Monday, August 15, 2011

Monster Cookies and The Minister's Wife

Sometimes I'd just like to Get it Right. Is that so much to ask, from God or me? Just to take on a task, work at it, finish, know I did a good job, go on to something else.

This week is our vacation Bible school, an annual event in which dozens of church and neighborhood kids descend on Brownsville Mennonite every evening for Bible lessons and songs and crafts and homemade cookies.

I was thinking I ought to teach this year, since they're always desperate for teachers. I mean, I'm the minister's wife and my youngest is 12, so surely I could manage. But when they announced the dates it turned out I had two previously scheduled things, book and speech related, that conflicted.

I felt good and guilty, especially when the superintendent personally called me up to ask if I'd teach, but I couldn't very well cancel the other things.

So, if I couldn't teach, maybe I could make supper for another mom who was teaching. Like Rita Baker. I called her up, oozing with righteousness and generosity. Oh, that was sweet of me, she said, but two other people were there ahead of me.

Bonnie called and asked me to put on the church hot line that they really need more cookies for snacks for all the children. So I sent the message on and decided that this, at least, was something I could do.

I would make cookies. Monster cookies. Which I have made many times in my life. And I'd have to make a double batch, since one batch doesn't last long here, and we needed some for us, too, charity beginning at home and hungry teenagers and all.

So I mixed up a double batch which makes a huge vish of dough, as we say in Dutch. I didn't have any trouble mixing in the dozen eggs but by the time I poured in 18 cups of oatmeal I needed a tractor and front-end loader.

I know I got all the amounts right. I double and triple checked.

So why why why did they turn out like this:
and this:

I stirred in the oatmeal better, tried this and that, fiddled and experimented. And got one disastrous pan after another.

Finally I got some help, which was very nice.

He stirred in a bunch of flour, and then at last the cookies looked like this:

Not perfect, but good enough.

Now while this was going on I was thinking a lot about our young friend Esta's latest post which it seems is going viral, judging by how many times I see it linked and referred to on Facebook and such. This is good.

You need to read the whole thing, but among other things she says,

The starting gun was shot a long time ago.

I didn’t know this was a competition. I didn’t know I was loosing until then.

My round angles didn’t fit in square holes, which, instead of showing me how silly the striving was, just made me feel like everyone else had a head start.

But round holes or square, we still race, don’t you see?

Even the old ones do it, this comparing...

She has a bubbly personality and we wish we could make people laugh like that, but hey, at least I don’t come across like a flirt.

She wears clothes like they are art, every movement grace, and we automatically analyze our outfit and decide she must be a show-off.

She travels and witnesses as easy as breathing and we feel like spiritual buffoons.

She talks during Sunday school, people tear up, and we spend the next weeks trying to be more “deep”.

We feel either proud, smug, frantic, insecure, or a nasty mix of all four.

We are not safe places.

I feed my hungry insecurities with your talents and you feed yours with mine.

No one ever wins.

But the more I wrestle to find what it is to truly be a woman, the more I hate the lies and what the lies make us do. And the more I see how many of us don’t stop until suddenly we are comparing our grandchildren and the whiteness of our dentures.

I’m pulling out of the race.

I’m pulling out because last week I actually saw what God kept pounding in me the last three months.

How it doesn’t matter.

How He perfectly places and designs and arranges our hearts to be who we are, and it is HIS doing. Our job—my job—as a woman is only to embrace it and finally move free.

That is all.


And all the passion can be turned outward and upward, instead of spent on protecting and embellishing and worrying about my identity.

I am not a hidden threat to you—you are not a hidden threat to me.

As I embrace who I am, I am left unencumbered to embrace who you are with passion and abandoned, joy, because you are not a threat, you are a gift.

We are free and only then do we create a safe place to sit and care for each other.

I realize I took her words out of context, kind of, but the reason I thought of them was because if you know me at all you know the messages scrolling across the screen in my brain while I was wrestling with those cookies:

"Really now. Monster cookies. Of all things. What kind of Mennonite mom/housewife/daughter of Sara Yoder/minister's wife cannot manage to make a batch of monster cookies??? And why does this always happen, when I'm trying to do a good deed and do my part for the cause and not look like a total slacker with VBS when everyone else is working their tails off, why does it always have to blow up in my face?"

My mother-in-law sometimes says, in her cheerful way, "Well, as Wilton used to say, 'You can't be good at everything!"

She also says, "Well, the Lord knows all about it!"

Both are true, of course, not that it helps much at the moment.

I had a fleeting thought that maybe the eggs had salmonella in them, and this was God's way of keeping the VBS kids from getting sick, kind of like every time I miss a flight I think, "Oh, I'll bet that flight is going to crash, and for the rest of my life I can give this amazing testimony of how God spared my life," but it never happens that way of course.

So. We now have three Tupperware containers full of delicious but twisted and clumped and flat monster cookies.

I have once again failed to do my part for the cause.

I don't plan to lose sleep over this or obsess over it after I'm done writing about it. But I this about comparisons, deep down? About looking for affirmation in all the wrong places? About proving something I was never meant to prove? About embracing who I am and what I can and cannot do well, and finding joy in that, instead of slogging away at what I'm not good at, for all the wrong reasons?

Or am I making it too complicated, and the only problem was that the peanut butter was cheap and oily?

I welcome your input and if you have a story to top mine, I want to hear it.

