I won a silver necklace at a party once. It is a tiny silver plaque on a delicate chain. I could choose what I wanted engraved on the plaque. What a nightmare. Hey, Word Lady who loves all the words– pick ONE! You will wear the word and the word will be seen and asked about and explained. You have one day. Oh, and the word can only have five letters.
I sat down and did what I always do when I need words. I pulled out my super serious grown-up writer’s tools (blank paper, fat magic markers) and got to work. I first wrote the words I knew I could not abide (dream, live, love…puke.) I started noticing all words that have five letters or less. (“Words?” No. Not that either.)
I landed on SPARK. Spark is good.
Spark meant a lot at once and I couldn’t quite explain it, but I sent in my request anyway.
A friend saw it and thought it said SPANK. She was afraid to ask me about it, until one day she looked a little closer and said, “Ooooooh, it says spark.” She then explained her dawning relief.
I have had many theories sent my way as to why I chose spark, starting with my husband, who asked with a snort, “Is it because you think you’re, like, a firecracker?”
Despite the red hair, I am no firecracker. I just answered no.
Another asked if my nickname was Sparky, which made me giggle (inappropriately, at a baby shower) because all the scenes from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation played in my mind at once and that movie makes. me. laugh.
Still, I couldn’t quite explain it. But I loved it, and I wear it often.
A woman started a conversation with me once about a word our church has posted high on the wall for all to look over and consider. It is up like a banner. REVOLUTION. The woman was startled by the word. To her, it seemed the word didn’t fit within the walls of the church, much less on them. Not a smooth conversationalist, I stumbled out my best estimation of what the word meant to our church. She kind of chuckled as I blushed, laughing with her. She told me I needed an elevator speech. I was unfamiliar with the term, so she explained. An elevator speech is an explanation you have down pat, short and clear when you know something will come up often.
So I’ve been working on a elevator speech for my single five-letter word.
And like always, when my own words seem to be falling short, I find what I need in someone else’s. In Back to the Beginning Again I shared a quote from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and wouldn’t you know it, but I found my answer in that book.
When God had made the man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into a million pieces, but still he glittered and hummed.
So they beat him down to nothing but sparks, but each little spark had a shine and a song.
I am supposed to sing in church on Sunday, sing Just As I Am.
In my pile of ashes, can this be true? Can I offer myself just as I am?
The piano in the arrangement speaks to the hesitancy I feel approaching the God of all Glory, covered in the dust of my own failed expectations.
Still, I will come.
Because there in the ash I know, I will eventually find a spark.
I am filthy from the search. My eyes have clouded over, and my hands are too covered to wipe them clean.
Still, I dig.
One line of the song asks,
What kind of love in injury’s place would leave instead a stain of grace?
I saw a glimpse of the spark just yesterday, and that bright flicker is enough to keep me here on my knees, brushing away that dust of all I thought I had to be.
That’s a lot to lay on a person when they ask about your jewelry.
So with Hurston’s words humming in the corners of my mind, when someone asks “Why spark?”
I now will answer,
“Because that is all I need.“