The Light in the Darkness

The other day my kids and I were watching some old videos from when the older two were both tiny little bits with adorable little baby babbles.  Miles looked at me asked me, “Mommy…when Nora was born did you ever think you were going to have another baby.”

I had to answer him honestly, that I hadn’t.  I remember there being a fleeting thought of another baby, but it quickly faded.  The time since Nora was born hasn’t always been wonderful.  In fact, there have been a lot of dark times.  It started with a hard pregnancy, and then a few months afterward, postpartum depression that pulled me down deep.  Then came 2016.  

In one year, I watched my healthy, active, full of life uncle pass away from cancer less than a year after being diagnosed.  Just a few months later one of my grandmas passed away.  Then the very next month both my grandma and grandpa on the other side of my family ended up hospitalized on the same day, my grandma from a stroke that has left her bedridden and unable to go home for over 2 years now.  My mother had to rush to California to care for them, and hasn’t ever really been able to return home to Arizona.  As we debated my flying out as well, our house flooded.  A few days later a friend of ours got into a terrible accident while trying to help us fix the water drainage issue that caused the flooding.  And then a few days after that, we got the news that another beloved family member was just diagnosed with another life threatening illness.  It was like we couldn’t catch our breathe.

Things kept happening in the circle around us…people getting sick or dying, friends walking through the unspeakable pain of losing precious 4-month-old babies, people getting laid off, people we loved struggling with trauma.  There were so many funerals that year that I lost count.  There were many things that are not my story to tell, but that affected us greatly.   

It was dark.  I felt myself asking questions of God I’d never had to ask before…never felt I had the right to ask before.

In all this, there was no thought of another baby.  In some ways, deep down, it seemed like if we did have another baby we’d only be met with more sickness and loss…just like everything and everyone else around us.

But it was in all that darkness that the light of Christ broke through and shined on us like a beacon of hope.  He brought us out of the darkness into a good place, and then He gave us a gift we didn’t know we needed.  A gift in the form of a tiny baby.

This afternoon I watched my 3rd baby eat mango in the same corner of my little kitchen as my first two babies sat and ate mango.  Two years ago at Christmas, I could never have looked forward and seen the hope and joy that fill my heart today.  I could never have foreseen this little joy baby that God gave us when we needed joy the most…when He wanted us to trust that He is good, even when things are dark.

I know that the darkness outside this time of year for many of you is just a reflection of the darkness in your life that you’re struggling with, sinking it, just trying to catch a breathe in.    

There’s a quote from The Fellowship of the Ring that resonates with me when I’m in those dark places.  Galadriel gifts the star of Eärendil to Frodo and she tells him, “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” 

Each of us will come to a place in our lives, and maybe we’re in it right now, when it will feel like every light has gone out.  Sometimes it’s even, or especially, in this Christmas season when all is supposed to be happy and full of hope, but instead it feels as dark as the winter days…as dark as the “bleak midwinter”.  

It is into this darkness that another tiny baby named Jesus longs to slip.

The apostle John begins it this way (emphasis mine): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome itThe true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”

Into the darkness of our lives and our hearts, when all other lights have gone out, Jesus is waiting to shine.

Corrie Ten Boom’s sister, Betsy, in one of the darkest places imaginable, said that they must tell others that “there is no pit so deep, that He is not deeper still.”  

This Christmas season, I want to encourage you to not let the darkness overwhelm you…to not lose hope.  Instead, look to the Light that can break through all of that darkness.  The Light that never fades and never gives up.  The Light that shines bright even when all other lights have gone out.  

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The “Jah Jah” Song

We were eating breakfast this morning and, as usual, Miles was talking about a million words per minute.  The poor kid is so quiet in public that no one would ever guess how truly capable he is of talking your ear off.  I was about to start tuning him out when he said, “And, Mommy, who was it that wanted to sing the ‘Jah Jah’ Song again?”

