We’ve had plenty of conversations about birthdays lately.
Cake. Presents. Cards. Anticipation. Celebration.
They can make you excited. They can make you cringe.
I made Bill’s birthday cake the other day, and I had unintentionally heaped pressure on myself. Two years ago I attempted to make him a cake and it completely failed to rise. We called it ‘the brick’ and threw it out. This year, I envisioned baking a pristine cake and setting it triumphantly in front of Bill’s beaming face.
I did make a cake, and we enjoyed it together and shared pieces with friends and neighbors. But the simple act of making a cake wasn’t without issue. It’s always the seemingly simple tasks that allow the stress to bubble to the surface. We stumbled over each other in our tiny kitchen as Bill made dinner and cleaned up my trail of sugary, powdery, sticky messes. There was frustration and there were tears. And four hours later there was a triumphant cake right before we sleepily stumbled to bed.
I wondered why I let a simple birthday cake break me.
I want birthdays to be full of happy surprises and cherished gifts. I want the birthday boy to know he is special and that someone is thinking about him. I want to reflect on the best things that happened over the past year and look forward to the dreams for the coming year. But I ignore the stress in the preparation until it rises to the surface. Much like everyday life, I envision the best, but risk getting derailed by the splattered berry fillings and the clock that shows it’s well past bedtime.
On the other hand, Bill squirms at the thought of gift opening and song singing because he wonders what one does to deserve it all. It’s kind of funny that we celebrate birthdays for the person who was born, rather than the mother who birthed them. But maybe there’s a lesson there too. How much in life do we actually earn or deserve? So much of our abundance or lack is determined by the country or the family we are born into. And aren’t salvation and grace amazing because we simply don’t deserve them?
So, as we scrape up the crumbs of the last pieces of cake, I’m trying to remember to roll with the mess, to celebrate those I love, and to be thankful for the gifts I don’t deserve.