A Light the Darkness Cannot Put Out: A Writer's Alternative to a Birthday Card
How Our Stories Intertwined in the Beginning
This story is more than a story. It is a thank-you. It is an encouragement. It is a testimony and a tribute. It is a writer's alternative to a birthday card. It is true and contains truth. The whole story is much too long and complex for the timeframe that has been given to me to write today, so this is just a sliver—a glance—a peer into some of the story's most meaningful moments.
It starts when I was fifteen. Even as a teenager, I recognized the deeper hues in the fabric of life. I knew my parents were barely able to pay the bills month to month. I knew that they gave me all they could, but it was not enough for what I wanted to accomplish. I knew that I needed to work hard to reach my goals. And as a sophomore in high school, one of my goals was to have money to go out to eat with my friends, go to the movies, and buy some outfits. And so the story begins.
It was my second job. My first job was working at McDonalds at the age of fourteen. I didn't like the grease. So I found Gromers. Gromers was a quaint grocery store run by the local Gromer family. I was a bagger—and a good bagger, at that. I organized the food into categories and bagged them accordingly. I made sure to greet the customers with a warm smile. I even double-bagged the groceries for the older customers.
It didn't take long for me to come to the conclusion that Amy was one of my favorite cashiers to bag for. There was something about her that just made life "fun." She was kind, bubbly, and somehow turned what could be a boring, repetitive job into days filled with retail adventure and never-ending laughter. I can't remember exactly how she did it, only that she did. In fact, there were often deals made in the break room amongst the baggers to ensure that everyone got a chance to bag for Amy.
A year or two later, Amy ended up at my church with her new husband. I can't remember if I invited them or they happened to just show up one day, but everyone noticed their arrival. It was as if the atmosphere changed just by Amy's presence in a place. Things were just lighter and brighter when she was around. People felt loved and accepted by her.
We both had an interest in working with the youth, so it didn't take long before we ended up volunteering in the junior high ministry together. There were many days filled with fun, laughter, and brightness.
Time kept moving forward and Amy had a handsome son. Time continued to advance and she had a beautiful daughter. The light kept shining. But one day—darkness came to put out the light.
The Day the Darkness Endeavored to Extinguish the Light
The date was July 5, 2001. Amy woke up much earlier than usual and decided to stay awake and spend time with her husband as he got ready for work. She smiled as she thought about the time the family had spent together the previous day. She kissed her husband goodbye as he left for work that morning. She didn't know that would be the last time she would see him alive. She did not know that later in the day she would receive a phone call that all wives dread. She did not know that a 20-foot pile of bricks would topple over, crushing her husband beneath them. That was the day that her husband entered into the light of the eternal bliss of heaven. That was also the day that a great darkness descended upon Amy and tried to extinguish the light within.
It was dark. It was silent. And then there was a scream. A wail. Noises that Amy did not know were inside of her came out. She knew that life would never be the same again. And it wasn't.
Don't stop reading—I promise you that joy triumphs over sorrow in this story. There are many stories within this story and perhaps one day I shall tell these tales, but today I am telling only a part of one story, so I must move on.
In the midst of the sorrow, anger, and confusion, there was a man, sent by God, to bring light into the darkness. He was a local pastor and had heard about the devastating news of Amy's loss. He met her in the parking lot of the hospital. Perhaps he knew what he carried—perhaps he didn't. But when he laid his hand on her shoulder, a jolt of warm electricity and a stream of supernatural peace filled her from the inside out. The light within her which only moments ago was barely a flicker, received a refreshing wind of hope and strength, and the dim flame grew a little bit brighter. She was so thankful for this touch from God. She did not know that this was only a taste of what He had in store for her.
Not Just a Widow
Fast forward a few years, and you see a widow who decided not to be defined by her loss. I don't mean to minimize the process that she had to go through (and is still going through) on the journey towards full healing, for the valleys that she walked through were indeed difficult. But she kept walking, one step at a time. And there were many times filled with sorrow and tears—but still, she kept going. She emerged from the shadows of the valleys of death and entered into the life-giving sunshine of the mountain tops. After the tears always came the smiles. After the sorrow always came joy. Yes, she was a widow. But she was also a daughter, a sister, a mother, an employee, and a friend.
