She answers the phone as I’m clumsily pulling out the muffin tin from the oven. I’m not very good at this anyway, and my injured hand makes my movements even more awkward than usual. So, it takes me a moment to discover the safe way of juggling phone, tin, and mitt as I’m standing in my giraffe-print swimsuit in a tiny kitchen with zero counter space, and I’ve forgotten why I’ve called my mother to begin with.
“Oh! Right. So I’m making the cupcake version of the “Best Ever Chocolate Cake” from that one cookbook, Mom.” [Apparently, other people refer to it as “Texas Sheet Cake,” but I grew up simply calling it my birthday cake, because that is when I requested it, and that is when my mother conceded to making anything with that much butter and that much confectioner’s sugar.]
“Anyway,” I begin as I try to swallow my missing her, “I just realized that you’re not here to drink the rest of the buttermilk.”
I hate buttermilk. She knows this. She tells me to make homemade ranch dressing, because “that’s how they used to make it, you know,” and then hands the phone to my grandmother as she handles a potato salad crisis. It’s Independence Day, after all. I explain the buttermilk thing to my grandmother, who advises me to make homemade ranch dressing, because,
“…that’s how they used to make it, I know,” I laugh. I spread the rich, nutty mixture atop each cupcake as we talk about the party they’re throwing and our family’s inability to keep anything just red, white, and blue. We talk church and desert, friends and blessing. Eventually, the frosting sets, and they have guests to greet.
I climb the stairs to my bedroom, triumphant with my cupcake and glass of milk, not caring much if crumbs get in the bed as I eat there. What I am not so prepared for is the total sensory rush of the past, of feeling so much like a child as I take the first bite. It’s a recipe that I’ve only made myself once before and I am suddenly alone and very small and lost.
And I’m almost instantly angry.
I’m furious that this is the dozenth time this week that I have felt this way, that it’s cupcakes and bill paying and can openers and grocery shopping and mail keys and gas caps that make me want to scream whatamIdoing and hope to heaven that I’m in the right place. I’m mad that I just cannot seem to cope with the change of the past few months, that I am just not yet fully at peace with the diaspora of my friends and family.
Why can’t I get over all this? I say into my pillow, half-eaten cupcake now abandoned on the nightstand.
And I feel foolish for wanting to lay this before Him, for somehow thinking I can align my passing angst with the psalmist’s “deliver me, O God.” I turned away from the image of a personalized Jesus, right? From a Holy Spirit who only consoled and never corrected, from a Father whose love always looked like what I wanted.
And I have fallen into a tradition of faith (at least for now) that beautifully pushes me out of the way—ordered worship in pursuit of ordered love. No room for me and all my fickleness.
Despite my protests He said, in grace, as I lie there with batter and frosting and powdered sugar all over me—yes, even here, even now.
As in, even here, He meets me, even now, He knows. Yes, He is Other, beyond. But He is also “closer than my skin” (a lyric I will always love). Both center and circumference, and everywhere in-between.
I wonder if this is something I will ever stop learning. Sometimes it is easier to remember in instants when the veil is very thin between here and glory, when He is known in raindrops, in chords, in hue.
“The Divine in the mundane,” we can say. Somehow more near in all that Beauty.
But what about the mundane of the mundane? If He is God of the small moments, then surely it must be all the moments. Even the parts that do not feel like gift, the frustrations and the melancholy, the somewhat silly parts that I don’t want to call sacramental. The parts that make me angry at myself.
My struggle now is admitting them enough to meet Him there. To sigh that yes, these little things are my undoing, to hold them up to the Light and see what can be done.
And maybe that is where I will start to be remade, again and again, in Grace.