Light in all forms...
Good morning, friends, and new year blessings!
It’s so good to be back in this space after a pause over the holidays. Whatever has happened for you in these first couple weeks of the new year, I hope you’ll remember today you are loved and held. Those words are some steady guardrails to grasp, especially if there have been surprises (are there ever not?).
I used to pressure myself into squeezing in all end-of-year reflection and new year intention-setting by January 1 (why?). I have now decided the whole month of January is a beautiful time for that, offering some more space for that deep soul-work. And so, I’ve been trying to take a small window of time each day (like, sometimes 5-7 minutes) to page through my 2023 journals, to sit, to memorize a poem I want to carry in my heart in the new year…
One area of reflection has been my 2023 word of the year. I know I’ve talked here before about “Star Words,” a tradition many churches hold for Epiphany Sunday. I described the tradition here on my blog if you’d like to read a little more. The practice of handing out a word to each person in the congregation correlates with the magi who followed a star to find the Christ-child. Like the star, the “random” (though nothing is random with the Spirit!) word is received as a guiding gift from God — a word to pray over and dwell on and live into during the coming year.
Last year, my word was “Light” (which, ‘Epiphany’ is itself about light and revelation). I kept a running note on my phone last year where I jotted down thoughts and learnings, things I read about light, images I saw….it created a kind of catalogue I’ve been able to return to and reflect upon.
‘Light’ is such a powerful and inspirational word for many of us, and so much comes to mind when we hear it. I especially think of my wedding day when my partner, Jeff, and I had chosen the theme of “light” for the ceremony, with the selected Scripture, music, and communal candle-lighting centering on that theme. Our officiating friend and pastor began her sermon by lighting an oil lamp.
I think of people who embody light. On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I have been reminded of the electric poet Amanda Gorman reciting our charge and call at the inauguration… “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
There is much yet for me to ponder from my “light” list. I had a lot in there about “lightness of being” and the whole idea of living “lightly” (a good challenge for a serious enneagram one). There were also themes of how gratitude is light, intuition is light, the soul is light, God’s presence is light—but here was one of the biggest surprises…
Pain is a form of light.
Most of my life, I’ve associated pain with darkness (which, that whole binary of light/dark needs some major re-working anyway). But what stands out to me now is how pain is an illuminator. It reveals and puts us in touch with what’s really going on beneath our surface. And it also can be a channel of empathy and connection, shining light on what others have experienced.
I found myself returning to a quote from Joan Chittister which binds together this seeming-paradox, pointing to the new light pain gives us….
“The light we gain in darkness is the awareness that, however bleak the place of darkness was for us, we did not die there. We now know that life begins again on the other side of darkness. Another life. A new life. After the death, the loss, the rejection, the failure, life does go on. Differently, but on. Having been sunk into the cold night of despair—and having survived it — we rise to new light, calm and clear and confident, that what will be, will be enough for us.”
This is not about calling pain “good,” though all of us can attest to the gifts which have come to us through pain. But it is, I hope, an empowering reframe.
And for this year, in case you’re wondering, here’s the Star Word I received…Not going to lie, I kind of wanted to “give” it back…
I would love to know—please share if you have a word you are going to focus on in 2024!
Good and hard things are coming this year. We know that. And in whatever comes, you are loved and held, and the true Light is in you.
Thank you for taking a soul-pause and reading Monday Manna.💛 If this post moved you, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
A prayer “For the New Year,” from my book, Ash and Starlight…Let’s release and open our arms…
For the New Year
I thank you for holding my
hand in this fresh, new year…
Against my inclination
and with your help,
I let go of my desire for
more control over my life.
My hunger to know what’s coming
and to be ready for it.
My expectations to be in charge.
Have you not taught me again and again
how the joy is in the flexibility?
How all the unexpected,
the unwanted, the unexplained
things coalesce to carve me into
the person I really want to be?
Even the changes I asked for,
the changes I wanted,
can cause anxiety.
Treading on this shifting soil
calls for a steadiness
beyond my own capabilities.
So I trust your hand to hold mine,
carrying me into this new land –
good but different.
You are my Birthing Mother,
always re-creating, always open to change.
You keep showing me
while change is eternally constant,
so is your presence.
You engrain in me
how hope is born through struggle
and the fresh start brought through
change is an invitation to grow.
Whenever something leaves,
something new comes.
Please give me the
wisdom of soul, Loving One,
to look for it.
For a soft heart open to newness,
sensitive to others’ pain,
resilient with hope,
trusting in darkness….
this is the heart for
which I pray this year.
Jeremiah 29:11 * Ezekiel 11:9 * 1 Corinthians 2:9
“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the
human heart conceived, what God has
prepared for those who love God…”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9
Something that nourished me recently…
*Speaking of pain and light, we learned a few days ago our beloved goldendoodle, Sunny, crossed the rainbow bridge. We adopted Sunny while living in Fort Wayne, and endured much heartbreak when we had to give her to another family due to our baby’s severe allergies. We’ve kept in touch with Sunny’s new family, and remain so thankful for the angel Sunny was in our lives and how she went on to minister to many others. I’m so grateful for Ellie and Steve — for being her family and for bringing her all the way home. 🌈
*It was a lot of minivan time over the holiday break, but resulted in some meaningful memories. Among them was time at my mom’s childhood farm in the South Dakota prairies, and Christmas tradition fun in Minnesota.
*And another “light” connection — this has become a favorite album of mine. As one of my yoga teachers says, “I especially listen to this whenever I’m in a funk.” Beautiful Chorus is a group to follow.
Ash and Starlight, plus other good things…
*SECOND EDITION OF ASH AND STARLIGHT ~ Find the new edition of my book here. Chalice continues their discount! :)
And once again, “may all that is unlived in you blossom into a future graced with love.” Sending love to each of you as we open ourselves to a year of growth and surrender…
Love and Light,
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