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?  

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When You Feel Unstable

I’ve been walking a lot lately.  This morning I woke up thinking about a quote from Oliver Wendall Holmes:   

Walking, then, is a perpetual falling with a perpetual selfrecovery. It is a most complex, violent, and perilous operation. . . 

When I walk, I deliberately destabilize myself, catch myself with the next foot, and repeat the process.  This is how I get places. 

I stroll all alone down my street and then up the big hill.  As I walk, I crunch the fallen and abandoned acorn tops with my shoes.  That crackle of flattened cupule (the lovely word for the acorn shell) delights me somehow.   My gait looks silly–Chaplinesque without the cane–wobbly and off-kilter as I seek out shells to flatten.

It’s a little dangerous and slippery.  The shells cover the walkway and make me aware of my steps.  I’m smiling with the game of it.  Here I am, falling and recovering, leaving a wake.  I’m unstable and then stable.  But I’m still in the game. 

Later, I arrive at the school doors and begin the walk home with two girls by my side.   We three crunch acorn shells, each in our own segment of sidewalk.  That microcosmic movement–walking–as a perpetual falling and recovery showcases the complexity of our whole journey.  We fall; we recover; we get to crunch acorns on the way. 

PS–I’m thankful for days of walking.  For those who cannot walk today, I honor your journey.   And for those in rehabilitation and physical therapy, I’ve learned from Holmes just how difficult that process is. Keep up the hard work!  May God quicken your recovery!   

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The Best Definition of Courage

My daughter and I were talking about taking her training wheels off and learning to ride a bike.  She became very quiet and said, “You know, Mom, little hills mean little boo-boos.  And big hills mean big boo-boos.”

I said, “So I guess you want to avoid the big hills on your bike.” 

She paused and said, “Oh, no.  It just means we need a bigger first aid kit.”

There you have it:  Courage means I ride full speed ahead, anticipate the wounds, and prepare with a great first aid kit.  For my daughter it means Hello Kitty band aids.  For the rest of us, it might mean we fill our kits with authentic friendships, strong ties to a community, a vibrant relationship to God, and the kind of space to heal.  It’s not the height of the hill that matters.  It’s not the danger, the risk, or the potential for failure.  Wounds are likely.   So I build the best first aid kit I can.  That’s some 5 year old flair.

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