I was stopped in my tracks.  It has been a week, to say the least.  Both my grandparents were hospitalized, our downstairs flooded Sunday night, and it seems like it’s been one thing after another proving that, quite literally, when it rains it pours.

But then my sweet 4-year-old asked me about the ‘Jah Jah’ Song.  

You see, the ‘Jah Jah’ song is a little family story that was told to me by my mom, and that I, in turn, have told to my son.  The story goes that, when my mom and her two younger brothers were children, they and their parents were on a road trip and were singing songs.  The youngest, Mark, said he wanted to sing the “Jah Jah Song”.  Guesses were thrown out, but nobody could figure out what song he was talking to.  Finally, Mark broke down in tears sobbing, “The ‘Jah Jah Song!”.  At last something clicked and somebody finally realized what he was talking about…”I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy”.

My heart was warmed that my son would remember such a story.  “It was Uncle Mark,” I told him. “When he was a little boy.”

“But now Uncle Mark is all grown up, right?” Miles queried.

A shadow passed over the memory, “Well, yes, he did grow up.  But Uncle Mark is in heaven now.  He died when I was a baby.”

Miles fell silent for a minute.  I knew he was thinking.  He’s been wrestling with this concept of dying and going to heaven.  He knows that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but, quite honestly, he doesn’t want to leave his home and his “cozy bed” and move anywhere.  Not even heaven.

At last he spoke, “But, Mommy, I will get to see Uncle Mark when I go to heaven.  Isn’t that so exciting?”

“Yes, Baby, it is.”

Lord, even in the midst of chaos and hardships, let me see the good.  Let me have the faith of a child.  Most of all, show me how to shepherd these two precious little hearts you’ve placed in my care.  Help me to point them to you.

 

The Stillness and the Truth

Some many days I feel like I’m just treading water–struggling to keep afloat but not really going anywhere.  Waves come at me over and over, but for the most part the water is still and there is no current.

I used to love being still.  I treasured it.  These days, however, more often than not the stillness is suffocating…and inside my heart is anything but peaceful.

Can I be honest with you for a moment?  Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom is a really lonely place to be in.  Many of my days don’t even involve conversation with another adult.  Amidst the loneliness, I am constantly being bombarded with thoughts that I am not enough…that other women do so much more ministry and work and reaching out to others than I do.

Yet, even with all the stillness of not really “going” anywhere, I struggle to keep my head above water.  My days are full of repetitive, mundane, and yet inexplicably stressful tasks.  My house is never clean like I want it to be, and the laundry is never done.  I can’t even keep up with the “simple” tasks of a stay-at-home mom, let alone find time for “ministry” or “work”.

But then, God speaks to me like He did to Martha.  “Caitlin, Caitlin,” He says. “Do you not know that I have called you for such a time as this?  You worry about many things, but one thing is needed.  Your identity and worth and daily goals should be from Me alone!”

And I look into the beautiful blue eyes of my children, and realize that in the bustle of trying to “do enough”, I have neglected to really look and listen to them lately.  I have forgotten what my days are supposed to be about…training and teaching these sweet little gifts in the fear of the Lord.  I have forgotten to make this the sole focus of my days, and have forgotten to delight in this work as my life work for this season.

And I look into the pale blue eyes of the man who won my heart, and realize that I’ve also neglected my relationship with him.  I’ve forgotten that spending time with him is a must and a need.  I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to stop working and just sit and watch a show with him on the rare day he comes home early from work.  I’ve forgotten to seek out and do what would help him better to do his work.  I’ve forgotten to seek and pursue him.  In my self deprecation I have forgotten that he could care less if the house is spotless as long as it’s tidy.

And I look around at the wonders of creation, and realize that I’ve neglected my relationship with the Creator of it all, my First and Truest Love.  I’ve neglected to sit with Him, listen to Him, and delight in Him.  I’ve forgotten how to just sit and open my eyes to the gifts He’s given me.  I’ve forgotten to see those gifts around me and within nature, and to thank Him for them all.

