Burn the Candles

IMG_6378Happy New Year! I’m one of those people who loves resolutions. I make like a million a year. I make them in January. I make them on Tuesdays and in the summer, and in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Part of the reason I think I like making resolutions is because I also love breaking them, and because I forget about them without an ounce of angst. So I make them and leave them behind, willy-nilly. If you know me, you know that willy-nilly is sort of how I am in a lot of ways.

I have a few goals for the year—mantras, phrases, guidelines. I have some fresh starts and intentions, and like everyone else in America, I did tell myself in no uncertain terms that I must go to the gym today.

I won’t pretend that this little phrase is my deepest or most urgent resolution of the year, but it is one thing that I’m trying to run through my life, like yeast through dough: burn the candles.

You know the ones I mean—that fancy one that your friend sent you, in a beautiful box. Or maybe for you it’s the lotion, the special kind that someone knew you loved. Maybe it’s perfume or wine or jam or mustard. Maybe it’s a lovely brand-new journal that sits on your dresser while you scribble on bent and frayed index cards.

I know all about this. I have fancy lotions that have gone unused for years, given to me by people who know how much I love all things lavender-scented. Instead of using this fancy lotion—slathering it on my cracked and dry knuckles, smearing it on my neck or elbows, I keep it all untouched, and I use the bottom of an unscented bottle of hand cream I bought at the grocery store who-knows-how many years ago, or a tiny bottle from a nameless hotel so many months ago.

Listen, I’m not saying be fancy and spend crazy money on candles. You’re talking to a girl who keeps hotel soaps. What I’m saying is that when people give you things—and most likely, in the last month, people have given you things—allow yourself to receive them.

Burn the candles. Not just when people come over. For you, because someone gave them to you. Open the wine and have a glass tonight while you fold laundry. Wear the perfume, the pretty scarf, the whatever that you have tucked in a box, too fancy for you.

For Christmas I bought Aaron a subscription to Blue Bottle coffee, his favorite. And this is the magic of it: a whole bag arrives every two weeks. He has to brew his coffee, or we’ll end up with a delicious-smelling hoarding problem, a glut of coffee we don’t know what do to with. I love this.

Because it’s not about candles or coffee. It’s about believing that you’re worth the good stuff, that someone wanted you to feel loved and seen and known. I bet that someone didn’t want you to hoard your candle or your fancy tea or your beautiful lotion. I bet they would love to know that you’re drinking fancy tea all day and all night, reveling in the feelings of being loved and noticed. That’s how I feel, when I give someone a gift—I don’t want you to put it on a shelf for when someone else comes over. I got it for you, for you to feel loved and seen and known.

My dear friend Emily and I went to London together this year. It was a milestone trip for all sorts of reasons, marking an important finish line for me, the last of a long season of trips for me. It was the longest she’d been away from her darling girls, and across the ocean at that.

On a Sunday afternoon we wandered through Covent Garden—a stop for champagne & cheese, poking in and out of shops. We stayed forever at the Jo Malone store, smelling their heavenly perfumes. Honestly, I wanted to buy one, to mark the moment, to celebrate the milestone, but it felt extravagant, so I didn’t. And then last month the most beautiful box arrived, and it in the candle in the fragrance I’d fallen in love with (oud & bergamot—a heavy, other-worldly, spicy dream of a fragrance), and a thoughtful note from Emily.

I was delighted. And I immediately wanted to put it high on a special shelf, all the while burning whatever old candles I got on clearance at Target.

Not this year, pals. This year, let’s burn the candles. What are we saving them for? Who are we saving them for?

This year, brew the good coffee, wear the sparkly jewelry, crack open that fresh journal. Gifts are to be loved, to be burned, to be eaten and used up completely, reminders that someone loves us, that someone thought of us.

What would would it look like for you, this year, to burn your candles, to allow yourself to be as loved and worthy as the people around you believe you are? What are you hoarding away for another day, for someone else, someone more deserving or special or fancy? What have you been given that you won’t allow yourself to enjoy?

Open the jam, the journal, the wine. Slather that fancy lotion all over your feet. Put on those sparkly earrings even if you’re just going to the grocery store. Because someone gave them to you out of love. Accept that love. Burn the candles.

