I’m not much of a baker. Something about the preciseness of it intimidates me. I’m much more of a “little of this, little of that, add a hunk of butter to the sauce and it will taste great, dance around my kitchen to old Jimmy Buffet” kind of cook. I can host a holiday meal or a summertime cookout for 20 with my eyes closed, but will someone else please bring the pie?
Unfortunately for me, something about baking with our children has been sold to us mothers as holy ground. There are times one of my children will bring home a cookbook from “library day” at school and request that we spend the afternoon making cupcakes that resemble butterflies or unicorns. And though I always consider “losing” that particular library book and forking over the $12 to replace it, I walk to the pantry and try y’all. But, because I’m not a baker, I never have the right ingredients for the unicorn cupcakes. Inevitably, we find what we need for a cobbler, a dump cake, a loaf of banana bread, and the holiness descends anyway. Because the magic is not found in the final product, but in the togetherness…in the journey…with the ingredients we have.
I have learned in my 13 years of motherhood so far, that many will tell you mothering is like the careful art of baking. There is some sort of formula, exact measurements, perfectly timed outcomes, all the while trying to peddle just the tools we need. “It should look, and taste, and feel this way… See, here is the picture.” But time and time again I have gone to the pantry and realized those are not the ingredients I have.
Motherhood, like all of life, is the journey to embrace what we have, while laying what we thought we would have, what others tell us we should have, on the alter over and over- day by day.
I thought I would be living this life and raising these 4 children a stone’s throw from my own mother, just the way she had done. Instead, I have traded the flip-flops of my Floridian youth, for the boots appropriate for planting deep roots in the west Texas desert. I have cried a thousand tears for that dream, and yet… I have cultivated a sisterhood here I would not have known I needed had that expectation been met. There have been seasons when my marriage looked very different than the fairy tale we all want, and yet… the muscles built in prayer during those years have made me a strong intercessor and know what miracles look like. I have children that fit this culture’s mold, and I have children that do not. When the only successes we know how to measure at this moment are in the classroom and on the sports field, so very much goes uncelebrated. Things like kindness, and creativity, and epic forts in the back pasture, and childhood. So I give high fives to the ones on the stage, and I honor the hearts of those who may never be, as I trudge out to admire their fort.
See, I never want to live in the shadow of my expectations, letting them rob the sunlight of my reality. This little unexpected piece of promised land may be thousands of miles away from my mom, but there is no more magical spot on a Fall evening to gather friends around the fire pit, lights twinkling in the trees above. It has my heart and has become my home. And that cowboy of mine? Oh, we will forever go round and round I suppose, but he loves us fierce and what more could “happily ever after” be made of? As for these children of ours, so beautiful, so different, growing so quickly… they will all be just fine because they know how to love big even on the days they strike out. And they know they have a mamma who is not afraid to turn her back on this culture of achievement to celebrate all that makes them unique.
We were not tasked with procuring the “right” ingredients. We might as well rip that shopping list up the moment we say “I do,” the moment our first child is born, and every moment after. I can fret over not having what I need on hand for the unicorn cupcakes- the sparkly life I thought I wanted- or I can lovingly gather the ingredients I have been given to create a life that is so much more delicious. In the end, I have realized mothering is nothing like baking (except for the messy kitchen). There are no precise measurements, perfect tools, or timers set. The only way to count every bit of it as joy is to relinquish the picture, lose the book altogether, and dig into the sweet realness of what you have. So, add a hunk of butter and dance around to old Jimmy Buffet, trusting that God knew the ingredients He gave you. He only asks us to steward them well, Mamma, knowing that the outcome will be a sweet aroma to Him.