Anna's Candles: Coming Home!


I know that I have life

only insofar as I have love.

 

I have no love

except it come from Thee.

 

Help me, please, to carry

this candle against the wind. 

-      Wendell Berry, “I”, Leavings P. 33

 

Anna pulled the minivan into the gravel drive that ran along the back of the house. Stones crunched hard under rubber tires. Placing the vehicle into park she glanced at Thomas sleeping soundly in his car seat. This enigmatic soul she birthed four years ago was a gentle balm. The road had been harsh, made rocky under the weight of selfish choices. Yet, God continued to fan embers, stirring Anna’s heart to His. She knew His purpose for her life was lasting.

The chill air caught her breath in frosted plumes of smoke. It sent a shiver running across her neck and down her spine. She quickly exited the vehicle shutting her door quietly. She had just begun to pull packages and luggage from the open trunk when Papa came out to greet her.

“Hello little one,” he hugged her warm; stubble prickling the side of her cheek. “Did you have a good drive?”

“The traffic wasn’t too bad. Thomas slept most of the way. It is good to see you Papa.”

“Let me get those bags, you bring Thomas in.”

The house was warm - burning frozen fingers and toes. Anna had slung Thomas over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She deposited his limp frame onto the couch sheltering him with the worn blue blanket Mama used to wrap her in.

Mama had been gone a little over a year. This would be the second Christmas without her gentle presence. Anna closed her eyes wiping shed tears with the back of her hand. The pain of losing Mama was more than she could bear at times. Through all the trials Anna faced Mama was a constant strength. She quietly and lovingly showed Anna God’s love.

Anna found Papa in the kitchen. He donned one of Mama’s old aprons. His weathered hand basted the turkey tucked snuggly in the tiny oven. The aromatics of roasted turkey filled the kitchen. Anna perched herself atop a kitchen chair. Her hands played lazily with the laced fringe of Mama’s handmade table cloth – a tiny cherry pattern faded pink with numbered washings.

She enjoyed the relationship her and Papa had. They did not need to invade the compatible space with conversation. Each other nestled close by presence alone.

Papa squeezed the large bird back into its confined space to continue cooking. Wiping his hands on Mama’s apron he turned to face his daughter. She was beautiful. Long blonde curls pulled in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. Tiny tendrils framed her angelic features. She looked tired but healthy. Hers had been a road fraught with too much grief. He did not wish this for his beloved child. Yet, he knew God had not left either her side or his. The pain of losing Mama was fresh. At times the unbearable loneliness filled the home in an oppressive fog. He clung to Jesus in these moments, seeking His comforting reassurance when all else seemed to fail.

“We can visit Mama’s grave tomorrow if you want my sweet?”

“That would be good Papa. I have missed you. Thomas has been so looking forward to visiting his Pop!”

“I have missed you too daughter. How is work?

“Things are busy. Editing even a small paper can be a bit daunting, but it is well worth the effort. I enjoy the work.”

“Have you heard more from Bryan?”

“He writes from time to time to check on Thomas, but he does not wish to be a part of our lives.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Papa, I’m sorry! I’m sorry for what I put you and Mama through. I am sorry that I have caused you worry and heartache. This was not my plan.”

“Sweet child, you are forgiven. More than that, Thomas is a blessed gift from God. He is a miracle and an artful lesson in mercy. Do not carry these burdens of brokenness. Jesus has seen to make all things new! He has made you new Anna. Your life is a gift my child. Satan would wish you to see otherwise.”

Tears streamed down his face. The truth of what he said cut Anna to the quick. A small stab of release unloosed the dam and sobs escaped unbidden. Papa wrapped his sure arms around his child nestling her head in the crook of his chin. He rocked her, humming softly, the way Mama used to do. He held her until the last spasm racked her body. The pain a lifted weight.

She turned from his embrace, wiping bleary eyes. On the dining room table sat an advent wreath with long tapered candles.

“Papa, you haven’t done advent in years?”

Papa chuckled, “Advent will always be a part of me Anna, but I thought it would be nice to introduce Thomas to the tradition of lighting the candles.”

“He will love that.”

“You were his age when you first learned the tradition. Do you remember Anna?”

“Princess,” she whispered. The Cocker Spaniel had long left this earth. She had loved that dog with great and wondrous affection. The sentiment of hope, peace, joy, & love had never left her heart. The promises of God were not stagnant. They were moving, breathing, living things. Embers turned to flame in her heart. God’s forgiveness was fortifying. She knew that He had brought her home.

Papa saw the wave of emotion wash over Anna’s face. He had worn a raw spot on the carpet near his bed from years of prayers for his only child. His heart beat fast as he recalled the moment Mary had told him he was to be a Father. The joy had only expounded from that moment.

“Yes, Princess, she was such a lovely dog.”

“She was Papa. She was.”

Anna chose her next words carefully, “Papa, how do you trust God? I mean, how do you live with the ache of losing Mama?”

“The pain is great Anna. God knew trusting him would be difficult for us. He has big enough shoulders to carry our doubt. He is also unwaveringly faithful. The pain of losing Mama will always be great for me Anna. Yet, the light of Christ’s love pushes the dark away. He has proven to be my great comfort. He has provided me great joy in being your ‘Papa’ and Thomas’s ‘Pop’. There is peace in knowing He has the control. A great hope in the promise of having a home with Him.”

“I love you Papa!”

“I love you too little one,” he whispered as he ruffled her hair.

A deep sigh fell from Anna’s lips, “I sure do love Jesus, Papa.”

“Me too Anna, me too.”

Thomas’s voice carried across the house, “Hey! Where is everybody?”

A moment later, “Pop, will you take me sledding?”

Papa let out a belly laugh, walking from the kitchen to toss his grandson in his arms and wrestle him with kisses and hugs.

Anna’s eyes surveyed the candles of the advent wreath. The promise of what was to come filled her with a serenity that she thought had been long lost.

 

46 And Mary said:
‘My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.’
                                                              - Luke 1: 46-55 NIVUK
 

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