Journey Bread

I have been baking bread for my family since I was pregnant with Gabriel… that’s a good nine years of healthy, delicious, economical goodness right there. I have come up with a couple different staple recipes that I can whip up easily and consistently. My typical loaf bread includes whole wheat (ground right in my mama’s basement), oats, cornmeal, honey, and extra goodies like flax and millet when I can manage it. I call this Family Bread and it’s basically our daily fare (not that we eat bread every day, but you get what I mean). Then I came up with something I call Canaan Bread which includes milk, honey, olive oil, sea salt, and potato flakes ~ it is our special occasion bread that makes light, fluffy loaves or rolls worthy of being related to the promised land!

This year for Christmas gifts, I have been baking up bread (three loaves at a time) to deliver to neighbors and friends. It is a little more practical than some options, and honestly it seems like folks are genuinely pleased to have a healthier alternative to cookie plates (although really, if you want to bring one to MY house, none of us would mind!). I made pretty labels for the loaves, including Scripture from John 6.

Jesus said, “This is the work of God;
that you believe in Him whom He has sent…
For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world…
I am the Bread of Life;
whoever comes to Me shall not hunger…
For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him
shall have eternal life…

John 6:29, 33, 35, 40

Plus, for our neighbors (whether they have a relationship with Christ, we don’t know), I tied a copy of the current Our Daily Bread issue to the bottom of the loaf.

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I have had the kids each take turns helping me bake the bread on different days. Today was Evangeline’s day to help bake bread.We were going to make my Canaan Bread today, so we could deliver some loaves to friends tomorrow morning at a playdate… with a couple little tweaks, because I added some sourdough starter I’d had proofing and decided to toss in some whole wheat too…

Evangeline helped me put honey, milk, warm water, olive oil, sourdough starter, dry active yeast, and whole wheat flour in a bowl. We let it rest and proof while we ate breakfast (Mommy poured a cup of coffee, but only got one sip in… hmm… red flag anyone?) and read our Bible and Advent lessons for the day. Then Evangeline and I returned to our baking project. It may have looked like just a gloppy mess but oh! It bubbled beautifully and smelled so yeasty and sour and rich! I love that part of the process so much.

We added sea salt, quick oats, potato flakes, and high gluten bread flour, and got the dough hook working on the kneading process for us.
Everything was going smoothly, it seemed, while Evangeline manned the controls on the side of my KitchenAid mixer. Gabriel was practicing piano, Asher was working on a math page & singing at the top of his lungs, and Simeon was fussing at my feet so I picked him up & snuggled him on my hip. But the gluten didn’t seem to be developing properly because the texture of the dough was not getting stretchy and smooth. Evangeline wanted so badly to jump ahead to the part where she gets to punch down the dough and knead it into a loaf shape! I wanted so badly to gulp down my cup of coffee! But frustration was mounting, because clearly our bread was not verging on the bliss of Promised Land today.

In a Hail Mary fashion, I decide to crack an egg into the mixing bowl and let it get worked into the dough… but in the process of trying to stop the machine with a preschooler on a stool and a baby on my hip… attempting to crack the egg with one hand (because there are times, yes, where I can manage to pull off cool tricks like that… hah! thank you, Food Network and The Chew…)… my elbow knocks down a cup of flour and I accidentally crack the egg onto the floor.

Oops.
That’s right; I totally could have grabbed a fork and started whipping up a batch of egg noodles right on my kitchen floor…
You know, if it weren’t covered in dog hair and coffee grounds (and the bowl of Cheerios the baby threw on the ground).
Because in all honesty, my plan WAS to vacuum after the bread was in the oven!

For some reason, it seemed smart to plop the baby down on the floor so I could grab a spatula and a roll of paper towels… but of course the pile of flour and ooey gooey raw egg on the floor looked entirely enticing…
So yes, my 14 month old makes a bee line for the mess!
Meanwhile, imagine the loud piano combining with a kindergartener’s version of silly math songs pounding in your ears…
and just to top it off, my daughter jumps off the stool and tries to lend a hand with keeping her little brother away from the mess…

In one of my less glorious motherhood moments, I yell at the baby “no no! no touch!” and holler at my daughter to back away, and follow it up with a quick shout to the boys to be quiet so I can think straight about how to clean up this mess!
Yep.
That’s me.
Mom of the year.
Trying super hard to do my best at training my kids up in a Christ-centered, home-centered, family-centered, grace-centered home education.
Let’s just say, it’s a good thing I don’t have things like Pinterest and Instagram because you would not see a picture perfect snippet of me this morning.

