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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cigarette Butts and Flashes of Light and Realization

Driving home this evening with my daughter, we passed a home in our neighborhood that is under renovation. In the darkness, the only light came from next to one of the trucks. A small, orange circle. The butt of a glowing cigarette. Under normal circumstances, the ember would go unnoticed. But because everything around it was dark, I could see it from meters away. This got me thinking about how not only our experiences affect our perception, but so does our surroundings. Regardless of where we've come from, been through, known, or done, we are sometimes slaves to our surroundings. When my family moved to Pennsylvania seven years ago from South Florida, it was a seismic shift in perspective. In a good way. Just as when I return home to Alabama to visit my parents, my perspective again shifts--even if only temporarily. In these changes, new things are brought to the forefront. Moving to Pennsylvania in October meant abandoning shorts for jeans, but also allowed us to embrace the changing of the leaves. Our children's first real snowfall. And the bite of winter that forces you to snuggle under a blanket in front of a fire with those you love.

The glowing cigarette butt also made me realize that sometimes light can only be seen in darkness. Some say that darkness is the absence of light, but sometimes it is light's stage. The medium through which the smallest amount can shine. One of my favorite Tenth Avenue North songs talks about healing your brokenness. They sing, "Come to where you're broken within, the light meets the dark." The shroud of darkness can sometimes illuminate a small light you would have otherwise not seen. The beauty of a child's smile is magnified when your heart is breaking. The warmth of your four-legged best friend on your lap underneath a blanket is most appreciated when it's cold. A glass of water is truly appreciated only when you're so thirsty you slurp down the entire thing--or you live in Kenya where the cleanest water source is miles away. A smile. A sleeping dog. A glass of water. Simple things that cause major shifts against the background of darkness.

In seeking publication and chasing this dream of mine for "The Beauty of Grace," I had a "cigarette butt" moment this weekend. A family friend had passed along the manuscript for "Grace" to a colleague who used to work in the publishing industry. Not only did she agree to read "Grace," she kept reading! She complimented my writing and the potential success of it. Months ago, when my number one goal was paper, I would have devoured this. "Can I contact her?" "Can I pick her brain for advice on approaching the industry?" And I just might still reach out to her. But this weekend, when my friend, Laura, was sharing these thoughts with me, I simply smiled and said, "She liked it? Wow." I completed "Grace" over a year ago and have begun to feel as though it's fallen into a black hole--never to be seen from again. Then I heard these simple words and my hope was re-ignited. Not for paper, but just that when I share "Grace" with people, it will mean enough to them to reach back.

Let's not wait for the darkness to appreciate the little glowing lights around us.

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