Family Culture - It is Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness

I'm sitting in a cafe. The table is piled with my children's school books.  I had been working on school lessons, but my heart's steady beat of write-write-write won't be ignored.

I plop my little ipad, its attached keyboard making it look like a miniature laptop, on top of my son's open planner.

The song of the cafe is loud. I sit and stare at the screen, ready to burst. Nothing comes.

My ears are so full they ache.

Still the cafe-song pulses. Medical terms sing out from the nurses-in-training studying at a nearby, book laden table. The blender whirs its tune of frozen caffeine and sugar.  The speakers blare pop music, jarring, much of the tunes and lyrics meaningless. Some of it despairing.

With a deep breath I plug in my headphones.

Higher and higher I press the volume button, until I am alone in a song of hope. I close my eyes as peace washes over me.


It's not just the cafe. Distractions swirl around me all the time. Everywhere I go they are fighting for my attention.

How desperately I want the laser-like focus that is required to walk the narrow path in our loud culture. 

I think about how like a magpie I am all day, every day.  So many things on the to-do list, so many shiny electronic distractions. I scurry around from task to task as if speed will keep me from forgetting anything. Then inevitably I wear down and sit to stare at a screen for a minute. I use it almost like a pacifier, a retreat.  Is this where I really want to find rest?

I think about the example this sets for my children.

I can't escape the culture. None of us can. 

The culture-at-large is not a culture of peace. Our culture is not singing a song of hope. Our culture's theme song is "Me, Myself and I in Our Virtual Life."

Moving to the country does not protect you from this culture, in case you were wondering.

And you know, I don't want to be protected from the culture, frankly. It is our world, our mission field. Filled with hurting and hungry souls desperate for the love that does not disappoint.

But the din, oh so loud. So distracting.


Sally Clarkson encourages parents to develop a family culture. In a way that reminds me of Charlotte Mason's idea that education is an environment, the Clarkson parents strove to surround their children with beauty and great thinkers, with a family culture of unconditional love and acceptance.

My desire for our family is to create a home culture of peace and quiet of soul. A safe place, a nest to which we can return from the clamor of our culture. A place where beauty and truth prevail. Where we are nourished in heart, and soul-fed to return to the sweaty work of loving in this dark world.

We must be in our culture but not of it. And oh how hard to draw the line.

We can not isolate ourselves and walk in the footsteps of Jesus. He who came to this ugly hard world and spent his days amongst the most dirty in body and soul, who loved the unlovable, who served without hesitation.

It is only fear that would keep the door closed. 

Love opens the door.

There is no rule book for this, no manual for how children serve in an unlovely world. For my husband and me, it is a matter of prayer and the individual child. What can they handle? But if we are to live in this world, and walk out the command to love... and if we believe that love is action and serving... we must must walk out into it.


Sally Clarkson sometimes quotes the old Chinese proverb, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." I feel that truth in my bones.

...each of us in our own little alcove, shining bright, pushing back the darkness...

Jesus lit a candle. He lit one in you and one in me when we became His.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." - Jesus (Matthew 5:14-16)

We get to do this. Shine light into the darkness. Hope. Meet real needs. Even in our own weakness and neediness. Because we do it in Him, for Him.

Imagine. Worn out mamas like you and me, we are lights.

I want to let my light shine into the darkness around me instead of complaining about it. I want to nurture a family culture of peace and love so that when we feel overwhelmed by the culture-at-large, we have a safe haven.

A place of protection from the winds that want so badly to blow out our little flames.

And then I want to go back out and shine.

joining the Write It, Girl and Thought Provoking Thursdays communities this week

cafe photo by naggobot
candle/alcove photo by Dave W Clark
Mighty to Save sung by Laura Story

Why This Word Girl Loves Her Concordance

I'll confess. I'm a Word Nerd.

I am fascinated by words, not only in my own language, but in others.

One of my favorite bible study tools is my gigant-o-rama Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (which I occasionally and affectionately refer to as my Exhausting Concordance... that thing is heavy!)

I'm over at Do Not Depart today chatting about why I use a concordance, and how to navigate through the thousands of pages to find what you need...

Bible Concordances: Study Tools for Word Lovers


some days I feel all brittle and worn down
like a breeze will break me

blown off a shelf
cracked and crazed
a bit shattered

then I remember 

the treasure
it's in jars of clay

brittle is how i was made

so that the surpassing greatness of power
will be from God

not me

my job is just to be filled

just to hold

2 Corinthians 4:7
creative commons licensed photo by jo-h

Ten Tips to Help Children Memorize Scripture

photo by Marcelino Rapayla Jr.

Do you memorize scripture with your kids? Do you know their learning style? Sometimes it helps to gear your approach to each child's natural brain wiring.

Today I'm sharing 10 tips for scripture memorization with kids, as well as 2 bonus tips for parents, over at Do Not Depart.

Maybe you have some tips you could add? Come share...

When Words are Your Paintbrush

Writing inspiration

There was a time in my life when I was angry at words.

Resentful of the way they limit, label, box one up.

I was nineteen and frustrated by a raging and critical world. I was obsessed with the complexity of communication.

So many steps... first to subdue a thought enough that it could be contained by words. Then to bravely speak those words knowing that the third step, the receiving, would be met by the hearer's own filter. And her response? Equally as multi-stepped and complex.

How to contain big ideas in words? How to ensure mutual understanding of meaning?

So many places to trip and twist.

This impossibility... of truly communicating... devastated me.

Sometimes I was sure silence was the only option.


I still have a healthy fear of the unintentional harm done by careless words.

Words weigh much.

