God is in the details…

…by which I mean, in this case, God is in the confirmation sheet cakes.

I just returned home from a two and half hour odyssey to pick up two full sheet cakes. I am using the term “odyssey” here with it’s full Homeric meaning. That should never be the case with a trip to pick up sheet cakes.

You see, I’ve just had my third and FINAL bad experience with the bakery department of a certain mega-wholesaler which shall remain nameless, but has ties with Arkansas and a guy whose full name is Samuel.

Last year, I went there to pick up the confirmation sheet cakes and was informed that there were no confirmation sheet cakes for my church. But there were cakes for one of the Lutheran churches. (I am still suspicious that the Lutherans accidentally stole our sheet cakes…) Oh, and mine could be ready the next morning. As in Sunday morning. No, not going to work. At the time, I viewed it as a sign of divine providence that there were two full sheet cakes decorated with red flowers in the cooler, and they could scrape “Happy Birthday” off of them and replace it with “God Bless You, Confirmands” in about an hour.

Then, last Christmas, when I went to pick up the “Happy Birthday, Jesus” cake and sheet cakes for 4th Sunday in Advent, I arrived to learn AGAIN that our cakes were not done. They were terribly sorry. Could I come back in the morning? Because there was no cake decorator in that day. I told them to wing it, because, once again, Sunday morning was just too late. After I pitched just a little bit of a fit, a manager decided I should get these cakes for free.

This time, I swore I was not going back to this place for cakes. But they were s much cheaper than anywhere else, so I ordered the cakes two weeks ago, and was reassured by others that they’ve never had problems with cake pick-ups.

Early this afternoon, I ducked out of the youth group carwash (Oh, yes, keep in mind through the story that I spent the entire morning and afternoon at the youth group carwash. I love car washes, but I don’t want to spend two hours in the car after one.), ran over to the bakery, and found that my cake wasn’t done. OK, well, it was a few hours before I had asked to pick it up. But it would be ready at 4:00, right?

By 4:30, though, I arrived to find: 5 other really frustrated people waiting for cakes; and no cakes for me.  I could come back in an hour, though…

By this time, I was pretty well done with this place. So I left, and drove over to my favorite big-box grocer (the one with Dutch-West Michigan ties) because there was shopping I had to do, and I could no longer think straight. On the way, I called the wholesaler and spoke with a manager. Mostly to tell her that I was probably not coming back.

Now, here’s the saving grace in this whole story. And where we get the whole “God is in the sheet cake” thing. Just before I left church for the 4:30 attempted cake pick-up, I read this post on Katherine’s blog, taking special note of the quote:

You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.

So the entire time, frustrated as I was, I kept trying to remind myself not to hurry, just to roll with it, to slow down. I noticed things, like how frustrated other people were, how stressed out the bakery employees were, how zombie-like people are when they shopping in said giant warehouse place, etc. I even took my knitting along and got in a few rows while  I waited to speak with the bakery staff about my cakes.

I kept trying to remind myself not to hurry, to just go with it, to be in the moment I was in, to try to feel that the whole world, even giant wholesaler stores are sacred because every square inch belongs to God. I’m not sure how well I did it, but at least I was thinking about it, right?

And not hurrying also brought me to this decision when I finally got in the car and left for the big box grocer. I was going to reframe this whole thing as much as possible. Also, I was not going back to the wholesaler. I was done. So I went into the grocery, walked up to bakery and said, “This is  going to sound strange, but do have a couple sheet cakes back there?” Why yes they did. And they could have 2 people work on them so that they’d be frosted in about an hour. Sure, about the same amount of time as the wholesaler, but I was done there. I wasn’t driving back. And, from what I’d seen there, I might be waiting longer than an hour. These folks looked capable and not busy.

If I was going to spend an hour waiting, I would wait here, do my grocery shopping, and relax a little bit (also, by this time, my addled brain felt there was more comfort in hanging out at a mega store that at very least was founded by “my people”). I grabbed a cup of coffee, walked over to the books section, grabbed a book, and parked myself on the most comfortable chair I could find in the furniture section (yes, this is a big-box grocer that also carries everything else…). That was a good 15 minutes right there.

An hour later, I made the most careful and slow progress out to the car with my cakes. (I was convinced, based on the way the day had gone, that they might fall off the cart and splatter all over the parking lot, and I knew if they did, my only option would be to sit down in the middle of the parking lot and weep.) After completely rearranging the car seat, the back-seat fold down, etc. I managed to fit the groceries and the cakes. Then I drove at about 20 mph back to church, dropped off the cakes, and now I am home. (In this case, not hurrying was not so much about spiritual benefit as it was about my fear that the cakes would not make it safely to church.)
I know this is not as serious and disturbing and horrible an afternoon as some people have had today. No real life or death, health or sickness, tragedy or blessing issues here, right?

But sometimes, I think these everyday crises take on great meaning for us, and sometimes I think we forget that even in the mundane world of running errands, shuttling from store to store, we are still in the hand of God. God might be teaching us something, we might need to slow down and listen.

As I sit here, writing this with a splitting headache, I keep thinking of this lines from the Heidelberg Catechism :

Q. What do you understand
by the providence of God?

A. Providence is
the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand,
and earth
and all creatures, and so rules them that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and lean years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
prosperity and poverty all things, in fact, come to us
not by chance but from his fatherly hand.

“All things come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.” Maybe that’s a little heavy for an afternoon of thwarted errands. (And, this is a matter for another post, I know it is a hard line for me to swallow when I’m dealing with some situation that is truly terrible and crappy.) But what was God trying to tell me, by having me read that quote about not hurrying, and then letting me out into a world where I felt the need to hurry, to places where people are expected to hurry, into situations that were frustrating, into places that seemed completely antithetical to the idea of being “spiritual”?

3 Responses to “God is in the details…”

  1. Katherine Says:

    There are days when “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” becomes a bit of a mantra for me, out of necessity. Maybe at the Young Preachers Conference we can write it on a cake… tee hee.

    I really love this post, and am truly moved by the words from the Catechism. Us free-church Disciples miss out on such clear, strong affirmations of faith.

  2. ms rev or not Says:

    This was a great post, to the point where I’m wondering if someone might one day want to publish it somewhere on a certain ezine at some point.

  3. Stefanie Says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m a Wesleyan/Holiness gal who has been roaming around reading yours and others’ blogs. As a co-pastor and new mom (Nico is 6 months), I appreciate your sharing what ministry/motherhood is like!