The Smudge

Ash Wednesday is a weird day in New York.


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.


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.

"The Grumpy Guide To Life: Observations By Grumpy Cat" Book Launch Party


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.

1920x1080 Beach wallpaper

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.


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.


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.


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.


263 responses to “The Smudge”

  1. I wish women could see themselves through my eyes. You would see how amazingly beautiful you are, and how what you think are “imperfections”, are actually your uniqueness. You are amazingly wonderful, beautiful, and magnificent, just as God created you to be! Each and every one of you.

  2. Great post. I’ve been challenged recently about something similar to ‘seeing’ people. Which is hospitality- not just to people I know, but also to strangers. And this definitely starts with ‘seeing’ people …

    • Thank you so much. You’re right – seeing people – truly seeing them – is something I definitely have to work on too. Cuz it is so important. It’s the first step to loving people. Thanks for this great reflection!

  3. What an absolutely beautiful, heartwarming post, perfect for this day and every day. Yes, we should all look up at others, look into their eyes, smile and recognise that we are all part of the same world and universe. Thank you again. I loved this.

  4. Reblogged this on msktb and commented:
    2016 is moving about quickly. The next chapter of my narrative has begun. I have forced my own hand which has caused time to morph. Is it standing still? Has it sped up? I’ve lost track of time entirely.

    I overlooked the fact that lent had begun.

    What sacrifice will I make? Well, what resolutions have I have I stuck to? It’s the change that I want to see–the person I want to be. Instead of continuously reflecting; instead of diminishing my own selfworth; instead of making it about me, I will value the relationship that I share with you. I thank God for you! When I see you, but especially when I don’t see you, I value you as God’s child. I will be less angry with the world. I will try harder to value each experience and perspective offered to me. I will practice being a better person. So when we see each other in passing in the street, at work, or in church, we will recognize God’s Love in each other.

    Today, I reblog this as an example of God’s Love working constantly in our lives.

  5. God Bless you with all the amazing things you are in reminding us that we need to get our heads out of our gadgets and see the people in front of us for who they really are and not just what is on our little screen. How beautiful!! I know this is always a gloomy time in NY, weatherwise, as much as where I am as it is in NYC. But you just brought out a beauty of this time, that many forget!! Love it!! 🙂 Hugs!!

  6. Beautiful picture. Beautiful post. During mass I sometimes get lost in a feeling of joy or awe. It’s a hard feeling to explain. Does this ever happen to you?

  7. I loved this! No matter where we are, it seems we are all cut off from each other without realizing it. Lent is a great time to be intentional about community.

  8. I was reading “See her worth.” when i had this chocolate wafer roll in my hand and despite trying to ignore the voice, I couldn’t. It said “Your body is not going to be thankful for these chocolate wafer rolls. You ought to eat more healthily” 😐

  9. What a great post, and your thoughts definitely made me realize how easy it is to just ignore the people around us. I’m guilty of it, too. Thank you for such a wonderful reminder of God’s love and to start paying attention to those around us. 🙂

    • Thank you so much. I really appreciate this thoughtful reflection. I can definitely get caught up in my own world and forget to look around. But you’re right, we are called to love. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs and love to you xox

  10. Such a wonderful post…and I’m so amazed that you are at this place at your tender age. This: “I should be truly seeing people everyday.” I’ve had that realization after facing trauma 21 months ago, and regret so much the many years I neglected caring, connecting and loving in an authentic way as I bustled about doing life…but not living life. KUDOS that you SEE. and HUGS.

    • Thank you so much for these wonderful words of encouragement and kindness. I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with trauma. It sounds like you’ve used that experience for good and have gained a lot of wisdom from it. Thanks for sharing that:) sending so much love and hugs tonight. Thanks for stopping by xx

  11. Once again you have written another inspiring post that makes one think about the subject up close and personal. Everyday we see complete strangers walking in a supermarket or on the streets and we think they could be anybody, but we always never take into account that like ourselves, they came from God as well. Make no mistake, we all know that, but how many of us think about it often? I will admit though that when I am inside a church, it is much easier to think of the thought that they came from God because the building is obviously a house of worship. It is very encouraging that in our everyday cynical world, you can see a lot of beauty as well. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • Hey John! Aw thanks so much☺️ I agree. It’s easy at church to see god’s fingerprints, but it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame out on the streets! I just pray to be given to eyeballs to recognize his creative genius-both in others as well as myself ☺️ thanks for stopping by and for your thoughtful response and wisdom, as per❤️ hope you have a great weekend John!

