One of my favorite pastimes of the Christmas season is baking. I love to bake cookies and cakes. There are some recipes that are tried and true and I make them every year and then there are some that come and go depending on my mood.
One of the recipes that has made it’s way into my repertoire is a simple buttery shortbread. It has three ingredients…butter, brown sugar, and flour. It’ so simple and so easy that as long as you follow the very few basic steps it’s a total win. The butter must be cold and cut into tiny pieces before blending it with the brown sugar. The flour mustn’t be added in one giant plop but instead slowly and with ease. After you chill the dough you place small, rolled balls on a cookie sheet and then sprinkle your favorite colored sprinkle across the top. Bake, cool, eat. Yum.
I’ve done a little baking here and there this month. A cake to share here. A bread to give there. Some fudge, some cookies…nothing too fancy. Today felt like a good day for my favorite little butter cookies except that the cold front that blew into Houston over the weekend blew out yesterday and my A/C is back on. I’m not sure why I get disappointed by warm fronts over Christmas. This is my 18th Christmas in Houston and, if I really went back with a tally marker, I’d say the A/C years far outweighed the fireplace years. It is what it is. Cookies can’t wait for cold days.
So I pulled my butter and sugar and flour out and started the mixing. And the rolling. And the baking. The smell was wafting through the kitchen as the cookies baked and I cleaned the kitchen. I wiped the counters, loaded the dishwasher, and waited for the timer to buzz.
When I opened the oven, ready to beam with pride and joy over the golden sweet treats, I was mortified to see three cookie sheets of flat, burned, cookie blobs. What could have possibly happened?!?!?!
I didn’t chill the dough. I got in a hurry and I handled the dough too much without chilling it. My warm and harsh hands warmed the butter in the dough and caused it to flatten and burn.
While throwing three cookie sheets of cookies out is very frustrating, it served as a reminder to my co-dependent self of a character flaw I always have to keep in check…especially during the holidays. A lack of patience and a need to mold situations to my liking often gets me in trouble.
This is the time of year when expectations are high and my need to make things “right” often gets me in trouble. My mind races, I plan too far ahead, and I fail to be present in the moment. I skip steps, overstep bounds, and by-pass feelings in order to mold things into how I believe they should be. And while this is disastrous for cookies, it’s even worse for relationships. The lack of time to chill and the need to fill every moment with busy leads to a flat, burned out mom.
I read a short devotional thought a few days ago that included a reminder that God rarely shows us the whole picture up front. Sometimes he lets us walk around in the mess before he explains why we’re in it. When the angel visited Mary she was front-loaded with what was to come. Joseph, however, was tossed around in the wash before the angel visited him to clue him in. Everything looked messy and confusing and he could have dropped Mary, his pregnant girlfriend and ran to the hills but he didn’t. He waited. And when God’s plan was revealed to him he took each next step just as he was directed. How different might have the story turned out had Joseph jumped the gun? What if he’d skipped some steps and tried to roll the situation up in a perfect ball? What if he hadn’t taken the time to chill?
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”). -Matthew 1:22-23
I want to be more like Joseph. I want to trust that God is working in all situations and have the patience to wait it out. I want to believe that God’s plans for me (or for my kids or for my friends) are well thought out and have purpose and don’t need to be handled by me. I want to be faithful and follow each step as God reveals it. I want to remember that it’s not my job to make all things “right” and that when I skip steps it almost always leads to disaster. Or burnt cookies.