An Icing Crisis, A Marital and the Tornado That Didn't Happen
So I'll go ahead and state the obvious. I've not posted anything in MONTHS. It's been a lot of months. I'd actually go look at the last time I posted and figure out how many months, but I'd prefer to not find out the specifics of my “neglect”. Anyway... life has just been busy and full and I've been learning how to offer myself plenty of kindness and grace. Thus the lack of writing. Rest is okay. Rest is good. I'm in this for the long haul, so I'm doing my best to learn how to make it for life.
Moving right along… I just finished this book The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life by Melanie Shankle. It's a pretty funny little read on marriage. There are several stories that literally made me laugh out loud. There's one story in particular about how she gets hit by a piece of burnt toast thrown by a rat, where I seriously lost all sense of holding it together because I was in public, and I laughed so hard I had to reread several sentences. I know that sounds ridiculous but it felt so close to the hilarity of my own life, that I just couldn't even.
Something about reading that book, made me start to really miss writing again. And then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week happened, and I had every ounce of subject matter I could ask for.
Let me put a little of my current life in perspective for you. Back in February, my little car died for good, which made us a "temporary" one car family. We live about 40-45 minutes away from our jobs. Our Monday and Tuesday work schedule works well together so carpooling is easy-peasy. My Wednesday-Friday schedule is a bit of a different story since I work at a pie shop. I have to be at work at 6:00am, which translates into a wake up time of 3:50-4: depending on my compulsive snooze button habit. We are out the door around 4: so I can drop Greg at work first (2 hours before he has to be there) then head to my job. I get off usually around 1: then have to find things to do in town before I pick him up at 4: then we head home. I'm basically in bed by 7: because I value sleep and Greg values a well rested Emily.
I've slowly made my way back to meal planning after a couple of weeks of surviving on fast food. It's been nice to slowly get a bit of a flow with planning and organizing around our lives.
Wednesday after I work I planned to bake a cake and cupcakes and take them to our small group to celebrate our friend's graduation. Thursday I would decorate them, then Friday I'd pick them up at home after work and take them to the party. I felt good about spreading everything out over several days.
After work on Wednesday, I took a bit of the procrastination approach and relaxed for awhile before heading straight to the baking. Greg let me know he was going to head to his grandmother’s for a bit. We knew storms were headed towards us and likely to be severe, so I was a bit surprised he was leaving.
Eventually, I got up and got my cakes in the oven. About 10 minutes into the bake time the tornado sirens started going off. Storms don't always bother me, but I panicked a bit. What do I do with the cakes? I went back and forth between the kitchen and the bathroom/shelter, sirens still going off, when I just decided to go ahead and turn the oven off. I sat on my bathroom floor, stared at the no less than 50 ants that had recently taken up residence in my bathtub, and felt frustrated, because I had to get these cakes done tonight and do my best to get to bed at a decent time. However, it didn't make sense to "risk my life" to stubborn my way through baking cakes. I rode out 20 minutes while we were under the Tornado Warning.
Finally, I decided to go ahead and resume baking. I turned the oven back on and hoped the cakes would be okay and finish cooking properly. I got the cupcakes in just in time for the sirens to go off again. I checked my phone and this time there was actually something spotted close to our town. I turned off the oven AGAIN and sat in my bathroom AGAIN and did my best to keep it together.
Greg got home and walked in the door like nothing was going on. My always calm husband was indeed calm. I scolded him for driving home in the dangerous weather. He reassured me it was okay to keep baking so I turned the oven back on. The sirens were still going off and I was getting unnerved. Greg hugged me and let me know everything was okay.
Then. He. Went. Outside.
Sirens are going off. I open my front door. My husband is kicked back in chair on our porch watching the clouds ALONG WITH APPARENTLY EVERYONE ELSE ON OUR STREET. I looked up to see our neighbors holding their baby, discussing how bad the clouds looked. It was too much. I told Greg this was not okay. He was not being wise. I was upset. THE SIRENS WERE GOING OFF AND WE COULD DIE AND EVERYONE IS ACTING LIKE THIS IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO PARTAKE IN COMMUNITY ENTERTAINMENT.
I stormed inside (pun not initially intended, but now I see it and will leave it, because I like it) and Greg followed me. My always patient husband apologized and let me know that it was okay and we were okay, but he was sorry. He even stood in the bathroom to "seek shelter" for a bit but it was basically just to make me happy when I panicked again.
At some point the oven got turned back on, the cakes finished baking, they weren't ruined, we ate a very late dinner and I was asleep a couple of hours later than usual.
