Worldwide Candle Lighting Memorial Service: Sunday, December 8, 2019

I love candles-always have.

I especially love them as the days get shorter and we creep toward the longest night of the year.

I love them more since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Every time I light a candle, I remind my heart that even the smallest light can chase the darkness.

When hundreds, thousands and even millions of candles are lighted together, it does more than chases darkness, it undoes it.

This Sunday, December 8, 2019 is the Worldwide Candle Lighting Memorial Service (WCL) sponsored by The Compassionate Friends (TCF).

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Millions of parents and others will light a candle at 7:00 PM local time for one hour to honor sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and grandchildren gone too soon.

As the earth turns, a wave of light will sweep across the globe one time zone after another.

It’s natural for parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers to mark the light and life of one they miss.

It’s less natural for friends and extended family members to do so.

One of the greatest fears of every bereaved parent is that his or her child will cease to be remembered or that the light and life of a son or daughter will simply fade as time goes on.

Year-end holidays accentuate the place where our children should be but aren’t. Merry making and picture taking emphasize the gap between grieving hearts and those untouched by death of a close loved one.

That’s why TCF has chosen THIS week for the annual WCL.

If you want a simple way to bless someone you know who lost a child, grandchild or sibling, a single candle and a quick picture or post on social media will do it.

My heart is always encouraged and strengthened when others take time to remember Dominic.

Buy a candle.

Set an alarm on your phone.

Light up the night with us.

Together we will remember. Together we will chase the darkness. Together we will declare that our children are out of reach but not forgotten.

Never, ever forgotten. ❤

A Single Candle Can Defy The Darkness

I like to greet the early darkness of winter by lighting a single candle so I can sit in its glow.

I’ve always felt a holy hush in those quiet moments as birds and beasts and other living things settle into night.

There’s something very personal about striking the match, lighting the candle and drawing near to the small circle of light it casts instead of flipping a switch to blaze away the darkness with brash, overhead fixtures.

So when a friend who posts encouraging things every day recently posted this quote by Anne Frank, I loved it.

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.

Anne Frank

Imagine Anne and her family in cramped attic quarters, whispering and walking oh, so softly to avoid detection by the Nazis.

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How precious that single candle must have been to this curious, bright and lively girl! A tiny bit of hope in an otherwise dreary and dreadful world.

As long as a candle burns it declares that darkness has not won.

As long as a candle burns it helps a heart see the difference between wrong and right, hope and despair, death and life.

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Candles can’t last forever. Eventually the wick burns down, the wax runs out and darkness comes again.

But there is one Light that cannot be extinguished. One Light that always points the way.

Later, Jesus talked to the people again. He said, “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness. He will have the light that gives life.”

John 8:12 ICB

This world is a hard and cruel place. Bad things happen. Evil men commit atrocities.

And yet, the darkness never fully conquers because the light of the love of Christ lives in the hearts of some people everywhere.

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There is always a candle somewhere as long as those who love Jesus choose to shine-a light that both defies and defines the darkness-and points the way to life and hope.

We walk in a “ravine as dark as death” (Psalm 23:4), and still we have nothing to fear because God is at our side: God’s staff and crook are there to soothe us (see Psalm 23:4). This is not just a consoling idea. It is an experience of the heart that we can trust.

Our lives are full of suffering, pain, disillusions, losses and grief, but they are also marked by visions of the coming of the Son of Man “like lightning striking in the east and flashing far into west” (Matthew 24:27). These moments in which we see clearly, hear loudly, and feel deeply that God is with us on the journey make us shine as a light into the darkness. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. Your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Henri Nouwen

I Want To Be A Light Bearer, Not a Candle Snuffer

We all know those folks-the ones who have a kind word, quick smile and warm hug for everyone they meet.

And we all know the other type-the ones that suck the oxygen out of the room when they walk in and effectively dim any spark of hope a heart might be trying to fan into flame.

I want to be the former, not the latter. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/02/life-is-hard-speak-courage-to-struggling-hearts/

There’s A Moment When The Light Makes It Through Again

This past week has been both hard and wonderful.