Quote of the Day:
"Maybe we should call up the people in Paris and see if they can come up with a metric measurement we can call a VISH."


  1. It could be as simple as some recipes just can't be doubled :)

    But I do know what you mean. These days, as we go from church to church reporting on the work in Argentina, I begin to feel rather fake. That smile plastered on my face, repeating the same things over and over...even though these are true things we are sharing, the repetitiveness begins to make them feel artificial. (If this makes any sense.) I find myself wondering, how to I compare to the other missionaries they have heard? Am I doing okay? Should I say more? Less? Be more emphatic? Am I sharing the right things? Ugh. Then I shake myself and remember that IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. hahaha I am who I am, who God made me, and He didn't make me like any of those other missionaries. He made me to serve a purpose in the Body of Christ, and our ultimate purpose -- whether as a missionary, a pastor's wife, or baker of monster cookies -- is to glorify Him. And sometimes He is most glorified when people see our vulnerabilities and humanity, and our total dependence on Him.
    I love how you can share things in such a way that truly communicates your heart. That's your gift Dorcas! You do that like no one else can, and it blesses and encourages so many, and glorifies Him.

  2. Shirley from Virginia8/16/2011 4:42 AM

    Thank you !! That says exactly what I have been yelling and screaming about for the past -well ever since grade school. For me I just could never understand why people wasted so much energy on worrying about what other people were doing and the comparison thing. I had enough to do just to breathe and survive ! By the way I did my part with keeping it viral !! Got to compete with those others you know!! grin

  3. Oh,Dorcas, who else could make a story out of flopped monster cookies? You are truly gifted! I hope someday,we can come to Oregan, I would love to see you.

  4. Rosy from Plain City8/16/2011 5:13 AM

    What a great post! (and Esta's blog post is amazing,) And, I wonder if Kim isn't on to something about the inability to double that recipe...we have had our own struggles with double batches of monster cookies....nothing monster-ish about them,just little lumps! :-D

  5. I will pass on the advice of my youngest daughter when my last batch looked like yours. Mom, you can only use Jif peanut butter too make monster cookies if you want them to turn out right. And by the way Wal mart peanut butter is the same as Jif. Best wishes on the next batch, We are still eating the pancake looking ones from 2 weeks ago.
    Thanks for refering me to Esta's post.

  6. I make that biiiig batch of monster cookies every year around Christmas.I discovered that they get the nicest for me when I mix them the day before and refrigerate them overnight.(I don't double it,my recipe is for 18 cups of oatmeal,etc.)I mix what I can with the mixer(I have a Sunbeam,not a heavy duty mixer)then my husband mixes up the rest.(I liked that blog post too.)

  7. Kim, thanks for sharing your experiences and for the encouragement!
    Rosa, I would truly love to sit down and talk to you again.
    And thanks for the ideas, everyone. I'm thinking it was probably the peanut butter...I got this cheap stuff and it certainly didn't have that nice solid texture of Jif. And then if I chill them, it should work for sure. Right???

  8. Ingred Smith8/16/2011 12:26 PM

    Yes Dorcas, only you could make a story out of flopped monster cookies.

  9. VBS! I loved your VBS....

    About 8 years ago, my youngest daughter SO wanted to join my bigger children at VBS. However, she was terribly afraid to go anywhere without her dad or I or one of her siblings, because she had discovered by age 4 that NOBODY else seemed to be able to understand a thing she said. (She has since WAY overcome her speaking delay! lol)

    I ended up sitting in on her VBS class with her, and although it must have seemed very strange to everyone, her teacher was so very kind about it.

    I was greatly impressed with how gently and calmly the childrens' teacher handled all those wiggly, busy, and astoundingly talkative children. By the end of the week, after hearing some of the stories those children told...I decided it may not be so bad having a child nobody could understand! =D

    But the teacher took it all in stride without so much as a flicker of alarm. In fact, I was sure I detected a bit of a twinkle in her eye at some of the more outrageous comments made.

    And my daughter, for the first time in what seemed forever, informed me that she could go by herself the last day or two.

    Dorcas. You were an amazing teacher, and such a blessing to us!

    Who needs to be able to make monster cookies when you can make people feel so unconditionally accepted!?

    I'm sure the cookies were a fluke, though. Probably for the sake of making a large son feel greatly needed.

  10. Ok, Anonymous, that made me cry! Thank you for your kind words. I still remember you and your adorable daughter.

  11. I loved reading this down-to-earth story as well as all of the heartfelt comments. You have all raised my curiosity about monster cookies and how to make them--all of the various tips. Would anyone be willing to share the recipe?

  12. ... and while all those messages are scrolling across your brain, someone else is thinking, "If only i could write like Dorcas does. Look at all the comments she gets! Everybody loves her!" :) Makes me think of Max Lucado's Wemmicks and their stars and dots. i'm so glad there's heaven someday!

  13. Dorcas, let me just say that I love your honesty. In it, you free others up, allowing the rest of us to admit that we don't have it all together, either. That's a blessing.

  14. Thanks so much for sharing your insecurities. In the past month, my husband was ordained. All of a sudden, visions of every Godly minister's wife I've ever known has risen up in my mind. Comparing myself to the host has been downright discouraging. I know full well I can never measure up. Botching monster cookies is the least of my worries! Thanks for the reminder to just stop the comparison game.

  15. Gina, I understand the intimidation of that "minister's wife" title. I wish you freedom to be who you are and joy in the giftings you have. Hugs to you.