What Do You See? Part 1.

Sight. Vision. Perspective. It is all a beautiful mystery to me. We all see from different vantage points. Some times we choose what we see and what we don’t see. Some times we cannot choose what we see and that can be the most painful element to sight. Some times those without physical sight see it all more than those we can physically see.

The word see encompasses so much. You can take this question of “what do you see?” in an infinite amount of directions and that’s what I love about the question. But, even more so, I love this question because people’s answers actually help us to see more.

For those of you who wrote— thank you. Thank you for your willingness to share your words. I am challenged and encouraged by each of you and I know every one else will be too. And for those of you reading— thank you. It will take time to get through each of these, but it is worth every minute allowing yourself to see what others see and think. 

And for anyone still considering writing out their thoughts— do it. Take courage. You don’t have to have to be a “writer” to be a writer. Only you can share with others what you see— no one can see for you and no one can put your words down for you. Your thoughts are needed because we are all out here just learning from one another. Allow the process of writing and sharing to be messy. The mess of it is what makes it all so beautiful and worth it. 

Enjoy my friends. These are special. 

– Bailey

I see the vague image of a tree. A normal, healthy, thriving tree. A tree that is driven, walked, and ran by every day. Trees get this treatment everywhere , but there is something about this specific tree. This tree has seen a lot of love. I say that, because I have experiences and received a lot of love around the very yard/ neighborhood that rat very tree stands in, so I can only imagine the moments that that tree has witnessed. That tree, to me, is an image/metaphor for our God. Our God sees those moments. In fact, he ultimately creates them. Just like God, that tree has heard laughs, cries, joyful and wicked screams of the people of this place, vague/deep conversations. It has heard hearts be vocalized into life-giving words. Through all of that, most importantly, just like God, that tree has stayed right where it is to listen and see the days go by in this incredible city. No one really knows it, but this is the first time I have voiced my opinion about this tree. As weird as it sounds, this tree specifically brings me peace, because I know it has seen some incredible lives be transformed around it.

Carter Cross

What do you see?

Lately, I see a lot of silver.

I see silver that is hard and sharp like the edges of a broken bicycle spoke. Like division in the media, politicians with silver tongues. I see rejection letters and “We regret to inform you” in silver embossed ink.

I see silver that is soft and malleable. Like the rings on my fingers that are bent out of shape from holding hands too tightly and playing guitar too fiercely. Soft silver like promises to be better and commitments to read more love more try more be more.

I see silver linings. I see my friends telling rooms full of 17 year olds about hope and life and freedom. I see glimpse of fall weather on the radar that offer respite from the constant heat. Silver like lightening bolts in the sky, like good news that pierced an entire day.

In the life around me and the things that ground me: I see silver.


Camille Graham

“The ‘It Girl’”

You see a girl eating dinner and laughing with her family and friends. What you don’t see is the fact that her parents are divorcing and she and her siblings are falling apart. What you don’t see is that she prayed so hard for everything to work out, but it never did. You don’t see that all she asked for on her birthday was one nice meal with her family and friends, because it could be the last one with everyone together.

You see a girl, an officer in her sorority, stand up and speak confidently at initiation. What you don’t see is that she had several panic attacks that week because on top of writing three papers, and working a job all day, she had to memorize a speech to deliver in front of a large crowd.

You see a girl on a date with her boyfriend, and it looks like they have the perfect relationship. What you don’t see is that he has cheated on her several times and she stays with him because doesn’t feel like she deserves better.

You see yourself in the mirror and pick at your flaws, wishing you could be like the “it girls” that you’ve seen throughout the day. What you don’t see is that you are so beautiful, so precious, and so loved in the eyes of the King of Kings.

You see the “It Girl.” What you don’t see is that she has struggles, just like you, and she wishes she could be someone else, too.

Emily Embry


I see the morning light rushing through the window, painting broad strokes on the wood paneled wall and washing the room in sweet honey; mercy.

I see the old, oak table delicately holding plates, bowls, cups that overflow. An abundance, an invitation to taste and see; grace.

I see kicking, screaming, tossing, and two strong arms holding, rocking, steadying until her eyelids gently close and blissful sleep greets him; patience.

