There he was. The evidence of this morning’s #kitchenfail. The sesame seed. Just sitting there, between the “x” and the “c” keys, taunting me as I sat down to write.
He’d won out this morning. He’d gotten the best of me. But this afternoon, his presence only made me smile. The last lingering remnant of a cookie recipe gone awry, he reminded me that there was grace for my mistakes. That the whole day didn’t have to go in the garbage just because that seemed to be the destiny of my cookies. That my kitchen failure was an integral part of this sunny Saturday.
I’d woken early. The sun streaming through my windows at 6:30am. My blackout curtains no match for the bright beams.
Rather than reach for my eye mask and attempt to sleep a bit longer, I decided to rise early and get a head start on the day.
Inspired by the food magazine I’d been reading before bed the night before, I somehow got it in my head that tahini honey cookies were the exact right dessert to bring to the dinner party we’d be going to later that evening. That and a Napa Valley Zinfandel.
As I got to work on the cookies, I quickly realized that the coconut flour I had thought would be a fine substitute for almond flour was not working out as well as I’d hoped. The aroma was heavenly. Vanilla and cinnamon. A slightly savory touch from the tahini and sweetness from the honey. And who can say no to the creamy quality of coconut?
If the cookies were all about flavor, these would have been a hit. But they weren’t coming together. The dough was dry and mealy. Even as I added water and an egg to help bind the ingredients together, the dough kept crumbling in my hands. But I was determined to get these cookies in the oven. What else was I going to do with all these coconut-y sesame goodness?
So, I added just a bit more water until I could form the dough into little balls. I rolled them in sesame seeds and then flattened them a bit on the parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
By this point, nearly an hour had passed, my hands were a sticky mess, and I wasn’t feeling very confident that I’d be bringing a homemade dessert to dinner. But I stuck the trays in the oven, set the timer for eight minutes, and got to work on the dishes.
When my phone buzzed to life, I checked to see if the cookies were done. They were a beautiful golden hue, and the smell was intoxicating, but all I could really see were the cracks forming in each round medallion.
They were crumbling. How in the world was I going to transfer them to the wire racks to cool? They would just fall apart in transit.
But I gingerly lifted the parchment paper and placed them on the racks to cool. A couple cookies crumbled upon impact, and with them, my composure.
I texted my mom and James – my voices of reason – and asked them to help talk me down.
“That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” was not what I was looking to hear, and I knew they’d know better than that.
They understand my triggers. Waste. Failure. Those start a downward spiral that I know I need to break out of quickly before it takes over. I was already beginning a shame cycle.
“You’re so dumb, Laura. Why did you think you could make these? Why did you substitute coconut flour for almond? Why did you think that would work? Now you just wasted the last hour and a half, and for what? You have nothing to show for it. You should have just used the time to write. That’s what you were supposed to do today, after all.”
I can say some really not nice things to myself. I’m guessing you know how that goes, too. In the midst of shame and embarrassment or simply worry and regret, we can go to really dark places in our minds and hearts.
So, I did one of the things I’ve learned to do during this long recovery process from perfectionism – I reached out for help.
First, my mom consoled me with an idea…why not use the cookies as an ice cream topping or in a parfait? Just let them go the way they want to go? Let them crumble.
But that didn’t exactly sit well with me. After all, I’d spent this time trying to make cookies. Not crumbs.
Of course, she was right, though. I needed to let things go. The day wasn’t a waste, so much laid ahead.
James echoed this sentiment when we talked on the phone a bit later. “If you keep wringing your hands over wasting time, then that’s when you’ll really be wasting time,” he said wisely.
He was right. I didn’t want to waste the day in regret. I needed to simply do the next thing.
But first, I needed to pause. As my mom reminded me, I needed to stop what I was doing for a moment. Stop cleaning. Stop trying to figure things out. And just be. Just sit in the light of God’s love and let him lead me to the next thing.
Maybe this seems like a whole lot of grief over crumbly cookies. And in a way, it is. There are much bigger issues in life. I know this.
But, of course, this wasn’t really about the cookies. It was about the time. My time. My resources. As though they belong to me.
That was what I had so wrong. The day that had already passed, the hours that lay ahead. None of those belonged to me. God was not surprised by my less-than-perfect culinary outcome. He wasn’t mad at me for making cookies instead of writing. There was no judgment in his love. He knew I’d tried, and he had so much in store for my day – including the lessons I learned by letting the cookies crumble.
As I sat in this truth for a bit – the truth that God was in control of my day, that nothing is wasted when it’s submitted to him – I knew what I needed to do next.
I needed to let the cookies cool, and I needed to move my body. To get out and feel the pavement under my feet, to turn on my music and talk to God while I ran.
A couple miles in, as my legs carried me up Strawberry Hill, I started to cry. Not out of pain, but out of sheer joy and overwhelm. The lyrics of Bethel Music’s “A Little Longer” were flowing through my veins, and I was overcome with God’s love for me.
“I hear You say
You don’t have to do a thing
Simply be with me and
Let those things go
They can wait another minute
Wait, this moment
Is too sweet
Please stay here with me
And love on Me a little longer
‘Cause I’m in love with you.”
This concept of God being in love with us can be really hard to grasp. It’s hard enough to accept the love of the people around us – our friends, family, spouse, children – because we’ve grown up in a productivity-obsessed culture that leads us to believe we have to do something to be worthy of love and acceptance.
But in God’s economy, we see that that line of thinking is really just one big fat lie. We’ve bought that lie since it makes us feel self-sufficient. Like we can get what we need – love, affection, praise – on our own. But as soon as we fail, as soon as we mess up, as soon as the cookie crumbles, that whole way of living falls apart. We’re imperfect. We can’t do enough to be worthy of love.
Thank God that he loves us in our weakness. That he is so in love with us and just wants us to stay with him a little longer.
When I reached the top of Strawberry Hill today, I took a few minutes to pause, to breathe, to take in the 360 view of this beautiful city I get to call home.
Before I turned to head down the hill and continue on my run, I said a prayer of thanks. Thanks that God doesn’t always allow things to go my way. Thanks for the reminders of his provision and his care. Thanks for his tenderness and his compassion. Thanks for the ability to run and to bake cookies and to share them with the people I love.
And you know what? The cookies weren’t so bad after all.