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“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”   ~Eleanor Roosevelt

This morning I woke up to rain drumming the roof, a dreary Monday, the 70-somethingth day of quarantine, ahead of me a full day helping five kids do school at home and doing farm chores in the rain. The prospect did not delight me. I walked out of my bedroom and said to my husband, “Well, this is buns” (our family’s all-purpose negative adjective).

I was immediately reminded of the childhood song I had learned:
This is the day (echo: this is the day)
That the Lord has made (that the Lord has made)
I will rejoice (I will rejoice)
And be glad in it (and be glad in it)

I repented and spent some time thinking and praying. I was reminded that I have the power to cultivate beauty in my home and that even on days like today I can create an atmosphere that points my children (and myself) to the creator of all things beautiful. When sun streams through the windows and birdsong rides in on the breeze, it comes easily. But perhaps it is days like today, when I must fight for it, when I deliberately light the candle in the darkness, that beauty shines brightest.

What this looked like in my home today was first nurturing my own soul with scripture and poetry. (Though, keeping it real here… I’m reading straight through the Bible this year, and today I mostly read lots of betrayals and battle scenes in 2 Samuel, which weren’t the most uplifting, though still worthwhile, I know. The poetry, however – Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” – was breathtaking.) I also buried my nose several times in a bouquet of lilacs, the official scent of Heaven, I’m certain.

I turned on every light and lamp in our kitchen/dining/living area to counteract the gloom. I lit a candle and cracked the kitchen window to waft in fresh (if chilly) air. I turned on my most achingly beautiful album, Loreena McKennitt’s “As the Wind Shakes the Barley” (pure poetry in itself). For elevenses, I brewed a pot of raspberry tea and sliced up the pumpernickel sourdough loaf I made last night.

I also washed dishes and thoroughly wiped down my kitchen because full sinks and paint-and-crumb-and- maple-syrup-coated counters on a glorious outdoorsy-day is one thing, but it is not to be born on an inside, fighting-for-joy day.

What I’ve come to realize is we are sensuous beings. God created us with five senses that each delight in being filled with loveliness, not only to bring us pleasure (though it absolutely does!), but also to give us a window into Himself. He is in all things good and beautiful and our senses are some of His best gifts to us. Flickering light matters. A tidy kitchen (for those three minutes it lasts) matters. The dancing lilt of poetry on the tongue matters. The fragrance of little purple flowers matters. The harmony of violins and a soprano voice matters. A cool breeze on the cheek matters. Hot tea with milk matters. Crusty bread with a hint of molasses matters. If they didn’t, God would not have created them or given us the faculties to enjoy them. He didn’t have to, but He did, and they helped changed my heart today. Thank you, my gracious God.

So as we soldier forward through stay-at-home orders and long rainy days and so-much togetherness under this roof, I will continue to fight for beauty and light the candle.

 

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