Growing up my mom would always let me help make cakes for our family birthdays. I remember pushing a chair to the counter with an apron on that was twice as tall as I was, just to barely peak my eyes over the counter. I would stand as tall as I could, with my arms over my head to grab a wooden spoon and the edge of a mixing bowl. With all my might I would begin to stir, and stir, and stir. As the batter began to form, my mom would add eggs and oil and then I would stir, stir, and stir some more. When it was finally mixed we would transfer the batter from the bowl to a pan. The best part came next. Mom would hand me the mixing spoon to have as a post workout treat.
Of all the recipes and all the cakes Mom and I made, my favorite has always been strawberry with homemade frosting. I love the color (pink), the sweet fresh berries folded into the cake, and the vanilla frosting. Some of the most anxious moments in my life were waiting for the cake to finish baking. The smell of cake wafting through the air, the oven light on, and an underweight child with her head way too close to the hot oven door. When that timer would go off, mom would pull the cake out and put it on the counter for it to cool. Now, this may or may not be theological, but I am pretty sure that in heaven there will be no cake-cooling step. What torture it was to stand there watching the steam come off the freshly baked cake. After what seemed like forever, mom would pull the frosting back out of the fridge and we would frost like we were Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa. Mom would call everyone to sing, ‘happy birthday’. She would cut and serve. I couldn’t wait to eat every last bite of mine. What I quickly learned from baking was that when you follow a recipe, things will come out exactly as you hoped.
We all have things we want and dream about in life: a college degree, a career, marriage, a child, a family, a pet, a home. We also all have expectations for how life will go. We want to be able to control when and how things will happen. We hope that if we do all the “right” things, life will go exactly as we expect it too. We all believe that if I just work hard enough at something, I will be able to achieve my goal. This is kind of like baking.
Now that I’m older, I have stayed in love with baking. When I am frustrated, when I can’t stand the wait any longer, during any normal day, and when I want to show love; I bake. I love that baking is so consistent and predictable. When I put the right ingredients together in the right amounts, something delicious will surely come out. First, cream the butter and sugar, add in the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the flour, salt and baking soda. Fold in the M&M’s. Bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes and ‘TA-DA’. When you follow the recipe, you get the right results.
I am learning more and more that real life is not like baking. I researched adoption agencies and have found the perfect one for us. I filled hours with paperwork, books, and podcasts. We have a stroller, a car seat, a rocking chair and a pack ‘n play. Yet, we still have no baby. Jon and I have followed the right recipe but don’t have the ‘right’ results.
Real life is full of bumps in the road, unmet expectations, and little control; nothing like baking. So what do you do when you have the ‘right’ recipe but no results? Do you change your recipe for better results? Or change your results to fit your recipe?
I think the answer is neither. I think that in the midst of the pain, brokenness, unmet expectations and realness of life, there is more room for healing and growing. There is more time to slow down from the crazy. There are more opportunities to have deeper friendships and a stronger marriage. I am thankful that even though things don’t go my way, I have people that love and support me through it. I am quickly learning that life isn’t about things being ‘right’ or going my way. It’s about the dinners around the table with friends who know and understand where I am. It’s about special gifts that bring encouragement on long days. It’s about laughing and crying with the people I love. And it’s about being able to live life with people in the good and the very, very hard times in life. It’s all about our people, our family, and being in this exact moment. Messy, without the ‘right’ recipe, but still in love with the results.