She journeyed through valleys and mountains and valleys and mountains and grew stronger with each step. Her light grew exceedingly and it did not take long before she was again displacing the darkness with her glow. She loved others. Where sorrow had dug a hole deep within her heart, rivers of living water filled it up. She gave out of a deep place of empathy, compassion, and love. Instead of choosing to be bitter for what she did not have, she chose to be thankful for what she did have.
Still the dark ones came and tried to squash her light. There were financial difficulties, homes lost, car accidents, and unexpected health issues, just to name a few. But through it all, she knew that God would provide. Though she experienced the ups and downs of the difficult circumstances, she always emerged with a deeper understanding of true joy and vibrant faith. Jesus was, to her, more than a nice guy, a good teacher, or an interesting concept. He had become the very source of her life. Her best friend, her counselor, her provider, her companion, her guide, and her husband.
One Example Among Many of the Triumph of the Light
I can't summarize this section of the story without giving at least one, detailed example. About a year ago, Amy was going through more of a valley phase than a mountain-top phase. She was feeling lonely and working at a job that was not her ideal profession. She felt like the darkness was relentlessly harassing her. Frustrated and wearied by the struggle, she spoke out these words: "Fine, just go ahead and have your way with me and get it over with." That was all the enemy needed—he quickly responded to the invitation and immediately Amy collapsed on the ground. She was exhibiting symptoms of paralysis, numbness, confusion, and an inability to speak clearly. The ambulance was called and she was rushed to the ER. After running several tests, the doctors just weren't sure what was wrong. She was released from the hospital and days later, the same thing happened again. This time she was seen by a different kind of specialist. Again, she was released with no clear medical explanations for her condition. When Amy showed up in the ER again, a few days later, I just knew that the root of her condition was completely spiritual. The doctors couldn't find a physical cause because they were unable to see the unseen. I prayed and asked God for wisdom and He showed me exactly what to do. I went to the hospital and told Amy that God would heal her, though it would come in the form of a seed and would need to be nurtured into full maturity and fruition. I prayed over her and in the name of Jesus Christ, forbid the evil spirits from manifesting and harming her. Over the next few weeks, Amy and I spent several hours together in prayer. God revealed how through the trauma which Amy had experienced; various types of fears entered in and planted themselves within. It was not a conscious fear that she experienced on a daily basis, but a subconscious fear that dwelt far beneath the surface. With God's guidance, we were able to identify the specific fears and when they entered. God gave us the wisdom and the tools to know how to come out of agreement with the fears and to send them away. The light of God shone brightly and no shadows could remain. Amy was willing to say "yes" to the skilled hands of the surgeon known as Jesus. She emerged from the scalpel of God's truth and grace with a newfound joy, strength, freedom, and peace. No more symptoms—no more attacks—only confused doctors that wondered what had happened.
An Overflowing Fountain of Light
Amy did not keep the light to herself. She shares that light with everyone she knows, everywhere she goes. She prays for people and sees them healed. She speaks with Divine love and revelation and sees hearts healed and lives restored. She gives freely and does not expect anything in return. She encourages unceasingly and loves unconditionally. She overflows with the love, power, and presence of God and wherever she goes, light spills forth and darkness flees. I would need many days and thousands of words to tell about just how amazing this woman of God really is.
But for now I'll say that I am honored to call her my best friend. I am privileged to call her my sister in Christ. I am inspired by her love for God and others and the way she lives selflessly, always giving to others.
Happy Birthday—Joyful Life!
Happy 40th birthday, Amy! Though this number may tell you "You are old now," the truth is you are very young. After all, heaven will be celebrating you for eternity! Though you've come so far and your light shines so brightly, I feel that you've only just begun. God has even more in store for you and your family, for with a heart that says "yes" to God, how can He say "no" to blessing you?!? Your story is a testimony of God's goodness. Your faith is medicine to the soul. Your heart is life-giving to those in pain and your light shall dispel the darkness in the lives of many more in the years to come. Your Father in heaven smiles upon you with delight and this temporary darkness upon the earth shall never, ever, extinguish or dampen your light. I look forward to the future with excitement and anticipation, as I know that your life is a legacy that will touch many in the generations to come. Happy birthday—Joyful life.