The Best Birthday Cake Ever!

When I was a child, I loved playing the game with notebook paper that gave you answers to life’s most important questions–well, important to an eight-year-old little girl.

It looked something like this. Remember?

We’d sit in the floor and ask all sorts of questions:

How many children will I have?

What kind of house will I live in?

What’s my husband’s name?

But life doesn’t always cooperate, does it? It’s full of surprises. Some good. Some not so good.

Last week for my husband’s birthday, I asked him if he wanted to go out to eat to celebrate.

“Nah. How ’bout making ground beef patties and mashed potatoes?”

“Yuck. Don’t you want something fancy like steak and shrimp? Want me to order you a birthday cake with lots of icing?”

“No, thanks. Just make a gluten-free dessert, so you can have some.” (I have Celiac.)

I did my best to cook his favorite meal, but something went waaaaayy wrong with his cake.

It fell.

It cracked right down the middle.

I tried to glue the broken pieces together with globs of cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t have enough, so I thinned it down.

The icing slid off the cake–

Which sunk on one side.

It was the saddest excuse for a birthday cake I’ve ever seen. 

After supper, I sliced a couple of pieces. “I don’t know what happened. I tried hard. I followed the recipe.”

I took a bite and stared at my husband.

It was the night of his 57th birthday.

I’ve known him since we were 15 and 16. He’s an honest man.

The cake looked hideous and yet–

“This is amazing,” I said. “I know it looks terrible, but–”

“Better than store-bought. Definitely.”

“I can’t believe it. It’s so tender and sweet.”


Later that night while I did the supper dishes, I thought about something.

The birthday cake resembled my life–maybe yours too.

Everything hasn’t gone the storybook way I thought I wanted, but my life is a beautiful combination of messy and sweet. 

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6 Click to Tweet. 

Has your life gone the way you thought it would? Which parts surprised you?

Right now, today, what’s messy? What’s sweet? 

Are you like me? Did it take a while to be grateful for certain things?

It’s a daily process, isn’t it? 

So much love,






  1. Surprise!!!!! Yes Julie- so many surprises and how often I feel like your little cake with all my sweet dreams sliding off into uselessness…you’ve given me a beautiful image …you can’t look at the outside can you? Can’t judge by circumstances…taste and see that the Lord is good…sigh…thank you Jesus.

    • Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, Rob.

      What a wonderful Scripture!! Yes, taste and see that the Lord is good.

      And absolutely not. We can’t judge by our circumstances. Or our feelings. Or even our thoughts.

      I love you.

      P.S. The cake was a mix–either Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker.

  2. Julie … yes. I needed that. Yes, I’ve got so much messy, but there’s still so much sweet. You bless me so much. And things definitely aren’t always what they appear to be … things don’t have to be perfect on the outside to still be sweet on the inside. 🙂

    • Beautiful takeaway, Shelli.

      Wish I’d thought of it!

      I’m thinking, maybe everybody has a combination of messy and sweet.

      So much love, my friend.

  3. This is precious, Julie ❤️ I adore that you’ve known your husband fr so many years and that he’s an honest man. And yes…I can relate. The sweet blessing of life…

    • Yep, Shawnelle. I knew he wouldn’t lie about the cake.

      And if he said he wanted ground beef patties and mashed potatoes, he meant it!

      Thank you so much–the sweet and the messy. It’s never all one way.

  4. Cathy Mayfield says:

    Great story, Julie! Since you asked…here’s one of my “messy-sweet” stories. Once upon a time, a twenty-something daughter wanted to surprise her daddy for his birthday. At that point in her life, she had made many cakes, including several shaped ones, such as Big Bird and a carousel complete with animal cookie animals to ride. Her daddy had recently purchased an almost-new pick-up truck, one he’d wanted for years. He was proud of this truck, and the girl was happy for him.

    With a mixer in one hand and tiny bottles of food coloring in the other, the girl set out to create a wonderful surprise. The cake baked perfectly; the cutting of the chassis went without a hitch. All ready for the icing. The girl whipped up her daddy’s favorite buttercream frosting and added a few drops of red food coloring, then just a touch of blue. You see, the truck gleamed with a maroon/burgundy body.

    Of course, maroon/burgundy is not a natural color in the box of food coloring. The girl only had red, blue, green, and yellow to work with. The already added red and blue did not produce the required result, so the girl added a bit more blue…no, wait, red…no, more blue. By this time, another cup of powdered sugar had to be mixed in to take up the extra liquid. What if I add a little green, thought the girl…and she did.

    Back and forth, the girl added this color and that color. She even considered finding the bottle of maroon/burgundy-colored ceramic paint she had, but decided that was taking it a bit too far.Tears began clouding her eyes and her judgement. More color! Just add more color! Well, the result was a sick-looking gray, and no amount of coercing could change it. The wonderful surprise, maroon/burgundy truck-shaped cake became a sloppy gray, slightly truck-shaped mound. And the girl was sad.

