Category Archives: Walking in Darkness

Hope in the Darkness

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. We light the hope candle. I look at it now, recycled from last year. I do not have new candles. There is one missing. It is either packed away in a different box or burned down so low that I threw it away last year. I need to make a trip to the store to find another purple candle or two.

In the hall is a lighted display of candles surrounding the usual sheep that live there. I pull out the sparkly house, a gift given years ago by a friend, containing Bath and Body Works items. I think of her each year that I get it out while lighting a tea light inside of it.

Light in the darkness.

There are candles around in various places. My husband strings colored lights on the tree, layering over the white lights, because I like both. That is me. Both a white and colored lights girl.

Hope is a memory of the future.

Dan Allender

I sit in darkness remembering the future. Waiting with hope. I believe in what is next while waiting with endurance. With patience. It is a vulnerable place, waiting in the now, hoping for the not yet.

McClay Family Electronic Limitations ~ Guest Blogger Chloe

In our family, electronics are specifically limited to very strict rules. These are some of the original rules with pros and cons.

Rule one: “You are not allowed to possess any electronics under the age of ten”. It doesn’t sound so bad, and sometimes it isn’t. But as times change, and more electronics are made, this rule gets harder to deal with. By this year, most children have electronics by the age of eight or nine, and those who don’t begin to want one by nine. One pro of this rule is kids spend more time doing other things, though this isn’t always true. A con is that with music, young kids have more ways to deal with problems. One idea I suggest for those of you who are considering adding this rule to your own family list is to let your kids have music devices, as well as simple electronics like a gameboy or tablet for trips or special use.

Rule two: “You are not allowed to possess a phone until the age of sixteen”. This is possibly the hardest rule for kids. By sixth and seventh grade, the last few children who don’t have phones begin to get them, leaving the families with stricter parents with not many ways to contact family or communicate with friends. This gets harder as kids get older, their friends begin getting phones, and more phones are made, as well as more uses for phones. Doesn’t a tear come to your eye just thinking about the poor children, sitting alone, set apart from society from lack of a phone? Plus, quite a few children live in neighborhoods with not many to even no children their age, as I do. They don’t have friends their age to hang out with, and no phone to contact the friends that live elsewhere. Having a phone also helps contact people for important reasons, and there are many more needs for a phone today then there were when my parents first made this rule. Let me put it this way: what would you do if Abe Lincoln came back from the past, grabbed your stove, microwave, lights, computer, salt lamp, and ran away? Exactly. I see you moms crying, thinking about someone stealing your precious salt lamps. I know, nothing can truly convey the misery of a phoneless middle-high schooler, because though many parents these days know what it was like to not have something everyone else had back in school, only about nine percent of parents today knew what a phone was back then. And even then, not everyone would have had one.

Rule three: “Children below the age sixteen have a strictly set amount of media per day”. This is possibly the second worst rule, right below the phone rule. It started with the token system, of course. You had tokens, each equivalent to fifteen minutes of computer or game console. However, when one of my sibling got smart and used them all at once for two hours of media, and other siblings found new ways to make it seem like they were following the rule, this system evaporated. And for you kids reading, here’s a way to cheat the system: One way is to rattle the token box to make it seem like you put tokens in. Another is to buy your own set of poker tokens. Thank me later. After this, the situation was fifteen minutes of media a day. Can you hear the 22nd century crying? But as attitudes changed about this rule, it was fifteen minutes only on weekends. Wow, this is worse than a horror movie. And now it’s an hour and fifteen minutes on weekends. This rule is okay, unless it’s your own electronic. For more about this, see the next rule.

Rule four: “Hmm, you spent how much money to buy your own electronic? Well, too bad, ‘cause it’s mine now”. The new 0.5 worst rule in the world. After age ten, you have an option to buy electronics if you use your own money. But no sir, that doesn’t mean you can use them! One example of this was my laptop. Now, like phones, laptops aren’t allowed until the age sixteen, but this was an exception. That is, until someone cracked it and mom and dad decided not to let me get a new one. Well, back when I had it, I was almost never allowed to use it. Mom and Dad hid it in their room, never let me have it on weekdays, never let me use it in my room, often made me sit at the dining room table, and only gave me about half an hour a day. Once I forgot my password, and when I asked Dad he wouldn’t tell me, so I couldn’t even unlock it. Dad was taking full advantage of me forgetting. In my opinion, you should let your kids have laptops, know the password, and use them whenever. I didn’t pay over a hundred dollars I made cleaning buildings to never get to use the laptop I bought. Oh wait, I did.

