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).

Image result for worldwide candle lighting day 2019

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.

Image result for anne frank images

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.

Image result for candles

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.

Image result for let your light shine

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

Scripture Journal Challenge: Tears Won’t Last Forever

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I didn’t cry much.

Since April 12, 2014 I’ve cried a river-tears for breakfast, lunch, dinner and into my pillow at night when I tried to fall asleep.

When sorrow overtakes a heart, it’s hard to think about anything else.

There was a very real danger that sadness would drag me down in a pit so deep I would never be able to crawl back out.

And then the enemy of my soul would win.

But God.

The most beautiful words I know.

God reached down and raised me up from the depths of despair. He dragged me out of the pit of sorrow. His light shone so bright that even the darkness of death could not hide it.

Like the Psalmist, I can praise the Lord for saving me from my enemy.

I praise you, Lord, because you have saved me
    and kept my enemies from gloating over me.
I cried to you for help, O Lord my God,
    and you healed me;
    you kept me from the grave.
I was on my way to the depths below,[b]
    but you restored my life.
Sing praise to the Lord,
    all his faithful people!
Remember what the Holy One has done,
    and give him thanks!
His anger lasts only a moment,
    his goodness for a lifetime.
Tears may flow in the night,
    but joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30: 1-5 GNT

It’s thought that David wrote this psalm on the dedication of his house. He had been pursued, fought battles and only now taken the throne promised to him years before. He had literally been saved from death on many occasions. His enemies had plotted and planned and never been successful.

If God is for us, who can stand against us?

I think David was also thankful that God had rescued him from the pit of despair. I can’t read the psalms without a sense of David’s internal battle against what may have been depression but was most certainly deep, deep sorrow and disappointment that life didn’t go as planned.

When David thanked God for reaching down, lifting him up and setting his feet on solid ground he was as thankful for the emotional rescue as for the physical one. He had learned that things might be bad for awhile but they would not be bad forever.

Despite how long the darkness lasts or how awful the blow, it’s only a tiny blip compared to eternity.

It feels interminable. It seems insurmountable. But it isn’t. God’s goodness overcomes any scheme of the enemy and I need to remind my heart of that truth.

One of the reasons I watch the sun rise every morning is because it affirms this truth: night does not last forever. No matter how dark, no matter how cold, no matter how frightful, no matter how sad-night is constrained by the sunrise.

My earthly suffering is constrained by God’s goodness.

Tears are still my food more often than I could have ever imagined they would be.

Dominic is not going to be miraculously raised from his grave (although God could do it if He chose).

But my tears won’t last forever.

Morning is coming.

Sure as sunrise.

QUESTIONS:

  • I suspect I’m not alone in the changes child loss has wrought. For someone who didn’t cry much before, suddenly crying often was uncomfortable at first. Now I understand tears are often the only response I have left some days. Do tears bring relief or do they distress you further?
  • Does it help you hold onto hope to know that God will not allow our enemy, the devil, to win? Why or why not?
  • Some of the words used in Psalms hurt my heart. I may have been spared from the grave but Dominic wasn’t. How do you reconcile physical safety of some people with the fact that our child(ren) wasn’t/weren’t spared? It’s a question I had to face head on before I could allow God to begin a healing work in my heart.
  • Are you ever tempted to think your child’s death is punishment or that God is angry with you? It’s not and He’s not, by the way. (read this post for more: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/15/is-god-punishing-me/)
  • God is not confined by time like we are so often the authors of Scripture are speaking about events current to their own lifetimes and also writing prophetically. When David writes about weeping lasting “for a night” he’s not saying that all sorrow ends in twelve hours. He is saying that all sorrow will end. Does that encourage you? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Lord,

So often I am dragged down into the pit of despair by my sadness, sorrow and hopelessness. When I wake to tears on my pillow and fall asleep to my own sobs, it seems like there will never be a moment or a day when my heart is not overwhelmed.

I feel like the enemy is winning some days.

Help my heart hold onto the truth that I am only privy to a tiny sliver of knowledge. Give me strength to hold onto hope when my own strength fails. Put praise in my mouth when You pull me out of the pit, foil the schemes of my enemy and set me on the solid ground of truth. Speak courage to my soul.

Let each sunrise remind me again that the night will not last forever. Darkness cannot swallow the light. Death does not win. Life and light and love endure forever.

Amen

Torches In The Dark

There are so many life circumstances that plunge a heart into darkness.  

