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


  1. Amen. Praying that God will help me let my little light shine this week!
    I recently ran across these verses from Matthew 5 in the Message translation, and I love the way verse 16 reads: "Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."

    1. "Be generous with your lives." Wow! That evokes so much. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wow Awesome post title! I love very true. We live in L.A. there is a lot of darkness here. If we cursed that darkness we would never stop cursing.HA
    Wha t a cool life you live on a farm...I miss the country, I grew up in a small toen in TN. I know God called us here that is the only reason it is good. I love when you said worn out mam's Lately if I am anything it is that. Thanks for reminding me that I still have influence. I am SO happy to have come here and read this lovely post.

    1. I'm so glad you stopped by Tesha! I imagine it must be a challenge to move from the country to a big city! What a blessing that you see God's hand in it and are willing.

  3. Learning to find Him amidst the noise and stand as a light to illunminate the darkness. And living in a small beach town is helpful for that. But saying no to distractions, even more so. Nice to meet you through Thought Provoking Thursday.

  4. Thank you....I so needed this today! I love both pieces of this...not escaping with our "pacifiers". I NEEDED THAT!
    Then, the part about being lights in this world, being really IN it. I admire you so much. Really, I admire the Jesus in you.


  5. Excellent post, thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Patti, so nice to visit here, though you're my DND teammate! I wish for the times when blogging moved to "real" cafes and conversations! I so hear you about the din, but I love your reminder about being the light. Our world so needs it. Keep shining, friend!

  7. I love you Patti! I'm currently sitting in my husband's office (at Regent College) after dropping some money on - a concordance and an ESV Study Bible and a cup of excellent coffee from The Well Cafe. I have a freshly nursed baby on my lap, and one of Dear Husband's co-workers, with tears in her eyes, thanked me for being vulnerable on my website. I thank you for encouraging me to be real - to help me find answers in community - in The Word - instead of trying to find all the answers for myself to wrap up my "posts" in a pretty bow.

    Even in the despair there is a flicker of hope - and when that flicker is born in community - candles lighting other candles - we shine! Bless you. Bless your distractions. Bless your words. And, of course, may God also bless coffee. =) Thank you Patti!
    xoxo Jen

  8. This reminds me that God has equipped our children to be a light in these times - and your post is such an encouragement about how to nurture those things He placed in them. I am so wanting to create that safe haven home!

  9. Thank you for this, Patti. I really need to be reminded to light those candles instead of despairing at the darkness. So interesting that you wove in the theme of distraction in this post. The word that keeps coming to me is "intentional". I need to be intentional with the way I spend my time, with the way I create our family culture, and with allowing His light to shine. Thanks for giving me so much to chew on tonight. I really needed this.


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