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Let the Light Shine

For many years, my husband and I discussed attending a Christmas Eve candlelight service. He and I attended a few growing up or when we were married and didn’t yet have children. Once children came into the picture, the idea of attending a candlelight service sent me into a panic. These services don’t correlate well with the kids’ dinner and bedtime routines. The candlelight services hours force us to drag hungry or cranky kids into a church. Furthermore, to ask a very young child to sit quietly in a pew for an entire service, and prevent them from eating an unlit candle, tearing the paper shield, or touching the flame, is nearly impossible.

So, I don’t know what we were thinking a few years ago when my husband suggested we finally try attending the Christmas Eve service. We were living in South Korea and just had our third child the month before. The Osan Air Base chaplain held the service in the small chapel on the installation. Maybe it was reassuring that we lived so close, and if things went sour, we could get home fast. Maybe it was the comfort that we would know many of the individuals in attendance, and they would understand if our kids didn’t cooperate.

Or maybe it was the false confidence that, now that we had three children, we could conquer this task.

The night before, we were at our regular off-post church and happened to mention to a few of our friends that we’d be attending this particular candlelight service the next evening. Our sweet Korean friend, Grace, an attender of our church, overheard us talking about this and became excited. She explained how she had never been to a candlelight service, and she thought it sounded so wonderful. I hesitated before I offered, because I knew what this would entail, but I told her if she wanted to join us, I would make sure to get her there. And so, it was arranged!

Grace and me.

Securing a visitor onto a military installation in South Korea takes a bit of extra time and inconvenience (though I completely respect the process and the security it provides us all). I knew we would have to give our children an early dinner, rush to get them ready, and try to get our infant taken care of faster so we could connect with Grace on time. We somehow accomplished this promptly and drove to the gate. My husband dropped me off so I could walk outside of the gate and connect with Grace. He drove to the chapel to wait for me, as we did not have an extra seat in our car for our friend. Once I connected with her, I went through the process to sign her onto base, and we grabbed a taxi. We finally made it to the chapel on time! I helped my husband unload our kids, and we found a pew for all of us about halfway up the aisle.

Not too far into the service, the baby grew agitated, and I had to take her to the cry room. I decided to take our restless 2-year-old with me as well. My husband stayed with our 4-year-old and Grace. As I entered the crowded cry room, a gentleman sitting with his wife and young daughter dashed out so I could have his seat and a bit more privacy to nurse the baby. I thanked them and squished in the corner to feed my infant while trying to keep a hand on my busy 2-year-old. She wasn’t interested in the crayons and coloring books or toys. I longingly looked through the cry room window into the sanctuary whishing I could be there singing those beautiful Christmas hymns with everyone else. I grew frustrated with my fussy baby and the fact that others in the cry room were now disturbed by her noise. My 2-year-old kept trying to get away from me, and I feared the added distraction we were causing was too much for the others in the room.

Suddenly, my 2-year old escaped my hold while I still had my baby under the nursing cover. I panicked as she headed toward the cry room door into the sanctuary. All I could picture was her running down the aisle shouting for Daddy, ruining the entire candlelight service, and embarrassing us. Before that could happen, I jumped out of my seat, balancing my nursing baby with one hand, while holding my cover on with the other. All I had left was my leg, and I used it to scoop my 2-year-old back to me. It tripped her a bit as she started collapsing into a meltdown anyway.

Yeah, I know, it was not my best mom moment. The baby, my 2-year-old, and I all ended up on the floor, trying to get ourselves together. I could feel the stares behind me as the room froze, and I felt flushed. Most times, when us moms find ourselves in curious moments like this, another sympathetic mom gets up and offers to help. I almost waited for it—for someone to block the door so my 2-year-old wouldn’t run out, for someone to gently take her hand and guide her back to me, or maybe for someone to chuckle a bit in complete understanding. Maybe for some reason we shocked them, and they froze. Maybe they thought my moves were so amazingly cool and swift that they didn’t know how they could top that (ha!). Whatever the case, I somehow got the 2-year-old to settle down, the baby to go back to sleep, and all was well in the land of the crowded candlelight service cry room.

I still wanted to be with Grace and experience her first candlelight service with her as I again looked out the cry room window. But, I also kind of wanted to go home. I was irritated we ever thought this would be a good idea with kids, and sitting in the cry room didn’t allow me to get much out of it.

However, this night wasn’t about me. As I sat there, my phone buzzed with a text from my husband. He had taken a picture of Grace beaming as she stood proudly with the congregation, holding her candle high. It was a beautiful photo that captured a magical moment.

Grace proudly holding her candle high at her first Christmas Eve candlelight service.

When the service concluded, Grace’s smile never faded from her face. She thanked us numerous times for bringing her and talked about how much she enjoyed herself. She helped us take some family snapshots surrounded by the chapel’s Christmas decorations, and there was lively chatter all around us.

We are often reminded about the true meaning of Christmas through the small things in life. Undeniably, Christmas isn’t about us at all. My family celebrates to remember the birth of a baby who saved us. We are fortunate that we can rest in that joy and the peace it brings us all year ‘round. If you are like us, attending services and events with children is difficult. But the little blessings we get out of it is better than nothing, and the example we are to our children is what is most important.

There may be moments we don’t feel encouraged or blessed, but Grace reminded me that there is a bigger picture to consider. More joy comes out of blessing others than worrying about ourselves. May you, too, be inspired to soak in the sights, the sounds, the smells, the loved ones we still have around us, and find ways to serve and bless them.

Let’s let the light shine through us this Christmas.

 

You may also enjoy Welcomed Ruckus and Christmas in a Minor Key.

Author

  • LaVaughn Ricci

    LaVaughn Ricci is originally from Michigan and met her husband while they were both students at Cedarville University in Ohio. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts, and she also studied bible, theatre, and American Sign Language. She is certified in Teaching English as a Second Language. LaVaughn’s husband commissioned in the U.S. Army in 2004, and the two of them overcame a long-distance relationship through five different duty stations and two deployments before they finally married in 2011. Since then, they have been stationed at seven different installations together, have had four incredible children (two born overseas), and have travelled a decent fraction of the world. LaVaughn loves Jesus Christ, being an Army wife, adventuring with her family, musicals, chocolate, chai lattés, and a quality cup of decaf. She is a homeschooling mom who volunteers in SFRGs, PWOCs, and enjoys helping service members and their families whenever and however possible. She would enjoy connecting with you on Facebook.

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Supporting Our Military Children

Supporting Our Military Children

One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

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