Last week, our to-be-10-year-old declared her desire to share cinnamon rolls with her grandparents in honor of the big birthday.
She reasoned that with ice cream sundaes on birthday night with immediate family and cake with her pals at Saturday’s sleepover, a departure with cinnamon pastry would be a good thing.
I agreed with her, in theory.
Inside, my heart sunk.
I tried not to let it show, but I’m not sure how good a job I did hiding the fear.
At 37, I am just beginning to own my creativity, and in my world the finer cooking arts fall squarely within this category.
I’m surrounded by creative, not just functional, cooks. There’s my husband, who concocts inventive and delicious ideas and combines gourmet recipes on week nights. Week nights, people.
There’s my mom, who creates exemplary beauty in the kitchen and on the table (and is the author of an incredible blog called cooking-spree.com, by the way).
And there are my sisters, who prepare holiday cookies, party spreads and meals to die for on a regular basis.
Me, I’d rather take the easy road through the kitchen. The old tried and true. One pot wonders, salads, breads with produce as a main ingredient (banana or pumpkin anyone?), chocolate chip cookies. You know, low risk stuff.
When I choose to take the time, I do alright, and sometimes even have fun. To my knowledge, I haven’t scarred any taste buds. But with a choice, I’d rather be writing, decorating or even cleaning than cooking for enjoyment. I’m definitely not trying something new for a group of people (dear extended family included).
Over the last year, I’ve made big strides in relishing the joy of creative expression and embracing this as a central part of who I am. Recognizing her as a wild-haired mess that will not live tidily in a corner separate from my life and orderly grasp.
But free, joyful creativity doesn’t cloud from my wake with so much salt, pepper and flour. Maybe it never will, and that would be OK. The looming fear of failure, though — I want that to go away.
Last week, our schedules made clear that cinnamon roll making was going to fall squarely in my lap.
I saw no way out. I wanted to do this for my girl.
In the morning, I woke early with heart thumping hard in my chest to prepare the dough for rising, hands actually shaking with anticipation. I knew it was ridiculous, but they did.
I completed the first portion of the task and snapped this photo:
I know. Woop-de-doo. It’s dough. But I felt a swell of pride, maybe even a start of exhilaration mixed in with the yeast.
When Lala and I returned early that afternoon, I saw the big risen poof and proceeded to next steps. I punched the center of it (per the directions). Fun. I tried to talk myself up. I can do this.
But underneath it all, I was even more sure I would screw up because I hadn’t yet, sure I’d humiliate myself, completely revealing my ineptitude.
So I kept following the directions. What else could I do?
When it came time to roll out the dough to an even rectangle precisely 12 by 16 inches, things got especially touch and go.
The dough seemed to want to stretch forever in one direction, but seemed to stop short in the other. I brought out the ruler — still inches to go.
My lack of experience coupled with my lack of spacial intelligence were going to betray me for sure.
I kept at it.
I rolled and tucked too-long edges, and rolled and rolled.
About the time I thought there must be a rule regulating the time dough can be rolled before it becomes too tough and inedible, I noticed the marks.
Parts of the dough rolled across butcher block counter looked precisely like the marks left behind by skin pushed beyond reasonable limits. Skin marked permanently by the pain of growth.
I continued the steps. The slathering of milk, cinnamon and sugar, the rolling, the forming, the cutting with dental floss (fun!). Soon they looked like this:
Not perfect, as you can plainly see, but they were my little cinnamon rolls, made with just a scattering of a clue by my own two hands. I placed them on the stove to grow into their full cinnamon roll-y goodness.
As the rolls rose, I thought of those marks. I knew they were just cinnamon rolls, but something deeper pulled as I thought about the dough that had stretched wide without tearing apart.
Mother skin stretched to limits by the inside growth struggle. Beauty life springing from strain. Joy pushing through fear with its clenched jaw love.
I didn’t even take a photo of the finished little buns.
I only stored away in my mind the picture of a little victory rising, growing and stretching past its known limits to create something new.
Fear had not won this time.
Just little buns in the oven, but they made me feel like an artist. Like I could do more. Trust more. Stretch more.
It felt good to stretch, to partner in making new.
To cast a trusting artist’s hand to create golden warmth in the not yet.
Tell me: Where do you make art? Where do you see little victories growing, expanding through the fear? What good stretch could you, or are you embracing in your life?
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I’m not going to leave my usual essay-length comment, but let’s just start with the title! Genius! something an ad person would have dreamt up! ;) this post made me laugh out loud a couple times, and I sure do love starting a day like that! You’ve reminded us in this that stretching, with the proper motivation (which love ALWAYS is) isn’t so awfully hard, and never needs to be perfect! Loved your telling of the story, and loved your cinnamon buns! (Next time take a photo!). xoxo
Where am I attempting to stretch? Confidence. And it isn’t always pretty, and it frequently doesn’t feel good, but it’ll be worth the effort…won’t it? :)
I think you spreenkled some of that title-making love on me for this one. :) I so agree with what you say about love as motivation. Love does make the way more smooth, but that doesn’t mean perfect. Love doesn’t make it perfect, but good and good enough.
really beautiful. maybe you’ve helped me redefine what being an artist means. growth is a huge part of it…becoming…looking forward to the “not yet”. ;)
That idea of becoming is so huge to the freedom needed to make art, isn’t it? And as we talked about this morning, M, it’s so good to share our artistic expressions — whatever they may be — in community. So glad we got to share in each other’s today. Made my heart so glad.
