What do you do when all around life looks dark – not just because the days are growing shorter but because your hopes are? This time last year I was driving four hours each way between my mother’s house in Connecticut and my house in Maine, my 18-month-old son buckled in back while a dear friend and my mother-in-law helped my husband care for our four older children.

By nature, I find I am afraid of the dark, a now-grown child still jumping at shadows – not the ones that linger at night in the corner of my room, but the ones that linger in the corners of my mind. And when you are caring for children and an ill parent, life can feel downright gloomy.

Yet despite the overwhelmingly bleak diagnosis of stage IV liver cancer, my mom remained brave, fun and full of light. In fact, those last months of her life – driving to doctor’s appointments, cozying up to watch Masterpiece Theatre, just being together – are among the most precious memories of her that I have.

Leaving my precious mom to return to my family after a few days or a week – depending on how long I had to visit – was excruciating. I can only imagine what it was like for my mom. Yet, she clung to her independence as firmly as she clung to her faith. She also continued looking forward – always forward – to what she was planning next, whether it was moving garden stones or moving back overseas to continue her work as a linguist and Bible translator.

My mom wasn’t dying. She was living each day as fully as God gave her strength.

“I think that our trials are about us learning to hear the Holy Spirit through the din that our own flesh makes screaming ‘save me,’ and that the enemy makes as he tries to steal the whole show, as if the troubles were all about him,” my mom wrote soon after her diagnosis. “As we learn to get that right, and hear Him, by relentlessly trusting Jesus, I believe that the victories become immeasurable – and even add new instruments (our own) to the symphony this universe sings to God.”

My mother slipped from this world to the next quite literally during the darkest time of the year – two days before the winter solstice. These ten months later, as the days darken and the anniversary of her passing draws near, I find my own heart is dark with missing her.

Anniversaries of those we have loved and lost are hard. Yet my mom’s courage and example continue to light my way as I struggle to relentlessly trust Jesus and add my instrument to the symphony of God’s praise.

It’s natural to fear the dark, but as children of God, we don’t walk in the natural but in the supernatural. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said in John 8:12. “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This week, what fears are you facing?

Take time to listen to the Holy Spirit. Ask him to guide you as you relentlessly trust in Jesus, adding your own instrument to God’s symphony of praise.