I got the mess cleaned off the floor, shot off a few frenzied texts to my husband, and started to laugh at the whole situation.

I mean, really.
And all of a sudden I realize that my Canaan Bread is really much more like the 40 years in the wilderness today! It was punctuated with fussing, hunger, noise, frustration, faith to believe what I can not see, and me trying to take matters into my own hands when it’s not going exactly according to my picture-perfect-plans. That’s when I named today’s bread Journey Bread.

What I needed was grace. Saving grace. I needed cleansing waters and leaven for the lump.
I gulped down some coffee and took some deep breaths while I considered these things.
Then I had my daughter crack an egg into the bowl (yes, yolk & white successfully made it into the bowl this time) while I dissolved a bit more yeast into warm water, honey, and bread flour. Finally, we got it all kneading together and it was obvious that the glutens were developing properly now.

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We were beginning to see the fruit of our labors coming back together, and I couldn’t stop laughing at the previous antics.
I even had to text my grandma, asking her about her own memories from motherhood. I know the days can be long but the years are short. I know that babies don’t keep. And I want to know what a great-grandma recalls from her own motherhood journey decades later. What parts do I take pictures of? What snippets do I write down?
Do I just want to remember the weekly ritual of baking bread with my kids?
Do I want to remember the prettily packaged loaves we delivered to friends and neighbors while it snowed?
Do I want to remember the spilled flour and the egg I cracked onto the floor?
Do I want to remember the cacophony of crazy noise and the scramble to figure out how to clean the mess, protect the children (from the horrors of possible salmonella, of course, haha), regain my sanity, and rescue the dough before it completely flops?

All my grandma responded with was I wish I could remember more of those years!!
She didn’t say which parts she remembers. She simply shared her longing to remember what the years held.

I don’t only want to remember the picturesque moments. I want to remember living life.
I want to remember the journey. To remember God’s faithfulness even when I fussed (and when the children did too).
Something we love about Scripture, about the Gospel, is that we get to see the narrative including the tensions. It doesn’t let us just skip to the end and see how it all turns out in the New Jerusalem. Nope. It’s about the journey. Faith. Saving grace. Clinging to what we know and asking God to clean us up because we keep making messes out of things.

And you know what? It is good to laugh at myself. To revel in good things like noisy kids and a messy kitchen.
It is good to send frenzied texts to my husband… he needs snippets of what my days are like so he can more fully appreciate what he comes home to at the end of a day… right? :)

Oh my word – it’s a day! I may have been trying to bake bread with our daughter, while holding Simeon in one arm and cracking an egg with one hand… I just might have knocked a bunch of flour on the floor at the same time I cracked the egg onto to the floor instead of into the bowl…I might’ve totally tweaked my neck while trying to clean up the mess and keep the kids away from it…
This. Is. My. Life.

Bless him, my husband responded, “and I don’t know how you do it.”
To which I promptly admitted three little worlds: massage & coffee & wine.
And to top off the morning of laughing at myself, I added,
Oh. Probably should’ve been “Jesus” & “God” & “Grace” but you know… #realitycheck

Domestic Outfitting by “Little Outfitters”

Excuse me, please, while I take a moment to give a proper shout-out to my friend Hollie and her home business, Little Outfitters. Ladies, I want to have babies, decorate my house, and be up to my elbows in flour just for excuses to use these things! Save your dollars or create a Christmas wish list, because you need to be prepared to fall in love with these simple, classic linen delights.

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From the very title of my blog, you should be able to tell that I love pursuing joy and also domesticity. These two things are what I feel called to. This is my realm. It is where I am called to take dominion, to dive in deep, to be passionate. I pray that God would help me attain real joy! And that He would bless my efforts in the domestic realm! I long for Him to be glorified through my small hands as I work toward those ends.

You know what’s really fun though? When the work of joy and domesticity overlap and intertwine so fully and organically that I simply can not separate the two.

And that happened to me this weekend.
I had the delight of making an investment in my friend’s business, and planting that seed not only gave joy and fruitful labors to my friend Hollie, but it also gave me great joy and fruitful labor!
Now. When you order something from Little Outfitters, of course you will get to look forward to the happiest mail-day. You just might want to leave cookies & milk out on your porch for the postman. Because yes, it will feel like St. Nicholas himself just dropped by to delight you.
I had the special privilege of the shop owner herself hand-delivering me my package (shh! don’t be jealous! I made & shared homemade turkey stock and fresh rolls to slather with butter… so you could say I deserved the hand-delivery, right?!)…

And do you know what she brought me?

A brown paper package tied up with string!