    But true to the daddy he’d always been, this daddy ignored the dripping blobs of gray icing, hugged her close, and proudly showed the party-goers his almost truck-shaped, almost maroon/burgundy-colored cake. And like yours, Julie, it tasted wonderful…although the girl always wondered if that was just because of the tears of blessing splashing onto each slice she cut. Yes, messy…but oh, so sweet!

    • Yes, yes, yes!! She probably felt the same way I did.

      We put so much love and effort into our creations, and then, well, LOVE TAKES OVER.

      Thank you, Cathy. Am loving seeing pics of your adorable new grandson! I know you’re proud.


      • Cathy Mayfield says:

        Thanks, Julie. I’m proud of his mama and papa for working together to start his life in a loving home. And that smile…those eyes…lovin’ every moment! It’s been too long without one of those baby wonderment times.

  5. Patricia Martin says:

    Thank you, Julie, for sending me your address! Thank you for your sweet message and your prayers as well! I had the exact same cake for my birthday and it was delicious.(; How are Katie, Jaime, Thomas, and Rilynn? When are their birthdays? How is your novel coming? What are your Easter plans? Do you Lent? I am fine and know those prayers helped soften up my grumpy teacher! I love what you said about life being like a cake–I have thought the same thing,too. (: life can also be like a puzzle– it takes time to figure out the pieces.xoxox

    • Patricia@! I’ve missed you sooooo much! I’m giving you a great big cyber-hug! I hope you can feel it. 🙂

      Easter…well, we’re helping a new campus get started at our church. Rick gets up at 4:30 every Sunday morning to help get a school turned into a church. And he’ll be doing it for Easter too. We’re having 3 services. I’m greeting at all 3, and he’s greeting at the last one at 1:00. Then, he’ll be tearing everything down and turning it back into a school. Then we’re eating out with his parents, and I hope some of my children!

      I mailed Rilynn a little surprise for Easter. I’m not sure if I’ll get to see her on Easter.

      Lent. No, I didn’t grow up doing Lent, but I love the idea. I think it’s wonderful.

      The cake–it’s so good, isn’t it?! And try it with homemade cream cheese frosting. Their cookies are delish too.

      I’m glad to hear old Ms. Grumpy has started smiling!!! Our prayers must be softening her heart.

      So much love to you, my sweet friend. and thanks for coming to see me today!

  6. Brenda Greene says:

    Aww Sweet Julie,

    Right now…what’s messy? What’s sweet? Earlier this morning I had taken the large throw with our grandchildren’s pictures on it out to the porch to wrap up in while I read my devotionals/Bible. (Talk about being “wrapped up in our grandkids….ha!…it was a Christmas gift from our youngest daughter!) However I was disappointed that it smelled strongly of Hubby’s recent pipe tobacco smoke. Ugh. I don’t like the fact that he began smoking several weeks ago but refrained from saying too much about it as he can react strongly to criticism. (However, Sweet Jesus knows EXACTLY how I feel for he has heard from me often!) I sent up a quick prayer about how could I tell him without starting another “cold war”. I came in and left the throw on my chair to “air”. Went about my business until Hubby walked out on the porch and came back in to ask why I left it out there to get filled with pollen…told him I hadn’t thought of the pollen, was just airing out the tobacco smoke and went to bring it in. Now, tell me, just how sweet was that!

    So blessed to read of your and Rick’s sweet relationship, gives me hope. Happy Birthday to Rick and love that your “special cake” was delightful! That’s all…carry on! Brenda

    • Love how His Spirit leads us, Brenda!

      I can just see you now, all curled up with your pics and Bible. What a beautiful image.

      Been thinking about you lately!! Hope all is well.


  7. marci says:

    How sweet that your husband just wanted to do something simple and have a cake that both of you could eat for his birthday. That is so caring. Yes, there is a lesson there in the cake. Life. Even when we follow the “directions” it doesn’t turn out like we planned. Or look like what we planned. How I relate. My life has not been as I would have planned, and I have tried to put that frosting on. We reallly do have to be bendable dont we?

    Dealing with the resent flood has been part of my cake. Yet, it has also made me very grateful for things without thinking I have taken for granted. The gratitude, and seeing what we have to be thankful for is the sweet cake for us right now.

    God Bless,

    • marci says:

      PS Yes, I remember that little game as a girl! We use to make them sometimes and play them with our friends. My the memories. How simple life seemed then!

    • You’re exactly right, Marcia.

      We follow the directions, try hard, (sometimes even pray!) and life goes a totally different way than we thought we wanted.

