I can’t remember whose birthday it was. For a while, I was the designated “cake decorator” of the family. I loved coming up with creative new ways to use frosting, candy, ribbon, and flowers to celebrate my loved ones with flair. I’m sure this cake was no exception.

I had ridden to church that day, with my latest creation (protected by a glass dome) held safely in my lap. We were planning to go directly to my aunt & uncle’s house after church, so during church, I positioned the cake precariously on the floor board of our van. I wasn’t worried about it, though. When we got back in, I would hold it on my lap again.

I didn’t count on my darling husband and his buddy, Spence, taking the van out for a spin between services.

They had noticed that somebody forgot to bring treats for our Adult Bible Fellowship that day. Being the chivalrous men that they are, they had taken it upon themselves to go pick up donuts. (Heaven forbid, we go without treats.)

I wasn’t there, so I can’t be sure how it went. But I picture two cowboys, yelling, “Yahoo!” and screeching out of the parking lot, ready to lasso some donuts.

The result was a tipped cake plate, a deformed, tilting cake, with frosting smooshed against the glass. When the guys noticed, Ken said, “Oh, Shannon is not going to be happy.” And Spence said, “But, look! You can still read, ‘Happy Birthday’ smeared across the glass!”

It was funny to them; not to me. At least not then.

I have a hard time with the tipped cake plates in life. They irritate me. They bother me. They frustrate me. I say(or think) things like:

  • I worked so hard on that…
  • If you cared about what’s important to me
  • If you had told me you were going to…
  •  Next time, I’ll make sure I…

But can you really prevent all of life’s tipped cakes?

I recently read a book by Tim Sanford, titled Losing Control & Liking ItIt’s written for parents of teens, but I found it applicable to other areas, too–like when you’re married to the guy who goes on random donut runs.

Tim splits the world into two categories:

  • “What I Can Control”
  • “What I Can’t Control”

He reminds us that the only things that fit into the “What I Can Control” category are the things related to ourselves. We can control our own choices, how we react, etc. But everything else goes in the “What I Can’t Control” category.

So, I can manage my day so there is time to decorate a cake. I can get that cake and my family to the van, on time for church. I can hold the pedestal domed plate in my lap. But when I set the cake down, I have no control over what happens next.

And the solution is not to carry the cake around for the rest of the day. (That would be my Control Girl tendency.) The solution is to place a tilted cake with smooshed frosting in the “What I Can’t Control” category–and not with a sulky, “Fine, then!” attitude (which is another Control Girl tendency of mine).

Taking responsibility for something I can’t control only creates stress for me, and everybody else. Why should I feel badly about a smooshed cake that I didn’t smoosh? Why should I snarl at a husband who was simply going to get donuts? Why should I fret over the cake’s diminished appearance? I assure you that nobody turned down a slice of cake that day!

As I studied the lives of various Bible women, while writing my book, Control Girl: Putting God in Charge of Your Happy Ending I was repeatedly reminded of all of the things we don’t have control over. As generation after generation entered the Bible’s narrative, the plot seemed to just repeat itself: Someone wanted something. God withheld it, and asked her to walk in faith. She struggled deeply with relinquishing control.

Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rachel, Rebekah, Leah, Miriam. All seven women struggled with the same tension.

And we are no exception. The tipped cakes are the small things in life, but they often add up to big control issues–especially when your husband or child or boss or sibling tips the same “cake” repeatedly, for decades. I also think the tipped cakes in life are God’s way of training our hearts to respond well to the high stakes situations that are sure to come.

Friend, what are you trying to control that belongs in the “Things I Can’t Control” category? Won’t you relinquish that tipped cake to God? Put Him in charge of your “happy ending” and find the peace that comes from resting in Him.

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