 

Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful calling You’ve set for my days in this season of life.  Forgive me for focusing on what I’m not doing instead of on what You’ve called me to do.  Help me to find joy in this season of life.  Help me to find joy in the stillness and repetitive tasks.  Thank You, Lord, for the gift that is this stillness.  

 

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Let No One Despise Your Youth

Read Timothy 4:12

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (ESV)

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (KJV)

“Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (AMP)

Any way you read it, this verse is for the younger members of the church.  My guess is that if you’re a Christian and you’re under a certain age (or were at some point), then you’ve experienced some sort of prejudice due to your age and that you can relate to this verse.  I know I have and I know that it can be frustrating.

The church my husband and I go to is old.  As in, it was started in the 1800s and we have many older people in the church who have been attending this same church their entire lives.  To say traditions run deep would be putting it lightly.  For a young woman in her twenties who’s only been here five years, trying to step up and serve can be…intimidating.

You don’t have to be in a historically old church, however, to relate.  I’ve been in church plants where the young and their ideas and thoughts were pretty much dismissed due to their age and inexperience.  So what’s a young person to do?

Paul told Timothy to combat this reverse ageism by being an example to other believers.  In the Amplified Bible (which is taken from the Greek), he was literally to be a pattern for other believers to follow.  I want to be clear about something: Timothy was young, but he was far from being an immature Christian.  He was able to be an example to others because he was personally growing in his faith, and not using his age as an excuse to be lazy or act foolishly.

Here are the six areas (depending on the version you use) that Paul exhorted Timothy to be an example in:

  1. In Word or Speech. In this modern age, speech goes beyond just what comes out of your mouth.  What are you saying (or even sharing) on social media?  Do you spread gossip or use foul words?  Does what you say, write, or share promote the Gospel or degrade it?
  2. In Conduct or Conversation (the Old English definition of “conversation” literally means “behavior” [Jamieson, 1877]) .  How do you treat others?  Do your actions show maturity or immaturity?  Do you get angry easily?  Are you living in sin?  Does the way you conduct your daily life exude peace, joy, and contentment?
  3. In Love. In the Greek this love is “agape” love, or selfless, self-sacrificial love.  Does Christ’s love overflow out of you?  What about to marginalized people?  Or to those who get under your skin?  Are you more concerned about your desires or “rights”, or about the wants and needs of others?   Is Christ’s love in you lived out in actions?
  4. In Spirit.  Matthew Henry narrowed this down to “in spiritual-mindedness, in spiritual worship,” (1761).  Are you living in the Spirit or in the flesh?
  5. In Faith. When trouble comes, what happens to your faith? Do you trust God in all things.  Do you obey the things He’s called you to even when they don’t make sense or are hard?
  6. In Purity. Purity is about so much more than saving sex for marriage.  It’s about being set apart, untainted by the world.  Are you allowing things into your life (entertainment, people, etc.) that aren’t in line with God’s Word?  Are you letting your desire to fit in with others cloud your judgement and convictions?  Are you crowding out the Holy Spirit?

My Challenge For You Today: Pick one of these things to work on and choose an action step to commit to.  Then pray fervently that God would help you in this area.  Journal about your progress.

Example: I want to work on not gossiping (speech).  When I am tempted to talk about someone behind their back, I will instead choose one true, good thing about this person and I will say it aloud (or write it in on social media).  I will pray that God would keep this in my mind and help me to change my speech.

References:

Henry, M. (1761). An exposition on the Old and New Testament In five volumes. … By Matthew Henry … (The 5th ed.). London: Printed for John Knapton, John Fuller, James Buckland, William Strahan, John Rivington [and 11 others].

Jamieson, R., & Fausset, A. (1877). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,. Hartford: S.S. Scranton.Westcott,B., & Hort, F. (1881). Commentar Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible

Moulton, W., & Geden, A. (1963). A concordance to the Greek Testament, according to the texts of Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf and the English revisers, (4th ed.). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.