On summer vacations, my parents would take my sister and me on simple road trips from Michigan to Virginia to hang out on the front porch with our grandparents. I’d catch lightning bugs and hold them in my cupped hands or, standing between pink bedsheets that hung on the clothesline above my head, I’d watch the shadows on the grass when the breeze blew fresh.
By now, a good portion of the world has settled on their word of the year. Kashoan has shipped out hundreds of pieces of handmade jewelry, each individual word of the year cut from a vintage dictionary and secured beneath a beautiful bubble of glass to wear around a neck, a wrist, an index finger.
I wasn’t surprised last year, when I tried to place my order.
“Can you find my word?” I asked her, then.
“I’ll try,” she answered. And try, she did. Kashoan will move heaven and earth for you, she will. But even she couldn’t make a vintage dictionary produce the word disco.
I have been more conventional in other seasons. For years, my one word was grace. Grace dropped into my lap one day, before I even knew one word was a thing. I slipped grace into my heart and carried it around with me and it made the difference I didn’t know I needed. I thought of it the way the Bible study people teach it: grace = unmerited favor. But, I also thought about it the way my ballet teacher had taught it to me as I turned pirouettes on hardwood floors: grace = light and soft and lovely and gentle.
A few years later, my word was peace. It seemed grace had grown up and moved out on her own, and peace moved in to take her place, or to pick up where grace had left off. Peace nestled softly at the base of my neck, a gift wrapped in velvety cloth. “As much as it depends on you,” I’d remember, “live at peace with everyone.”
I needed those words in a tough season where my natural inclination was to walk hard and rough over someone else’s feelings, or to throw up walls of defensiveness in response to disappointment or frustration or loss. Light and soft and lovely and gentle. As much as it depends on you…
One year, I finally reached a bend in the road. I saw light at the end of a dark and musty tunnel that had cut off my oxygen for far too many years.
Grace hadn’t really moved out, I realized. More like, settled in. Peace calmed my pulse. We had been comrades in arms — grace, peace, and me. Quiet warriors in a cold arena with stories to tell.
“Thank God for the Light,” I may have whispered to those stalwart companions. Thank God for music and for lively, polyester, bell-bottomed, brave, and beautiful dancing.
Thank you, God. From the overflow of a heart wide open. Like a swatch of pink against a clear blue sky, when the summer breeze blows fresh.