Wednesday, January 9, 2013

One Word 2013 :: Love

I smelled him before I saw him.

That sounds terrible, I know, but the smoke and body odor was so strong that it made me look up from my basket of groceries.

I saw the culprit, two people in front of me in the checkout line, as he struggled with shaking hands to stuff change and chocolate bars into the pocket of his red hooded sweatshirt. His hair was disheveled. His beard bore the signs of several days growth. His brown pants, tattered and too big. And on his feet he wore not shoes, but blue corduroy slippers.

Not your typical Trader Joes shopper.

At the end of the counter stood another man, neatly dressed, a kind smile on his face. A friend? He watched, patiently, as the bedraggled man struggled to zip the pocket holding the cherished chocolate bars.

“He just got out of the hospital,” the man at the end of the counter said to the cashier.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” said the guy at checkout.

“But you’re going to be O.K., Jim, right?” said his patient friend.


Shuffle, shuffle. The pocket just wouldn’t accept the change. Not quickly, anyway.

They finally finished their transaction and the friend said goodbye to the cashier, not a trace of impatience or embarrassment on his face. “Come on, Jim. Let’s get going,” his friend said in no particular hurry at all, despite the growing line in the Express Lane.

Jim shuffled behind his friend, head bent, barely taking in the busy scene of the grocery store, while his friend gently took his elbow and guided him out of the store.

In that moment, it wasn’t Jim who had caught my attention, it was his friend. A friend who had obviously seen a need—a need for chocolate, a need for a ride to the store, a need for attention—and had responded in love. It showed on his face, in his demeanor, in his actions.

This man, who looked nothing like Jim, who looked more like the “rest of us,” was not concerned about appearance. He was concerned about Jim.

He loved.

* * * * *

Two years ago I gave in to the “One Word” craze and chose “Grace” as my word for 2011. Even though my skeptical heart was quite cynical about the whole thing, I have to say, it worked.

Grace stayed on my mind. It permeated my thoughts. I began to see it everywhere, and pretty soon I started to show it a little more. I hope.

Last year I had a word in my mind, but I never wrote about it. I never even talked about it. With anyone. I kept it tucked away, probably because it seemed like too much, too hard.

But this year, I think it’s time to come clean and expose the word I’ve been rolling around in my head for the past year. In fact, I’m just going to claim it for this year and see what happens, because two years ago Grace walked in, sat down, and became a better part of my life. I hope this word will do the same.

You’re probably scratching your head, wondering why I’m choosing Love as my word for the year. If you know me at all, you probably think I love enough already. I have a wonderful family to love. I have great friends to love. I even have a room full of students to love.

And I do. I love each one.

But you know what? I don’t think I love any of them well.

As I thought about love, unspoken, throughout the year last year, I realized that my love is often so conditional. You love me; I’ll love you back. I know that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I’m not even sure I know fully what love means.

For so long I have thought that love means commitment, and it does, but it’s more than that. You see, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor who could very possibly be someone we don’t know well at all, someone to whom we may not be committed. So what kind of love is that?

God is teaching me that love has so little to do with me and so very much to do with those around me. He’s showing me that love has everything to do with putting myself in the shoes of another, walking through their day, seeing life through their eyes. He’s teaching me that love cannot be on my terms—that it needs to be freely given with no strings attached. Love is letting myself go and putting others first.

I wonder, how many times have I just assumed something about someone without really stepping into their world, seeing things through their eyes? How many times have I made snap judgments based on what my experience tells me rather than learning what their experience has really been?

Love takes time. Love listens. Love observes. Sometimes, Love shuts her mouth.

And this is just the beginning. I know I have so much to learn about how to love well.

Trust me, this is scary. I don’t know what God might call me to do in the process of really learning how to love. I mean, might He call me to love the homeless man in the Express Lane at Trader Joes?

Funny thing is, He already has.

I just want to learn more about how that should look.

