Have you ever just tasted flour? Flour all by itself. No? Go into your kitchen, grab whatever gluten free, paleo, cardboard flour you have and take a little taste. Okay, side note. I poke fun at that kind of flour but I have coconut, almond, and gluten free, sprouted flour in my cabinet so I’m really poking fun at myself. Anyways. Go taste that flour. Tastes like crap, right? Have you ever tasted cocoa powder, all by itself? Don’t lie. You’ve done it. You were a curious little kid and thought, “This looks like chocolate” and went in head first, only to find cocoa and chocolate aren’t even in the same taste family. Sugar by itself? Painfully sweet, right? Even your natural substitutes like maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar. You don’t enjoy them on their own, right? Vanilla extract, anyone? I bet you just made the same, grimacing face I did. What about a raw egg? If you like raw eggs, just please don’t come back to this blog; I don’t need that weird energy here. (Just kidding, you can stay. Please go seek help, though.)
Those ingredients on their own are less than appealing. We don’t go home and say, “Gosh I really want a spoonful of sugar after the day I’ve had.” Ha. You probably have that Mary Poppins song stuck in your head now. My bad. You don’t really enjoy those ingredients together. Mix them together in their appropriate proportions and what do you have? Brownies? A cake? Something really freaking good. I’m not a baker so please don’t comment telling me what ingredients I missed. I know there’s some baking powder needed or something like that. That’s not the point. Although I do make some killer paleo pumpkin spice pancakes. Circle back around, Dani. Right, back to the point.
These ingredients separate of each other are not something we really enjoy but when we mix them together and allow them their time to bake, we have something mouth-watering and delightful to eat.
Now imagine a chocolate cake without the eggs. No seriously, please imagine it. I don’t know what would happen without the eggs. I told you I’m not a baker. Regardless of what it is that happens to a cake sans eggs, it’s not right. It’s pointless. It’s probably just a weird mush. It won’t work. It won’t form the cake that we’ve been imagining. It won’t make a Pinterest-worthy cake. (Does it ever make a Pinterest-worthy cake?)
Let’s take a step back and apply that to our lives, shall we? In isolation, some things we go through suck. It sucks to go through hard things. Often, it isn’t until later we realize a trial was merely an ingredient. It was just a small piece of the larger final product. It doesn’t sit right in isolation, but once a part of the bigger picture, it makes all the difference. Taking it a step farther, I’ll say we aren’t who we are without that ingredient, without the trial. Would I still be Dani if Mom hadn’t died? Sure. Would I be this Dani? No way, man. Would I be here in Indiana without going to North Carolina first? Doubtful. Were both of those times in my life filled with hard things? Yup. Fun fact: we can do hard things.
I am so guilty of this, but sometimes in the heart of a trial or hard time, it’s difficult to see how it’s part of the bigger picture. Gosh, guys. I was so bad at this when my relationship in NC ended or when life at this Indiana assignment was not initially what I expected. I whined. I groaned about it. I sat in it, maybe a little too long. We all do it. There’s a quote that says something about having a bad day is fine, just make sure you don’t unpack there.
Unpacking in a bad day or a shitty trial is the equivalent of tasting flour before adding it to the cake mix and then deciding to forego the other ingredients and just eat flour. Why the hell would you do that? You wouldn’t! You wouldn’t say, “Ew this is gross. Let me just eat more.”
Maybe I’m coming up with another metaphor that contradicts my initial metaphor but here we go. Sure, flour on its own sucks. Sucks. But how beautiful and complimented it is when it’s blended with cocoa powder, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of sea salt if you’re smart. Let’s look at the flour as our trial. If we fixate on the trial or sit and eat only flour, we’re neglecting how sweet it can be when combined with all the other things.
In an effort to not project onto your life or situations, I’ll provide my own. Let’s say I said, “Screw it” and became a hermit after life didn’t go as planned in North Carolina. Don’t get me wrong, my initial desire was to run home to Dad and hide from the embarrassment I felt. What I would’ve missed if I sat and only ate the flour! I would’ve missed out on CrossFit and the fabulous friendships I made there. I would’ve missed out on the people, the opportunities within the church, the confidence to go explore around. Those things are all the eggs, the milk, the vanilla, that compliment the flour. Those things make the flour, or the shitty trial, taste that much sweeter.
It’s like, yes! That time sucked for you, but it led you here. I’ve always found myself thinking that when I or others look back in embarrassment or with a tinge of regret. Sometimes I look back with a chip on my shoulder, like I feel I was owed more time with Mom. Sometimes I look back, questioning my decisions and actions, like I should have ended a relationship before we got engaged. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, I think it’s just coming back to the present and going, “Yeah, but it brought me here.”
I bet that’s what it’s like when you’re old and grey, sitting with your human on the porch on a warm summer evening as you watch the sun go down. I bet you turn to them, seeing the years you’ve spent together in the smile lines that permanently frame their eyes and rest along the corners of the lips you’ve yet to grow tired of kissing. As you turn to them, softly smiling, thanking God for this perfect recipe, I bet it’s that moment with that person in that place. It’s what makes the heartbreaks a bit sweeter. It’s what balances the nearly intolerable taste of uncertainty. It’s the pinch of courage it takes to break down walls. It’s what creates magic from things that seem so blah in isolation. That’s your recipe.
Oh, wow. My hopeless romantic came out in full force with this post. I don’t even know where she came from. It feels like she’s been hiding a bit underneath a veil of cynicism and fear while cowering behind walls she had built. I like what she writes, though. I might invite her around more often.
Weird side tangent that just happened there. Man, I was so on track for a great, relatively smooth ending to a blog post and I messed it up by weirdly talking about my hopeless romantic side. Oh, well. I do hope you find my odd ramblings endearing, or at least entertaining.
I guess a way to wrap it all up would be to encourage you to take these ingredients and make the most of them, knowing there’s a big, beautiful cake up ahead. Remember, the best cakes are those made from scratch, with every ingredient personally handled by the baker and added with (relative) precision. Cake mixes are quick, but they taste nothing like ones from scratch. You, sweet friend, deserve the most delectable, delightful, devilishly delicious chocolate cake around. Just takes a little more time to create that perfect recipe.