That’s right, friends. Just a few of my favorite things. (that song is now stuck in your head… you’re welcome…)

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But did I rip right into the package? Oh no I did not. I savored it.
First, I let it sit on my desk while we indulged in turkey juices and warm gluten. And wine. A good bottle of red wine goes with just about anything. Including domesticity. And it is clearly a companion of joy (lest you question my reasoning, check out Psalm 104:15, Judges 9:13, or read this for some thoughts).

Soon though… I carefully untied the twine and opened up my brown paper package. I don’t know about you, but I am into the details. Let’s just say that while I could have excitedly ripped through this package in two minutes, there was no way I would miss out on savoring the details.

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The stickers! The perfectly folded tissue paper! The thank-you note (hand written to boot)! The lovely handmade tags attached to items with dark bulb pins! The packaging of the hair bows, which includes reusable bags and preciously printed brand cards!

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And then after oohing and aahing over every inch of packaging, I finally got to indulge in fondling my linen delights myself. The soft linen in its beautiful shades just call for enamor. Seriously.

And then the fun began, because my daughter and I got to share our kitchen and our baking messes with Hollie’s camera lens in a brand shoot. Talk about a sweet blending of joy and domestic bliss!

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Here is a little glimpse… and take note... my daughter and I are loving our cross-back linen aprons in flax… and I think I want a hairbow in every color… because yes, I will probably be borrowing them occasionally from my daughter’s accessory stash!

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Please pop over to Little Outfitter‘s Instagram and say hello.
Consider domestically outfitting yourself.
I’m considering hosting a giveaway… hmm… any takers?

Savoring Friendship & Cookies

It was obviously an early day of spring.
Grey clouds and blinding sunshine danced together.
Robins were bouncing happily around outside while it rained.
The fire roared in our living room stove, schoolwork was spread on the table,
the baby was fussing, and the big kids were doing anything but focusing on their books.
I was fighting a headache with Tylenol & caffeine to no avail.

Grasping for a lifeline of sorts, I popped off a quick note to a dear friend,
the kind of friend who is more like a sister than not,
to ask her to pray for me.

She wrote right back.
She thanked me for sharing my needs and expressing my heart.
She gave suggestions that were rooted in love.
She jumped into a gap for me and filled it with prayers, love, compassion, friendship.

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I shared a list of things with her that was making me thankful.
Across a distance of 375 miles, she gave me a virtual hug and a shoulder to lean on.
Together, while apart, we sought the Lord as well as praised Him.

She in her kitchen, surrounded by her little blondies.
Me in mine, surrounded by my wee gingers.

Friendship is acting out God’s love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other’s lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God’s love for them. Friendship is an opportunity to act on God’s behalf in the lives of the people that we’re close to, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can’t always see from where we are.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p49

Then I noticed she sent me something else ~ a link to a recipe.
“If you need something sweet to eat today, here’s a link to a recipe we are making,”
she said, along with three pictures of her children helping her
stir batter, eat batter, and put trays of cookies in the oven.
“I wish we could share hot cookies and ice-cold milk with you this afternoon,” she added.

That’s when I decided it was time to stoke the fire,
strap the baby onto my chest,
put away the schoolbooks,
and take three sticks of butter out of the fridge to warm on the counter.

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“Butter is out to soften!!” I told her,
declaring that we would make the best of it,
and we would join them in the baking efforts of the day…

and we spent the next hour or two occasionally popping messages to one another
on our progress in our own little worlds of flour, sugar, aprons, and children licking their fingers.

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My children and I were able to not only connect with one another and savor our relationship,
but we were talking about these far-away friends & taking pictures to show them,
connecting in creative ways with these friends even when distance separates us.

When joy and grace are shared, it multiplies in ways indescribable.
When friendship is savored, it builds bridges undeniable.

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The short of it is that you really just need to click here and try the recipe out for yourself.
And then, once you have, share the link with a friend.
And share pics of doing the same thing as one another, even if separated by miles.

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It is good to savor friendship.
It is good to find unique ways to share life together with those you love.
Even if it is two mamas with their little ones at their sides, separated by 375 miles,
we can still share life & friendship & motherhood & cookies.
Creativity can be both warm and delicious.
Just like friendship.

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In our own unique way, my children and I
shared hot cookies and ice-cold milk
with the dearest of friends ~
our hearts were encouraged
while souls were fattened
and tongues rejoiced!

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I know of no other recipe for making a good-bye bearable than the promise that the God who goes with us and stays with them will be the bridge connecting us, no matter how far or long the distance.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised By Motherhood, p95~

Pi Day

For March 14th, I embraced my inner geek and surprised my hubby with pies.

