repost: a light between here and there

My Grandma I wrote about in this post last summer passed away today.
She was, and will always be, an example and encouragement to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

Someday, I will write about that, but tonight, before I tuck myself into bed, I just want to go back to my earliest memories of her and smell those cotton sheets.

* * * * *

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

* * * * *

Thank you, Grandma Barrick.

filters for our words, part two

Social media has been kind of a gift to me. You, too?

I ride the fence of introvert/extrovert, so it’s the perfect blend of safe and risky. I get to ponder my words, instead of self-consciously searching and stumbling over my imperfect mouth . . .

No, I don’t always think through what I post on social media — I can be just as reactionary or impulsive as anyone — so I don’t want you to think every word is calculated and weighed, because . . . frankly . . . well . . . It isn’t.

But here, on this blog, I have to take time to process and pray. Because I could inflict a lot of damage on my home.

I started blogging two and a half years ago, and I visit this question every time I post: where is the line between what is helpful for the reader and harmful for my family? Which might explain a little of why I blog so infrequently . . . it’s a pretty effective filter.

But over and over, God makes it clear to me that people need to know that drug addiction isn’t just for dark alleys and crack shacks, that drug addiction is as possible for a pastor as it is for a prostitute, AND that it’s possible for a family to be ripped to shreds by the nightmare of drug addiction and yet make it out the other side intact.

The problem is, though, so much of this is really Dave’s story to tell.

So, I show Dave the things I write about him and let him decide if it’s too much. Because if it were reversed, if I was the pill addict who dragged him through hell over and over until one day I was done with that life forever — I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to read the ugly past through his eyes. I think everything in me would just shrivel and hide.

And yet . . . it was the secrets that had us buried in shame. When the closet door was opened and the skeleton fell out, relief of release came in waves concurrent with the pain. It wasn’t long before we wanted to share this freedom, give warnings about the pitfalls of pills, AND hope of recovery and grace.

God has used Dave already to reach so many people — many because he was willing for me to write about the hard things here.

However, being so vocal, even guardedly, isn’t for every relationship. It definitely wasn’t always like this for us.  He had a few years of recovery before we put our story out into cyberspace.

In “real life,” I made it a practice long ago not to talk negatively about Dave to people. Not because he’s faultless, but simply because it’s how I want him to treat me — as  person who makes mistakes. It’s a good rule of love.

But I want to make an important distinction here, though, because I erred on the side of silence for too many years.

I had to find balance. Hiding your pain and suffering alone, and airing your grievances with your husband to everyone you know are two extremes of the openness spectrum. If your husband is an addict or abusive, you need to get help.  Tell a friend, counselor, recovery group, sister, police officer, lawyer — keep asking until you get actual help. Venting to your 300 “closest” friends on Facebook, on the other hand, can be extremely destructive and defeating. Maybe not for you, but definitely for an addict in recovery. It’s just not a safe place to share. Not remotely.

I do believe there is nothing more powerful than hearing/reading how someone else gets it and you are not alone. But if you value your loved one’s recovery and want them to succeed, caution is critical.

If Dave is uncomfortable with the amount of “my truth” I share on the stage of life, filtering my words about him, through him, is the most loving thing, and the least I can do with the story that is just as much about him as it is about me. Words can wait.

Some writers can do truth-telling without tearing down their home. They’ve calculated the cost and are carefully walking the tightrope of saying enough to help others while protecting their family. I respect that. My short time in this forum is showing me it takes great discipline to walk that line. Discipline & restraint — things I’m not so good at with a keyboard in front of me.

Over the last month, as I’ve worked on our story, I’ve really had to sift. And sift. And weigh. And sift. And even invite a few people — including Dave — into the writing to help me weed out not just words destructive to Dave, but others as well.

This forum is so immediate. Not like the “old days” when reaching an audience of more than a couple of friends was a very big deal and took time. To actually send words off to someone you had to care enough — and care long enough — to grab a pen, paper, envelope, call and get an address, drive to the post office, buy a stamp and mail it. Time. Time to consider and weigh. And to share with the world? Getting published took years — and editors. Filters, filter, filters.

