candle comfort and joy

A Flicker of Hope

One dark, early morning last week I stood silently at my bathroom window and listened to the croak of one last frog in our pond, the same kind of frog who is the first to wake up in the spring. It seems like so long ago, but I remember when Matt found me one early spring evening and pulled me outside to listen. I stood quietly in the darkness. I waited.

And then I heard it: the croak of a frog, the harbinger of spring. The frogs had woken up from their winter slumber, and I felt a pang of hope.

As I stood at my dark window last week and heard the croak of this lone frog, the portent of winter, I felt a pang of melancholy.

The frog sounds of March croak a hello.
The frog sounds of November croak a goodbye.

And so the seasons go.
The light and warmth of summer drift away and the dark and cold settle in.

I often struggle during wintertime. The short, gray days drain the light right out of me. The cold seeps into my bones and soul and leave both chilled. I resent coats and scarves and gloves and stocking caps. Bitter winds make me a little bitter, too.

This year I am trying to approach this season with lighter eyes.
My shoulder is pressed against the door of despair, my feet are rooted to the ground, and I’m determined to keep it shut and stay on this side of that door.

Honestly (and oh-so-unfortunately), I don’t remember much of summer.
I was going through a difficult time and was also insanely busy and my memories of summer’s long, hazy, bright days have evaporated like hot rain on hot pavement.

The blur of the summer, though, has now settled into the sharper lines of fall. In the morning, bare trees sharply silhouette a glowing sky.

At night, tiny stars prick and shine through impossible darkness.

And so the seasons go.
And just as this season has settled into a sharper focus, so have I.

My soul is starving for some rest, some stillness, and I have been trying to listen to what she needs. A week or so ago I read these words from Isaiah:

Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
And you would not, but you said,
“No! We will speed upon our horses!”
(Isaiah 30:15-16, RSV)



have been speeding – body, soul, mind, and spirit.
I need to rest.

So, I have been trying to slow down.
Slowing down is difficult for me. Often, as my body is doing one thing, my mind has already moved onto the next thing. I’m horrible at just…being. But I have been trying to be, and in being, I have felt something akin to hope.


Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a word that means “coming” or “arrival,” and it is a time of hopeful waiting. This morning at church we lit the candle of Hope. Hope is, I think, the antidote to despair. We can’t see its light, though, until we have also been blinded by darkness. As I wrote in last year’s Advent devotional, “It’s excruciatingly hard to see God’s reflection in the shards of this broken world. […] Sometimes, we are afraid to admit our despair […]. Yet we cannot truly be present enough to believe in hope unless we also sit in the darkness.”

Both sitting in darkness and being present in hope require…being.
Over the past year I tried running from darkness, and that didn’t work so well. I tried pretending it didn’t exist. That didn’t work so well, either. I finally sat in the darkness, and as my eyes adjusted to the dark, pinpricks of light shone through. Eventually, those pinpricks tugged and tore through that impossible darkness bit by bit.

I am not, by any means, sitting on any sort of sunny mountaintop awash in light. It’s the nature of my personality – and perhaps just the nature of life itself – to walk in the shadows. However, I also feel hope. And I see some light.

Yes, I’m sad to hear the last frog croak his sleepy lullaby as he drifts down to his dark, muddy bed at the bottom of my pond. That pang of melancholy I feel as he croaks his goodbye is very real. However, during this dark season, I am also hopeful for the gleam of light that is sparked by contemplation and quietness.

It’s a dark, cold night in Missouri. But I am curled up on my couch in the living room, which is lit by the glow of a fireplace…

…the flicker of a candle

the twinkle of a Christmas tree…

and a ray of Hope.

As we begin this Advent season, may we deeply breathe in…then out. May we sit in the darkness, be in the stillness. May we watch and wait for a flicker of light, a gleam of hope.

May we experience

And so the seasons go….




  1. Ciaran Leonard on December 2, 2019 at 9:23 am

    Very comforting words reflecting our own passage through the year together with the natural passage of time. Today I celebrate Advent with the return of my wife home from hospital after three weeks much of it spent in ICU. – it’s a passage from our winter to summer in the southern hemisphere.

    • Jill Clingan on December 2, 2019 at 1:27 pm

      I am so glad that your wife is home from the ICU. This must have been such a difficult few weeks for you and your family. I hope you have a lovely and meaningful Advent, Ciaran.

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