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/

How To Be Fierce Without Being Fractious

It’s funny how child loss has, at the same time, made me more yielding and more steadfast.

I give in without a moment’s hesitation to other people’s choice in where to go for lunch, what to do for birthdays, how to arrange this or that at church.  My brain simply doesn’t have the capacity any more to argue over trifles.

But I will stand up to a lion for the sake of love or to protect a hurting heart.

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I can be a little reactionary when that happens-snapping and biting the heads off those who might have said or done something in ignorance and not intentionally.

So I’m learning to think a minute before I launch into a tirade and try to discern just what will be most helpful.

I want to challenge and educate folks, not send them running for cover every time they see me coming around a corner.

I want to be fierce without being fractious.

I ask myself, “How can I communicate truth in love?” and I try to follow these precepts:

Don’t attack the person.  Quite often people speak without thinking and speak about things they haven’t experienced.  They may just be parroting something they’ve heard and not even actually believe it themselves.

Ask questions.  Try to suss out WHY they said or did what they said or did.  Again, without thinking?  Or is there a motive behind it?  Fear is a frequent motivator for pushing hurting hearts away.  People are afraid of how much they might have to invest in a relationship or they are afraid that what happened to me can happen to them and they just don’t want the reminder.

Many People Thinking of Questions

Educate.  I often start by saying something like, “If you haven’t buried a child, you would have no way to know this but…” and follow up with whatever I think they might need to hear.  No one can argue with my experience.  I’ve never had a single person walk away angry when I share this way.  Some have come back and thanked me for the insight.

schoolhouse

Extend grace.  I know child loss but I don’t know everything or even a tenth of everything.  So while my friend may have stepped on MY toes by saying or doing something today, I’ve probably stepped on HERS another day.  I try to assume that the person in front of me is doing the best he or she can and not aiming to inflict pain on my heart.

grace tree

Choose to end fruitless discussions.  If I realize that the person I’m speaking to is defensive, resistant and unyielding, then I find an opportune moment to end the conversation.  We’ve all been there-someone itching for a fight decides that now is the moment to have one.  I’m not interested in debating anyone over my experience so I just don’t.

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As long as I walk in this world there will be others with whom I disagree.  some who actively seek to wound and many who are just ignorant of situations they have never experienced. 

I don’t want to bludgeon them with words, forcing them to agree with me.  

I want to be a light that opens eyes, a gentle breeze that blows away the fog and helps them see clearly.  

a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

The Healing Power of Fellowship

I spent last weekend with eleven other bereaved moms.

And lest you think, “How sad!”, let me just tell you we had a beautiful time together.

Sure there were tears-how can there not be when talking about the precious children we miss-but there was fun too.

Of course we had somber moments. 

Especially as we lit candles in honor of each child whose light lives on even as their physical presence is denied us.

anchor retreat lit candle

In between Bible study sessions we ate, talked, walked outside and got to know one another.

A game of “Two Truths and a Lie” revealed all kinds of surprises that had us practically falling off our chairs with uproarious laughter.

Even though most of us had never met before, knowing we shared the heartache of child loss drew us together and opened the door to meaningful conversation.

anchor retreat hope

For 72 hours we didn’t have to put our masks on or walk with one foot in the world of the spared and one foot in the world of the deeply wounded. 

We were free-gloriously free-to be real and unguarded.

One of the fun things we did was have a Mary Kay consultant come and do facials and makeup.  I think we kind of shocked her when she went around the circle asking, “So what are you primary make up concerns?” and over half of us said, “I don’t wear make up.”

Poor woman.

anchor retreat mary kay lady (2)

She had no idea that we had long passed the point of faking feelings or saying what someone expects just because they expect it.

I know it was a stretch for some of the moms to make their way to this place they’d never been to and walk into a room full of women they’d never met.

It was a stretch for me to facilitate discussions when I felt I had reached my limit for anything besides staying home for the rest of this year.

