Seeing the beauty among the storm clouds or…
“Life isn’t what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.”
I remember baking my first cake. It was my mom’s birthday and I was 10 years old. I was raised in an era when Mom did all the cooking and Dad and the kids did all the eating. So, needless to say, I had no kitchen experience beyond the sink full of dirty dishes to wash, but that wasn’t going to stop me. So, I banned Mom from the kitchen, and using her best recipe, I launched into a frenzy of baking a chocolate bundt cake for her birthday dinner. After careful measuring, precise execution and multiple batter samplings, I popped it in the oven and set the timer. All good, so proud! But best intentions don’t count with cooking. I sat on the floor in front of the cloudy window of the oven door watching the amazing metamorphosis of gooey brown batter rising into a beautiful spongy cake. I could hardly contain myself as the timer finally went off and I carefully pulled the cake from the oven. Now here is where it all went downhill. I was impatient to get the hot cake out of the pan, So, grabbing two handwoven potholders (my Christmas present to her) I inverted the cake pan and dumped the cake on the plate, only to get my hand stuck under it. As carefully as I could I maneuvered my hand out from under the cake not only leaving the potholder there but breaking the hot cake completely in half! I was devastated but not undone. I let the cake cool (a little) and patched it all together with a huge amount of vanilla frosting, attempting to hide the mishap with sprinkles and LOTS of candles. So, when the big cake moment came, I presented a lopsided cake with melted frosting to Mom. Her eyes lit up and she ooo’d and ah’d over this crazy creation. I was just hoping she wouldn’t look into the tubular hole in the middle of the cake and see the potholder. Of course, when she cut the cake, the secret was out. Her response? She laughed and remarked, “Now that is certainly creative of you! Thank you so much for my surprise cake.” And then she hugged me. The cake was a hit, the potholder was famous and I was redeemed as a cook.
That was one of my first lessons about gratitude (and patience!). And I am reminded of those people that see the cup half full vs. half empty. Those that have the ability to view this messy life through a different lens and SEE beyond the failures and into the blessings. I know people who have come through fire in their lives and they are an inspiration. They are real with their emotions, disappointments and anguish but they don’t choose to live there for long. Gratitude, especially when it’s hard, can be a taste of sweet frosting on a messy cake.
Someone once said that if you’re looking for things to be thankful for, start with the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning. If you woke up in a bed, be thankful. Much of humanity, doesn’t have a bed. If you turned on the faucet for a drink, be thankful. Much of humanity has no clean, running water. If you turned on the light switch, be thankful. Much of humanity has no electricity at their disposal. If you walked to the bathroom, be thankful. Much of humanity is suffering the pain and despair of disease and disability. If you hugged a loved one, be thankful. Much of humanity is alone and lonely. And the list goes on.
It’s easy to be thankful for the obvious when things peachy and going as planned but it is a daily struggle to practice the discipline of gratitude especially in the mundane and the ugly. But if God is in everything and is so all powerful that “He turns what was intended for evil into good,” then I can relax, breathe in peace and let go. Many times, MOST of the time, my act of thanksgiving is an act of obedience – of refusing to let go of God and instead let go of my will and my expectations.
In those heart-wrenching moments of trial and pain, I hold on to Him for dear life and in the end He blesses me with new vision, new lens, new eyes to SEE beyond the cracks in the cake and into the sweetness of love in which it was given.