99 thoughts on “Burn the Candles

  1. This is incredible. I am in tears just trying to wrap my head around the statement that I am worth the good stuff. Thank you Shauna. For your heart. For your wisdom. For being you.

  2. Gorgeous vision. Along those lines of burning the candle or brewing the coffee, this year I’m focused on “completion” – learning more of what it means to be complete in Christ, completing long-lost and lingering tasks, being completely present, etc. – It is about enjoying the substance of it all. On another note, I just finished reading Bread & Wine and loved it; already gave it as a gift.

  3. I need to apply this to gift cards. I get lots of them as gifts, but I end up storing them away and never using them until we need them when it comes time to buy a gift for someone else, etc. It drives my husband crazy since he’s an “enjoy it right away” kind of guy. I like to save them for a rainy day in case we need them. :)

    1. Just a thought…..if You don’t necessarily Need a gift card- become aware of those around you who could actually Use it and bless them annonomously

  4. So true!! I lit one of my fancy Anthropologie candles this morning and actually FELT BAD that I was the only one home to enjoy it. I had to literally convince myself that it (really, I) was worth it. Thanks for this wonderful reminder!

  5. I love this SO MUCH. I am so guilty of this- of thinking those gifts are “too nice” for everyday use. The thing is, we are guaranteed no days- not even today. How sad would it be to leave all of those thoughtful, loving gifts unenjoyed on a shelf. And how sad would *I* be if I knew a gift that I chose for someone went unused? If you’ll excuse me, I’ma go light ALL THE CANDLES. :-)

    1. Sarah,
      Yes. Me too.
      As I contemplated Shauna’s post the same question arose. I realized that the person who had been guilt-giving stopped it was shocking. It seems that for me my freedom comes with this price.

    2. But yourself a candle! Or lotion. Or go for a walk or take a nap or draw a bubble bath or whatever makes you feel loved and special. Because you ARE! And you are worth it–the money, the time, the effort. Saying a prayer for you right now.

    3. There are always gifts. The sky is beautiful. We have air to breath. I hope you have food to eat and water to drink. There are always gifts, if we can see them that way. Praying for the gift to be able to do just that.

  6. You’ve put this beautifully. My goal is to own nice things, things that I love, but to actually USE them. To put aside my worries that they might break or wear out. SO WHAT. If I’ve gotten to enjoy them along the way then those chips and faded colors will be worth it. My mother-in-law is Irish and has a lot of Waterford crystal that she and my father-in-law have recently started pulling out all the time, because life’s too short. Thanks for your words!

  7. Wise words, beautifully written! You get me, every single time. Happy New Year, may it be full of beautiful candles, incredible coffee, and all good things! x

  8. I literally have a candle on my bedside table that I got Christmas of 2013 and never once lit in the whole year, because I thought it was too expensive or special to just burn on ordinary days. After reading this, I look back in regret as I think of the 376 days that have passed that I assumed weren’t good enough to light the candle. I am challenging myself to light that candle this week and pray that it lights in me the warmth of the knowledge of being loved, all year.

  9. Yes! I had this epiphany after my first child was born. I decided to USE THE SHOWER GEL! I now wish I’d decided to do this pre-children, back when I still had time to take a proper shower. Ha.

  10. Shauna, I just had to leave a note. A friend of mine sent me a link to your blog noting how similar our new years posts were. As I looked, through your blog, I couldn’t help but notice some similar posts (our mutual favorite things posts from December).Here’s a link to my blog if you’re curious: http://kellimarieclark.com/

    It seems to me that God is calling his children to rise, sparkle and shine, and live as though we are loved by the most loving Father. Such great stuff!

    I’m happy to have found your thoughts. I’ll be checking back regularly. Here’s to a year of candle burning, fancy dress wearing and delicious coffee sipping!

  11. Thank you Shauna. This made me cry. I am a gift hoarder, and I have candles, journals and wine to pull out and use.

  12. “People have given you things–allow yourself to receive them.” Love this post. The wisdom of permission. Sarah, even if you haven’t been given “things”, you have been given blessings–words of appreciation and affirmation. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” That’s for you!

