It's been an exciting and busy week and now I'm off to California to spend a wonderful weekend with more of you at our next MomHeart conference! Excited to be with you, and I'm so glad to have Sarah sharing here with us today, about the power of home in dark times.
On a rain-darkened morning in Oxford last November, I woke to news of the Paris shootings. I remember sitting in my bed unmoving, sensing the chill, stark hardness of the world. A few days later, news reached me of a shooting in my hometown in Colorado. In the intervening days, friends and family alike received hard news or dealt with broken relationships or just struggled with a sense of despair themselves. At the end of the week, on a Friday afternoon, I sat in my room with such a sense of sadness, I barely wanted to turn on my light as the day drew down to the evening (it doesn’t help that dusk falls at 4pm in England). I was far from family, grieving the darkness of the world, and in that moment, unsure of how to answer it.
But as I sat in the shadow, one of my roommates crept in and curled up next to me on the sofa. We sat for a few moments in silence as she kindly rubbed my sore shoulders. But then, ‘I think we need a good, homey girl’s night’ she declared, ‘’cause its been a hard week’. Her words prodded me out of my dim, tangled thoughts. “Good food, candles, talk, and chocolate,” she added, as if listing the ingredients to remedy sickness of soul. I couldn’t help but smile at the way her eyes were alight even in that gloom. I nodded, and without a word, we stood and tromped down to the kitchen to gather all the necessary accoutrement of a successful, delicious, and soul-girding girl’s night.
We live in a tiny little cottage blessed with an excellent kitchen (but no sitting room). Over our first few months together, we’d cobbled together a few chairs, a rug, and a tiny table to make a sitting room in the bay window of our kitchen. We’d each contributed a few lovely finds from charity shops - posters, teapots, a sturdy wooden tray, a bright ceramic trivet - so that our student house had come slowly to feel like home, a place we three, all students, all working, could return to for shelter at the end of exhausting days. That night, though, we experienced our little cottage, crafted by friendship and love, as a place where the light of hope could be kindled right in the face of a dark and frightening outer world.
By the time our other flat mate walked in the door, we’d roasted chicken, made salad, and curled up again on my sofa to watch a movie. We lit every candle we could find, we cooked with music in the background, and rummaged through our cupboards to combine our chocolate stores. In the hours that followed, we did indeed watch that girl’s movie, but we also talked. We each spoke openly about the fears that plagued us in these difficult days, about the loneliness we felt at living far from family. And we prayed - all three of us on my little sofa in our creaky old cottage with our mismatched dishes on the antique table.
I looked around me in the quiet minute after, and knew such a sense of peace in that moment - in the circle of the candlelight, with the remnants of our feast, and two friends with courageous hearts standing beside me. I began, in that moment, to feel that I could hope once more.
That evening is a picture to me of the hope that home can offer when those who dwell in it choose to draw back into it as a refuge and shelter, filling its rooms with light, life, and love. That we live in a dark, hard world is something you only have to glance at the news headlines to see, or simply remember your own grief to know. Discouragement, doubt, and fear stalk us every day. When war looms on the horizon or tragedies occur, our sense of frailty and fear can double. What answer can we give to such destruction? How can we possibly combat the vast grief of the world in our own, small lives?
By making a feast. By drawing together with friends to laugh. By lighting a candle. No, truly. These tiny acts of homemaking and fellowship are the kindled stars that come alight in the darkness and defy the night. Our answer to the great death and ugliness rampaging through the world can be a series of continually redemptive, bold choices to live in such a way that we proclaim the worth of each person we encounter, the beauty of the world we have been given. In this way, we embody a reality opposite to the hopelessness the darkness would have us believe is the only reality.
And home is the realm in which we make redemption known. Home is the kingdom in which we have the daily choice and power to make our tiny domain one of light or darkness. In the rooms (however few or tiny) we call home, peace can, for a little while, come to earth as we partner with Christ to fill the spaces between our walls with his burgeoning, redemptive life. It’s often an act of defiance, one we make in spite of discouragement and grief. But it’s also an act of redemption - taking the broken stuff of the world, and with Christ’s help, forming it into a shelter for love. A shelter called home.
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