Jim and Karla Buchanan don’t know how to be happy about the holidays right now.
All of the windows in their home are boarded up, and the floors are gone.
Their house is too much of a mess to even put their Christmas tree up.
They live in Cedar Crest subdivision, and their home was severely damaged in the Nov. 17 tornado.
The homes on one side of them were destroyed. The homes on the other, untouched.
People tell them they’re lucky. It could have been worse.
They know they should feel that way. But all they feel is stress and sadness.
Wednesday, the couple sought refuge inside South Side Christian Church in Kokomo.
“We came here for comfort,” Karla said. “I found it.”
The Rev. Rebecca Sundquist spent the evening ministering to a small group of people with her annual Blue Christmas service.
She tried to give hope to the 10 people who came to her for help.
The church was already bathed in the soft glow of candlelight, but the reverend lit four more Wednesday night – the advent candles.
As she lit each one, she delivered a message for those there. They responded with a prayer of their own.
The first is a single light that the deepest darkness cannot conquer. It’s small and insignificant but a sign of hope, she preached.
One candle burned brightly.
The second is just as insignificant, but it brings more hope and extra light, Sundquist told the hurting.
Another glowed in the darkness.
The group responded.
“Let it speak to us of the lights of companionship – of our family and of our friends – of strangers and kindnesses found in unexpected places that restored our hope in human nature.”
The third candle recognizes those long nights of watching and waiting of sleeplessness and anxiousness when dawn seemed to ebb further from the horizon and hope seemed gone.
A third glimmer of light joined the others.
The last advent candle signifies the immediacy of Christmas.
“A time of peace and joy we may not ourselves feel able to welcome as our spirits dwell in dark and wintriness,” Sundquist said.
And the four candles lit the sanctuary.
As they burned, Sundquist said a prayer.
It’s a season, she said, when most can’t find enough hours in the day to check everything off their list. There are cards to be mailed and presents to be wrapped.
But those who are grieving feel they have nothing but time.
“We have all the time in the world to remember the loss that has stolen the joy of the season, to grieve over a job, a dream, a loved one we have lost, to sit in the shadows of our homes, too weary to turn on the lights,” she said. “Our fear of the future; our remembrance of the past; our pain which is difficult to bear and harder to release; our emptiness which cannot be filled with platitudes; our hands which cannot hold the ones we wish to embrace all make this a season of long nights.”
She asked God to be with that hurting group in their loneliness, longing, loss and lives.
Then, she gave each person there the chance to light a candle to remember a loved one they lost or to hand over a burden that’s weighing them down.
One by one they added their own light to the church – some crying and holding onto each other as they did.
Then they quietly sang “Silent Night” as the service came to an end.
Karla knows that the Blue Christmas was initially designed for those who have experienced death, but she needed it as much as anyone else this year.
She said she left with a feeling of peace. She’s hoping she can still find that peace when Christmas day comes.
“Christmas is going to be hard this year,” she said.
People in the community have been kind to them, Jim said. So many volunteers have stepped up to help them piece their life back together.
Every time they step out of their house, though, they’re reminded of what the tornado did. Everywhere you look, there’s devastation, he said.
And it’s that devastation that keeps pulling them back into sadness.
“It’s still hard, even in the middle of the blessings, to see the light,” Karla said.
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @LindseyZiliak.