Child loss is certainly one of them, although not the only one.  

And when you’re in the dark, stumbling around, trying to avoid the sharp corners and looking, looking, looking for a tiny sliver of light to guide you out, it is terrifying.  

If you don’t have a pocket full of matches or a flashlight or a lantern, you are at the mercy of whoever cares enough to come back for you.

I am so thankful for the friends and family who never tire of my fearful cries when I find myself in dark places.  

They come running.  

They don’t leave me there.  

Sometimes all they have is a tiny candle themselves, a sliver of hope they are clinging to.  But they raise it high , share its glow with me and together we take a step forward toward the brighter light of day.

I will never, ever forget the ones who come to me with a torch.

They help my heart when I can’t help myself.  

They refuse to leave me in the dark.  

 

you never forget a person who came to you with a torch in the dark

Photo of man with lantern by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

Child Loss: At Night, It’s Still Fresh

It happens most often as I am drifting off to sleep. 

There is this one spot on the bedroom bookshelf where my eyes landed that first night-one paperback spine that instantly transports me to the moment I had to close my eyes on the day I found out my son would never come home again.

And it is fresh.  

Absolutely, positively fresh.  

Like “just happened” fresh.  

missing-someone

You’d think that nearly five years of intervening experience, nearly five years of grief work, nearly five years of trying so darn hard to learn to tuck that feeling away deep down so it can’t escape would have worked whatever magic time is supposed to work.  

it has been said that time heals all wounds rose kennedy clock

But it hasn’t.  

Oh, most days I can lock that lid down tight.  I can distract my mind, busy my hands and keep my heart from wandering too close to despair.

Darkness though. 

Shadows and silence and stillness give room for the memory to rise to the surface.  

And it does.  

My son is never coming home again.  

Fresh.  

Absolutely, positively fresh.

“Just happened” fresh.  

sometimes cant believe you are gone

 

Repost: Sunrise, Sunset

It’s my habit to watch the sunrise and the sunset every day.

I usually greet the morning in my rocking chair, looking out my east-facing picture window.  It never gets old to watch darkness chased away by relentless light rising over the tops of trees.

sunrise trees

Beautiful.

Every. Time.

Sunset is a little trickier.

Read the rest here:  Sunrise, Sunset

Christmas Drama

We’ve whitewashed everything about this scene:  beatific Mary gazing serenely at a cleaned up baby cozy in a cleaned up manger towered over by Joseph and surrounded by adoring shepherds and freshly groomed, sweet smelling animals.

It was nothing like that.

Birth is pain and sweat and effort.

And messy.  So, so messy.

I like to think more clearly about what that night was like.  It helps my heart to know that even while God was being birthed as a man into the world He created, He didn’t hide the hard.

The world was a mess on the first Christmas night, but Jesus came. He came wearing a name of endless hope and promise: ‘God with us.’ God is with us when the money runs out, with us when the bad news comes, with us when the holiday isn’t happy, and with us when everyone else disappears. The question this Christmas is not, ‘Will Jesus show up?’ The question is, ‘Will I receive Him, even if He’s all I have?’

Today is a good day to give yourself permission to be the real you in front of the real God. You don’t have to hide your hurt or sin away. He comes to heal, to save, and to rescue. Let earth receive her king.

~Bo Stern, When Holidays Hurt

There’s no evidence that Mary was spared labor pains or all the usual difficulty of bringing forth life.

And poor Joseph!  In a culture where women helped women he was alone and lonely with his young bride in a place hardly appropriate for birthing a baby much less for protecting her modesty and reputation.  He was unwitting midwife to the most important birth in history.

I’ve often wondered whether Mary and Joseph were relieved to see the shepherds who confirmed again the truth that their Son was Savior or if they were thinking the visit might have been better timed a few days later when things were tidier and the idea of parenthood had settled in.

Drama. 

All of it.

But the biggest drama that night was this:  Darkness was overcome.  Once and for all.  Never to reign again.

When He created the heavens and the earth, God declared, “Let there be light!” Physical light entered time and space.  Darkness was pushed back and limits set on its power and dominion.

Yet sin marred the light of God’s love, provision and perfect creation.

And from that moment on, darkness crept forward through the actions of men whose hearts were hard and by the designs of the evil one who has no heart but only destruction in his bosom.

But God….

He would not leave us this way.  He did not allow the darkness to win.

We were not abandoned.

We are not abandoned.

Emmanuel is here.

And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

manger empty