  13. Love this Shauna! A few months ago I finally started using an art set my dad gave me. He gave it to me over 10 years ago! It has moved with me from apartment to condo to house, untouched. For me, I don’t use the nice things because it is a beautiful reminder that I am loved and I don’t ever want that reminder to go away, so I don’t use it. You are so right in that the people that gives us nice things wants them to be used!

  14. Thank you for such a great post! I couldn’t help but laugh reading this because of its truth. Not only do I do this, but many people in my family do as well. A fun example: we gave my grandmother new bath mats several years ago because she said that was what she needed. When we visited again a few months later, her old ones were still out. My mom asked her if she had returned them or didn’t like them and my sweet Granny replied, “No, no, I love them! They are my Sunday bath mats!” She only uses the new bath mats on Sundays because she is afraid she will ruin them… I think it is so frustrating and precious at the same time! I am looking forward to burning more candles this year. Thank you, Shauna!

  15. I read this as I enjoyed the smell of my Strawberry Shortcake Anthropologie candle, given to me by a friend who most certainly did not need to spend such money on me. What a beautiful post. That others would know us and like us and think of us is the most humbling and exquisite thing in the world. And remembering how we’re liked as we smell our candles and eat our treats is simply the best. This post gave me the feelings and I absolutely adore having the feelings.

  16. Beautifully put Shauna, thank you…off to blow the dust off the box of my deliciously ornate cake slice (just need to make a cake first ;-) )

  17. My Grum (89 year old grandma – one of my best friends) has always set things aside “for good” and “for the hospital” (I kid you not) or “the (nursing) home” isince I can remember. She just couldn’t bring herself to use all of her nice things, even though she loved receiving them. I think, having experienced the incredible lack during the Depression years, she learned to really take care of and appreciate what she had and to keep it nice for as long as possible. And that included not using whatever was given (e.g. pretty nightgown, scented candle, etc.) I get that. But I also *totally* get what you’re saying, Shauna, and I wish she had done more candle burning while she still had her independence. We did so much gifting of things ‘just for her’, and she saved and saved, enjoying them not nearly as often as we would have liked (for her). Now, she’s in a nursing home, and most of her stuff has been sold or is in storage. I guess the moral I’ve learned is that even when something is precious – perhaps especially when it is precious – there is no time like the present in using it with joy. Blessings, Shauna.

  18. I like this post a lot. It reminds me of the chapter in Cold Tangerines about the importance of wearing your favorite sweater.

  19. This is such a good word for me. I am totally one of those people who saves things to be used/enjoyed at “just the right time” (i.e., a nebulous day that never comes). And then, without ever intending to, I have fixed my focus more on the future instead of delighting in the present and drinking deep of the good gifts of today

  20. Wow, Shauna, you spoke right into this “lovely things must be saved” girl’s heart!! Thank you SO MUCH. I love that phrase, Burn the Candles. Just found (one of) my 2015 mantras! Xoxo

  21. I love all the stories here. I wanted to add one. My mother-in-love told me she was going to start using the “good china and silver” because, she said “what am I waiting on? Why does it have to be a special occasion? Everyday is a special occasion if your are breathing!” It was an epiphany for me. She was so right. I happily helped her use both, and now that she is gone, I am so glad we did.

  22. Thank you Shauna! I’m definitely a “Save it for a special occasion” kind of person, and it ends up never being enjoyed. This is going to be a goal for me in 2015!

  23. YES! I just blogged about how my word for this year is “Wholehearted” which is about coming to believe that I am worthy of love and belonging. I bought a lighter just this weekend to burn some candles that had been sitting on my shelf and never getting lit. Thank you for this!

  24. Not all of us are that fortunate. In my world, gifts aren’t for adults, they are for kids. Yes, I have kids, two. But, that’s the reality I live in and most of my friends. I can’t seem to comprehend the thought, it’s foreign.

    1. I think perhaps the point is less about gifts and more about believing you are worthy. About using your ‘good’ things and not saving them for a future that may not be ours. About wearing your favorite clothes, using your favourite coffee mug, best glassware … Anything that you have and do not use everyday because you think it’s too special. And then maybe it’s about looking behind the gift and seeing the love that came with it. Love gifts do not necessarily come from a store in my experience. They are my husband getting up to make me a coffee first thing in the morning, his decision to plant my prefererred variety of tomatoes in the garden, they can be a drawing from your child, they can a friend sitting with you and talking …

  25. Once, quite a few years ago, a friend gave me a gift certificate (no gift cards then) for flowers from a fancy shop. I saved it for a ‘special’ time which never came and once I went by there and realized the shop had gone out of business. I’ve never forgotten that. Yes please, DO burn the candles.