We have to make our own filters today. There is so much power in words.

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint. Proverbs 17:27

[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  I Corinthians 13:7

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1

a light between here and there

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

a dimly burning wick He will not quench. (Isaiah 42:3)

* * * * *

when I fear I have lost my flavor

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, you let it in. And you eat the cake. And the leftover spaghetti.

Sometimes, discouragement crawls into your bed and keeps it warm while you drag yourself to make breakfast and get kids to school and return to pull the covers over your head and shut out the world.

Sometimes, it sits beside you on the couch and watches brain-sucking cartoons all day while your toddlers run around in their diapers and cowboy boots and stop stinky and goobery in front of your face to wipe away your tears.

Sometimes, discouragement drives you to work, sits uncomfortably in your chair, stares at a blank screen . . .

When you’ve been sick and it’s gone on for a long time and no one has answers.

When you’ve been fighting battles with your child and every conflict throws failure in your face.

When you’ve worked overtime to finally get ahead and come home to a pile of bills that will set you way back.

When you can’t seem to find where you fit and no one invites and no one asks and no one notices.

When you finally take a deep breath only to discover your addict is at it again.

Discouragement knocks hard, relentless.

Discouragement whispers worthlessness and failure in your ear and tells you you can’t.

Discouragement spins a friend’s success or happy post into a jealousy or regret.

Discouragement suffocates in the darkness with questions and tears.

Discouragement chokes out life-giving words and seasons speech with self.

Discouragement tells me I have lost my flavor and am of no good but to be tossed out and trampled.

Can salt be made salty again?

I wonder . . .

When I fear I have lost my flavor, I disappear.

Disappear like Moses — to be alone with God.

Disappear like Jonah — a long shadow of fear, jealousy, envy or discontent has eclipsed joy.

Disappear like a leper — to heal and seek a doctor for a cure.

* * * * *

Sunshine beckons me. 

I lie on the trampoline in the yard, soaking in afternoon light, sifting through sickness, disappointment, hurt, regret. I hear nothing. No words of comfort.

Somewhere below me, the tide is out.

A breeze passes over sun-warmed sand, mud, shells, carrying the sea to me and I breathe deep . . .

One day I will look back on this season. A season of physical breakdown, a season of letting go of a child, a season of wordlessness, a season of discouragement.

But I am not in the looking back.

* * * * *

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16

Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

* * * * *

This morning I remember the thing about discouragement.

How sickness, exhaustion, anger, hurt and loneliness open the door to it.

How it wallows in the past, thrives on lies, heaps on guilt, compares and finds wanting.

How it sucks everything into its mire and drains the world of sunlight and sea-salt air.

How you could drown in it. How you need to be pulled out.

If you are sinking, reach out. If a sinking friend reaches for you, take her hand. Do kindnesses for her. Listen.

And if words are necessary, let them be always with grace, seasoned with salt.

* * * * *

Grace has been shaken over my life.

I am grateful for the one who sits beside me for long hours in a waiting room. For the one who draws me away from my solitude to get some lunch. For the one who shares tears over tea. For the one who brings dinner. For parents who call just to hear my voice. For children who bend down to wrap their arms around me. For a husband who listens in the middle of the night. For a doctor determined to help me get well, starting with removing my gallbladder.

I am grateful for Sarah Young, for Philip Yancey, for Ann VosKamp whose little books have become a permanent fixture on my nightstand, and remind me that a flavorless season is survivable and can become a beautiful and encouraging thing.

I say thanks out loud to God for blessings and ask Him to sift the rocks and dirt from my little bowl of salt.

And then I hear it — the gentle whisper of love I couldn’t hear over the beating on my door.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Are you discouraged? Feel free to comment — anonymously if you wish. And I will pray for you. It will be good to take a little sabbatical from myself.