It was, indeed, a happy Pi day. Turkey pot pie, followed by pecan pie. Delish.

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Easter Lessons

This year, we went out of our way to do a few more hands-on lessons and Easter preparations with the children. The older they get, of course the more they grasp ~ and it is delightful to hear their own 6, 3, and 2 year old sized insights into why we do the things we do.

On Good Friday, rather than doing our normal homeschooling routine, while the little ones had individual room time (learning to play on their own for a solid hour is a good skill to learn), Gabriel helped me clean the house. We washed windows, cleaned bathrooms, swept floors, mopped floors, did laundry, washed dishes, wiped down cupboards. And while we worked together, we talked about why we were working so hard, and why is this what we chose to do on Good Friday. When I asked Gabriel what he thought, he paused in thought, then profoundly said, “Well, today is the day we remember the whole reason why Jesus came. He came to clean our hearts. So I guess that’s why we should clean our home.” I wanted to just stop the conversation right there, and leave it at that ~ because my kid gets SO much of the Gospel story, and I love hearing his perspective on it. It’s beautiful. But we went on to talk about how Jesus served others, even though He was King of all. We talked about “our people” ~ and who are our neighbors. Gabriel even asked if he could wash my feet when we were done cleaning, because he wanted to bless me and serve me like Jesus.

But I hate to admit, I forgot about the feet-washing, because by the time we were done cleaning the house, the little ones were ready to be done with solitary playtime, and we needed to move on to the phase of dirtying things back up again. Funny how we do that in my line of work: we clean things up so we can make them dirty again!

So after a little lunch, Evangeline was ready for a nap, and the boys & I got out supplies for some crafts that would hold more lessons.

We had already dyed Easter eggs with Grandmama, Auntie, and cousins, complete with super sweet and thoughtful conversations about the metaphors, symbolism, and just plain fun of the tradition. My children and I have talked numerous times this week about the symbolism we can see in the eggs… how they symbolize the rock which closed the tomb, but new life can spring forth from it… how we can take plain eggs and give them new clothing, as we do when we take on new life in Christ… how the yolk in a cracked egg can symbolize the glorious light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dark tomb when He burst forth in glorious array…
Click here to read about Easter Egg traditions throughout the life of the Church, following the Lenten season. Even plain old Wikipedia had some great thought-provoking things about Easter Eggs, or Paschal Eggs. And for some fun nuances on Easter Egg traditions, click here and have some fun with the kids in your life.

Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death,
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life.

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Thanks to Ann Voskamp’s diligent sharing each and every year, I finally felt like my boys were old enough this year to really grasp & enjoy a couple more unique & detailed hands-on projects.

First we had a snack of nuts and figs, while we made a crown of thorns (using a small grapevine wreath and a few dozen coffee-stained toothpicks) and talked a lot about the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Three year old Asher was nearly in tears (I love how his forehead crinkles and his chin quivers when he feels genuine sorrow), talking about Jesus being tortured, bleeding, and dying. He finally smiled again when I reminded Him that this was why Jesus came, and this is how He worked to save US from OUR sins. And in his sweet little voice, Asher proclaimed, “I sure love Jesus, Mommy.”

Matthew 27:29
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head…

Mark 15:17
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him.

John 19:2, 5
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in a purple robe. So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.

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Next we went out on to the back porch and put together our own little Gethsemane. Using a small moss planter (I used this, and don’t let the word “large” fool you!), we filled it with soil. Then we set our tomb carved in the rock in the corner of the garden (I found that aquarium accessories could offer some neat options, like this cichlid stone), before filling the rest of the garden with plants. We used some little succulents we got at a local store along with some pretty decorative moss, and then Gabriel used small smooth stones to make a little pathway through the garden to the tomb. Last of all, the boys went on a stone hunt outside to find something that would serve as a tomb cover.

John 19:41
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

Luke 23:55-56
The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid.Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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On Good Friday, we used last week’s palm branches and our homemade crown of thorns to decorate our dinner table, when we ate lamb and roasted vegetables and matzo ball soup, along with the Seder plate with all  its elements and plenty of wine.

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Our kitchen island was cleared of all other decorations, and that is where we laid our own little Gethsemane. On Friday evening we closed up the tomb. On Saturday morning we found a little soldier to keep guard outside the tomb. And the children looked forward to seeing what would come of it on Sunday morning.

Matthew 27:59-60, 66
And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. … So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

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Come Sunday morning, the children came downstairs to find the guard fallen down, the stone moved away, and a piece of linen folded inside the tomb.