But silence is like a cork in a dam... the pressure builds to bursting. In desperate times I have burst all over, an endless stream, a river of words washing around an idea, tumbling it about, trying desperately to make it understood.

Both silence and bursting have their time. And both ways can do harm.

Neither way is perfect.


I am no longer angry with words. Words carefully chosen bring life. Indeed, I have chosen to follow the Word.

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 came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. ~ John 1:1-4

Our words, so often carelessly spoken, are flocks of birds fluttering out of our longing mouths... doves of peace, eagles of war, tiny little sparrows of hope.

When you live in a world that was spoken into being, words bringing all that is into existence, you ought to hold words in esteem. How rarely we do.


I think in pictures. Pictures and words. The sculpting of words together... the forming, the pressing here, removing there... it is the closest I can come to sharing mind pictures.

The spoken word is so quick. The pressing pace of conversation does not allow for a slow forming and  nurturing of thought. An infant idea met with resistance in conversation dies a quick death for me.

I have always felt more genuine in my writing than in speaking, because writing allows me the pace I need to be clear. The more I speak the more shy I feel. When I write, my thoughts have become solid for the working and reworking. The clay has been made pliable, the form tweaked.


For years writing was my secret. Journals filled with my barely legible scrawl. Hours spent crafting an email. Handwritten letters to a childhood friend.

Even more hidden was the writing in my head. I felt pressure, like that corked dam. That there were stories to tell. Stories of beauty in a gray world. Stories of hope in suffering. I wrote the words in the journal of my mind, filed away forever.

But something happened two years ago. I began to recognize that the pressure was not just coming from inside of me. That it was part of how I was made, and that I had an obligation to step fully into myself and take writing more seriously.

To not do so would have been to dishonor the One who created me to write.

I am not a bold person. This was not easy to accept.

If God made me to think like a writer, if God intended me to write, wouldn't refusing to do so out of fear be an insult? Yet to expose my words to the world... why the possibilities for ridicule and humiliation would be limitless! I had to choose - was I going to live fearfully, or live out the way I had been fearfully and wonderfully made?


When I submitted my first article to a magazine I did it as a challenge to myself. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and hit "send" just before the deadline. As soon as I did it, I realized that my biggest fear was that it would be accepted.

I reassured myself that it would not be accepted and that I would not have to worry. Writers expect rejection, especially at the beginning.

Five months later I received an acceptance letter. I cried for half an hour. All mixed up, happy and scared.

When my name finally stared back at me from the glossy pages in my hands, I whispered, "I guess it's true. I really am a writer."


Of course, I'd been one all along. Having an article published does not a writer make.

A writer is word warrior, word painter, word singer.  She weaves words like ribbons around an idea and makes it real. A writer starts writing long before pen hits paper or fingers hit keys. She paints a world with words.

Her mind is ever hungering for words to try to fleetingly capture truth and beauty... hope. She is pressing thoughts into forever as she wields pen like sword or brush, reaching out into the wide world to sometimes bleed, sometimes sing.

A piece of herself is wrapped in everything she writes.

I am a writer.

joining the WriteItGirl community this week

How We Seized the Extra Day ~ Leap Day 2012
{Carpe the extra Diem}

I'm shaking my head and laughing (well at least in my mind) as I write this post. Because really, we didn't have an extra day. In fact we all agreed that a real extra day would have been awesome. You know, a day not actually on the calendar? Not just another Wednesday? Because we still had to do all the things a Wednesday required, and then some. :-)

Nevertheless, the kids and I each picked one thing we wanted to do, and made the extra effort to make it happen yesterday. Which made it all fun and worthwhile.

My sweet hubby was busy working all day... then being interviewed on the radio, doing a podcast, leading worship team practice and finishing up his last songs for FAWM. His plate was uber full already. Though I suppose he probably would have counted "Be on the radio" as something he really wished he could do, so it all worked out.

Our girl knew right away what she wanted to do - make super fancy cupcakes.

Little Warrior first wanted to move to Hawaii. Since it didn't meet the criteria of something that he could do in an hour or so on Leap Day, he had to ditch that plan.

After a long internal tussle he finally decided that he wanted to play a game.  We played Mancala. With his custom rules. That he invented as we went along.  And that I completely did not get. :-) Mancala is our go-to game normally but that is what he wanted to do and I was all in. I got to kiss his soft cheeks while we played. Ahhh.

In an unprecedented finish, we exactly tied... both placing our last gem on the same round and both ending up with an identical score. We were pretty happy with that.

My big guy also just couldn't think of anything for a whole day. Seems he feels he gets to do everything he wants to do. Not a bad place to be in life, eh? So I kind of prompted him by asking some questions.  Suddenly he got super excited when he thought of skyping his friend in Canada and playing a game they invented five years ago. Happy teen seized the extra diem. ;-)

And me? Well, I have been wanting to take my girl out for tea for a long time. And I was thrilled to discover a new local tea room during an online search. When I called them in the morning, though, I learned they had also become victims of the struggling economy. Thankfully I remembered that her favorite local restaurant serves lunch. We hadn't been there in several years so it was a special treat and she was delightfully surprised. Oh I love how that girl sparkles when she is happy!

The food was fine, nothing crazy out of this world, but the company was divine.  We had a little fun with the phone's camera too.

All in all a fine Leap Day! I think it's a tradition we should keep. Since we have four years to plan for the next one, we might all be ready. Maybe.

Now your turn!  What did you do to celebrate Leap Day? Did you leap around? Did you eat froggy food? Did you Carpe the extra Diem? ;-) I am having fun with my inventive Latin, can you tell?

You can link up your Leap Day post below, and grab the button if you'd like.


The Linky will be up until Saturday night. Can't wait to read your Leap Day stories!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...