  12. Do you make your own quotes or you just Google it? Where on earth do you get all these awesome quotes? I’m thinking of creating a new blog with your inspiring quotes and I’m pretty sure that I will get instant hits (likes) and attract a lot of followers!! And not to mention good traffic too!!😄🙋🗽.(Yes even you can click the blue star like button).

    Is that your dog? 😂It looks really funny, small face with huge round eyes! lol!!

    No doubt GOD has pushed you to create 🔯BeautyBeyondBones🔯


    • Hi! Thank you! I’m glad you like my quote art:) I do make up most of the quotes. Not all-Some I get from other places, but a lot are mine. Thanks for the positive feedback:) I do make every single one of the quote art images though – it is quite labor intensive, but I guess it’s kinda like my gift to the readers. I don’t know..a weird way to think about it. But yeah. My only request is that if you do use or repost my images that you link back ☺️ just cuz they’re such a labor of love lol ❤️ but no, sadly that’s not my dog! That little fella I did find on Google 😂 have a great day my friend!

  13. Excellent article! You know, it’s “funny” how things come together sometimes. This message is the second one I’ve read this morning, and I’ve needed them both. . . They also go hand in hand with one another. The first was written by a very real, down-to-earth, authentic man living in Nigeria;

    Just thought you might be interested in at least breezing over the article he wrote in and around the same time you wrote the above! All the best to you w/blessings!

  14. I tried to explain this to a minister once: the world crusts our beauty over with dirt. When we finally surrender in love to the Holy Spirit, we turn around to consider the life we left behind. Seeing the world as He sees it, through the connections to the pieces of all of us that are still whole and pure, our heart cries out in compassion for those still carrying the burdens that sin has placed upon them.

    Thank-you, dear ambassador for love.

  15. An excellent read. I live in a quiet rural community where everyone smiles, waves and says “hello”. Your description of New York sounds so similar to the once or twice I go to Toronto a year for races, and it always made me sad to see so little interaction.
    Each of these humans have such great worth as part of God’s creation, and as small and insignificant it may have been, I did try to make a difference, and put a smile on someone’s face. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Carl! And what a difference that is – even if small- very impactful. I’m originally from the Midwest, so when I first moved to the city, I’d be like nodding and smiling at people when I’d go out for a jog – and I quickly came to learn that people just don’t do that here. It’s really quite sad. Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

  16. I love your posts well done. I,m a prairie boy, I grew up in a town where you knew most everybody and you were expected to wave to and greet and acknowledge most everybody. What a shock to move to the city and be so ignored all the time. You are very beautiful, and what is most beautiful about you is your transparency. You are allowing yourself to be seen and not just the smudge on your forehead but the smudges on your soul as well, I deeply appreciate that transparency. It is what makes your posts so meaningful.. Thank You.

    • Hey Jack. Wow I am so humbled and touched by your kindness. Thank you. Yes, moving here from the Midwest was definitely a change. But even though I may have had to “learn” NYC’s “interaction” etiquette, I’ve also learned a lot of other things too–beneficial things: independence, self-assurance, confidence, gratitude for relationships…it’s a double edged sword. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face this morning! Hugs!

  17. Beautiful post and thanks for giving me something to think about. I may not live in NY (though I would love it for a while), I also can just go thru my day and not really “see” anyone either. Not see their pain or hurts or pay attention at all. Thanks again! I will keep my eyes open today!

