Even though I’ve published a children’s book, I don’t consider myself a “children’s book writer.” I’ve spent considerably more time and energy working on a novel, short stories, articles, and other musings. While I hope some of my other stories will find their way to the spotlight someday, a little candle stole the show first.
Sometime in 2017, I often found myself at the adoration chapel at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo. I’d come discouraged and exhausted, praying that Jesus would show me a new direction in my life or provide some consolation that I was on the right path.
This was my default prayer, and it was one God frequently answered. I often left the chapel assured that God wanted me to continue living and working in Fargo and focusing my spare time on building relationships and writing.
At some point, this routine consolation ceased to be enough for me. It wasn’t enough to know I was on the right path; I wanted to see some fruit of my efforts. I wanted some success. I was tired of my friends moving away and constantly trying to form new communities. And I was especially tired of wondering if I was a decent enough writer to be trying as hard as I was. Surely there were plenty of other ways I could be furthering God’s kingdom: teaching religious education at my parish, volunteering at the homeless shelter, or getting involved with any of the other great ministries in town. If this writing thing wasn’t going to work out, I best bail out now before I waste more time.
But the thing is… I’d tried that. I tried volunteering my time at several places, and I often left at the end of the day feeling more discouraged and exhausted, which in turn made me feel like a terrible, selfish person. How was my current path–spending hours and hours crafting a chapter of some fictional story only to scrap it in three days and start over–be what God wanted? Aren’t I being selfish with my time? Who was I helping? Who was I evangelizing?
I know now that the answer is that by writing, I help everyone. I’m happiest when I’m writing. When I don’t make time for it, I slog through my days with less energy and resolve. I find less meaning in my job, relationships, and every other area of my life. I have less patience. Reading books and writing for fun helps me love the people around me because I’ve first taken care of myself. Books help me to see the world as one epic story authored by God, which in turns helps me see my place in it and find joy in it.
On this particular day at the chapel, my thoughts and prayers were not so orderly and uplifting. I was frustrated, feeling selfish for wanting success and feeling trapped because while my desire to be a writer wasn’t bearing fruit, there didn’t seem to be anything else in the world I wanted to do.
I found myself staring at the monstrance and wishing my life could be more like one of the four candles surrounding it. They didn’t question the desires God gave them. They didn’t feel trapped. They didn’t worry if they were good enough.
Nor are they alive, but you see where I’m going with this.
They look like every candle in every church—white and skinny. Before coming to the chapel, they probably spent a lot of time crammed in a dark box, which would be hard for something created to give light. What a great day it would be for those candles when they were lit for the first time and realized who was beside them. How happy they must be to finally be fulfilling their purpose. And when the day came that their flame dissolved into smoke, how satisfied they’d be knowing they spent so much time glorifying Jesus.
I wrote the first draft of Candle’s Great Feast in the chapel without any idea what I’d do with it. Naturally, it lived quietly in my computer for two years, but every time I went to that chapel, Jesus would remind me of that little candle and how happy I’d been writing about him.