Some things happened that mean the next few months are going to be extra painful, extra stressful and extra challenging.

But I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.

As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.

One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.

When I was forced unwillingly on this long, hard journey, everything was dark. Nothing sparked joy. The whole world became a grainy black and white image on an ancient TV and it was fuzzy, flat and utterly uninteresting.

What’s worse, my heart could only REALLY feel two things-pain and love-and they were so inextricably intertwined I was no longer sure which was which.

I couldn’t run fast enough or far enough to escape the darkness or the pain.

I had to face all the awful of child loss, embrace it, feel it, work through it, talk about it in safe spaces with safe people and sit quietly for hours with my thoughts and uncomfortable emotions. I had to let time do the work that only time can do.

There are no shortcuts on this journey.

And then there was a moment when I saw something beautiful and felt something wonderful and I didn’t have to TELL my heart it was beautiful and wonderful.

I just KNEW and I could FEEL it.

At first, these moments didn’t last long and were isolated. But eventually the moments came faster, lasted longer and were closer together. I learned to embrace them, hold onto them, build upon them and look for them.

Now, the moments of light, life and color make up most of my days.

I have not forgotten Dominic. My heart aches to see him again, hold him again, share life with him again. But I’ve learned to hold that yearning for the life I used to have and gratitude for the life I live now in the same heart. I’ve found that allowing joy to fill my soul doesn’t push him away or to the side as if he doesn’t matter.

So if you think there is no way you can survive this awful, awful journey, keep going.

If you are still in the dark days and fearful light will never penetrate the depth of your pain and despair, hold on.

If your world has gone colorless, don’t give up.

Look for your moment, it’s coming.

And when it does, grab it.

There’s more where that came from.

Flickers Of Light, Guiding My Heart Home

A fellow bereaved mom commented on my recent holiday post with this question: How do you make joy, when your heart has no joy?

It was a good and honest query. One that stopped me in my tracks.

When your heart is so broken that all is dark inside AND outside, where does the word “joy” even fit into your vocabulary?

I’m not sure I would have described anything as joyful for months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven even though those days included two graduations and a wedding.

I felt positive about those events and I longed to feel joyful, but I just could not muster the energy to do much more than smile for the camera.

So I think, for me, it was a matter (over time and with much effort) to choose to allow joy back into my broken heart.

There are moments of beauty even in the darkest and most difficult days.

At first I refused to recognize and acknowledge them because to embrace joy seemed like treason. It felt disrespectful to Dominic-making light of the horror of his untimely death.

But eventually I realized that embracing whatever good I might stumble upon in a day wasn’t denying the awful, it was admitting and affirming that death didn’t have the last word.

I am walking the Valley now, but this journey will not last forever.

One day it will end with more joy and love and laughter and glory than my finite mind can imagine.

So the bits of joy along the way are simply flickers of light guiding my heart Home.

Your Story-Someone Else’s Survival Guide

Hey-I get it.

Who wants to air the good, the bad and the ugly for everyone else to see?

In today’s world where photo filters on our cellphone cameras can turn a pretty rotten picture into a magazine worthy masterpiece no one is anxious to be seen as less than polished and put together.

The pressure is on to pretend that all is well even when all is, well, going quite the other direction.

If you are trudging through a tough patch, let folks know.

You might be surprised by who reaches out saying, “That was me just a while ago. Would you like to know how I made it through?”

If you’ve already walked the long and lonely road of grief, loss, trauma, depression or other difficult circumstance-share your story!

Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t clean up the messy bits. Don’t gloss over the hard spots.

How can anyone learn to walk the hard roads, the rocky paths, the treacherous terrain of life unless someone else is willing to be a guide? And who can trust a guide that hasn’t also made that journey?

Tell it like it was.

Then tell it like it is.

Map the path from there to here.

Shine a light for a soul that thinks darkness is all there is.

Reach back and take a hand.

Help a heart hold on to hope.

August Scripture Journal Challenge: Verses on Grief

I don’t know about you but it’s been much harder for me to study Scripture since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Not because I don’t want to dive deep like I used to but because I don’t have the same ability to sit still and read like I did before.

