the Betsy Candle

I’m preparing for a women’s retreat today.

It’s a rainy, chilly autumn day and so my mind has wandered from the task at hand to a snowy, chilly winter day… years ago.

My first retreat.

The first retreat I ever planned and led was in February 2006, and it was truly a labor of LOVE.

LOVE for the God who created me with gifts and called me to share them with others.

LOVE for the mountains and quiet time and camp.

LOVE for the women of my church home, whom I desperately missed, having moved away months before.

With only weeks to go before gathering my girlfriends together at camp, one of them was taken away.

Suddenly.

Unexpectedly.

Violently.

Tragically.

Still reeling from this inconceivable death-blow, we gathered as planned. 25 women arrived with broken hearts and lots and LOTS of emotional baggage.

We were…

ANGRY at God for allowing such horrific events to take place.

SORROWFUL for the loss of one who was wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend.

CONFUSED by an entire range of never-before-experienced emotions toward the one who took her life – our friend, too – her husband.

Sitting in a circle of chairs that Friday night, our faces betrayed the true state of our hearts. One chair was empty and it should NOT HAVE BEEN.

Betsy should have been here.

In the midst of us was a candle – we called it the Betsy Candle – and we lit it up not only with flame, but with the flames of our unanswered questions and unnamed emotions. Intended to represent what her presence in our lives had meant to us, the candle burned quietly among us all weekend.

A reminder of a woman of beauty.

A reminder of the unpredictable nature of this life.

And a reminder to us that sometimes there are no words to express the brokenness we feel inside.

The Betsy Candle was unobtrusive that weekend – it didn’t demand our attention.

Instead, its sweet fragrance drifted from room to room, bringing a smile to one of us here and surprising with a happy memory another one over there.

In quiet ways, the flickering flame of the Betsy Candle brought to life the words of Lamentations 3:22, 23, 26, & 32:

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

The Betsy Candle is long gone. I continued to burn it in my home for months after that first retreat, but the lesson is more clear today than ever before: Sometimes all we can do is to quietly wait.

Without words.

Without understanding.

Without a clue as to what to do next.

But WITH the compassionate, loving and faithful God whose presence burns steadily within us, and whose salvation is absolutely worth the wait.

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