I see deep lines stretching across your forehead, telling tales, and a wedding ring permanently stuck on calloused hands that fly up to the moon as laughter roars; wisdom.

I see perfectly polished shoes gliding across black and white tiles as if it were ice, turning and spinning in a flurry, ignorant of and unhindered by the constraints of time and space; joy.

I see another reckless night soaked into her matted hair, pale white skin in the glow of a monitor. His hands gripping the sides of that familiar, worn leather chair; love.

The light of dawn, an abundant feast, a mother’s touch, wrinkles of time, dancing shoes, a father’s perseverance; You.

Mercy, grace, patience, wisdom, joy, love: You.

I see You.

Becky Matthews


Learned Hopelessness

I have seen two emeralds in a sea of ink,

Resting on the gentle arc of a cumbersome nose,

And I remember seeing inevitable illuminance, cut into fractals,

Far beneath the verdancy each time a bolt of lightning

Would sing across the midnight;

Each flash, she appears!

Though the return of night canonizes her eyes.

I have seen God in the bottom of a whiskey bottle,

Beckoning wryly through a threshold of latticed white,

Like a father summoning a disobedient child to scold,

But His voice cannot reach me from the depths of the pit,

Try as I might to hear, with my ear to the lip,

A voice lost in cacophonic winds

A drop of mercy in a tumultuous sea.

I have seen a raptured soul with burning wings

Plummet like the son of the tinkerer,

Hold me under the powerlines in a downpour,

Archangels sodden, downtrodden, bereft,

Expunged from the weave and weft

Of necessity and proximity;

I have seen a separation.

I have seen a gossamer of pink and fire

Where lakes burn in early morning breezes,

And the flames creep across cotton candy clouds

To nestle in the bosom of Appalachia,

And I can see the breeze but only when

A kiss from the emeralds emblazons that

Blossoming breath from seas untamed.

What I have seen has burdened my eyebrows,

Knitted them in permanent glower,

Tinted existence as raining memories form wet blurs

Like upon the lens of spectacles;

I see not what lies behind the drops

But vague shapes, unclear and unappealing.

A fog composed of memory laces itself

With the clarity of morning,

And dispels in the murk of dusk; the fog is

A million motes of water reverberating the tangible,

Back and forth, to and fro, ever-shifting,

Oh, I drown in the water,

Oh let me drown.

And I cannot focus on one image alone

But a myriad of shapes and patterns,

Kaleidoscopic like a tempest at sunset,

So that all that I have seen

Will forever shape

What I will see.

Dylan Clark


I see him. I think more than he could know. I saw him even from the beginning. I saw the deep well in him that he hadn’t drawn from much before. The rope and the bucket still so shiny and new. Over the years, a few good men passed him a lantern…and I did too. Though the darkness scared him, he tossed a lantern into the well. Then the next and the next. Brighter and brighter it shown. He looked in and saw the brilliance and depth for himself. It shocked him and he doubted his eyes, but it was indeed his well. His beautiful well.

Now the rope is worn and the bucket is full. He is even pulling up some of those lanterns and giving them to some others who are scared to look inside their wells. He is not afraid anymore. He has given me a lantern, too. I’m starting to see.

I love this man who sees me.


Visionary, Vision is scary (Eminem) (unrelated)

I see leaves falling

I see tears resisting the same fate

I see the next thing and the next thing and the next

blinding me from much else


I see morning light dancing on my wall in the shape of tree branches

It’s dance fades so quick

24 hours in a day


I see relentless treading

warriors of the waves

Stop! Be Still! He says

just in time


I see the sunrise again

consistency, consistency


I see my damn computer screen

Another leaf falls

The tree almost naked

Evergreens are mighty and present


I see a dark house and an empty gas light blinks on


I see tremendous joy

On display from ear to ear


I see generosity given

Like there was nothing else to offer

I see the hands and feet of Jesus attached to people I love


I see soggy trees dripping

Shedding their excess weight


I see my eyelids

I can’t be done with the day


I see my eyelids


I see unread books on my shelf

blank pages in my journal

roommates sitting on the couch

I see ELC and Google Docs

Texts sent to compensate for quality time


I see gravity

And moments later it’s just air again


Is it wind I’m striving after

Oh I pray it is more

Don’t let me waste even the smallest gift



It’s the last day and I wake up early to hug him goodbye before he left for the airport. Of course I did, because I always do.

