Snow is falling from the trees. Yesterday, it fell from the sky. I’m cozy beneath two blankets, my eyes ever on the window to my right.
Drip. Drip. Green begins to appear as the sun slowly but surely melts the many inches of snow that fell for hours, transforming our city into a Winter Wonderland. The sky, pure white yesterday, is now a bright blue, completely empty of clouds. To my left, a flame flickers as a candle begins to burn out. The room is brighter than normal today, illuminated by the piles of snow that fell like miniature clouds coming down, making their home on the thick branches.
It sounds magical.
It is magical.
But it’s not the whole story.
On the way to celebrate an exciting surprise, I stopped at a red light and, well, a lot can happen in a second or two.
Thankfully, everyone is alright.
Truthfully, I feel a bit like those branches right outside the window, weighed down by the unexpected.
Multiple times every single day, I remind myself it could have been much worse.
But it’s also frustrating and complicated, a hassle that’s impacting many other areas of life. I haven’t driven since the car wreck — not because I don’t want to (although I’m nervous, to be sure), but because I no longer have a drivable car.
And so I’ve spent hours on the phone with the other driver’s insurance company, I’ve thanked God that I can work from home, I’ve cried and canceled plans. I’ve gotten angry, read books, missed church, and eaten a lot of toast as the pantry shelves empty.
I’ve lit the candles that were stashed away for a “better” day, a “special occasion.”
Last week, a few days before the car wreck, I posted this image on Instagram stories:
I “save” candles as if they’re meant only for parties or celebrations, magical moments — never for a regular, ordinary day.
Nevermind that they’ll smell delicious as they burn… at some point, I apparently decided I’d rather miss the short-term full force of beauty, instead opting for a hint of beauty contained long-term on a shelf.
It sounds like such a small thing (and it feels ridiculous when written out), but God keeps bringing me back to the beautiful ordinary now. And so I’m practicing what I preach, leaning into what I believe, and not only declaring right now to be both beautiful and ordinary… but actually living like it is. For me, right now, it looks like lighting candles.
It doesn’t seem like much from the outside, but it feels like sitting down on the inside. Like using the “good china” for a Tuesday evening meal, it’s nothing that will change the world but it changes how *I* see the world. And maybe, in some small way, those are the same thing.
I posted this picture on Instagram the night after the car wreck. If you follow me there, these words will be familiar to you. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to share the caption with you here.
“About this time last night, I was hit while stopped at a red light. Everyone, thankfully, is alright. My car… uh, not so much. A few hours before the wreck, as I thought about how Advent would begin the following day (now today), I wrote out what it means to me.”
“Until three or four years ago, I didn’t know much at all about Advent. This year, it looks like most of Advent will be spent right here, staring at this view until my car is repaired. It isn’t what I would have chosen, that’s for sure, but even in the mess I’m grateful for God’s protection, for a dear friend’s calm 911 call, for the ability to work from home, and for slow moments of waiting with candles lit.
Advent, for me, is about waiting with hope. It looks like refusing to cut the tension and instead leaning into the in between, knowing that we’re somewhere in the middle of the greatest Story ever told. It means joining with those who, through the centuries, waited for His coming…it means believing with joy that He will come once again. Advent feels like an invitation to celebrate His birth even as tears fall, holding both joy and sorrow together, trusting that one day every tear will be wiped away. And so I’m watching, slowing down and paying attention, lighting candles and waiting with hope in the dark because I really do believe it: We know how the story ends and we can trust the heart of the One who holds the pen. He who came for us will come once again. Light always wins; our hope is not in vain.”
I”m confident I can say this truthfully: I’ve never lit more candles in one week than I have over the past seven days.
Every night, I grab a blanket and a book and then reach for the lighter. Because this is it — right now. This is life and we only have this moment to live and love well. Maybe we’ll be given another hour, another day, a decade or two… but not one of us truly knows. We’re part of the greatest Story ever told, but we don’t hold the pen.
I don’t want to be PollyAnna and tell you “Just light a candle! It’ll make the world a better place. Forget about what you’ve seen on Twitter and ignore the seemingly endless ways the world seems to be going up in flames.”
But I do want to say that God is here.
I do want to say that Light wins.
And maybe, for you too, lighting a candle on a completely ordinary day is one way to practice paying attention. Maybe it’s one way to remind yourself that there’s beauty in today. Maybe it’s one small act that helps you lean into the truth that God is here, He is with us, and the Story isn’t over.
Most likely, my car won’t be fixed until 2018.
And so this Advent, I’ll spend each day (and night) right here, with a candle lit and window curtains pulled back.
The sun will melt the snow; it’ll be gone when I wake tomorrow. But last night, hours after I ran outside like a giddy child on Christmas morning, a true Floridian gawking and squealing at the unexpected magic of living in a snow globe (even just for a day), I stood at the window and watched the flurries fall.
A blanket of pure white covered everything my eyes could see and so I simply stood there, tears in my eyes, grateful.
He makes all things new.
This is the better day. This is the special occasion. It may look like going in circles with an insurance company, feel like losing the freedom to go anywhere at any time, and sound like asking my people for a ride to the grocery store.
But He’s writing a good story.
So if you need me, I’ll be right here burning the candles. Choosing to savor the slow moments. Thanking God for His protection. Covering my own life with the declaration that right now may be ordinary, but it’s still beautiful.
I wrote this post while listening to Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus and In Like A Lion (Always Winter) on repeat. I’d highly recommend both, if you’d like music playing in the background as the candles flicker.
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