  26. Shauna,

    I appreciate your thoughtfs. I saw myself as I set aside the good stuff that I received for another day when I might need to remind myself of the fact that “I am worth this goodness or kindness or lavish luxurious lotions or candles, or milled soaps and much more.” I appreciate the reminder of the value of each human soul…a value that is only diminished by equating it with stuff. Do enjoy today in all its grace. Do what is required to refresh your spirit & soul…those parts of you that allow you to connect with God and with others. Do remind yourself today that you are loved, that you are blessed, and that you have the power to bless others…no stuff required.

    Shauna, thanks for the words to inspire this reflection.

  27. very excited to join you in this momentum! and love your love for london. as a chicago-bred london dweller, this makes my heart swell a bit. featured you, as usual, over at inspowoman.com :) thanks for always bringing it, sister.

  28. Oh, how I love this!! And it’s so true — when you buy a gift for someone that was wrought with painstaking thought, you definitely want them to enjoy it. It should so be the same when we receive. Also, right now when I am feeling a bit blue around the edges (and honestly in really deep), it’s nice to attach a memory to a thoughtful gift or feel a little special and loved even if it is hard to grab onto that right now.

  29. Even worse, I have a terrible habit of opening the gift, loving it and then choosing someone to whom I will give it. I am a regifting, penny pinching hoard! But I recently read Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine…not just any wine…the choicest! And it changed my theology of “nice things”. He is an extravagant God who gives luscious, sumptuous gifts. I read on to hear of Jesus “cleaning house” at the temple and it struck me that while He gives extravagantly, HE wants to be my first love and the luxury of my craving soul. Thanks for echoing God’s voice in my ears because I LITERALLY broke out TWO nice candles, ones I already had dubbed Valentine’s gifts, just this morning and enjoyed them…then read this article! Thank you! xoxo

  30. Love, love, love this. I remember reading somewhere that most of us save the best stuff in our lives and only use it 5% of the time. And that’s really sad to me. We only have one life, so we should be using the “good stuff” 95% of the time, right????

  31. This is an expression of faith in God’s ability to provide for the future. Maybe an application of “Christian hedonism?” We need not hoard, and Madeliene L’Engle applied the concept beautifully to the writing life. She said that when you have that perfect sentence come to mind and you are tempted to save it for the ending, USE IT NOW. Squander it. Use the best you have right now, and trust God to give you something even better for that ending paragraph.

  32. This is so lovely. It reminds me of when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive nard. The observers were outraged that she didn’t save the perfume or the money for a better, more worthy occasion. But she knew that Jesus was everything, and she deeply desired to honor him right then, in that moment. It’s beautiful when we do that for others and for ourselves.

  33. My Grandmother died when I was 17 and I inherited some lovely things. These beautiful things had tags on them and were still in the original packaging. When I asked my mom why she said it’s because Grandma always saved the best for company. It made me a little sad. So now I pull out her crystal and silver and use the “good” plates just for fun. Tomorrow isn’t promised and I was blessed with gifts from her and I want them to be used. I want my kids to think their mom is nuts for eating her oatmeal with a silver spoon or using the good plates for take out. I want them to embrace the present and to have the heritage of memories that “things” can trigger. I will always remember silly things about my grandmother. How she made batches of daiquiris and kept them in the freezer in those little paper
    cups. When I was upset she would make me mint chocolate chip cookies, I have her hand written recipe and it is a treasure.

    Burn the candles, use the table cloth and napkins and for pete’s sake use the crystal. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

  34. Use the soap. Years ago my best friend gave me a trio of monogrammed soap. They are lovely. But they’ll be “messed up” the moment I use them. I need to use the soap!

    I do, however, have no problem burning the candles. I’m a candle-burner but clearly not a soap-user!

