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The Burned Bagel: When Breakfast Meets Vulnerability

I burned a bagel not long ago. And I promptly started to sob.

On the morning of the burning of the bagel, I woke up groggy after a long night of worrying. The previous night, and several before it had been riddled with anxious, restless sleep, brought on by my husband’s recent cancer diagnosis, his foray into treatment for said cancer, and the side-effects of the aforementioned treatment. All of which had this anxiety-ridden mama spinning out mentally and physically.

That particular morning was extra exhausting, as I had stayed up most of the night trying to find natural remedies, a witch doctor, a magic spell, anything to treat the kidney stone that found its way through my husband’s urinary tract that night and just added insult to injury. I would have commissioned a voodoo doll had it been offered to me; that’s how desperate I was.

I postponed the launch of my book that day, having no ability to leave my five-year-old with his father who was in tremendous pain, and having zero grandparents or friends able to help.

I cried about that, too.

I knew it was the right call, but it absolutely broke my heart. It made my husband feel awful, too, but I put on a brave face and pretended that I wasn’t crushed about yet another setback in a long string of them in the days and months leading up to this one. I know my husband knows I was faking it, so he faked it with me: we put our brave faces on, pretended everything was OK, and carried on.

Realizing that my book launch just wasn’t meant to be that day, I tucked my husband into bed, ordered him to sleep, and went downstairs to make breakfast.

Enter: the toaster.

I removed it from the cabinet, plugged it in, inserted the bagel into the toasting slots, and waited for my breakfast to finish cooking.

What I failed to factor in was a five-year-old who LOVES buttons and dials and will not resist pushing, turning, and pulling all of these that might be within his reach or capability. The dial on the toaster had been his most recent victim. He just didn’t tell me, and I didn’t look.

So, after spending all of the night before begging all of the gods for mercy for my husband, trying to cure him by ordering every essential oil known to man and finally settling on a heating pad as his only means of relief, sleeping very little, postponing the launch of my first book, and accepting all of this as “just part of my life now,” my bagel popped up, and it was nearly black.

This photo does not do it justice. Trust me.

I did the only logical thing to do: I cried.

And I cried.

I sat down on the kitchen floor, clutching the paper plate that held the burnt bagel and just let the tears roll down my cheeks.

It was my last one, too. So, I was not getting a do-over on my bagel-toasting that morning.

Like many situations in life, this bagel did not offer a do-over. It sat there, with its charred remains, forcing me to either accept the scorched, irreverent new form it had taken, or pivot, and try something else.


Staring at the bagel, I began to think.

My husband and I are being given a do-over. His cancer diagnosis is one that is treatable, even curable. We have been assured that we will have many, many more years together after we make it through treatment and surgery. It has forced us to draw closer to one another than ever before, relying on each other in ways that make us vulnerable, ways that we were never willing to reveal to the other one prior to this diagnosis. Like any marriage, ours has had some serious highs and some serious lows, many of which were happening concurrently with learning of his health problems, and this just seemed to make the necessity for healing that much stronger.

We have worked, and we have cried, and we have yelled, and we have asked God “why” a million times to a million questions in the last several months. And always, the answer has brought me back to the burnt bagel. The scorched remains of the bagel could not be eaten, as the scorched remains of our previous life and how we conducted our family and our relationship could not continue.

The bagel may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back that day, but I was reminded of God’s promise to us in Isaiah, Chapter 43: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

I needed to burn my bagel that day. I needed it to be the last straw before a mental breakdown. I needed those things so that God could keep working to build me back up. I needed those things so that God could continue to renew and restore my faith in my husband and his faith in me, and our faith together that we would come out on the other side of this illness better than we have ever been before.

You see, every day, even on burnt bagel days, I see how God is “making a way in the wilderness” just for us.


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