Straining for the Light


For a long time the threat of a new year brought with it an onslaught of more darkness, more enervating melancholy, more long, gray days ahead to suffer through. It was nothing to celebrate.

At the end of one of those especially difficult years I met Alece Ronzino online. She too had experienced a year (or more!) like that, punctuated by loss and betrayal and hopelessness. In 2009 she decided to find one word to focus on in the new year, instead of a list of resolutions that were quickly and quietly abandoned. One Word 365was born.

One word can change everything. Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap the long list of goals that you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2016. One word. 365 days. A changed life. ~Alece Ronzino

The last four years I’ve participated brought some incredible changes to my life. I became more focused, more hopeful, more inspired to hold fast, keep going, and expect good things. I’ve been challenged to be fearless. I have committed to believing. I have thrown myself into creativity. Most recently, I have spent a year contemplating possibility and what that looks like fleshed out in real life, and right now it looks like The Mudroom. I doubted it was possible a year ago, yet giving space for possibility to bloom made it a reality.

I’ve been brought low and robbed of energy by chronic pain. I’ve spiraled into dark depression. Anxiety has left me dizzy and breathless. I’ve been facing childhood sexual abuse head on and I have the bruises and scars to show for it. I’ve been humbled by my own darkness, my secret sins that cast a shadow over my heart and steal the light from my eyes. I’ve staggered under the weight of loneliness and grief and fear and despaired of ever feeling strong again.

My One Word for 2016 is restore.


The locusts have ravaged me, leaving me bereft. I hardly know what plenty, abundance, fullness feels like. I find myself returning to that field of devastation, the locusts leaving nothing of worth behind. But there is a promise and I am claiming it.

Joel 2:25-32 (ESV)
25 I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.

In these verses God is not telling his people to buck up, man up, cowgirl up, grow up, deal with it, get over it, or pull yourself together. He is acknowledging that this is a straight-up disaster, a full-on calamity. He sees and validates the wreckage and the ruin that has devastated his people, who have been left desolate. He tells them that it was his great army, obeying his command, meting out justice, which caused this cataclysm.

But God.

God is a God of restoration, redemption, healing, and deliverance. He is a God of double portions and spacious places. He removes shame and exchanges it for radiance.

Jeremiah 30:17
For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord
Isaiah 61:7
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion
Hosea 6:1
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”

He will not leave us as orphans. He will not treat us as our sins deserve. He will not ignore our cries for mercy. There is no shadow of turning in him.

In Life Together, Dietrich Bohoeffer penned a paragraph that all of us should write on our mirrors. He was referring to the morning, but I have replaced day with year.

For Christians the beginning of the [year] should not be burdened and oppressed by besetting concerns for the [year’s] work. At the threshold of the new [year] stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the [year] let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him whom our whole life belongs.

My proclamation for 2016 is to not be oppressed by the besetting concerns for this year’s work, but to face it with excitement and expectation. I will remember that God stands at the threshold of this year, like a sentry, offering protection but also reminding me that every day is a battle, but one I don’t fight in vain or alone. Darkness and distraction are no match for the light of Jesus and his wakening Word. Restlessness, impurity, worry, and fear have no place in this year. My first thought and first word of this year, and every morning in it, belong to God who has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

The onset of a new year isn’t a threat to me anymore. It doesn’t hold the same bleakness and grim prospects as it did previously. I’m determined to wrestle until I’m limping. I’m done with ashes and mourning and shadows and death. I’ve had enough of despondency and gloom. I’m aching for the light.

Who’s aching with me?

Tammy Perlmutter

Writer at Raggle-Taggle
Tammy Perlmutter writes about unabridged life, fragmented faith, and investing in the mess at her blogRaggle-Taggle. She founded The Mudroom to make room in the mess and create a space for people to beheard. Tammy guest posts a bit, writes flash memoir, personal essay, and poetry, leads writing groups, and preaches on occasion. She is also an advocate for women and mental health, an alum of the Voices and Faces Project testimonial writing workshop, The Stories We Tell, for survivors of sexual assault, abuse, and trafficking, as well as the Social Media Director for Threads of Compassion, an organization offering comfort to recent victims of sexual trauma. She will have an essay included in the book Soul Bare: Raw Reflections on Human Redemption, being published by InterVarsity Press in 2016.
 . . . reblogged from Mudroom

“Why Everything Does Not Happen for a Reason”

An excellent article by John Pavlovitz:

“Why Everything Does Not Happen for a Reason”

That phrase.

