Color Questions

A couple of days before my brother proposed to his girlfriend, I texted him to ask what her favorite color is. I wanted to send them engagement gifts in time for the big question and wasn’t sure what color to pick for hers.

He texted back, “Green (I think, double checking).”

I started to text back, “No wait! If you don’t know, you don’t want to ask outright!” But I didn’t. After all, I wouldn’t get upset if my husband didn’t know my favorite color. Actually, I was pretty sure he didn’t. I couldn’t remember us ever talking about it, and if we had it’d been years earlier. We’d known each other 9 years before we started dating, after all. We simply didn’t have as many of the expected “get to know you” conversations in our remembered past.

So I looked at my husband and said, “My favorite color’s red. I don’t expect you to have known that.”

His ears hadn’t been ready to listen, and I hadn’t given any context, so he asked me to repeat myself and then asked a couple of clarifying questions. Once done, he said thoughtfully, “I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

“I didn’t think so,” I told him. I don’t use it in decorating or wear a lot of red or anything. “But I wanted to tell you.” Then I asked, “What’s your favorite color?”

“It’s blue.”

“Okay,” I answered. “That’s what I would have guessed.”

The summer after I graduated from high school, my youth minister, his wife, and our head pastor took as many graduates from the church as wished to go (as I remember, there were 3 or maybe 4 of us) to a lake in TN for a long weekend. As we played cards after dinner the first night, one of my fellow grads sat forward.

“I want to confess something,” she announced, loud enough to attract the entire’s room’s attention.

We weren’t from a denomination where confession is done publicly or in a structured time/place, so no one seemed to know quite what to do.

“My whole life,” she continued after a moment, her face rapturous, “whenever someone’s asked what my favorite color is, I’ve said green. But really, it’s blue.”

The room fairly erupted into laughter and applause.

She hurried to explain, “Everyone always says their favorite color is blue, and I didn’t want to be like everyone else, so I said green. But it’s really blue.”

The adults fanned their faces and sagged with relief into their chairs. “I thought this was going to be something serious!” one exclaimed.

“Well,” said my friend, still in a very good mood, “it is. I’ve always known the truth about myself but I didn’t share it. And we’re talking about who we want to become when we go to college. I just want to be more myself, and have the confidence to say what’s true even if it’s the same as everyone else.”

I, meanwhile, did a gut check of my own favorite color. It’s red, isn’t it? I questioned, searching my feelings as I outwardly applauded. Yup. Definitely red. I didn’t have a cool revelation to share and shock everyone—which held a measure of appeal to me—but I knew my favorite color.

My brother soon texted back, “Her favorite color is blue and I sense I’m in a teensy bit of trouble.”

“Uh oh!” I answered. “Tyler didn’t know mine either if that helps.”

Except, now I’m wondering.

I just picked out colors for a wedding and a whole registry worth of household items. How much red had I chosen? I looked up from my brother’s texts and studied the room: a Christmas pillow on the armchair, the wreath on the door, the tree skirt. That was about it. The watercolors I’d bought for our home didn’t include red. Our quilt was mostly purple with stripes of neutrals and bold colors in the same palate. Our dinnerware wasn’t red. The clothes I’d bought that fall included 2 red sweaters, but I had many more neutral sweaters, and my closet hadn’t felt complete without a purple one. I never pushed for red towels and I’d originally planned to change the red, grey, and white shower curtain in one of the bathrooms, but it grew on me.

So how do I feel about red?

I still get a zip from it. The 2 red stripes on the quilt. Red cars. Red Christmas accents. My Atlanta United jersey. My car.

In general, I find red more imposing than I used to, and than I prefer. I don’t want to see red walls or red linens every day for the whole year. No red drinking glasses. No red towels. No red coats or art. A friend chose red as her accent color for her winter wedding, and I liked it, but I was glad I’d chosen sapphire blue, with a little peachy pink for variety.

What colors am I preferring these days? I looked around again. My coat, favorite long and short-sleeve shirts, much of the quilt, and new journal are all purple. Our towels, koi watercolor prints, cooler, bridesmaid dresses, bouquets, new cell phone, and favorite highlighter are all blue.

I don’t know that all this constitutes a change in my official favorite color. I don’t have to decorate with or wear a color for it to be my favorite. But I also know I’m not the same person I was as a child and teen and high school graduate. Gratefully so. It’s conceivable that one’s favorite color might change. And maybe that’s the case with me.

Why am I think about all this? It’s a new year. And at a new year, I tend to evaluate myself and my life. What’s working for me? What would I like to build differently or new this year? What do I know about myself that I didn’t a year ago? Some years I think about shoes, some years I think about colors. And, since I’ve been sick with a bad sinus infection since NYE, missing days of work on top of the holidays I already had off, I’ve had a lot of time to look around my apartment and wonder.