  35. Just pulled out a beautifully carved candle that my mom bought for me years ago & lit it. She has passed on and I wish I had lit it while she was still here to enjoy it with me. So, in loving memory of my mom, I’m burning the candle!

  36. Thanks for this smart and lovely reminder. I’m the person who still has some scented, beloved erasers with my name on them in shiny foil buried in a box somewhere, never having used them since I received them in second grade. But you are so right: gifts are for using and enjoying. Cheers to 2015!

  37. Oh, yes! Do! Tucking this little gem of a post in my “printed out” pile – to be reread on Tuesdays and in June and mornings and all of those other times. Beautiful words, Shauna.

  38. One day my son came home from preschool all excited because he had a gift for me. They were allowed to pick something from a whole host of things that were donated. My son chose a 1 pound canned ham! He was so excited because he knew at 4 years old that this was the most perfect gift for me. (I’m not sure where that idea came from but I wasn’t going to spoil his excitement). Well, we never ate the ham. It day in the fridge and every time I opened the door I saw this tiny canned ham on the shelf and it reminded me of my son’s excitement. We moved a few times and that canned ham moved with us. To this day I still have that ham on the shelf in my fridge! I don’t think I’ll crack that one open however, since it’s been a number of years when that ham made its appearance in our house. That sweet little boy is now a Marine! Hahaha. But thanks for reminding me to use the gifts others have given me!

  39. oh my goodness!! I love this post so much!! “This year, brew the good coffee, wear the sparkly jewelry, crack open that fresh journal. Gifts are to be loved, to be burned, to be eaten and used up completely, reminders that someone loves us, that someone thought of us.”

    This is the year to love and accept ourselves and love those around us and to celebrate and be present in each and every moment!!

  40. And wear the new pajamas! I always gave my Mom nice PJ’s for birthdays and Christmas and she would put them away saying “if she ever had to go to the hospital she would have nice pajamas”. She died at the age of 95 never having worn some of the lovely PJs. But, it gave her comfort to know she had them “just in case”.

  41. There is a saying, “Don’t burn the candle at both ends.” that is a metaphor for life. But, I once told a person that I’m burning it from both ends and the middle too. It’s better to wear out than rust out.

  42. This year I bought lovely fabric in Germany. My sister-in-law teased me about hauling it all the way back home, and that we have plenty of fabric in the US. Having those lovely colors inspired me to *finally* make a quilt for our bed. I bought several more colors (14, and 12 made the cut–pun entirely intended!) and just finished it. I will always have the memory of our trip as I drift off to sleep each night. And now, I am going to use the china more often! I am going to burn my candles!

  43. I love this! I’m guilty, so often, of setting pretty things up high on a shelf, instead of truly enjoying them, remembering the people, the experiences. Feeling loved and special.

  44. Thank you for the reminder, that I am worthy. I will always remember the items kept “for good” in my home growing up, some were still there years later as we cleaned out the house to sell it.

  45. Yes, yes, yes!!!

    Just last night, I burned a candle that’s been sitting in a cabinet looking pretty for three years. I burned it just for me while I sat on my yoga mat in the basement.

    This weekend, I’m going to break into that pricey face lotion my mom got me for my birthday last year and use the perfect white enamel pot that I’ve just admired on a shelf for far too long.

    Thank you.

  46. Wonderful post, which I saw on Facebook and clicked on because I have that same book from Babington House! We were just there in November!!! Amazing place!

  47. Use the good china! It has been hard for me, over the years, to come to using the good china, but I do now. Once I bought a lovely wool sweater and just couldn’t bring myself to wear my new “special” sweater. A few years later, when it was “old”, I decided I could now wear it – you guessed it – moth holes!!

  48. I agree! But sometimes you gotta put the candles up on the shelf when your spouse has an aversion to scented candles. Boo! Perhaps someday I will have my own little hidey-hole—I mean office—that I can close a door on and make all the delicious, transcendent stink I want :)

  49. Yes! Love.This. I started burning my candles just for me a bit ago & what a difference it makes. Everything just seems a little fancier even the housework. Why not celebrate every day & not wait to use the “good” dishes, unless they have to be hand washed.

  50. Yes, indeed. I am a step ahead of you on using the good perfume every day in 2015. Now I’ll have to think about breaking the good dishes out of the china cabinet.

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