Stanwood convent’s candle shop will close for a year to allow nuns to rest

STANWOOD — The air in Quiet Light Candles is sweetened by the subtle scent of honey and beeswax.

Hundreds of handcrafted tea lights, votives and taper candles are on display while more tea lights are being made in the back room, where the soothing fragrance grows stronger and volunteers — including a visiting nun from Boston and priests from Ukraine — work in companionable silence.

The shop also showcases elegant candleholders made of stone or glass and unique art from around the world. Carved wooden toys from Russia line a shelf next to a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments of all shapes and sizes.

The shop’s featured items this month are two types of glass candleholders. The first is made of traditional Hebron glass, from the West Bank city south of Jerusalem that’s home to the burial sites of biblical patriarchs and matriarchs. The other candleholders are Joyous Light Luminaries, made locally by glass artist Mark Ellinger and inspired by the Hebron glass.

The shop is operated by a small group of Orthodox Christian nuns at the Convent of the Meeting of the Lord, 29206 64th Ave. NW. The sisters have lived on the quiet patch of land at the end of a gravel road for 16 years.

They spend at least four hours a day in prayer for vespers, compline and matins, then hours more to pray quietly and read from the Bible. They maintain their lawn and garden, which has become a haven for honeybees raised on the property, and make beeswax candles for sale online as well as in the store. Selling candles and gifts provides a modest income for the convent, which is a nonprofit.

The next two weekends mark the final days of their 14th annual Christmas Festival at the Quiet Light Candles gift shop. It’s also the last chance for people to shop there before the store closes for a year in 2016. Just as the Sabbath is a day of rest, 2016 is a year of rest for the nuns.

They’ll still work hard at their daily tasks, but they’ve decided to step back from the shop and focus more on their life of prayer. They’ll continue to make candles and sell them and other gifts online at quietlightcandles.com.

Closing the shop for a year wasn’t an easy decision. It’s something the sisters prayed about for a long time. They felt guided to take a year-long sabbatical, said Mother Thecla, the abbess.

“We’re not just praying for ourselves, we’re praying for others,” she said. “We’ve created this bond with them through the shop and we continue that bond through our prayer.”

Just as prayer helped them come to the decision to close the shop temporarily, the sisters trust it will help them find the right direction to take the shop in the future.

Setting up and running Quiet Light Candles, especially during the Christmas Festival, has been a way to connect with people of all ages.

“When I’m setting up the shop, I’m always thinking, ‘What will bring our customers joy?’ ” Mother Thecla said. “What will touch their hearts and create lasting, warm and happy memories for the children?”

The guests who come to Quiet Light Candles and the convent tend to find peace there.

Karen Eidsness has lived in the Cedarhome neighborhood of Stanwood, not far from the convent, for more than 30 years. She’s been shopping at the store since it opened about 15 years ago.

“I just love the peaceful, calm feeling of being there,” she said. “And they are just wonderful people. When I was there the other day, I could hear people breathing out deeply and saying, ‘I just love being here.’ ”

Jon Frantzen and his wife live south of Stanwood and also are regulars at the shop.

“We’ve gotten really hooked on the tea lights,” he said. “I try to keep a supply around.”

They go through several of the small candles per night in the winter. The beeswax burns clean and sweet.

Though Frantzen has visited the shop year-round, he especially likes the Christmas festival.

“It’s the thing that kind of nudges me into the Christmas spirit,” he said. “It’s just rewarding to find a place that isn’t commercialized. Even though it’s a shop, it’s all connected to the true meaning of Christmas.”

The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. It also is scheduled to be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the day after Christmas. The year-long closure starts Jan. 1.

“In one way or another, I believe we will reopen,” Mother Thecla said. “I just don’t know anything definite right now.”

Frantzen and Eidsness hope the shop will reopen, too, but support the sisters’ year off for prayer. Eidsness always has admired the peace and comfort the nuns seem to share with everyone they meet.

“They just have this genuine, wholesome, spiritual way of life,” Eidsness said. “It’s simple. More of us should strive to live that kind of life.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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To sign up for updates from Quiet Light Candles and the Convent of the Meeting of the Lord, go to quietlightcandles.com and click “sign up for our email list,” then check for a confirmation email and click “confirm.”

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