A Strange Lesson from My Mother’s Day Candle

My mother was the first to teach me that candles have “memory.”  When you light a jar or pillar candle the first time, you must let it burn for a few hours until the wax pools all the way to the edges.

You see, the candle remembers how far the wax pooled that first time, and it will only burn to that boundary every time you light it.  A small wax pool means your candle will tunnel as it burns.  It will waste the majority of the wax.  It can’t break free of that early pattern.  It remembers.

This morning my family comes into my bedroom with presents for Mother’s Day. Two scented jar candles, wrapped in tissue, roll out on the bedspread. My oldest daughter has breakfast on a tray for me, and as I look at this little family around me and light my candles, I think about candle memory

Will I ever break free from old patterns?  Am I doomed to candle memory in my own soul?  

Sometimes life feels so limited by our destructive patterns–set deep in stone–that we cannot change.  But I don’t want a narrow life!  I don’t want to tunnel down–bringing my children with me–because of old patterns set by the world, the flesh, and the devil (as Scripture teaches).  All morning in church, I think of the hopelessness of that candle memory and of a life that cannot ever break free from a set pattern or false belief.

I need to recover from the patterns of thought–lies I believe–about where my hope and security originate.  
In church, I look and see rows and rows of folks in recovery from drugs and alcohol.  A few minutes before, I shake hands with a woman who tells me (in the same breath) her name and her reality:  I’m in recovery.  She’s been clean two weeks. 

What can break the old pattern?  Who can erase the narrow boundaries and set us free?  That new friend knows her name and her reality.  She’s in recovery.  Day by day, she embraces a new reality, a new pattern.  It’s Jesus in her–the only One who can set us free from the prison of ourselves.  

That’s what I think about when I light this Mother’s Day candle.  Candle memory may seem final, but there’s a Light that knows no boundaries and can expose any false pattern.   I invite Jesus in–all the way to the far edges–and let my heart melt and pool deep and wide. 

Journal:  Do you ever feel trapped by an old pattern?  


Mothers are Beanstalks

This afternoon, the children run outside and design a bean garden for themselves.  They want a beanstalk.  

I discover that we need a structure in that bean garden around which the bean plants can twine.

I love that verb, first of all.  To twine means to interlock tightly, twisting up and coiling about.

Beans are twining plants, and this means they cannot support their own weight.  For vertical growth, they circle around a support in order to grow.  They exert continuous pressure against this support so they can rise tall and strong.

They will not survive without interlocking tightly, twisting up and coiling about a supporting structure.   

I needed that truth today as I think about motherhood and this life of faith.  I cannot do this on my own.  I lean hard against the Lord as that internal structure around which I cling.  I interlock.  Every tendril of thought and action encircles one singular support. 

If I’m exhausted, shriveled on the vine, and incapable of doing this alone, I remember I wasn’t meant to.  I’m supposed to twine

Journal:  What does interlocking with God mean when I’m exhausted?


A Gift for Every Mother You Know

Today was chilly, windy (hair in my face no matter which way I pushed it around), and gloomy. We drove out into the country to a far-off nursery to buy some berry bushes for my latest gardening adventure. And when I say country, I mean country. The roads were unmarked, narrow, and tumbling over the landscape like an afterthought. A creek skipped by on the right, and cows fed in fields on the left.  They were so close to my window I thought I might reach out and pat a nose.

Eventually, we arrived at huge nursery.  We left the car, met the wind and cold, and, hunching down and running, we slipped into the first greenhouse. 

Immediately, warmth.  My daughters sighed with pleasure and stretched their arms.  Everything here seemed abundant: the moist air, the fragrance of blooming things, the tangle of vines and hanging plants overhead. I looked at all the gorgeous flowers and thought of the ripping winds outside. They’d have never made it without this greenhouse.
Standing there, seeing that little Eden of beauty set against the gloom and fierce wind, I thought of—not flowers—but people. More specifically, I thought of mothers.

I think of the moms I see that remind me of myself back then. I see the vacant stare, the lifeless smile, the numb conversation of a mom who is just trying to get a warm shower and go to the bathroom without somebody crying. Beneath the exhaustion, the stained t-shirt, and the post-pregnancy figure, there’s a woman in there–vibrant, sassy, powerful.  There’s something in her that wants to bloom. 

If only she had a greenhouse–a little paradise to keep her safe and warm so she could grow too.  If only we could create the conditions that help her put down strong roots, stretch high out, and bloom, bloom, bloom. 

What does a mom need?  She needs to be protected and nourished so she can fully develop into the woman she’s supposed to be.  She needs friends who ask her about her ideas and her dreams; she needs a community who will spur her on and enable her to take risks in any direction she chooses.  A mom needs people who don’t limit her scope, who don’t assume anything about her, and who recognize that she is a growing thing–like a tender vine in a greenhouse.  Our children aren’t the only people that need to grow in our homes.  Babies aren’t the only people that need swaddling. 

If a mom doesn’t grow and ripen, she shrivels.  Moms need communities that value her spiritual, physical, social, emotional, and (if she wishes) her professional growth. 

As I stood in the greenhouse today, I thought of how much I want moms everywhere to live with flair.   A great Mother’s Day gift (that we might give all year to every mom we know) is the mindset that the mother you see wants to grow too.  The roads are unmarked for her; she’s out in a far country.  Motherhood can be her time to shrivel or bloom.  Get her to the greenhouse!