        I watch him, his back turned, as he walks out the door with his rolling suitcase and I retreat to my bed upstairs so I can try to squeeze in a few extra hours of sleep, but it doesn’t come.

        Minutes later, I end up in my parents’ bathroom, crying in my mom’s favorite chair because it’s not fair that he can just walk out like that and leave my heart throbbing in my chest, and now every time I see that old wooden chair or my great-grandmother’s jewelry box or my favorite striped pajama pants, I think of the morning that I realized it was over.

        We’d be perfect together, like one of those “It was love at first sight” movies, but he can’t see it. Not like I can.

        He undoes me, every inch of him, and he can’t see it.

        But I do—I always have.


        From the moment I met him when I was but single digits, I let my heart get ahead of me, like it always does, and I imagined everything. All of it. I saw a life ahead of me filled with joy and promise and laughter and proposals and marriage and kids.

        What girl wouldn’t, right? With a face like his and charm like his, it was next to impossible.

        And then there was me. And I look in the mirror and all I can see is how much I pale in comparison next to him.

        It took me .2 seconds to fall in love with him, but 5 years to get over him. To realize I’d never be good enough for him. To quit taking him like drugs, anxious for the high but broken for the fall. To stop myself from picking him up like sand and then getting heartbroken every time it fell through my fingers, like I should’ve been surprised. Sand does that. If nothing else, it’s consistent. It falls through the gaps and lands on the ground and you think to yourself, “Just a minute ago, it was there, in my hands, and now it’s not.”

        It’s been a few years. Three, to be exact. Now when I think of him, it feels different. I don’t see him dancing with me in his living room or playing me a song on the piano or telling me I’m the only girl he shares his secrets with while we’re making guacamole in his kitchen or him telling me jokes as I lay on the ground, crying from laughter.

        I see the girl who woke up thinking of him and fell asleep thinking of him, like some obsessive drug addict, and I know it’s wrong. I see the girl who used to let unrequited love define her. I see the girl who spent years trying to be everything for him and could never be it all so she broke down and became herself.

        There’s peace in feeling like you’re finally who God created you to be apart from someone else. There’s peace in knowing that you’ve made it.


        The boy was sweet but God is sweeter. God is better. God took him from me. I see that now, and I couldn’t before. Not when I had him.

        It took losing him for me to finally see.     

Eva Parker


What I am coming to realize is being able to help others is a privilege in itself. You can only help others (financially or emotionally or anywhere in between) if you have those resources yourself already. But we shouldn’t expect to be able to do it all the time. We are not Jesus. We have our own problems and should not expect ourselves to be able to consistently pour our goodness. To make a difference in the world we should give our best self and not just what’s left of our self. Lift both hands when things are bright but don’t feel guilty that things aren’t bright all the time and sometimes you have to keep your head down to get back to that place. I think you and I forget just how young we are and that this thing we are trying to accomplish is going to take a lot of practice, we are already way ahead of others and should be thankful for that. It’s ok to be young and have fun we don’t have to feel guilty about that. It’s ok to take the time to listen and ask questions and learn in the meantime. Besides there are no real systematic answers to the problems you and I face because people are people and they don’t fit into a system. So relax and just try to get to know the people around you, be nice, and help them have fun too. If we need to have fun they sure do. It’s natural to be self serving because it takes effort to serve others, especially strangers. And it is natural, unfortunately, for us to “other” one another. It takes effort to want to get to know strangers and broaden our sense of reality. I suspect these are some sort of survival skills. It takes quite a bit of wisdom for someone to volunteer truly to serve others and not just to feel better about ourselves. Compassion turned into action is something unnatural for humans, this is why Jesus is so unbelievably amazing. And he knows this and that’s why he encourages us to give by telling us we will get more in return. He knows our hearts are crooked but he wants us to try anyway. You are not Jesus, I am not Jesus. Do what you can, let god fill in the rest and don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself with the means you have. And really maybe don’t even try at all and just let god do everything, you know it will be better that way anyway. So just relax, sit back, and watch him work. Let go of wanting to control and fix the problems of the world and just appreciate the privilege of getting to know God’s greatest creation: each other.

