable with the way people LOOKED at each other. Like they KNOW you! It’s hard to get used to, but oh, the things we miss in the journey! And is it that we don’t want to see them, or don’t want them to really see us??

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  15. I agree about people not looking at each other in big cities In Portland, strangers engage each other on the streets, in restaurants, on the bus, etc. It makes Portland feel like a small town. An aside about Ash Wednesday, my teenage son had trouble with his car driving home after Ash Wednesday service. The police officer thought he was in a cult.

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  16. Hi my awesome friend I know I can count on you for advice, I’m finding it really difficult complete blog posts, I have start 3 posts and I just can’t finish the what do I do😞 do I put them all into one post or should I leave them until they complete?

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    • Hey Benjamin! Hmm good question. I guess I always try to wait to publish until I’m really ready. I mean, I still have posts that I’ve written in my drafts folder that I just don’t think are quite there yet, so in waiting for more inspiration to strike. But that’s just me. Depends on what you want your blog to be?

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  17. After living in New York for 3 years, what you say about not seeing people and being on a mission is SO TRUE! I remember when my Mother came to visit, She stuck out like a sore thumb on the subway because She was KIND to people! Imagine that… busy Life gets in the way of considering humanity…

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  18. I pray to see.

    For a long time I intentionally overlook, yes I did
    That I may see people through the eyes of God. I pray that it lasts, its not easy. But when you want to build bridges, that’s the only way to live.

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  19. You say past Lent periods have been troubled. may this one be of increasing compassion and purpose as Day Zero approaches. Delighted with The Smudge. The pics are good too. Grace and Peace, all the way from Blighty

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  20. I wanted to thank you for being my first and only like, but then I read a few of your posts; and I must say, I’m so sorry for what you’ve had to carry in this world. We all have our burdens to bear, but there is true power in the words of God. Not only power to heal you, but power to take away the “scars” that seem to have a chain around our hearts, weighing us down. I want t take that burden and carry it for you. You are very courageous for not giving up. Stay strong, and diligently seek the face of God. You have a beautiful heart; it’s very selfless of you to put yourself out there, that you might help to carry the burdens of others who struggle with ED. God bless you. Please feel free to come back to my blog, I can help you with your scars.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there, friend. Wow, thank you for such kind and encouraging words! You’ve made my heart so full this morning, so thank you. You’re right-there really is power and strength and peace in God’s word. I owe my life, literally, to Him. Thanks again for stopping by. I look forward to reading more from you! Hugs!

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  21. I’ve never been to New York City, but I did notice that lack of seeing people in the subways and on the streets when I spent a month in France. That’s about the only thing I didn’t like about being there. In Congo a younger woman is wise to show discretion as looking a man straight in the eye is considered a come-on. No matter what the culture, however, looking for the inner beauty and person is always a win!

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    • Hi Karen! Thank you so much for sharing this. Yes, looking for the inner beauty in others is so important – no matter what the culture! How interesting about the different countries and cultures. I’ve never been to Congo. Sounds like you are a very well traveled explorer! ☺️ how cool. Thanks again for this great insight and for taking the time to read! Sending hugs! Xox

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  22. Pingback: State of the Union | BeautyBeyondBones

  23. I could never live in a city like NYC. I grew up in the San Francisco bay and loved it when I moved out to Idaho. Even living in Sacramento, ca was just constant grind of rude people. Out here, they are nice.

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  24. I remember right after my dad died, I traveled north and spent three weeks with my mom–a cold, hard woman. leftover from my feelings of her much earlier in my life.

    And a really weird thing happened to me–I SAW my mother. That is the very word I used to describe what happened. I SAW my mother–and then, I fell in love with her for the first time in my whole life. Talk about strange–falling in love with my mother!!

    But that new insight I had into who she was as a person, not as my mom, but as a person, changed how I viewed and felt about her forever. From those days on, I continued to love my mother until she too died. BUT, not before each of us in the coming years had ample opportunity to share our love and even to verbally express it to one another. So grateful to the Lord to have had this opportunity before my mom died–Thank You, Lord.

    Great post! Thanks!

    Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

    Did you catch that first line, BeautyBeyondtheBones? He has made everything beautiful in its time. I think your time has come! And God is using you marvelously. Keep up the great work.

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    • Hi Friend❤️ wow, thank you for sharing this heartfelt reflection. How incredible that you were able to reconnect with your mom like that. Praise God. Truly. What a gift. I’m sorry that your parents are no longer with us, but what a comfort in knowing that we will be reunited one day❤️ and thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement. That bible verse is soothing balm to my soul☺️ thanks again for stopping by. Sending you a big big hug through the computer! Xoxox

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