So I’ve looked for easy ways to make Scripture study part of my morning routine.

One way I’ve done that is by using a themed “Monthly Scripture Writing” calendar.

There are several around and regardless of which month may be slapped across the top of the list, they can be used according to whatever topic is most helpful or appropriate for you at the time.

In an effort to encourage myself and anyone who wants to join in, I’m going to be writing blog posts using a calendar of verses on Grief.

Here’s the link: http://www.swtblessings.com/2017/03/april-scripture-writing-plan-grief.html (You can download and print your own copy.)

It will work like this:

Purchase or find a notebook you can designate as your Scripture journal. It can be a spiral notebook (easy to find and on sale now before school starts), a composition book (plain or fancy), a traditional journal (usually in a smaller format) or simply loose-leaf paper that you can pop in a three ring binder. It really doesn’t matter. Use what is easiest for you to keep track of and write in.

I personally prefer the cheap 70 sheet spiral notebooks because they lay flat when opened and make writing and drawing easier. It also means that if I want to or need to, I can use up to four pages per day and it will all still fit in one notebook. The covers are easy to decorate (if I want to) and pages are durable. I choose wide-ruled which leaves room for doodling around words for emphasis.

Round up some colored pens, pencils, crayons and/or markers. We will use these to highlight/emphasize words and to illustrate verses.

Purchase or locate a few regular pens that you prefer for writing. For just a couple dollars you can get roller ball or gel pens that really do make a huge difference when copying the longer verses. It’s no fun to write with a cranky instrument!

A Bible in the version you prefer. I have more than one in various versions but also use an online resource like Biblegateway.com or Biblehub.com which makes most English versions available at my fingertips. I really like that option because even though I will only copy out the verse in a single version, reading it in several versions sheds more light on the meaning than when I only read it in one. I’ve also found that familiar verses can become stale if I only read/copy them in the version I know best.

That’s really all you absolutely need for this challenge.

But if you are interested in making your journal more fun and expanding your knowledge a little more, here are a few other things I’d add to my Bible journal basket:

Sticky notes in several different colors. I love, love, love these! I will often copy out the verse in one Bible translation and then jot down significantly different language from another onto a sticky note and add it to the page. I also sometimes use these notes for my own insights or personal illustrations/examples. On occasion, when pressed for time, I’ll write out a question I want to look up later and pop it into the journal as a reminder.

A dictionary. I love to look up words. While it may well be that I technically understand the meaning of a word, when I look it up in the dictionary I’m always reminded of subtle distinctions I’d miss otherwise. Plus there is usually a list of antonyms and synonyms that refine my understanding.

Stickers. I confess I’ve never quite gotten over having these colorful, playful and pretty little additions in my stash to brighten pages here and there. Absolutely NOT necessary but awfully fun.

Topical concordance. If you’ve never learned to use one, now’s a great time to do so. Obviously our main topic will be grief for this month. But often as I’m reading a verse, I want to explore other topics mentioned and use the concordance for that. It’s true you can Google the topic but what you usually get in those results is someone else’s idea of which verses are most pertinent. A good concordance lists all the verses that contain that word in order for the whole Bible.

Magazines that I am comfortable ripping apart for illustrations. I comb through magazines and rip out pages that have interesting graphics or word bubbles or landscapes and keep them in a folder for when I want to add just a little something to a page.

This list could be endless. I hope that some folks will comment below and share what they enjoy adding to a journal.

I place all these in a basket I keep by my rocking chair so I never have to go searching for one or more of the things I need to complete each day’s assignment.

That’s really all there is to it.

Each day you will write that day’s verse(s) on one page. You can add in-text notes or save your observations and notes for after the Scripture. Use a second page to record thoughts and observations, cross-referenced scriptures, an illustration or two, quotes, pictures or prayers.

At the end of the month you will have your very own personalized topical Bible reference notebook and prayer journal.

I’ll be posting something about each day’s selection here and on Facebook in both our closed bereaved parents’ group and on the public Heartache and Hope page if you’re looking for companionship and encouragement.

I hope you’ll join me and add your own voice to the discussion.