I guess that’s what I see. It’s what I want to see anyway. Speaking it into existence.

Bridget Siverwright

 I have always wondered why phone cameras do that. Something to do with an aperture I guess. Do we really have to choose between light here or there? Aren’t we missing out? Maybe those feet have details that add to her story. Maybe those are old running shoes, waiting to silently jog Athens before those leaves fall and make each step and moment more intrusive. Maybe those are socks, recently exposed and raised in exhaustion as their possessor watches the sun punch through those trees after a day full of texts and calls and thoughts that don’t leave her alone. Maybe those are two shoes on two bodies, and that color was witnessed by a third besides her and the sun, multiplying its warmth and speeding its retreat to the drumming of heartbeats.

  And the record player? We can’t even see if it’s on. What if the room was suffocated by the crackles of an album she bought a few months ago downtown, its imperfect turnings perfectly celebrating the last radiating air of summer? Or what if it’s held shut, a few books stacked on top because its busy the time of year when the light looks like that and no one actually listens to records when life comes and comes. They just stare at them mostly.

  So what do I see? I want to say that all I can see is the way the setting sun came straight down Springdale Street in September and made each one of those leaves out there a prism by the time it reached 60. That the only thing I see is her, them and the dog and each blade of the too-long grass; how it bent underneath their joy and the fading heat. That when I look at that picture all I see are the six-hundred-something evenings I listened to from the stoop, reflecting in the extent of their silence. But I can’t. I didn’t even know what I wasn’t choosing to see.

  But there were moments. Moments where Light met my eyes and I saw. I saw what was near and far meet somewhere immensely close to eternity. Someone holding a dirty hand. Words  sketched onto college-ruled paper. Songs sung into the darkness. Smoke rising towards a sky illuminated by laughter. Tears shed in an old house. Inconsequential moments made invaluable by the maker of value. All I can do is ask to see more.

Erik Olsen


Blurry. Unfamiliar. Confused.

I see a driver. I seek, but I do not know.

I see a roommate. I share, but I am not known.


Struggling. Pain. Trial.

I do not see an enemy, but I do not see a friend.

I do not see him yet, but I know we are trying.


Studying. Diagnosis. Reunion.

I see fear, and I see strength.

I see loss, and I see so much found.


Growth. Friendship. Abroad.

I see strangers who will become important.

Though their worth was never temporal.


Subzero. Snow. Rock.

I see a closeness. An intimacy.

I see mountains,

& they are groaning much louder than the rest.


Words expressed, when actions could not, and my heart grins.


Resilience. Conviction. Dreams.

I see a heart,

full of burden.

Surely not of his own, this he would admit.


Over our shoulders, we do not recall.

a story foretold. for His glory, and our good. and our good.


Joy. Kindness. Selflessness.

I see my own. My person.

what was intended, & what now is.


This gift.

I now know.

& I am now known.


I see mountains,

& they are groaning much louder than the rest.

& they are groaning much louder than the rest.

Luke Gamblin

“Hallelujahs are all around”

The words I see every day as I walk into my room, hanging above my bed. Four months ago I wrote those words in the hope that seeing them would keep that thought always at the forefront of my mind. That each day I would remember to see all the gifts that have been placed in front of me. But it seems more and more as the semester goes on that I focus on the following line of the song- “but the roof is caving in”.

I’ve chosen to see the brokenness, the mess, all the times the roof has caved in, rather than see the hallelujahs that I am surrounded by every day. I’ve chosen to ignore the gifts that each day brings.

I see the world through clouded, distorted eyes of bitterness.

But I want to see that all is not lost.

I want to see the light in the cracks. I want to see the love that is all around me. I want to see abundance where I see bleakness.

I want to see the hand of the Lord in everything- that His hallelujahs are abounding and all around. Even when, and especially when, I feel the roof is caving in.

Jen Kunin

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