I want to love well.

* * * * *

How about you?  Have you chosen a word for this year? I'd love it if you'd share it in the comments.

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 A huge thank you to Melanie at Only a Breath who chose "give" for her word and is GIVING these beautiful "One Word" buttons to anyone who requests one. Visit her. Follow her. I know she'd love to hear from you.

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Linking this post to Melanie's One Word blog party at Only a Breath and to Word of the Year link party at The Lettered Cottage.The Lettered Cottage


  1. "Love is letting myself go and putting others first."

    This resonates so much, Shelly. This whole post, really. Love isn't my word for this year but I see how directly it ties into Commit. I need to put others first.

    Looking forward to seeing how Love plays out in your life this year.

  2. Hi Shelly!
    I also have done the One Word idea, last time it was NEW (2011, and I kept it an extra year). This year, my word is Lighten. Lighten my home of stuff, myself of weight, both physical and anxiousness, and lighten burdens of those around me. Thank you for this beautiful story and thought-provoking questions about real love. I will be thinking about it all day. :). Nancy

  3. Thanks, Leigh and Nancy. So glad you're along for the ride!

  4. I had no idea that picking a word for the year was popular! I am very thrilled to learn of others who do also do this.

    For many years I chose a Bible verse for each new year. Last year, however, I added my word which also came with a verse. I found that it made remembering my verse so much easier.

    This year my word is "Blessing"...God be gracious to us and bless us and cause His face to shine upon us... that Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations. (Ps. 67;1,2)

    Looking forward to all that God will show me through these thoughts. For one, I will get to take a mission trip to another nation....England... in March. And I have a list where I am counting my blessing one by one.

    My husband is a pastor and we have encourage people to also choose a word. It helps me know how to pray for my brothers and sisters. We are considering a creative way to display everyone's words so we can see them all as a church family.

    Happy New Year to all!

  5. I look forward to hearing all that you are learning about loving.

    I have chosen a word but haven't had a chance to blog aboaut it yet.

    It starts with an r ... :)


  6. What a beautiful piece you wrote, and so open too. I appreciate every word and have taken it as a challenge to find my own for the year. In fact my bible study group this morning did a devotion on finding your word for the year, so this was quite timely. Still trying to think of my own. There's just so many things I need to work on but one is a great place to start.

    Thanks again.

  7. Can't wait to hear the word you've chosen, Glenda.

    Christy, thanks for stopping by! Let me know when you've chosen that word. :)

  8. I loved the shock factor of your first line here and how you gentled-it-out so quickly.

    I hope you don't keep all that you learn of love a secret from us this year, friend. I CRAVE to hear all you've got to share. I'm a love junkie, but occasionally I feel like I need to next-level my lovin'.


  9. Oh, Megan, you are so kind. I'd like to follow up at times . . . we'll see.

    Mrs. Pederson, thank you so much!

  10. Shelly, this is such a wonderful post! This word of the year thing was something I had almost clucked & decided against (make no promises, tell no lies), but that's just too easy. My husband & I listened to an amazing Alistair Begg podcast/sermon, and the subject was 'contentment'. We both sat there, feeling the sharp elbow of the Holy Spirit in our ribs. It was the 3rd time in as many days I had heard/read something about it. I don't need to be clobbered over the head to know. That's my word.
    Philippians 4
    '...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.'
    I've joined the Beth Moored Siesta Memory Team, and every verse I memorize going forward will have something related to this theme. Thank you again for your timely words!

  11. Finding your blog via the Lettered Cottage. Such a wonderful post on love - and daring to love can definitely be a walk on the wild side :) Your story is a great example of love. Reminds me of the book, Same Kind of Different as Me. Turned my thought process upside down in some areas. I will be visiting again...

  12. Happy to find someone else who is living in love this year! My word is inLove- I want to fall in love with God, I want to live in love with others, and I want to abide in Him who is Love. Blessings on your year in Love!