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A Birthday Cake with roses and nasturtiums

 

I moved to this old farmhouse with dreams of a garden, but it wasn’t a flower garden. What an extravagant dream that would have been. I was a garden do-gooder. If you had asked me to place a spiritual value on a box of seed packets, tomatoes for canning and cucumbers for pickling would have risen right to the top. Morning glories were an indulgence.

Extravagance is something I have had to learn.

Jesus told us he came to give us life. But not just enough life to scrape by. Not a pinched and narrow life. Life to the full. Abundant life. Life like a cup overflowing.

Life like a garden bursting with flowers.

There is a ministry of flowers. I don’t think I can yet claim it as my own. If I practice it, it is only in small ways. A bouquet for a neighbor here. A flower photo on instagram there.

These days, the ministry of flowers is God’s ministry to me. The flowers that grow here at Maplehurst have become an emblem of God’s wild love and evidence of his generative presence on this earth. They are extravagant. Foolish in their ephemeral beauty. Profuse and profligate and anything but practical.

But this is a post about books.

And it is a post about the ministry of cake.

D. L. Mayfield is one of my favorite online writers. Her first book comes out today, and it is a gorgeous, heartbreaking, and wise collection of personal essays.

Assimilate Or Go Home shows us how Mayfield’s own do-gooder dream deflated, not in the garden but on the mission field. In her own words:

The more I failed to communicate the love of God to my refugee friends, the more I experienced it for myself. The more overwhelmed I felt as I became involved in the myriads of problems facing my friends who experience poverty in America, the less pressure I felt to attain success or wealth or prestige. And the more my world started to expand at the edges of my periphery, the more it became clear that life was more beautiful and more terrible than I had been told.

There are so many reasons to read this book, but I especially recommend it for Mayfield’s final reflections on the ministry of cake. Cake, like flowers, seems like a nonessential. In a world rocked by wars and rumors of wars, in a world of unbearable sorrows and grief, a world where too many people lack even basic necessities, what is the point of cake? I am reminded of Marie Antoinette. If we celebrate flowers or cake, if we celebrate at all, are we hopelessly out of touch? Extravagant to the point of selfishness?

Sometimes we must receive something in order to understand that it is worth giving. Because God gave me flowers, I tend those flowers and I give them away knowing that they matter. Mayfield wanted to give her refugee friends everything: answers, solutions, even the love of God, but they gave her cake and that changed everything.

Her most of all.

Here are two more book recommendations (one for cake and one for flowers). Perhaps they might help you to receive the love of God in more beautiful and more delicious ways.

This is my new favorite cookbook. It’s a book of seasonal desserts inspired by homegrown produce and farmer’s market bounty. As soon as I opened it, I wanted to bake my way from first page to last.

The banana and summer squash cake is my children’s new favorite cake. Seriously. Also, there is a cake recipe inspired by those apple cider doughnuts so beloved at Amish farmstands and pick-your-own apple orchards. Need I say more?

This beautiful book was a birthday gift to me from my sister Kelli. It is pretty and inspiring, but it’s also informative and practical. I still have so much to learn about floral design (okay, I still have everything to learn), but I’ve already implemented a few good tips and ideas from this book. Because the bouquet we take to a neighbor, and the flowers we arrange for our own bedside table, matter more than we know.

Tell me, what books are on your nightstand?

 

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