      Yes, yes, the flood. I’m sure that felt like an “icing/fallen cake issue.”

      I love you, my friend. Hugging you from here.

  8. Brenda Osborne says:

    Hi Julie ~
    As a child I went to The Kirkwood Show quite often and the movies I watched always had a Happy Ending! The hero always got the girl, the dog got well and didn’t die and the cowboys always won the gunfight ! That is not the way the real world turns out ! We can imagine and plan the path our lives will take, but God has His own plans for us. My youngest son was hurt in a serious accident at the age of six and was not expected to live and if he did the outlook was not good for him to ever live a normal life ! Well my son is 49 years old now and has twin daughters age nine !
    That is the sweet in my life today. What started out so dark and unexpected turned into a beautiful life lived to the full. If we take it one day at a time God will order our steps.
    Life is messy sometimes but mine has also been very sweet !

    • You’re so right, Brenda. I think the sentence you said is a Bible verse isn’t it? Something about making our plans and God has the final say.

      And He has ways that I’d never imagine. And lots of times, I wouldn’t pick them.

      But, He also combines sweet with messy.

      Hallelujah!! Look!!! Your son!!! Talk about sweet!! I love this! He lived, grew up, and had precious children himself.

      Hugs to you, my dear friend.

  9. “Are you like me? Did it take a while to be grateful for certain things? It’s a daily process, isn’t it?”

    Sadly for me, sometimes it’s a minute-to-minute process… :-/

    • Vonda,

      I agree, one-thousand percent. And we can’t fake ugly attitudes, can we? I’ve tried. Doesn’t work. Can’t fool Him.


  10. You know what’s sweet? You. And Rick.

    The cake looks stupendous! The flavor must have been wonderful! Just like our lives…messed up a bit sometimes on the outside, but inside, well, God knows we are always trying. And sometimes, when things look the bleakest, He shines a light and makes it just right.


    • B.J., I love how you mentioned the light. Anything looks better in the right light.

      And God’s Light shines on our messes and turns them into something beautiful.

      Thank you. I’m thinking about you!! Have a great time!!


  11. Julie Gilleand says:

    I remember that game. Oh my gosh, how much fun we had with those. Even my boys did those sometimes though it was nowhere near as popular in their day as it was in ours. I don’t believe I can think of one thing in my life that has turned out the way I thought. Not a one! I grew up in a family that loved movies and TV so much that I thought life would be like it is in the movies. I think I still hope for that, too, it’s so much a part of me. While it might not have been very healthy or realistic being raised like that, one thing it did for me was give me my imagination which I use constantly when writing, or reading, or just need my mind to go to a happier place sometimes. That’s the good thing that came out of all that influence growing up. Maybe, too, it helped me to keep reaching for something higher and easily believing in impossible things which is just fine seeing that we have a God for whom nothing is impossible. But I never stop yearning for that storybook life. I can’t help it! Anything else seems like settling. I know that things may not turn out the way I hope, and that all that I hope for may only be in Heaven one day and not here. If so I pray to be content with the life I have and with waiting for heavenly dreams to come true. If some of them happen here, that’ll be icing on the …. cake! Your cake may not have turned out the way you hoped, but I’m tellin’ ya — I could just taste the goodness as I read your blog and saw the picture. Happy birthday to Rick! And you know, mashed potatoes and ground beef patties doesn’t sound too bad either! This is making me hungry!!

    God bless, other Julie G 🙂


    • Leafy~~~~~

      You just ooze with creativity and imagination. I have a feeling you’re like me in this way–that you can remember itty-bitty details from childhood. I think it’s wonderful that you love the storyworld. You soud like a fiction writer, to me. 🙂 🙂

      Ohhh, yes, the cake. It was SO moist. Maybe it was all the extra icing I had to use to cement it back together. 🙂

      Maybe you can whip up some mashed potatoes and ground beef patties tonight. 🙂 😉


      • Julie Gilleand says:

        You know what … hubby took me out to dinner tonight, and guess what I had? Exactly that! I think you made me hungry for it, lol. And yesterday, the day I read your blog, we had a celebration at work, with cake, and I had not one, but two pieces! It was yummy but yours looked SO much better! I thought of you guys, though, tonight at dinner 🙂

        • NO WAY! Ground beef patties and mashed potatoes. 🙂

          I’m sitting here just grinning my face off. Two pieces of cake.

          My cake…I was just one of those box mixes. I think…actually…that the cake cracking and me adding all the extra icing is what made it so sweet. Life lesson, for sure.

          Love you, Leafy.

      • Julie Gilleand says:

        And oh yes, fiction is my thing!!

  12. Oh, Julie! You never cease to touch me with what you write. Your cake reminds me of how in our lives we tend to look on the outside at many things…people, circumstances, etc. And, if we only dig a little deeper we find that the outside in no way resembles the inside.

