My Mother’s Cake
(Mother’s day) 2 Timothy 1:5–May 12, 2019. Dr. David R. Denny
Timothy’s mother’s name was Eunice and I’m sure she made a chocolate cake for him when he was a little boy. Timothy and Paul often reminisced about Eunice and Lois, her mother, in the evenings when time slows down and memories begin to chatter. I have searched my Greek NT for Eunice’s chocolate cake recipe but for some reason, I am coming up blank. So I thought I would tell you about my mother’s cake since I was there—an active eye witness to this pleasant part of my childhood.
Every time I meditate on my mother’s cake adventure I grow to appreciate many qualities that mothers share.
First of all, I have to begin by stating unequivocally that my mother could not cook worth a lick. (If she were sitting in the front row here, after throwing a coffee cup at me, she would grudgingly agree). Dinner time for me as a boy was often about survival. My mother tried her best to cook spinach and cauliflower and other exotic vegetables which nearly killed me. But I will say that through it all she emerged the victor on three items which I gladly ate without complaint:
I’ll start with the dessert entre first—forget the Triple-cheese Cheesecake with Amaretti Crust or the Hazelnut-and-Chocolate Meringue Cake. No—she gave up on those long ago. But somehow she perfected chocolate pudding. So I always had a dessert. —And then for the main course after a hundred burnt beef tips and meatloaves, she learned how to put on my plate—are you ready?—spaghetti. Not the sauce—Just the spaghetti. She would cook it in an old tin pot and when it was finished she would hover over me at the table and pour it out in one big mound. When I saw it, I felt safe. She never mangled spaghetti. And then for the beverage ( I call it the first course), she would set before me in a purple or orange Five and Dime plastic glass some southern tea with a twist of lemon. She was really good at that.
So there you have it—three courses that made me what I am today—tea—plain spaghetti and chocolate pudding!
- Mothers gather. Everything I ever needed to know about mothers I learned from watching her bake my first chocolate cake. And so when I saw her standing all excited in the kitchen one bright morning in Sumpter SC near Shaw Air Force Base, I knew something was up. I sat down on the floor and watched her gathering all the supplies. She had a recipe book, the pages wrinkled with exasperated tears from many a failure, and a big green bowl and whisk and some eggs, etc.
Mothers are good at gathering what their kids need to be successful. They gather activities, Bible Schools, opportunities, birthday parties, and anything that will help us blossom as people.
* Once when I was just beginning to learn to read, she sat down on the sofa in our little house off base after gathering up the morning newspaper. She patted the sofa with a smile and I joined her. “Let’s look for all the THE words,” she said smiling. She slid her index finger along the first line and stopped at a THE. I looked at the three letters and then asked excitedly if I could try. “Sure,” she said. And off we went GATHERING…
Not only did she gather the paper for me and all the THES. She gathered the opportunity to be with me and make me feel important. I learned this quality of motherhood from watching her bake my first chocolate cake. She had gathered all her supplies to be successful.
- Mothers Sift. She had poured out the flour from the mix into a bowl. Then she put a cupful into a sifter to get out the lumps and to make the flour softer. By now she was humming softly and enjoying herself. I just sat there with my chin propped up spellbound. It was later in life that I realized that mothers are skillful at sifting the good and bad elements of life for their children. It’s a daily chore all mothers master because this is a challenging world and kids are mischievous by nature.
*When I was in kindergarten, I remember practicing some new words in class. These were unusual words that all seemed to have four letters. They rolled off my tongue so deliciously, but my teacher didn’t like them at all and she dragged me into the bathroom and washed my tongue with soap. Then she gave me a note to take home. When I gave it to my mother, she began sitting at once. It was instinct. She lugged me to the bathroom and did the same thing—soaping up my mouth—sifting good from evil. I’m far from perfect today, but when I tend to stray, I remember her sifting the chocolate cake flour and her sifting out my bad words.
- Mothers Pray. When she had finished all her tasks and was ready to slide the cake into the oven, she did something I will always remember—She stopped and said a little prayer. It wasn’t much. Very simple something like “Father, bless this cake.” Then she slid it into the oven and closed the door. That’s when I realized it wasn’t just the cake that was baking. It was the prayer baking too.
I came to understand as I grew older that good mothers know the meaning of thoughtful prayer. She prayed for me each day when I rode my bike off to school at the Yokohama Air Force Base in Japan. She prayed for me just before she turned off the lights at night in my bedroom. If it wasn’t for a million prayers of mothers all around the globe, the world as we know it would be no more.
*John tells us in Revelation 5:8that all of these humble prayers of mothers are gathered carefully into sacred golden bowls and given to the Lamb of God who stands beside the great throne of God. A mother’s prayer never dies. It lives on in heaven forever. I learned all of this by watching my mother bake a chocolate cake for me one morning long ago.
- Mothers Wait Expectantly. Once the oven door closed, I wondered what was next. That’s when my mother said, “Now we wait. It’s going to be a wonderful cake.” And that‘s when I realized that every mother spends her life waiting expectantly for good things to happen in her family.
Mothers are like everyone. They are prone to discouragement and despair. They know hardships and heartaches. But beneath it all, mothers believe in their children and their families. They wait expecting the cloud to lift and the good days that will come. And so it was that day when she slid the cake into the oven. She settled back with a happy expectancy believing in her cake.
*I have a photo of my mother standing beside Alice and me outside the graduation chapel at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It had taken me many years to get this day. And through all of those, even though I had left home years earlier, she was still waiting expectantly. In the photo, she stands beside me as if the oven door had just opened and the beautiful cake was done. It’s what mothers do. They wait and believe.
- Mothers Celebrate (in Good Times and Bad). She told me that when I hear the bell ring that means to come running, the cake is done and ready for icing. And so I remember pacing around the living room counting my steps over and over to pass the time when all of a sudden the bell started jumping and hollering. We both hurried to the oven door. She opened it and took out the cake. It smelled divine and when we finally saw it we stared for a few seconds, taking it all in. I wasn’t sure what to say. I looked at her face. She studied the cake for a few seconds, her brow wrinkling softly, and then smiled and so I smiled. She set it down on the special platter she had on the dining room table. The entire cake leaned to the left like the Tower of Pisa. In the center, there was a large sunken crater.
She ignored all the deficiencies and began to celebrate by icing the cake with great cheer. She spread the icing generously making little waves here and there and letting me lick the knife. And when it was done I learned the final truth: mothers know how to celebrate in good times and bad—and I realized that the real icing in a mother’s cake is not the chocolate—but the love.