Thursday morning I hit not one, BUT TWO birds in my car on the way to work. This happened minutes within each other. I stopped in the middle of the road after the second one, which happened to be an owl and I felt slightly traumatized. I mean it's not a great sign when you kill TWO LIVING ANIMALS and it's not even 6:. Okay, I'm not sure that I killed them both, but still. I made it to work without managing to kill anything else, although I did have a second owl sighting too close for comfort. (I told this to Greg later and he told me that the word must have gotten out in the owl community and I was in for it.) I told my boss about my drive and she said it was a good thing I didn't work in a hospital. The only thing I could kill here was maybe cookies and pie. (Everyone in my life is a comedian, which I’m more than okay with.)
Fast forward to later that evening after work. Greg and I had leftovers for dinner, then I jumped in to cake decorating. I got the first batch of icing made, assembled the cake and got it properly iced minus the writing and edging. I decided to make my last batch of icing, color it, then throw it in the fridge and finish decorating tomorrow. It was after 8:00pm (I know I sound like an old person, but remember I HAVE TO BE UP AT 3AM) and I was tired.
As I was mixing the icing, it started to look really weird. I was getting more and more concerned. I've made this exact same recipe literally hundreds of times. And this icing was not right. It was grainy and separating and I had no idea how to fix it. Greg was in bed already so I took my giant bowl of grainy icing and had him look at it. My husband is a bit of a cake decorator himself, and he also knows what buttercream icing was supposed to look like. And this wasn't it.
Cue late night meltdown over grainy icing and accompanying hysterics.
I was so upset. This was my first time taking anything to small group and therefore this was the only thing these people had to base my baking skills on. I hadn't gained enough good-tasting-food equity so that they could let this one slide. And to make matters worse I WORK AT A BAKERY SO EXPECTATIONS ARE SURELY GOING TO BE HIGH. I ranted on and on laying in bed, my hair a mess, my arms coated with layers of powdered sugar, right next to my husband with a bowl of messed up icing in my lap. This is real married life, y'all.
Around this time I recognized the problem wasn't the icing. It was about this time that my husband piped up and mentioned that I wasn't upset about the icing, but what the icing represented.
Guys, I keep trying to earn my way. I find my value in the things that I do. I always want to go above and beyond in everything I do, just to make sure that the scales are always tipped in my favor. That way when I mess up (and I surely do) my "good works" would be there to vouch for me. And unfortunately that's no longer the way I believe that life should be lived.
I've tasted something greater. I've learned grace. I've learned this life isn't about me and what I do. I will never be able to save myself. I will never be able to do enough good things to win in the end. That's why I have Jesus. He paid the price. I am enough. Not by what I do, but what He's done. This is freedom. Living by "good works" is bondage. It's a risky game to play. And an exhausting one. One that always leaves me feeling beat down and not good enough. Old habits die hard. But thankfully grace doesn't leave me where I am.
This late night realization brought me a little comfort, but my stubbornness also kicked in. I didn't want to deal with my mess right now. I just wanted to bake an amazing cake and cupcakes to celebrate my friend. Okay, fine. I wanted to prove that I can bake something awesome. But is that really so bad?
I remembered how my cooking skills miraculous died when I started dating my husband. Feel free to read about a little example in an earlier post The "Resemblance of Chicken" Tacos. I wanted so badly to prove to Greg that I was amazing cook. And for the first time ever, everything I made wouldn’t turn out right. I burnt chicken in the crock pot for goodness sakes. And you know what? I'm so thankful. I’m thankful for that. Because it gave me the opportunity to learn how he loved me not for what I did, but for who I was. And that makes all the difference. That brought a freedom, and a confidence and assurance in our relationship. And shortly after getting married my cooking skills returned. And our continual weight gain speaks for the fact that we are eating very well. But a strong foundation was built for our marriage on love and grace. That can't be earned.
So maybe that was what was happening here. Maybe God is protecting me. Not maybe. I know. I believe crazy things like how I love a God who cares enough about me that he would want good things for me. Like right relationships and a deeper understanding of grace. And He would want those things enough to go in the messy places with me. Even those times when I was being a brat who in the moment didn't seem like I wanted it, but in reality I really do want it so very much.
I put the icing in the fridge and didn't chuck it out the window. It was late and I was tired. My decision making skills weren't at the top of their game. But I knew that I had to do my best with what I had. And that meant taking grainy icing cupcakes if I had to, because it was about loving the people and being present, not about my baking skills. If it was edible and made with love, it was enough.
The next day everything turned out okay. I got off work, got everything finished, and got them successfully transported. They weren't as good as I wanted, but it was exactly what it needed to be. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't supposed to be. The graduate was happy, and I know he felt loved, and that made me happy.
I really think I'm slowly learning that I can't earn love. I can't earn life. I can't earn salvation. And I'm learning that this little nugget of truth brings freedom. And with that freedom it also brings joy. Joy in maroon, grainy icing that stains tongues. Joy in eating too many peanut butter cups while topping cupcakes. Joy in letting go of expectations I've placed on myself. Joy is the messy kitchen and washing dirty pans in pink dishwater from icing residue. I have to fight for this joy at times. But I'm learning this joy is worth it.
Grace changes everything.