    Yes, I remember! One of my favorite games in school was making up answers on notebook paper and shaping it like that and asking life questions. And, life sure did not turn out that simple. But, it sure does have its share of surprises.

    And, your husband sounded like me on my birthday last month. I just wanted a nice home cooked dinner for my birthday. So, my daughter graciously made me a wonderful meal of enchiladas, something I love. Because, it was lovingly made for me, it meant even more than an expensive restaurant meal. And, I’m sure that it meant the same to Rick.

    The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

    Love and hugs!

    • perfect Scripture verse, Eileen.

      Absolutely perfect. Wish I’d thought of it! 🙂

      Enchiladas sound wonderful. That’s something I CAN eat if I make them b/c I can get corn tortillas.

      Such a sweet, sweet daughter you have. Yep. It’s the love that matters.

      And so much love to you!!

  13. Aw. Someday, I want a simple life but one that is full of love and respect and affection to share with someone. Your story is inspiring. And what a beautiful analogy about the cake and our lives.

    • Lux,

      You and I sound so much a like. One year “Simple” was my word.

      Thank you. You’re so kind. Your tender heart shines through your words. Always.

  14. Monica Morris says:

    Hi Julie! I love sweet surprises but sometimes even the not-so-sweet ones, the ones the I learn from, the ones that teach me a lesson. Or better yet, the surprises that make me grateful for what I’ve been given. God has a way of working that often surprises me if I just open my eyes to His blessings. Your writing is one of those. You always make me think and I’m often challenged by your blogs. Thank you for sharing your heart and writing. And now, since I haven’t had breakfast yet, I’m hungry for cake!! Have a wonderful day!

    • Monica,

      I hope you ate cake for breakfast!! I ate b/day cake for several days in a row.

      Your blogs do the same thing for me…make me think. And stir my gratitude.

      You’re absolutely right. The not-so-sweet surprises teach us. I don’t think we can grown w/out them.

      So much love~~

  15. Julie, in the world of So Much Media Input, it’s hard to accept our imperfect offerings at times. Our cakes, our physical selves, our gardens and even our kids–are accepted by the One Lover of our Souls. So if we endeavor to give to others with good hearts, and do our best for today at any task or relationship, then it is enough.
    I’m what I call a “cheater quilter”. I have a wonderful time picking fabrics out to make simple quilts, and then I stitch in the ditch to hold it all together. I’ve not taken the time to master the beautiful art of stipple quilting. But do you know what? I’ve not had one person criticize a quilt I’ve given. Not even kind of. It’s the heart, the time and love I put in that makes it special, not its perfection.
    I love your whole story about the cake and your husband’s simple birthday dinner. We just celebrated my husband’s birthday yesterday too!

    • Stephanie,

      I’d love to see your quilts!! When I was growing up, I wanted to learn how to sew. My mother didn’t know how. I never learned, but I’m fascinated with quilting. I took a knitting class once.

      When you quilt (whatever form you use) do you use a machine? Maybe it’s something I could learn to do by hand.

      Thank you. You understand exactly what I’m talking about.

      Blessings, and hope you had a chance to quilt today. Love your ideas about imperfections. xo

  16. Ah, yes, Julie. Reminds me of Myquillin Smith’s words at The Nester, “Doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” So true, and yet, sometimes, I struggle to believe it. Thank you for this precious reminder of the beauty and goodness in the midst of brokenness. Love you.

    • You and me both, Beverly.

      I keep on reminding myself of exactly what you said. “Doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” I just wanted to type your words and see them again.:)

      Love you. So glad we’re friends.

  17. Heart says:

    I always love your posts Julie. Every time I read them, I learn a new lesson of life. Life is bitter-sweet. Yes, we have several challenges but after those storms, there are also rainbows forming. 🙂

  18. Oh, Julie, you hit the spot! I keep finding myself saying, in fact I said it earlier today — nothing in life has turned out the way I expected it to .. but God is teaching me that it’s okay.

    My most recent ‘teacher’ is the passage in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul says he gladly glories in his infirmities (weaknesses), that the power of Christ may be seen in him.

    Yes, my yes, it is a daily process .. an inch by inch uphill crawl. It’s not about getting things to ‘turn out’ right. It’s usually about changing my attitude!

    Thank you so much for this, Julie, and God bless you for the blessing your writing is to me.

    • You and I are in the same place–at least in our spiritual understanding, Joyce. 🙂

      In by inch uphill crawl–love how you said that. YES!!!! It’s not about getting things to “turn out” right. We can’t know what’s right, can we?

      Giving you a hug from here tonight. Hope you can tell. 🙂

      Much love and gratitude.

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