The gift of turtle-cake

A toddler’s cake

Marie-Antoinette famously didn’t say “Let them eat cake”; a phrase first recorded by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Nobody quite knows who did say it, but it’s safe to say that whoever it was, they didn’t have in mind the cake which I received the other day.

I had gone to pick up Marta (3) from nursery. Her delight at seeing daddy, as always, lit up the world. Her smile threatened to stretch her face beyond the presumable elastic limits of her cheek-muscles. Her wild skipping threatened to throw her off balance in three directions simultaneously. And today she had something to show me.

“Daddy!” she yelled, “I made you a cake in the shape of a turtle!”

It was a cake like none I have ever seen. It was a splodge. It was made of pink play-dough. Protruding from the top were innumerable matchsticks and pipecleaners. It was inexplicable, inedible and bore no resemblance to either a turtle or a cake (unless you know any good geneticists who can cross-breed a cake with a porcupine.)

And it was completely wonderful.

Here it is.


Seldom have I been given a more heartwarming gift. Marta’s unadulterated joy and generosity as she presented it ensured that. Don’t misunderstand me. I am extremely grateful for all the gadgets and clothes and coffee mugs I have received from loving friends and family over the years. I have cherished them. I have even worn most of the ties.

But they pale into insignificance beside this splodge of pink dough topped with unidentifiable miscellany. The generous abandon with which it was presented glowed like the sun and – as so often happens with my kids – my heart melted.

My playdough splodges

“What can God actually use me for?” It’s a question I periodically ask myself in introspective moments of existential angst. If I’m honest, I’m probably doing some kind of metaphysical fishing-for-compliments, asking with the hope that God will reassure me how amazing I am at everything I do and that he really doesn’t know how he’d get anything done without me. He never does.

And that’s beside the point. I could be able to communicate his message to millions, be a natural-born leader, a concert standard pianist, have doctorates coming out of my ears and -as a result of all this combined with my fabled good looks – be overwhelmed by opportunities to change the world for God, and it would all still be beside the point. They are all great things that God can use, but it would be like bringing gadgets, clothes and coffee mugs to the God who has everything.

It is not in the excellence of the gifts that I bring to God that their value lies. It is in the generous abandon with which I give him everything I am: pink splodges, matchsticks, pipecleaners and all. This is what makes my relationship with God. This is what glows like the sun. This is what melts my father’s heart like an unattended ice-cream on a summer’s day. What he does with it is up to him.

© Text 2015 Paul Brownnutt

Creative Commons License

Being God’s Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Today’s post was brought to you by Psalm 51:16-17.

8 thoughts on “The gift of turtle-cake

  1. We dedicated Christians are often caught in a dialectic between trusting God to save the world and feeling, given the state of things, that we had better take dramatic action to save the world before God’s apparent incompetence makes more of a mess of it.

    But here, Toddler Paul, you remind us that the fruits of our labors may look like a playdough cake. If we value it as the world values things, we will focus on its edibility, its chances of winning a culinary award, and its sustainability as a food crop.

    Oh, it’s hard to do God’s work when our labors are not valued by the world.

    So as I understand it, Toddler Paul, the proper way to express our feelings is for us gentlemen and women to run joyfully down the street, making certain that our “wild skipping [threatens] to throw [us] off balance in three directions simultaneously,” and shout “I love you, God, so use my little life as you will!”

    Well, okay, maybe we shouldn’t frighten our neighbors–and spending time in an institution may not be our vocation–so perhaps Toddler Paul will allow us to do the shouting in our hearts…

  2. i love the smiles and delight my 15 month old has when she sees me! any gift and effort we offer to god, he takes delight in especially when it takes all of your current abilities to produce the “mess” thanks for the post

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