A few months ago, my husband and I moved into a new neighborhood. Over the holidays, I received an invitation to participate in the neighborhood cookie exchange. I was excited for the opportunity to meet more of my neighbors and my husband was excited for me to bring home seven dozen cookies. Of course, this would mean I had to create time and space to bake seven dozen cookies. (Did I mention that I’m trying to avoid gluten and dairy?)
I had to think carefully about my choice of cookie to bake. I wanted an excellent cookie that would make a good first impression with my new neighbors, and a recipe that I didn’t mind making over and over. Though not very festive, there was only one recipe that kept coming to mind: my favorite for chocolate chip cookies.
These cookies have been a staple of mine for years. There wasn’t an occasion too big or too small for these cookies. But I hadn’t made them lately, and wondered if I‘d be able to pick up where I’d left off.
As I settled into my kitchen for the hours of baking required, I was surprised to discover the muscle memory my hands found in creating the exact size dough ball needed. After the first batch of cookies, I no longer needed the recipe, and was in a delightful rhythm of measuring, mixing, and baking, enjoying the smells from the oven while humming to Christmas music. And then the memories of these cookies started to flood my mind.
There were memories of my first apartment after college where I’d whip up a dozen cookies with friends on any given evening. We were trying to make our way in the world, and wondering if the jobs we had just landed after college were really the right ones. We wrestled with questions of identity, calling, and our futures. I was teaching fifth grade and had dreams of pouring my life into children and having a positive impact on education and the families I served. But it wasn’t working out that way. I cried frustrated tears most evenings that first year, and frequently the second. This was my dream — why wasn’t it working? Was this what I was meant to do? God’s faithfulness was in preparing me for the leap of faith he would ask me to take at age 24. Would I trust him with this dream to teach and allow him to recalibrate it? As it turned out, I accepted God’s direction and I did find myself teaching, although this time my students were college students and the text was the Bible. The angst of recalibrating dreams in those evening discussions was lessened with the comfort of cookies and friends.
Then there were the memories of being a campus minister, feeding cookies to students over and over again. Nothing welcomes people into a social event, conversation, or friendship like a fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie. I remember one batch of cookies that helped me win favor at the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. I didn’t know one woman in the sorority, but armed with cookies, a smile, and much prayer, I made friends and even had some meaningful conversations. Cookies and evangelism seem to be a powerful combination. I was grateful for God’s faithfulness as he led me to a career that I was thriving in and that I loved.
Next were the bittersweet memories — sweet when baking cookies with friends to celebrate engagements, babies, and promotions at work, but bitter when cookies were needed to help grieve painful break-ups, miscarriages, and dreams that seemed to be slipping away. These cookies have seen tears of joy and tears of deep sorrow; moments of praising God for the good gifts he gave, and moments of wondering if he had forgotten us, and perhaps forgotten me in particular.
I recalled the deep loneliness I felt as a single person in my thirties, watching my friends live out my own dream of becoming a wife and a mother. Once again, would I allow God to recalibrate my dream and trust in his faithfulness in my life? Would I trust that he had my highest good in mind and loved me profoundly, or would my bitterness increase and build a wall between myself and the Lord? Recalibrating with God and trusting his faithfulness seemed to be the better path most days. I’m thankful for not only the cookies I shared with friends in those times, but for the fullness of love and life God gave me in that season.
As I formed another dough ball in my hands, tears began streaming down my face. Why was I crying? I was listening to “Sleigh Bells” while surrounded by chocolate! As I slowed down to take stock of these memories, the phases of life, and the wonderful people associated with each of them, I cried even more.
These were tears of gratitude for God’s faithfulness. Here I was, 20 years after my first batch of chocolate chip cookies, and I was overwhelmed by God’s care in recalibrating my dreams. One of my favorite Scriptures illustrates this for me. Lamentations 3:20-24 reads:
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!” (NLT)
These truths are so clear to me and near to my heart, that I had them read at my wedding and walked down the aisle to the song “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Today I am 43 years old, baking cookies in the home my husband and I just bought. I had longed for a home of my own for years. What a gift to have that dream fulfilled on top of a new marriage — all the while, still working at a job that I enjoy and feel called to. I never would have imagined this.
Was it all according to my timing? Absolutely not.
Was it painful at times? Yes.
Is God faithful because I finally got what I wanted? No — God is faithful because that is who he is. He carried me through difficulties and he gave me great joy and comfort in the journey.
And God is still recalibrating dreams for me. He continues to re-vamp my thoughts on motherhood and meet me in these longing places of my heart. He continues to adjust my dreams of success and what it means in the Kingdom of God. He continues to meet me in those places of my heart that need to know his faithfulness.
The more I walk with Jesus, the more I am in awe of his ability to weave together all of our experiences and circumstances, along with our brokenness, to create a redemptive and beautiful story in our lives. Perhaps it is in this remembering — in recalling the big story God is working out in our lives — that we can find more peace in the present and have courage to live life fully. And if it takes chocolate chip cookies to remember these things, all the better!
Christine’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter or butter-flavored Crisco
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups flour
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
With a wooden spoon, mix butter or Crisco and sugars. Mix in eggs. Add vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Mix in flour gradually. Stir in chocolate chips.
Using an air bake cookie sheet or baking stone, drop dough balls on the sheet. I make my cookies large, so scoop up a heaping spoonful that can be molded into a ball in your hands.
Bake at 350° until done, 10-20 minutes depending on your oven and the size of your cookies.