A Question of Blessings

Sometimes strangers and I have weird conversations. Sometimes those conversations are deep and vulnerable and revealing and the experience is a gift. I had one such conversation last week with a man in a black suit coat, khakis, and glasses. I was crocheting behind the half-table we’d set up as check, out of the twelve tables of books and studies my co-worker and I were womanning at a Christian conference in Virginia. He walked directly to me from across the entryway.

“Hello,” I greeted him at the sweet spot of our closing distance. “How can I help you?” Such purposeful direction meant he was looking for something specific, probably either a book or a bathroom.

“Hi,” he said. “Do you have anything on praying the Psalms?”

We had over 1,000 books on the tables around us, well over 100 separate titles. We have hundreds more titles in our stock online, but not one book exactly matched what he was asking for. The book that came closest wasn’t one of the ones we’d brought to Virginia.

“No. I’m sorry,” I said. “We don’t. Though, I wish we did.”

He shared that he’d been struggling to pray lately and had begun praying psalms, but was looking for a book to give him more direction. He had still experienced positive change in his prayer life, though, so he also wanted a study or guided devotional book that he could give to those he was counseling through their own struggles. I shared that, at various points in my life, I kept the same practice but had never read a book on the subject. He shared a bit deeper about his struggle and this ancient practice, being vulnerable with me, a stranger, about his spiritual searching. He wasn’t oversharing, but he was being honest in a rare way. It reminded me of a spiritual search I’ve been on for years.

Feeling surprisingly confident that he would hear my spiritual struggle, I shared that I can’t seem to understand blessings.

For years, I’ve struggled with this idea. How can these 2 things both be true: God blesses me and I bless God? What’s more, how can humans pronounce blessings on other humans, but also “bless the Lord” (Psalm 34; 103). What is a blessing, then? The best I could reconcile at that moment was that, when God speaks truth about Godself, God is said to be singing God’s own praises. God praises Godself. This isn’t arrogant, it’s just the truth of the matter. Only God is great, and it’s speaking truth to say so. Therefore, by the power of God, I can be blessed, bless others, bless food, and also bless God. God blesses Godself through me, who seeks to do as Scripture instructs and “Bless the Lord.” My willingness is the conduit by which God blesses Godself.

As I’s hoped, my fellow psalm-prayier listened. Then he considered, silent. Just was I beginning to regret my decision, he stepped into my wonder and searching. For several minutes we shared back and forth, building off one another’s ideas.

“If you bless someone,” he said, “that’s bestowing something. All they have, or all they are at that time, they give to you.”

“So it isn’t by an authority,” I realized, “but a gift from ourselves.”

“You know,” continued the man, “when a man asks for family’s blessing to marry, he’s asking for permission. But more than that, he’s asking for harmony. Harmony between the new family and the old, plus the different families coming together. It’s harmony.”

“And more than harmony,” I realized. “They will support and be devoted to helping that marriage work. Welcoming the new person as part of the original family forever is part of that. So is giving their full support to the betterment and success of the couple.”

“Yes,” he said. “A blessing promises support forever.”

Harmony, thriving, community. Now that I think of it, blessing sounds a lot like Shalom.

I have shared this struggle with at least 15 people over the past 5 or 6 years, former pastors and Bible study leaders and ministers and friends. But only this stranger ever wondered with me. Only he tried to find an answer with me, and he didn’t seek the easy ones. He took my struggle seriously, listened to me, and sought out understanding. I can’t say I’m done in my searching on this subject, but this man helped me travel miles further in 3 minutes then I’d gotten on my own in 5 years. Every moment spent in that conversation was a tremendous gift from God.

I helped him find a couple of books that we felt related to other spiritual interests. He even came back twice the next day, the first time to thank me for recommending a book of devotions for people struggling with depression, the second with a friend we was convincing to buy a copy of one of the books he’d bought the day before. I noticed his enthusiasm to bring people along on his journey. That was what had happened with me. He reminded me of Jesus’s apostle Andrew, who always seemed to be bringing someone to Jesus (boy with bread and fish, Gentiles, his brotherPeter). His openness and willingness to listen invited trust as well as community. And, perhaps most important of all, once someone trusted in him, he remained faithful.

If you’re somehow reading this, stranger, thank you. I hadn’t considered that blessings are like gifts, not words speaking principles into being. Like you said, Isaac blessed his two sons and, once he accidentally give Esau’s blessing to Jacob, he could not take it back. He had thrown his full support and harmony behind his deceitful younger son. Maybe in a couple of years we can publish your book on praying the psalms.