    • Gosh, thank you so much Kristy. Yes, especially with all of the distractions today from TV, smart phones, busyness, jobs, school, chores, LIFE – it’s easy to get caught up in it all. Definitely guilty of that myself! Thanks for this beautiful reflection! Hugs to you xox

  18. words can not express how much your words mean to me, how much you to me, I love your main photo for this post, you look so beautiful in it, I believe the first full photo i’ve seen of you, you are such an incredible, caring, kind, inspiring, beautiful human being, friend and sister <3 x. I miss our gasbagging (Long chats) :D. love the word smudge, it could be my nickname for you 😀 x.
    Love you so much Sister xxx

  19. Beautifully written (as always)! I used to live in New York briefly and have spent many years in other cities, so I know what you mean by looking right past people on a regular basis. It wasn’t until I moved to the Midwest that I started looking people in the eyes and smiling. I think my recovery is increasing my capacity for empathy and my curiosity about others, seeing their humanity and dignity, but what you described about seeing my own dignity… Well, those words struck me, because I still shun the mirror and won’t pose for photographs. I’m not looking at myself that way. I focus so much of my prayer asking for help being less judgmental of others, but I don’t spend much time asking for help seeing myself with the COMPASSIONATE eyes of Christ (usually, I ask for help with seeing my faults more clearly).

    Whew! This is a really lengthy response. Basically, I just wanted to say, “Thank you!”

  20. Hello, I love your message in this post and the positive messages in some of your accompanying posters which have spoken to my heart. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  21. Yet another awesome post! I love it. I do remember Ash Wednesdays in Miami. Kind of the same idea you describe here. I could curl up with a cup of tea and read through your posts all day (if I had the time of course…lol). But for now I will be grateful for what I can get…Thank you so much for your inspiriting posts. I love seeing how you touch so many people. Blessings.

  22. 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

    • Hi Angela! Wow what great insight. You’re so right! Isn’t it almost eerie on the trains now?! NO ONE is even looking up! That’s a beautiful wish. I hope so too. That would be a glorious thing. Thanks for stopping by! Hugs and love to you!

  23. 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.

    • 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!

  24. 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!!

    • Oh my gosh what a beautiful response! It sounds like we all could take a page from your daughter’s book! Aren’t kids just the sweetest? ☺️ thanks for stopping by! Hugs and love to you!

  25. 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 😊

    • Aw thank you so much Vero for these kind and affirming words! You’re right: we need to be careful not to make a snap judgement about a person, and really see them for who they are. Thanks again for reading! Hugs to you!

  26. 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.

    • What great perspective, Bito. Thanks for that. You’re so right- it’s a cliche saying but everyone is fighting a battle that we know nothing about. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond! Have a great rest of your weekend!

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

    • 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!

      • And thank you for finding my blog. I would not have found yours otherwise as I tend to just write and not read (and almost never comment). But I do make exceptions for exceptional individuals — and perhaps for the sake of some impassioned and odd theological ramblings.

  30. 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.

    • Hey Harry! You’re so right – it’s so easy to get caught up in either our phones or our busyness or daydreams- we’ve got to be intentional about really seeing each others thanks for stopping by! Xx

  31. I really loved this!! Being intentional about seeing people everyday and seeing their worth through God’s eyes and not our own!
    Thank you for sharing!
    Lent is a beautiful time about realization.

  32. “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! 🙂

  33. 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!

    • Thanks for sharing this, maflake. You’re right- seeing ourselves through God’s eyes is definitely easier said than done, but brings so much freedom and peace. Thanks for stopping by! Hugs and love to you xox

  34. 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.

  35. 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??

    • Thanks so much Bobbi! I know what you mean! My family has roots in Wisconsin and so we vacation there a lot. And yeah, people look and … *gasp* TALK to eachother! Hehe thanks for your beautiful reflection. Lots of wisdom! Hugs!

  36. 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.

  37. 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?

    • 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?

  38. 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…

  39. 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.

    • Hi again friend:) you’re right…it’s the only way to live. I think “not seeing” is a very easy trap to fall into. But with God, anything is possible! Sending you lots of hugs! Xox

  40. 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

  41. 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.

    • 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!

  42. 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!

    • 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

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

    • 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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