For others

Looking out from one lighthouse to another.   Kathy photographs the newer lighthouse from the older one,  Cape Henry Virginia, April 2009.

Looking out from one lighthouse to another.
Kathy photographs the newer lighthouse from the older one, Cape Henry Virginia, April 2009.

“The dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness. A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.”
M.L. Steadman

I was surprised at the controversy that erupted when the private journals of Mother Teresa were made public, revealing that she suffered from depression and doubts.  Given the nature of her work and the sacrifices she made to continue it, I don’t know how she possibly could have avoided the periodic struggles that are almost inseparable from lifelong faith.

So often we look at those who are shining examples, and we assume it comes more easily for them than it would for us.  We think them more gifted, or resilient, or noble, or brave. “I could never do what you do,” we might say, intending it to be a compliment, not guessing that they may be silently thinking: Oh, yes you could if you had to. If you were willing.

In reality, those we see as heroes are probably not much different from the rest of us, except for their commitment to what they believe; the will to keep going no matter how their emotions may assault them.  In fact, their steadfast dedication probably means that they get far less encouragement than most of us get.  After all, they don’t seem to need it.

But everyone needs it.  We all need each other.  It may be impossible to be guided by our own lights, but we can see the beams from those of others.  Thus when we look outward for light in the darkness, we might consider the question of whether we have sufficient fuel to send forth even a small light ourselves.  Someone out there is watching for it.

One year ago today:

Bringing light


  1. HarryS

    I’ve been at this morning routine of devotional time, reading scriptures, prayer and meditation for a seemingly long time now and sometimes it feels kind of humdrum. It feels kind of like, ‘this doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere’. I personally need lots of reinforcement and encouragement lest I lose my way and I need to know the grand lesson of perseverance and I especially need to occasionally feel the love – the mysterious love!

    All of this is indeed a riddle and that may be how the wandering chosen people felt when they were headed for the promised land and indeed they knew where they were going for it was promised but it was so hot, sometimes the water was very scarce and the milk and honey was a very distant dim vision.

    Then along comes grace which is experienced in varying degrees by irregular people but for those who did it called for sharing and perhaps this is the mystery that is the solution of the grand riddle. Perhaps personally recognizing God working as was revealed to me in a fearless and thorough review of my life history including especially the present.

    If I don’t give it away, I can’t keep it!

    • Harry, it is a mystery and I think no matter our circumstances, we all tend to get into ruts and stop seeing what is right in front of us. One reason I’ve enjoyed dividing our time between two homes is that I never take either one for granted. I’m never quite ready to leave, and always glad to return to either place. Sometimes finding small ways to change up routines can help me stick with the discipline through the “dry” times. For example, taking a different route when I walk, or listening to different music or a different type book can be very refreshing. I do agree, though, that even when we feel nothing is happening, it is. People on weight loss programs tend to go through these same frustrating “plateau” times where everything seems stuck in the same place. I think you have it upon a big part of the solution when you say “If I don’t give it away, I can’t keep it!” That lesson applies to almost everything in life and I keep having to learn it again and again. It’s a mystery indeed, but we only keep what we are willing to give up, and when we give, it comes back to us tenfold. I really believe that.

  2. Good morning, Julia, and thank you for believing John 16:33.

    • Thank you, Susan, for believing it with me! I am so happy you are here. ❤

  3. Encouragement is so important especially for when others are struggling with things. It is one of the things that gets me through my worst moments. It is also vital to help us grow, because everyone has a gift to offer others…everyone.

    • I so agree! Sometimes the people who feel they have the least to give are actually those who are giving the most. I feel less alone when I realize that all of us, no matter our circumstances, have times when we need a kind word and a bit of compassionate attention. It’s amazing what people can survive when they have loving support, and how even the little things can get us down if we don’t have encouragement. Thanks for being here and sharing – it’s an encouragement to me!

      • Yes, I believe the encouragers are giving a lot more than they realize to others. If I ever leave any kind of legacy to others, I hope it will be that they were encouraged by me. 🙂 I am so thankful for all of the people who encourage me as well, including you, Julia! Thank you for your wonderful blog!

        • You’re welcome! Let’s keep working on the legacy of encouragement. It would be a wonderful thing for which to be remembered.

          • I agree! 🙂 Have a great day!

            • Thank you! You too – or maybe now I should say, have a great tomorrow! Thanks for being here. ❤

  4. Nice post, Julia. Thought provoking.
    Mother Teresa struggled mightily. Considering the conditions and circumstances under which she fulfilled her calling, emotions would have driven her from it. Yet through faith and the will she found the strength to bring much comfort, healing and hope to those near despair. So much so, that many joined and supported her efforts, extending her cause to many parts of the world.
    One suffering man, under her care, once asked: “Is Jesus like you?” Mother’s reply was: “No, I am like Him.” The man converted.

