imageA heavy darkness seems to pervade these January days, like a chill that hits the bones of my soul. Only some of that darkness belongs to the early sunset and shortened days, some a dark shadow cast by the brightness of the Christmas season that has just passed. Doesn’t the dimness seem to rise up as the sparkle of the Christmas lights come down? House by house, and yard by yard, the Christmas brightness simply goes dark. My Christmas decorations have been put away, ornaments hidden in their protective crates,  the dying tree sentenced to the compost pile, and the stockings stuffed in boxes instead of stuffed with surprises. The boughs of greens have withered away, leaving a straggling needle or two in their places. The twinkling lights have all gone dark, save one. I wasn’t ready for the darkness. I left the snowflake shining on the porch, a gleading reminder of fun filled days and Christmas joy.

When I awoke in the middle of the night, the house was flooded in the cool blue light of that last holiday decoration, filtering through the bay window and seeping across the floor. A few sparkles glittered in my room and down the hall. The children’s rooms seemed bright in spite of the deep winter dark. It was tranquil in the sweet blue light, the house warmed by the last of the fire’s embers while I checked on little children tucked up dreamily in their beds.

Even the smallest of lights can chase away the deepest dark. Isn’t that what we are called to be? Just a little light, passing peace and warmth in the dark and the chill. It doesn’t take a spotlight to brighten up the dark, but the quiet, gentle embers of a soul warmed by the love of the Messiah. It is the love from Christ that fuels our light and stands guard against the dark, a beacon that is our eternal hope and unquenchable joy.  His love that connects us,  fills us, strengthens us and reflects through us. His love is our light and today I’m plugging in.

Shine bright, little light, shine bright.

 

 

 

 

The marathon has ended and the surreal inverse reality of the holiday season has finally come to a close. I’m not talking sci-fi, I’m talking Christmas. Oh, I love Christmas – I love to celebrate the birth of my Savior, I love to spend time with family and friends, and I love to delight my small children with Christmas goodies wrapped up in pretty paper. I love Christmas music and I love Christmas cookies a little bit too much… But I feel like I spend every Christmas season in a sleep-deprived haze, rushing too much only to accomplish too little. Each year, I aim to cut it down to the basics and simplify the season as much as I possibly can. But even still, it’s a crazy-filled race to the end and by the time the New Year arrives, I basically feel like a fruit cake. A pudgy, tired, maxed-out fruitcake with a head cold. And it is in this state that reality returns on Monday morning.

Every year, it is almost inevitable that I  play a funeral or celebration of life service in between Christmas and New Year’s, often for a family that I don’t know.  As I listen to the family share about their missing loved one’s character, accomplishments, dreams, and goals, I wonder – how much do we really matter outside of our smallest circle of influence? It is the family and very close friends who are broken and grieving, the business associates and other friends who are saddened, and strangers who are mostly reflective. It is a hard time to lose someone you love. It is always a hard time to lose someone you love.

And as 2015 has rolled over into 2016, I don’t want any New Years resolutions, fad diets, or pep talks. I don’t want anything to add to my already lengthy to do list. I don’t want to get up at 4:30 and exercise, either. What do I want is to think about my circle of influence. The 6 small wonders that greet me each morning (and much too early, I might add), my husband,  along with the others that I interact with throughout my day.  During the funeral, the deceased’s daughter shared her favorite memories of her dad – and revealed a poignant truth for this year. The memories she cherished most had no technology, no presents, no personal gain. They weren’t great moments of inspiration, discipline, or idealized events. They were simply regular time spent in the loving presence of her dad, doing life together. And isn’t that the point?

Perhaps it reflects my age that I am so moved by a funeral, but I hope that it reflects that God is still working on my attitude and my personal goals, shaping me into a more Christ-like version of myself. While I am working on some new goals and dreams, I want to keep this in the forefront of it all:

Enjoying this life to the most, and planning for what we will leave behind, means doing life together in the presence of our Heavenly Father.  It means being present in my circle of influence, so that I can reflect the presence of Jesus in my life. So how does this thought reshape my plans for today, tomorrow, this year, and beyond?

Happy New Year and  may you know God’s presence in your life each day.