We’ve all received it personally gift-wrapped by well-meaning friends, caring loved ones, and kind strangers. It usually comes delivered with the most beautiful of intentions; a buffer of hope raised in the face of the unimaginably painful things we sometimes experience in this life.

It’s a close, desperate lifeline thrown out to us when all other words fail:

Everything happens for a reason.

I’ve never had a tremendous amount of peace with the sentiment. I think it gives the terrible stuff too much power, too much poetry; as if there must be nobility and purpose within the brutal devastation we may find ourselves sitting in. In our profound distress, this idea forces us to run down dark, twisted rabbit trails, looking for the specific part of The Greater Plan that this suffering all fits into.

Read the rest here.

Coming to the end of ourselves

Jerry Sitter, in his outstanding book on loss, A Grace Disguised, writes about the sudden loss of his wife, his daughter, and his mother, all in one tragic car accident.  We all suffer loss and Jerry writes so well about what is common to all of us in our losses.  Here is one sampling:

Loss forces us to see the dominant role our environment plays in determining our happiness.  Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being.  It knocks us off our feet and puts us on our backs.  In the experience of loss, we come to the end of ourselves.

But in coming to the end of ourselves, we can also come to the beginning of a vital relationship with God.  Our failures can lead us to grace and to a profound spiritual awakening.  This process occurs frequently with those who suffer loss.  It often begin when we face our own weaknesses and realize how much we take favorable circumstances for granted.  When loss deprives us of those circumstances, our anger, depression, and ingratitude expose the true state of our souls, showing us how small we really are.  We see that our identity is largely external, not internal.

Finally, we reach the point where we begin to search for a new life, one that depends less on circumstances and more on the depth of our souls.  That, in turn, opens us to new ideas and perspectives, including spiritual ones.  We feel the need for something beyond ourselves, and it begins to dawn o nus that reality may be more than we once thought it to be.  We begin to perceive hints of the divine, and our longing grows.  To our shock and bewilderment, we discover that there is a Being in the universe who, despite our brokenness and sin, loves us fiercely.  In coming to the end ourselves, we have come to the beginning of our true and deepest selves.  We have found the One whose love gives shape to our being.

Praying for you, that through whatever loss you are experiencing right now, that you might know the fierce love of God for you.

Yet the star of hope has risen

2009-10-03-the-morning-star-paradox“Christ descended into ‘Hell’ and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light.  Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable.  Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God.  Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without   ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.”  (Benedict XI, Spes Salvi)

Now all creation rejoices

Do you not know what holy day this is?483662_450760328326093_1835904721_n
No? Then whence come you?
Among what heathen have you dwelt,
not to know that today
is the supremely holy Good Friday?
Lay down your weapons!
Do not offend the Lord, who today,
bereft of all arms, offered His holy blood
to redeem the sinful world!

It is the tears of repentant sinners
That today with holy dew
besprinkle field and meadow:
thus they make them flourish.
Now all creation rejoices
at the Savior’s sign of love
and dedicates to Him its prayer.

Richard Wagner, Parsifal

And this is our hope


In the hour of darkness the moon had hid her face,
And all the world was sleeping, save one who wept.
He left the meager comfort of well-meaning friends,
Charging them, Watch; and into the garden crept,

And heard the lie of the world;
That the darkness here is a fell and final thing:
And flesh will crumble for aye in the valley of bones,
And tongues that are parched will never find voice to sing.

And this is our hope: that he whose sweat was blood,
As the heavy droplets fell and his spirits sank,
Lifted his eyes and murmured Thy will be done;
Lifted cracked lips to the Father’s cup; and drank.

~Joseph Prever

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