Rule five: “No privacy”. I hate this rule, as did many other siblings. Dad and Mom used to let us close the computer cabinet so we wouldn’t have people looking at what we were doing over our shoulder. But for a while, Dad has forced us to keep the door open. I wouldn’t suggest a family computer in the dining room, by the way, either, if privacy is even a bit important to you.

Rule six: “You aren’t allowed to listen to anything even slightly bad on the radio”. This rule was worst when Shannon was a kid. She had her own taste in music, but often couldn’t listen to what she wanted. Now, though there aren’t as many limitations, we still can’t listen to anything.

If possible, I might add onto this list later, but I have one suggestion for parents considering these rules: You don’t understand your kid as much as you think you do. You need to listen to them, and consider trusting them. Don’t try to make up their minds for them, or guess about what will happen if you get them something. You’re not them.

Glorious Light

Even in darkness, there’s glorious light, found in the standing with, pouring out, stepping into, coming alongside.

In places of pain, redemption is close, found in the welcoming of heartache and tears and embracing the task of bringing together the blessed ones. The mourners.

So don’t hide your light or keep yourself small. Call attention to the wick and beckon the flame.


Shine your light and embrace your glory in the darkest of times.

Death will not have the final say.

Guide Us

Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.
Luke 1:78-79

Am I the only one sitting in darkness tonight?

I wonder.

I sit heavy-hearted, longing for the light from heaven to break upon me.

It was family Christmas tonight. Cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends gathered for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration. The house was full, the food was delicious, the gifts were plentiful.

Except for that one that I forgot. Sorry, D. Thanks for grace!

And yet…

All is not picture-perfect. There is heartache and unmet longing and disappointment. There is sickness and pain. There is mess.

There are hard words to hear and hard realities to face. There are let-downs and sorrows and tears. There is darkness.

This season has not been what I expected or what I hoped it might.

It is what it is to be this year. I long to rest confidently in that as I continue to walk the path created uniquely for me. Sadly, I struggle. I resist the tidings of comfort and joy.

So my prayer tonight, these last hours of Christmas Eve, is for God to guide me, to guide us, to the path of peace.

Rise, Shine

Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
    For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
    but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.
 All nations will come to your light;
    mighty kings will come to see your radiance.
Look and see, for everyone is coming home!
Your sons are coming from distant lands,
your little daughters will be carried home.
Your eyes will shine,
and your heart will thrill with joy,
Isaiah 60:1-5

At the beginning of the month, when I decided to focus on walking in darkness, seeking the light, I didn’t realize how literally dark and quiet the blog would remain. There is simply too much life happening to stop and write and post and then wonder if anyone cares.

There are real-life people around me needing and doing real-life things. I am engaging in real time which means that cyber-time waits.

There is a lot to ponder and keep in my heart and process and wonder over.

There are places in my home that quietly shine with the reminder that though the darkness grows longer and deeper these days, the light shines sines in the darkness and the darkness is not overcome.

The light above was a gift from a friend who has since moved on and away to a different leg of her journey but who walked with me through some dark places in mine. She was my phone-a-friend as we mothered a batch of babies together (my second, her first) and met for coffee dates and took a class together.

She bought this for me on an outing one fall, and it brightens my dark upstairs hallway each night. I call it the light of friendship.

I received her Christmas letter and picture the other day, and waves of tears crashed over me, a reminder that choosing to love deeply and engage as fully as possibly, opens one up to the pain of loss.

And as I grieve losses such as that, I rejoice as adult children begin to gather from (literally) all over to reconvene for the Christmas season. There is great joy in being all together under the same roof if only for a few days or weeks.

Enjoy this beautiful music this morning. The light IS coming!

Close the Path

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

It’s been hard to write. Something inside feels heavy and tired.

I think it’s my heart.

Singing always offers an invitation to my heart to reflect and receive.

Deep in one of the many verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel is the line Make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery. That is where my heart landed. That is my longing.

