Emily slapped the cooking magazine down in front of me on our oak dining table where I sat paying the monthly bills.
“This is what I want to make for him,” she explained with a beaming smile.
My eyes scanned the recipe for a lemon meringue cake.
“Well, it looks delicious,” I hesitated as I quickly calculated the difficulty level of making a lemon curd, a cake from scratch and a meringue frosting, a significant undertaking for a 13 year old whose kitchen resume includes toast and microwave popcorn.
I look again at my daughter’s beautiful face, full of hope and determination.
“Oh, well, maybe I could give you a hand,” I offered.
“No way Mom,” she stated emphatically, “I’m making this for Dad because he is always doing nice things for me and I want him to know I appreciate it.”
Wow! I’m delighted at this sudden burst of gratitude. Swept up in her excitement, I’ve soon got my car keys in my hand and we are headed for the store.
“Are you doing all right in there?” I call anxiously through the kitchen door, closed in front of me.
She has been in there for several hours and I’ve heard plenty of clanging and muttering.
“Yes Mother,” Emily shouts back, “Now let me work please!”
Banished from the kitchen, I return to the living room couch and my reading.
Suddenly, I’m awakening from a refreshing nap. My eyes dart to the clock. An hour has passed. I sit up and listen. I hear nothing. I sniff the air. Perhaps there is a hint of sweetness. I cautiously approach the kitchen door and quietly push it open.
I see my lovely daughter standing at the kitchen island looking as if she has been through a sizable storm and stranded on this granite block. The front of her favorite red t-shirt is covered with flour, lemon curd smears her cheek, and her golden hair looks as if it has been meringued!
Before her on the island is the cake. It is rather flat and listing to one side. Bare patches reveal crumbling cake. The white meringue frosting protrudes from it in blackened spikes and a mountain of dirty mixing bowls, measuring cups and wooden spoons litter the counter. Misery fills her youthful eyes.
“Oh honey,” I take a step towards her and slip on a butter wrapper that has found its way to the floor.
“Mom, it turned out awful!” she cried.
Having regained my balance, I go to her and put my arm around her shoulder. She slumps, defeated, against me, as egg shells crackle beneath my feet. The remnants of the lemon curd sit in a saucepan near my elbow.
“The filling looks bright and yellow,” I say as I lift the spoon to my mouth.
Intense lemon flavor and clots of sugar overwhelm my taste buds. I desperately wish for a glass of water.
“It’s terrible,” she covers her face with her hands.
I take her face in my hands and wipe some frosting from her nose. Her eyes meet mine.
“Emily, you made this cake for your Father with a sincere and loving heart, and that is all that matters.”
She manages a weak smile.
“Now let’s clean up this kitchen,”I smile.
As I wash and she dries what appears to be the every dish in the kitchen, it strikes me that this cake project of hers is a little like life in general. We fuss and carry on, striving to achieve our best, but often falling short. Even though we may not measure up to the high bar we have placed for ourselves, God probably watches and appreciates our best efforts none the less.
Emily entered the dining room carrying the crystal cake plate like a sacred offering. She set it gently on the table in front of her Dad.
Carefully slicing three pieces, she set one in front of each of us. Her Dad eagerly dug into his special dessert. Between mouthfuls he assured her it was the best lemon cake he’d ever had.
Taking his last bite, he held up his plate, and that kind-hearted husband of mine actually asked for seconds.
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