Candles in the Windows
As plain Quakers, we are ever concerned about conservation and the careful use of resources. Although we do use electricity, we keep that use very minimal and judiciously avoid unnecessary waste. Being frugal and keeping a simple eye is an important part of our life and Christian testimony.

Years ago, we faced a small concern regarding frugality, simplicity and resourcefulness when we considered lighting our windows with small electric candles. Not intended for holiday decoration, the idea was to provide a friendly land mark to travelers in our area. Each candle used 4 watts of electricity. It was a small amount but every little bit adds up. We struggled with the issue and discussed it many times. Were we just wasting electricity for the sake of superficial decoration? Was putting 56 watts worth of electric candles in the windows a truly frugal practice; something that was actually needful? Would it manifest practical stewardship or demonstrate prideful waste?

The issue was debated at great length in our family and was given prayerful thought by all. Finally, we decided to give it a try and installed the candles. It was admittedly very pretty in a quaint Norman Rockwell kind of way. Our 2 story farmhouse seemed made for just such adornment. However, doubts still lingered about not only being wasteful, but now about being seen as pretentious as well. We decided to take them down. There was no real value in or justification for such seemingly superficial ornamentation. But in all of our consideration, we overlooked one thing, the value of Christian hospitality from a different perspective. God was about to teach us an important lesson.

The day we planned to take the candles down the skies became unexpectedly troubled and grey. Everyone had been assigned tasks in what was an overall farm clean-up day but a storm was brewing and a potentially large one at that. We took note of it, called all attention to it and made the usual preparations of setting aside water, refilling oil lamps, getting the poultry safely in their yard, herding the goats, sheep and horses into the barns and making sure all hatches were battened down. As the minutes passed, the skies became increasingly unstable in a dark, erie way. Being near Lake Huron we are used to not only fluctuating weather patterns, but sudden severe storm fronts as well. Storms here often include gale force winds and even unseasonal tornados are not altogether uncommon. Living somewhat on a hill, our viewing area is both panoramic and advantageous for watching the weather and we pay close attention to the skies at all times of the year.

We hurried and made good use of our time securing everything that needed it and setting aside supplies. Our Collies were herding the last strays into the barn when the storm struck. As the remaining stragglers ran in, the barn door was soundly shut and latched behind them. The winds picked up momentum and seemed to come from all directions. The last members of the family hurried indoors - dogs in tow - everyone together, every Collie accounted for! All creatures great and small were securely housed and we gratefully gathered around the wood stove to warm up feeling very blessed in the company of family, sheltered safely against the howling storm.

And how it stormed. The winds pounded with such force that at times it seemed the house shuddered. Sheets and sheets of rain whipped against the windows making it impossible to see out. Tree branches twisted and limbs broke. The relentless pounding of powerful gusts seemed to go on and on. We all sat quietly, some prayerfully, comforted by one anothers presence. If it began to hail, we were ready to head for the cellar and brace ourselves for a tornado.

Suddenly, there was loud desperate knocking on the door so startling that we jumped! Did we really hear it? Who on earth could be out in such a storm - and why?? Our door was opened to find 3 huddled, soaked, shivering, terrified persons clinging to one another, trying to stand against the wind, pleading to come in. We steadied and physically guided them hurriedly through the door without question. Once inside, we sat them near the wood stove while towels and warm blankets were quickly gathered and offered for warmth.

Finally, holding mugs of steaming cocoa, the mother and two daughters sobbed out their story. They were visitors to the area on a "mother/daughter" weekend drive to the country from a city several hours away. Their plan had been to do some sight seeing and find overnight lodging in a nearby town and then take a Sunday drive home. All had been well until the storm broke. They quickly found themselves not only lost for direction, but completely unable to see the road no matter how slowly they drove. Visibility was that bad. Disoriented and terribly frightened, they pulled over and stopped their car when they saw glimpses of the light of our home - the candles in the windows. Those candles seemed to signify a port of welcome and safety to them. They were so afraid of being alone in such a storm that they ventured out of their car and firmly holding hands, made their way against the wind and followed the lights, to our door.

We couldn't have been more moved and we thanked God for their safe arrival. Never had we experienced a blessing such as this and we were truly humbled by it. We also wondered at it. One of our family had been assigned the task of unplugging, removing and packing those candles earlier that morning. The job had been set aside in answer of the urgent call for all to assist with storm readiness.

That incident taught us something very important. Hospitality is a significant Christian obligation but not one that always has to be extended in a single intentional act. Without realizing it, hospitality had been manifested by offering the mere presence of light - all 56 watts of it, especially noticeable in an area such as ours.

All these years later those candles still burn bright. But now they fill another purpose as well. With our family grown and most of our children living lives of their own, those candles of light are now a guidepost and remain as a token of parental love and a beacon of hospitality and welcome always, especially if the journey of life becomes difficult. The candles in the windows light the way back home.

Our candles in the windows,
Shine softly, not too bright,
Illuminating comfort,
throughout each day and night.

We share this light with others,
That passersby may see,
A welcome sign, “no strangers here”,
Of Christian hospitality.

Blessings & Peace;
Quaker Anne

"Do not forget to entertain strangers,
for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."
Hebrews 13:2

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