As new paths open, I long for the path to misery to be closed.

I don’t know how much blogging will happen this season. There are lots of thoughts churning around in my head as countless tasks present to be completed.

Thank you, Dear Reader (or two), for your patience and grace. 

Blurred Vision

It’s been a long day. A series of long days. Day upon day moving forward.

Expectantly hopeful, yet incessantly draining.

My over-responsible heart beats double time. I try to quiet it. Invite it to rest.

It works until I wake up crying.

There are lots of tears. They blur my vision.

More than my eyesight, my heart-sight is blurred.

Yet in the midst is hope. Blurred vision is still vision. It’s trying to adjust.

My heart will soon see through a different lens. Until then, I wait.



Rise, Shine

We lit the first candle. Hung the felt advent tree. Bit by bit, Christmas items emerge from the bowels of the house.

Bit by bit aromas emerge from the bowels of those gathered in the living room. I cringe.

Will it EVER change. No, really. Will we EVER gather in serene bliss around the advent candles by the light of the Christmas tree without someone allowing foul air to escape their body, or someone rolling around on the carpet, or endless someones jockeying over who gets to light what candle and put up what piece so that they get to light the Christmas candle AND put up the manger on Christmas day?

Where is the peace? Expectant hope? Other than expecting to put up the first piece, which tonight happens to be the hanging of the felt tree. Anti-climactic. But the candle-lighting and subsequent snuffing…now THAT is to be coveted and makes the expectant hope of going first worthwhile.

Katie goes first. She gets to light the candle and snuff it out at the end. She gets to choose the Christmas carol. Doesn’t this sound heartwarming?

This year we have a candle snuffer thanks to Scarlet and gift and thrift. I actually remember where it is and run to dig it from a drawer in the buffet. Boy 3 picks it up during the advent reading and mimes that he is smoking a pipe. He also is the one who shares what he learned about the advent candles during the church service he attended with sister and fiance which seems a redeeming quality.

This is another new path. I am trying to relax into it. Taking one day at a time. Allowing memories to wash over me. Accepting that it has not been, is not, and will not be picture-perfect, but it has been real in whatever season we found ourselves. And there have been many.

The reading ends, and Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus is chosen by Katie as the song. We sing and then those who wish to pray offer up a prayer. It’s simple. It’s Day one. It’s not guaranteed to happen the same way tomorrow.


The candle is snuffed. There is no shower of hot wax hardening into small drops on the table. We disperse to various corners of the house, a memory made on this first day of Advent 2013. And there is hope.


Tasting Sadness

Come to earth to taste our sadness, He whose glories knew no end;
By His life He brings us gladness, Our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.
Leaving riches without number, Born within a cattle stall;
This the everlasting wonder, Christ was born the Lord of all.

It was a dark Saturday leading into a dark Sunday morning. Heavy-hearted, shame-laden, I began the process of getting ready for church.

I didn’t want to go.

It’s difficult to describe the all-consuming heaviness that threatens to swallow you up to someone who hasn’t been there. However the pain manifests, it’s a grace to have someone be with you in and through it and reach down to help you out of it.

My life-partner is someone like that.

A series of mercies had us riding to second service with minimal strife. A glance down at my silenced phone revealed a text from a heart friend…the kind that can lift you from the mire with a few lines sent from several states away. The reminder that you are not alone in the struggle for your heart.

Sadness lessened. 

I was supposed to be on worship team this week, but a friend offered a holiday switch. Grace upon grace. I couldn’t have been on this Sunday.

Yesterday I was ready to be finished with it all. Blogging. Worship team. Stephen Ministry. Facebook. Anything involving people, interaction, hearts.

As we began to sing Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, my heart settled in to rest. Come to earth to taste our sadness…advent begins.

He came to taste what had been threatening to swallow me whole.

Continuing the fight to stay present and open, I allowed myself to listen and receive words and be challenged. I witnessed new life being celebrated.

I allowed my heart to crack open a bit to feel joy.

As the drummer rocked us into Joy to the World, in an unexpected and untraditional way, joy flooded my heart. As we settled into a very traditional Doxologymy heart settled to receive the benediction.

Yes, Zach, you called it. There was a blogpost in my head. I wanted to capture the unexpected candlelight for the image. Great minds and all…thanks for the heart lift.