Wow! I love that picture or symbol of “joy pushing thru fear”. I do think the only forces that can push me thru my fear is joy or love (all flowing thru me from the holy spirit). It’s amazing to watch or experience and there is no condemnation or critical judgment! And no comparisons! My mom is an amazingly gifted writer, too, and I usually feel like, what’s the point at writing it is her gift and I could never even be close to as good as she is. By why do I even compare or feel like I’m so bad at writing? I am a completely different person and isn’t it neat how we can learn from each other and help each other on our journeys? This year I’m working hard to let the joy of the Lord push thru my fear, trusting God and trusting myself a little bit more each day! I just love to read your blog and come alongside and pray and learn from your journey too!
Thank you so much for sharing, Annie! Yes, comparisons suck so much of the joy out of living. And you’re so right — trusting who we are in Him and that our offering is enough is so fundamental to growing in joy and love. When we’re secure in love, we can be freed to bless another in his/her gifts. Thanks so much for showing up here. It’s so good to share with you. And don’t stop writing! :) xoxo
this is exactly where i am at! feeling the call to live the life that i really want to live. pushing myself to do things that aren’t comfortable…knowing there are tasty treats to gain if only i would try. i dread making new meals too. actually, any meals. i love to decorate and create but i know that i need to “put love on the table”. this is one area where i need a good poke in the rear. thanks for the encouragement that i am not alone in this. some things just don’t come natural…that’s okay…but i still need to do them and i will bank on God blessing my efforts & hopefully i can grow to enjoy it. love them sticky-buns!
I’m so glad you and I are together in this. :)
I so resonate with that line: “Pushing myself to do things that aren’t comfortable…knowing there are tasty treats to gain if only I would try.”
And you’re right, it can’t all come naturally. So bless you, friend, when you do those things that aren’t natural with a heart of love. Praying for you (and me) in that. Love you.
Oh I just love this post….the way you share your vulnerability, your fears and your success in the kitchen and the way you tie it all together!! And those little buns look fantastic—will you teach me?! I’ve never been brave enough to attempt them myself :) I am experiencing this stretching yet again. This pregnancy is revealing to me all my weaknesses and limitations and introducing a fear of sorts that i am not competent enough, patient enough, wise enough or loving enough to raise three young children. I’m being prepared to really let go of some of my control and let God work and reveal through me. Just like your dough I hope I can stretch without falling apart!!
Me teaching you something in the kitchen — that would be a first! :)
Sis, I so resonate with what you share about awaiting the birth of your third little bean. I felt (and still feel at times) every one of those feelings. That revealing of our weakness, limitations and fear is so painful, but there’s ultimately such beauty in it because it doesn’t stop with us.
You said it: “I’m being prepared to really let go of some of my control and let God work and reveal through me.” Yes and amen to that sister! He is and he will. You will not completely fall apart, but when we are torn through in places, He shines through and pieces us back together.
Thank you so much for sharing your heart, honey.
Like you Mom, I too laughed out loud in places, but I could also feel your pain. I saw the movie We Bought a Zoo last night, and there was a line in it that I think will stick with me forever. You just have to have courage for 20 seconds, and you can do anything!! I like that! At my age, I don’t need much courage – I need duct tape:) I love your blog, precious. Please keep it up forever!
Courage for 20 seconds…I like that, too! What is the duct tape for? Your mouth, I presume? Thank you so much for your encouragement to me in my blog. It means so much!
I’m right there with you, and today you’ve inspired me to TRY more things! I’m totally a 5-ingredient kind of girl, and the thought of making dough…that will rise…terrifies me!
I’m so glad you’re inspired to try something new, Katie! I’m all about the five ingredients, by the way. (Bread that rises is less than five. :) ) I’d love to know what new thing you try. Thanks for your comment!
Oh Ashley, how I love your writing and story telling. I can easily relate with your fears and intimidations in the kitchen…I love trying new things, but new recipes are always the hardest. I just don’t feel like I have the “gift” of a good cook. I am proud of your little rolls, they looked beautiful and I’m sure Sici enjoyed every love-filled bite! Way to go!
Thanks, Katie! So good to know I’m not alone! Xoxo
Each time I am amazed. Your intimate view into your doubts and confidence. There are great cooks and plate setters who would be in abject fear of trying to verbalize their perceived shortcomings.You are fearless and brave, something I can take lessons from. Keep on cooking!
Thanks so much, Papa. Such an intermingled mass of doubts and confidence we are. I was just talking yesterday about how much I admire your fearlessness in learning one language after another. That (and you) inspire me to keep growing, learning and taking risks. Xoxo
Christa & I were talking yesterday how fear paralyzes, and the freedom that comes from overcoming it. Then I read your post! Thanks for sharing your cinnamon roll example of stretching. It is applicable to everyday life. Perhaps I will eat a cinnamon roll a day as a reminder. Bakerie in Brooklyn will make it easy! Your spirit is reflected so beautifully in your writing.
Thank you so much for your wonderful comments, Deb. Eat a cinnamon roll for me! :) And please give my best to Christa, too.
Well, I finally got to read your post Ash and as I’m reading, thinking: “Wow she followed those directions to a T!” I never have thought cinnamon rolls are that tough, but then again, Troy is the one that always makes them. ;) I feel like you in the kitchen and typically leave all new recipes and baking to Troy (the more accomplished and adventurous one in the house)! A couple weeks ago, I did face my fears and find a new/simple recipe using ingredients I had in the house and was excited by how doing it built my confidence….if only I was motivated to do that more.
Love You, and love reading your creative and insightful posts!
Thank you for your encouraging comment! You’re so right, Becca. It doesn’t take much to boost our confidence in that department. And it’s so amazing how connected confidence and motivation are. I’m proud of you that in this season of life you’d take on the extra challenge of learning something new (but also know when to step back and let the hubby do his thing). :) Way to go, girl!