But it was worth it.

There is nothing as beautiful as broken hearts gathering together to love, uplift, encourage and listen to one another.

If you have the opportunity and are afraid, please step out. 

Take a chance and link arms with fellow grievers.

I promise you will be glad you did.

circle-of-women

 

Life Is Hard: Speak Courage To Struggling Hearts

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.  

I want to be a light bearer, not a candle snuffer.  

In fact,  this has become my anthem since Dominic left for Heaven. I cannot bear to think I’m heaping weight onto an already burdened soul.

A smile, a kind word, an outstretched hand may be exactly what a hurting heart needs that minute to keep holding onto hope.

And how many of us are just about to let go at any given minute?

So much of the New Testament is about perseverance. Who needs to persevere if life is full of rainbows and unicorns?

No.

Perseverance is needed for trial and hardship.   

My guess is that if you’re reading this, you know about both. 

So I pray that the Lord will send someone each day to encourage YOUR heart.  

And, being strengthened yourself, you will pass it on.  

Life is hard. Most of the time I wanted a participation ribbon just for living through another day. We don’t give each other enough credit for hanging in there during tough times, and we often criticize more than we comfort. Can you imagine what our world would look like if we spent more time encouraging people who are making it against all odds instead of criticizing them?

Paul told us to ‘encourage one another and build each other up’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11). … While God in His infinite wisdom and timing does choose to deliver some of us quickly, many of us spend years persevering before we find freedom and healing for our wounds.

~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine

Remembering the Missing: Four Candles

I have always loved candles.  Something in the flickering light speaks to my heart.

It’s one of my favorite parts of early evenings-watching the candles I light on every flat surface cast a soft glow and chase the darkness.

Even a small light offers hope.  

Christmas Eve is a natural time to gather with family and friends, to honor the ones no longer present, to share our love, our memories and our sorrow.

So when I ran across this post on a Compassionate Friends site, I wanted to share it.  I hope it blesses your heart like it blesses mine.  

This four candle ritual is a beautiful way to create space for tears and also invite laughter and hope into hurting hearts.  

four candles

Light Bearers and Candle Snuffers

One of the rituals I observe when the time changes and night closes in so very early is to light a candle each evening in the dark.

I’ve done it for years but now as I do it, I think of Dominic.

It is my small way of declaring the truth that darkness will not win.

It’s my protest against despair and hopelessness that threatens to undo methreatens to undo ALL of us at one time or another.

Because when I sit in the circle of the glow of that single candle, I’m reminded that no matter how small the flame, darkness cannot overcome the light.

I’m reminded that I can be a light bearer or a candle snuffer.

candle and hand

I can help others find hope or I can douse the tiny flame that still burns in their troubled heart.

Dominic was a light bearer.

After his death, the University of Alabama newspaper, The Crimson and White ran an article that said in part:

“Dominic was always very mechanically inclined and sort of became the law school mechanic,” close friend and classmate Joe Heilman said. “We are all poor college kids, so when we had questions, we would always go to him. This year alone I think he worked on five different law students’ cars and wouldn’t let them give him any more money than what it cost to replace the part.”

Heilman said Dominic’s selflessness far surpassed that of most people.

“He was one of the most hospitable people that I had ever met,” Heilman said. “I don’t have Internet or cable at my apartment, and when he found that out, he handed me the extra key to his apartment, no questions asked, and just said, ‘Come over whenever.’”

“He was exactly the kind of friend that everyone wants to have and that everyone tries to be,” Jonathan Mayhall, another friend, said.

All my children are light bearers.

They bring light and life to everyone they meet.  They encourage, help and minister to the people in their lives.  They stop for strangers, buy meals for the homeless, show up when friends are moving and put people first.

I encourage you, friend, as these nights get longer and darkness seems so very present-light a candle.

Sit in the circle of its glow and think how bright that little light shines in the black around you.

And remember that we all have the power to be light bearers, no matter how dark the night.

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