Light: How We Need It, How to Shine

Light. It does something good inside us.

Our first year in Costa Rica was lit with cold, white CFLs. In language school fashion, we chose a house to rent over email from back in the states. A handful of snapshots was all we had to determine the best of our three options. We didn’t love the peeling paint or dim interior, but luxuries like a water tank, kitchen cabinets, and a small balcony made life brighter. The cost of electricity and year-round 6 o’clock sunset put energy saving bulbs in high demand. The place came equipped, but low voltage lumens gave our nest a parking lot ambiance. It felt weird. I chalked up my blues to stress and gave thanks for the manageable power bill.

Morning and evening, I studied on the couch next to a small lamp left behind by another family. The only incandescence in the house, it was first on as I woke and last off at bedtime. I liked the way it changed the feel of the room. Nearly tipping over one morning, I realized I was leaning towards the warm glow, soaking it in. I could feel the pull as a physical force. It was then I understood the light was changing the feel of my heart, too.

Learning to do life in a new country was a big part of the heaviness I carried that year. Transition is a season of magnified highs and lows. Another genuine weight was the simple lack of light. Understanding this helped me get intentional; I sat by my lamp and sought out sunshine whenever rainy season let it through. When we moved near the children’s home, we decked out every fixture in warm-hued bulbs. Somehow the golden cast made for instant home.

Light changes things.


Two years back, a wise friend came down to teach some basics of Common Sense Parenting. The concept of giving far more positive reinforcements than negative widened my eyes. Too often I critiqued the imperfect and let my silence reward the well done. Encouragement is another form of light, drawing us towards better choices and relationships. We don’t stop to think about it, it’s like emotional gravity. I started paying attention: when do I shine cool and distant rather than love’s full spectrum?

I tried it out. Jangling a snack pack of M&M’s, I explained what I was looking for from my kids on the most basic level. One sweet tidbit for each follow-through. Thank you for looking me in the eyes. Thank you for answering me. Thank you for checking back to tell me you finished the task. A smile, a kind word, a high five, a hug, the taste of chocolate—I saw it change the atmosphere in our house. One morning full of positives put new shine in my children’s eyes.

Whether we realize it or not, we all lean to the light. Wherever love and grace are, there we are drawn. Sparkles on waves, a friend’s praise, these things touch our hearts for a reason. The miracle happens when we understand we don’t just hunger for brightness, we can shine it as well. Regardless of the weather or utility budget, light is available.

A soft knock shot me out of bed the other night. My son stood in the dark gasping for breath, fighting a cold in his lungs. We fumbled our way down the stairs and counted drops of medicine into the nebulizer. My brain as foggy as the mist helping him, I pulled him close to wait out the treatment, then smiled. Over the hum, I read him Mr. Putter and Tabby’s adventures to pick the pears and fly the plane. By a small lamp in the predawn, we made our own sunshine.



The way I see it, we can all use more light in our lives. What are some simple ways to shine?

Practice gratitude. There is always something to be thankful for: blue sky, my family, breath in my lungs, this moment to live. I’m the last person to whitewash life’s hard stuff. Struggles and pain are real, but so is our Heavenly Father who delights in us. If we can lift our eyes from the path for bit, there are all kinds of good things to see.

Be kind. A little warmth goes a long way to healing a situation. Things may not look the way we’d like, but Mary Poppins was onto something.

Go to the source. There is always Jesus to run to. Let’s lace up our shoes. A worship song, a verse that comes alive, the still small voice is waiting to speak with us.

When we are filled with his light, illumination comes naturally. When we are secure in his love, we change the feel of the room.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 MSG

What are some ways you have seen light change your perspective?  Are there places you want your life to be brighter?

Plant in Window Photo by Olu Eletu, & Beam on Deck Photo by Andrew Pons on Unsplash