    • Alan, I have read many wonderful statements by and about Mother Teresa. She tended to speak simply but what she said carried great significance. Although I didn’t like the idea of her diaries being published by others — that what she intended to remain private was published for all the world to see — I do think that many struggling people felt comforted and consoled to know that she did such great things without feeling great inside much of the time. I think it helps us realize that humans are capable of rising above the sorrows and difficulties we all have in common.

  5. Every time I see a lighthouse, photo of one, puzzle of one — you get the idea– I think of you. One of the ways you have been an encouragement to me is that you freely verbalize to others your appreciation of their light, of their impact on your life. Being reserved and introverted, I have to prompt myself to express to others the gratitude I often feel for their friendship but don’t necessarily share. Thank you for being one of the lights in my life, Julia!

    • Thank you Kathy! I have such happy memories of the time we spent that day at the two lighthouses. I’m honored that you think of me when you see a lighthouse. You have certainly been a light in my life for many years now. Thanks for your kind words and encouragement!

  6. raynard

    Julia last time I checked” clark kent was still superman and didnt have” a multi personality disorder lol. He also had to eat lunch like the rest of us.. I digress.. be blessed

    • This comment reminds me of one of my favorite songs, “Superman” by Five for Fighting. Do you know it? “It’s not easy to be [him]” 🙂 Or anybody, for that matter.

  7. bobmielke

    I moved to Oregon 9 years ago. I’m from St. Louis and had never seen a lighthouse much less the Pacific Ocean before moving here. I’ve enjoyed traveling to 4-5 of the local ones in Oregon. That ocean is spectacular and I do believe we have some of the cleanest air in the country. Those skies are remarkably blue. 🙂

    • Bob, I think the beauty of the Pacific coast has no parallel. Lighthouses must have been especially crucial with all those rocky cliffs along the shores. We never made it to any of the Oregon lighthouses, but perhaps one day we will be able to visit them. The old song says “the bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle” but perhaps the one who wrote that song had never been to Oregon! 😀

  8. After someone has achieved the ‘impossible’ all that others see is the brilliance of their success. (I remember the reply you gave me once when I appreciated your courage.) We may even feel disheartened that we would never be able to do that only because we don’t get to see what they had been through to reach that point. Yes, little bit of encouragement may work wonders.

    • Bindu, I feel certain that Jeff and I could not have survived the past 30 years, let alone the past two, without the encouragement of others. I will always be grateful for those people who have been there with support when it was most needed. One thing I learned is that people’s lives look much different from the outside than from the inside. It has helped me to be motivated to encourage others, even those who don’t appear to need it. Everybody needs it! Thanks so much for being here and being an encouragement to us!

  9. LB

    The first thing I noticed about this post was the quote. My book group just read The Light Between Oceans. What a read!!! and a perfect quote for your post. Your words are wonderful, too.
    It’s interesting that people just assumed someone has incredible as Mother Theresa would never had a doubt, a down day, or a bad moment.
    It’s the same for “positive people” and “strong people” … except these people put precious on themselves to always be strong or always be positive.
    Expectations are tough

    • LB, expectations really are tough, aren’t they? And as you say, we often expect more from ourselves than we do from anyone else. As with so many other good things, it’s all too easy to overdo it. I do believe in reaching for the stars, but that’s not a one-time effort – perseverance is much more important than brilliant moments, I think. But to keep going we have to cut ourselves some slack now and then.

      I’m even more curious about that book now – I haven’t read it, but I’ll have to put it on my eternally increasing list of things to read. I became fascinated with lighthouse keepers when we lived in NorCal and I learned about the families who lived a very isolated existence on the Farallon Island lighthouse. At that time I had an ambition to write a children’s or YA novel about the children who lived there at the turn of the century. I had some favorable feedback from agent about the very simple beginnings of the story, but then life intervened (in the form of medical crises, what else) and that effort was abandoned. Never totally forgotten, though. I’m sure I would love that book. Its plot summary brings back some of the actual incidents I read about on Farallon.

      • LB

        Oh I hope you are able to get back to writing that story … I like your vision of it.
        The book was a unanimous “like” in my book group, although not without some interesting discussion and differences of opinion. Put it on that list … someday you’ll read it!

        • LB, it is definitely on my list! In fact I already looked it up at the library. Right now they have it in CD form. If they get it in downloadable audio format at the library (which they probably will soon) I’ll be on it! (I can “read” much more via audiobook since I listen while I walk and do chores.) I haven’t forgotten about the children of Farallon Island, and perhaps one day I’ll be able to revisit their story.

  10. Julia, we all really do need each other. I love the lyrics in the Randy Travis song, Point Of Light:
    “All it takes is a point of light
    A ray of hope in the darkest night
    If you see what’s wrong and you try to make it right
    You will be a point of light.”
    Thinking of y’all tonight. 🙂 Sheila

    • Thanks, Sheila! Though I’ve heard a lot about Randy Travis, I’m not familiar with his music, but that’s a lovely verse. I appreciate you being here and thinking of us!

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