Building a Fire - from Vol. II of the Eighteen Inch Journey Book

Written By Melissa Helser
Ink Drawing by Ken Helser

In the beautiful noise of my everyday, I am learning to listen.  In the beautiful schedule of my everyday, I am learning to be flexible.  In the beautiful mundane normal, I am learning to see extravagance in simple moments.
     I love winter.  I love the invitation it gives.  My children notice that our family time grows and deepens in winter months.  It gets darker earlier.  We stop working sooner. We linger at the dinner table longer. We become slower in a fantastic way.  We make fires and sit in the warmth of its presence.
     Why is a fire so magical, so inviting?  When the fireplace is full of flame and generously giving warmth, it casts a spell over our home.  It woos the heart to breathe deeper. It calls to the soul to stop and sit and be still.  I am learning to be present in these moments, to give in.  My son asked me today if he could start a fire.  It was 65 degrees outside, not quite cold enough for a raging fire.  He was persistent and kept insinuating how cold he was.  I told him that I didn’t know if he was old enough to build a fire, and he proudly said, “I am, Dad taught me. He even taught me how to cut kindling and use his hatchet.” I suddenly realized it had nothing to do with the fire and everything to do with his desire to show me how grown up he is.  I smiled and relinquished the thought of sweating while doing homeschool.  “Okay, you can build one.” He was pumped.
     I went through my normal mom advice: “Be careful.”
     “I will be, Mom.”
     “If you play around with a hatchet you can cut your hand off…”
     “I know, Mom,” he assured me.
     The door shut. Thirty minutes later he came in with four pieces of wood.  It took him forever, but he was so proud.  He proceeded to carefully build a fire in our wood stove just like Jonathan had taught him.  I kept asking if he needed help, and he kept assuring me not to worry; he knew exactly what he was doing. He finally had it lit and didn’t even use the fire starter sticks that I always use. “Mom, come and see. Look! I did it.” It was glorious—the fire and the look on his face.  We just sat and stared at it.  After a few minutes, he began to doubt that it would keep burning.  I could hear the tone of the perfectionist coming out in his self-criticism.  “I don’t think I did it right. I should have used the starters. I am not good at this.”  I was astounded by how quickly the overwhelming fear of failure rushed in the room.  I am learning to see it quicker and, as a mother, champion the beauty of my kids’ hearts.  “Cadence, this fire is amazing—you did a great job!  I think we should leave it, shut the doors of the wood stove and let it do its magic.”  We sat down at the kitchen table and began school again. Distracted by our lesson, he forgot about the fire.  Until Jonathan walked in the door.  “Who made that fire?” We both turned and looked—it was roaring. A glorious smile swept over his face.  
     His father’s approval sealed the deal.
    I hope and pray that I continue to have the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit to know when these moments are happening all around me and inviting me to come and feast at the table.  Even as I write, I am overcome with emotion that my son is almost thirteen and life is moving like a rushing river that won’t be stopped.  If I want to experience it, I have to get in it.  I have to leave behind all my have-to’s and should-have’s and what-if’s and just give in.  My kids invite me into these moments without even knowing it.  It is what I love the most about them.  I love that all his fear of failure, even in a simple moment, was swallowed up in his father’s approval.  I pray in this moment that the seemingly insignificant moments of your life that have made you feel like a failure will be gloriously interrupted with the Father’s smile. That you would feel the Father of Fathers walk into your heart and honor the places you are truly desiring to grow and mature. That His smile would be that warmth, covering you and surrounding you with a beautiful “Well done.”


This writing is featured in the newest Eighteen Inch Journey Book entitled Volume II : The Clarity that Winter Brings. To find out more about Volume I & II or to order a copy of either volume, click here to visit our online store.
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