The summer sun is already shining here at our little home, and the days are lengthening. Light comes in so many forms and brings life and joy in its wake. Open the curtains, prune back the dead branches, step outside, and let the light shine on your life and in your home. Here are some spring time thoughts about light and how we share it with others.
My saintly mother in law lived with us the last three years of her life. She was a gracious 92 year old southern lady who was grateful and kind to her very last breath. Caring for her was an exhausting privilege. Over time we developed a few customs that brought us both a lot of happiness as we made our way through the days. One of these happened each morning.
I woke up first each day, and I would go to her bedroom and open up the blinds. Usually the sun came streaming in through the windows and the entire room woke up. Each day when I did this, a little voice from the bed would start singing an old tune that we both knew well. I would sing along with her and that is how each day began. The words went like this: "So let the sun shine in! Face it with a grin. Smilers never lose, and frowners never win..." This song was made popular by the McGuire Sisters in 1954. That was the year after my husband was born and I could easily imagine her smiling and singing this cheerful song to her baby.
That act of adding light to a dark room was closely linked to adding light to our spirits during those times. Our days were filled with activities that were tedious, but because we knew the value of light in the house and light in our hearts the everyday tasks were more pleasant. Bathing, dressing, eating, and other things are harder with dementia did not discourage us. We were thriving together. We began each day with sunlight and song. It gave us joy and life. My mother in law understood that even when she didn't know anything else.
Not coincidentally, this woman exuded the love of Christ. This light in her life extended to all around her. She brought joy because she brought spiritual light. Between the light in her heart and the light in the room there were no gloomy days. There was simply no room for despondency or complaining. There was too much light in the space for any of that.
All living things are stronger and healthier with light. We need light in order to thrive. In fact children who grow up truly deprived of sunlight and nourishing food can develop a disease called rickets that damages their bones due to the lack of the vitamin D from the sunlight.
All living things are stronger and healthier with spiritual light as well. Children who are deprived of a loving and happy home life are far more susceptible to anxiety, depression, and life long battles with self doubt. Families who participate actively in their faith communities are happier, healthier, and more likely to support local charities. (Earls, 2022) Having spiritual light in your heart and in your home creates an overall sense of well being and comfort. Smile more. Complain less. Invite God into your home. This is real light.
This spring I have developed a whole new appreciation for light and its nearly instant effect it has on life exposed to it. This happened when we had to cut down an old magnolia tree that had grown so big its roots were coming dangerously close to the foundation of our house. I am a southern girl so cutting down a magnolia tree seemed almost heretical, but the enormous tree simply had to go. That was just the way it had to be. It was a big project.
Right away, even before the tree was entirely gone, I noticed changes in my front yard. The grass that had always struggled to live became a vibrant green. The soft carpet of lovely zoysia began to spread across parts of the yard that had always been bare. Blooms that had had to contort themselves on their stems to get a bit of light became strong and straight because the sunshine fell directly on them. And one very special white hydrangea went from being a scraggy little runt to a healthy shrub in one month. It now has more blooms on it than it had produced in all ten of the summers it has existed. All these changes in a few short weeks. A bit of light changes everything. For the better.
If light can produce this kind of effect in a garden, what can it do in your home? I have a great deal of experience being in the homes of people who are in need of the healing that light brings. A call to parish ministry and a call to be the spouse/partner of one called to this is a also call to be up close and personal with people who are hurting and in need of light. Light in all its forms. I have seen evidence of this over and over. How can we light to our life and others' lives? There is no secret that there are two very basic ways to do this.
Arrange your living space to allow for natural light. I am really surprised at how many homes are furnished in such a way that exposure to sunlight is limited. It also surprises me at how many people do not open their window coverings to allow the light to flow through. I actually had a visiting twenty something girl ask me why I bothered to open the blinds each day. When I said it added joy to the home she was skeptical and said that she guessed she was more like a vampire because she didn't bother with that. Okay. But here is a scientific fact: sunlight increases your level of serotonin and helps protect you from anxiety and depression. Sunlight also decreases blood pressure. People who get plenty of sunshine get better sleep and have stronger bones. The health benefits will add to your, and your children's, quality of life. Open the blinds. Let in the light from the sun.
Arrange your heart to allow for the Light of Christ. When humans make their spiritual development a priority by attending worship with their community, and spending time in prayer and reading or hearing the words of the Holy Scripture their outlook on life becomes radically different from that of those who don't practice these things. Worship. Pray. Put Christian music in your head along with solid words of affirmation. Listen to pastors that preach the Words of life and love and healing. Listen to pastors who go beyond telling you stories and explain how God's Word can penetrate every fiber of your soul and make you new. Listen to pastors who remind you that raising your children with Christ as the center of your home is your most important responsibility. Fill your heart and your mind and your soul with the things that will bring light to them. Open the curtains of your heart. You'll be glad you did.
I am sitting here on my back deck writing all this and humming that old McGuire Sisters song to myself. I'm so grateful for the light that has been brought to my adult life through all the open windows in my heart and in my home. Open the door and the windows of your life. Enjoy the light that comes from all sources. Let there be light! (Gen. 1:3)
Citations and links:
Earls, A. (2022, February 17). Research finds church attendance linked to personal happiness. Lifeway Research. https://research.lifeway.com/2019/02/11/research-finds-church-attendance-linked-to-personal-happiness/#:~:text=In%20analyzing%20survey%20data%20from,inactive%20members%20of%20religious%20groups.%E2%80%9D