Jen Fulwiler is the only person I know who is both a mom of six children and a standup comic. It has been so fun to watch her adventures. When the comedy industry establishment told her that nobody would be interested in standup comedy done by a woman who drives a minivan and lives in the suburbs, she self-produced her own tour, which sold out in almost every city. I’m happy that she’s telling you how you can tap into your own God-given gifts — even if it looks nothing like doing a standup comedy tour — and bring your family along for the ride. And it all starts with discovering your blue flame. It’s a grace to welcome Jen to the farm’s front porch today…
Does anyone else feel surrounded by loss?
I wonder this as I sit in the empty house that belonged to my grandparents.
They both passed away years ago and the house became my father’s. Then, in the Fall, he passed away. Now the house has been left to me, and it’s time to sell it.
As I walked the silent halls, I thought of the loss of these beloved family members.
That, in turn, turned my mind to my own losses in this craziest of seasons. Income lost. Opportunities lost. Special events lost.
Even though these newest losses were all done for a worthy cause, they still left me with an ever-present sense of grief — and worry that we’d never fully recover from this time.
I walked past the living room under the weight of a heavy emptiness. Then, in the kitchen, I saw a box.
I picked up one of the objects in the box, a tiny tart pan that my grandfather had lovingly constructed from scraps of metal.
There were a dozen in the box, and he used them to make berry tarts in the summer.
Memories of my grandfather the chef filled my mind, and I felt visceral joy as I remembered how well he loved our family through his cooking.
Yet, for most of his life, he was not much of a cook. For the majority of his adult years, he was an engineer.
This was his “blue flame” – a God-given gift that he was meant to share with the world, that filled him with energy when he used it. He was excellent at this work, and often got complicated refineries built on time and on budget.
Then, when he was fifty-two years old, he got hepatitis from bad seafood.
He came so close to death that the doctors gave up on him.
Miraculously, he pulled through.
But he faced months of recovery, and his health didn’t fully return for years. He was forced into early retirement. His career as an engineer was over.
This is when someone who believes they have only one true calling can go off the rails.
If my grandfather had perceived that he had only one blue flame, he would have despaired when it was blown out.
He would have felt like his ability to give back to the world in a way he loved was gone, his best years behind him.
Fortunately, he didn’t do that. Instead, he asked how he was meant to love and serve the world given his new circumstances.
In the first months of his recovery, he couldn’t leave the house; he could barely stand for more than an hour at a time. So he cooked.
He’d always had a passive enjoyment of cooking, but now he threw himself into it. He brought the full weight of his passion and his intellect to learning how to be the best chef he could possibly be.
Taking long breaks between sessions, he cooked and he cooked and he cooked some more.
This was around the time of my birth. I never knew my grandfather the engineer; I knew only my grandfather the chef, the man who always loved us through his cooking.
Every major occasion was celebrated by a dinner at his house.
For a baby shower, he made Cornish game hen roulade and a mint cream tart. He hosted monthly luncheons for my mom’s tennis group.
At ninety years old, he loved nothing more than when his home was filled with the sounds of their chatter and bursts of uproarious laughter.
He’d spread his table with crêpes suzette and homemade apple crisps, happily ducking in and out to refill a tea glass or drop a bowl of colored candies at the table.
It was one of the most beautiful examples I’ve ever seen of a blue flame in action—and he would have missed it entirely if he’d clung to his mission from the past.
He was well into mid-life when hepatitis devastated his career. He could have let himself slide into a malaise, believing that there was no way for him to have an impact now that he no longer had the vigor of the refinery manager he once was.
Author Katie Prejean McGrady beautifully summarizes this experience when she tells the story of both she and her husband getting fired from jobs they loved at the same time. She had found her blue flame, yet the opportunity to use it had been snatched away from her due to circumstances beyond her control.
She admits that she was tempted to give up, to wallow in despair.
Then a priest friend offered advice that changed her mentality. He said, “The devil’s best trick is convincing us that what we had before was the only thing we could ever have.”
When you lose the ability to do work that you love, the enemy wants you to believe this is it.
This was your one blue flame, and now it’s been snuffed out. It’s over. No more blue flame for you.
This priest encouraged Katie and her husband to have hope – and to be curious.
She writes, “He asked us to imagine what could possibly come of this awful event, and how our lives could be better if we let God surprise us.”
Looking back on the whole fiasco, she reports that their friend’s advice was spot-on. “Losing those jobs gave us freedom to do remarkable things we never could’ve done before. Losing those jobs opened up a world of opportunity. Losing those jobs let us prune the branches of so much dead weight. Losing those jobs led us to an even better life.”
I thought of those words as I stood in my grandfather’s kitchen, holding that tiny tart pan.
Our family was forever transformed because he discovered that cooking was blue-flame work for him.
Yet he never would have encountered that gift if his work as an engineer had not been taken away.
If your blue flame has been extinguished by circumstances beyond your control, respond with curiosity.
Ask what new ways you can spark your blue flame — or if perhaps you’re meant to let one die out so you can ignite another.
Wake up each day ready to let God surprise you.
Jen Fulwiler is a standup comic and a mom of six. Discover how you can tap into your God-given gifts and use them fearlessly in Jen’s new book, Your Blue Flame: Drop the Guilt and Do What Makes You Come Alive.
Every one of us has a blue flame — a special skill, a personal passion, a gift or talent. But when caught up in life’s busyness, it’s too easy to make a habit of suppressing our most joyful contributions to the world.
As Jennifer learned, the secret to a life you love isn’t necessarily jumping the track, quitting your job, or hustling to make your dream your full-time reality. Rather, it’s about doing more of what makes you come alive in your actual life. Your Blue Flame is your upbeat playbook to rekindling your energy, sparking those meaningful “first loves” back to life again, and discovering the unique way each one of us can make the world a better, brighter place.
No matter where you are in life, you’ll be inspired with stories of others who found their flames, like the couple who packed up their three kids and moved to a farm, the woman who discovered a passion for letter-writing at age ninety-five, and of course Jennifer’s own story of self-producing her own stand-up comedy tour after being turned down by the entertainment industry establishment.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]