Matthew 28:2-8
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.”So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.

Luke 24:1-12
…On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee,that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”And they remembered His words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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They found a table set for a beautiful little breakfast. Fruit salad, hard boiled eggs with sea salt, mimosas, Easter story cookies, and Easter tomb rolls (the kids had helped me make those all on Saturday, which was really wonderful). Candles and music and the excited rush of gathering and eating and praising God together, singing Christ The Lord Is Risen Today. Gifts for each one at their place ~ books and chocolates.

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Once the morning feasting was done, it came time to don our Easter clothing (clothing is hugely metaphorical and meaningful in Scripture and the history of the Church) ~ even the Easter sermon mentioned this, because we had three baptisms during the service and these Scriptures were emphasized.

Ephesians 4:17-24
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus,to put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:12-17
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Galatians 3:27
 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

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And so we got dressed in new matchy-matchy clothes (and my heart ached in all the heaviest and bestest of ways, because I have been given a family to clothe, and children who can wear sickeningly matchy outfits!), and talked about putting on Christ, putting off our old selves, putting on the new self in newness of life and the beauty of holiness, putting on love above all other things.

And then? Then the party really started. Gabriel pointed out, “there sure is a lot of joy around church and everywhere today!” and I couldn’t help but laugh. Because isn’t that just exactly, precisely the way it should be?! May the joy of the gospel, and of the Resurrected Christ, and of the hope He has given His people, shed forth from your homes, your families, your churches, and your wanderings until He comes again and everything is made new and all is set right.

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To the glory of the Father, amen. Allelulia!

Goodness Rising & Multiplying

Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness,
ordained for a continual remembrance that
the world will always be more delicious than it is useful.
Necessity is the mother only of clichés.
It takes playfulness to make poetry.

~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p40~

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Courtesy of one of my hubby’s coworkers a couple weeks ago, that’s a little peek at some of the yummy goodness that I sent to Steven’s office to cheer the hard laborers there. I like to send goodies every so often (I would like to do it at least monthly, but my brain & my follow-through is not always up to par with my desire!) But I am kind of well known there for my cinnamon rolls. A few years ago, I tried this recipe and now I just have my own sort of recipe (guidelines, really…) in my head, and I just make them from my own memory, and with my own intuition, using my own five senses. And honestly, while I did not grow up liking cinnamon rolls all that well (even though my mother totally rocks at them!!), I do miss these cinnamon rolls on my low-sugar, gluten-free diet. It is the sugar, the gluten, and the way the yeast rises in glorious goodness that makes these the cinnamony delights that they are.

Don’t go easy on the butter, don’t forget to use a heavy hand with sugar and cinnamon, and don’t mess with the flour ~ gluten free or freshly ground whole wheat, for instance? Umm NOPE. Don’t even bother. Don’t waste your time. If you aren’t going to indulge in the best cinnamon rolls in the world, then don’t even try to ease in around the edges. Some things have to be full fat, full sugar, full gluten. And these are definitely a solid case in point.

I had signed up to bring coffee hour snacks following yesterday morning’s worship service. It’s funny how different groups of folks can be. (Yes, little rabbit trail: oblige me, please.) At our old church, it was practically like pulling teeth & twisting people’s arms to bring enough food for stuff, or to bring generous quantity to supply all the grumbly bellies & grabby hands. At our new church? People might not necessarily sign up in advance, but they show up with abandon! There are always leftovers. There is always enough for seconds, thirds, and sending leftovers home with people who might need extra food in their hands later. The way these folks bring to life real examples of loaves & fishes multiplying in real tangible ways, with joy and humility and thankfulness… cups overflowing… brings tears to my eyes. It is life-giving.

So as far as I knew, I was the only one who had signed up to bring food for the coffee hour yesterday, and I wanted to be a blessing. My mother has long blessed people with food, and that is one way I delight in following closely in her footsteps. (Someone needs a meal? We’re having a potluck? People are coming over? I’m there!) I was raised in that you always bring twice as much food as you think you might need, because there is no blessing like the blessing of superabundant delicious food. So I made six dozen cinnamon rolls on Saturday. (That’s a double batch, in my book, in case you’re wondering.) I bought two big bags of gala apples to slice, and six pounds of easy-peel mandarin oranges. I put together a plate of sliced cheese with spirals of crackers. I had a package of rice crackers and a small gluten free coffee cake, to boot, because I am not the only one at our church who needs to eat gluten free out of necessity (you know, rather than fad).

Even just what I brought could have fed one hundred people, easily. But then other people showed up, arms full of edible blessings. Someone brought two dozen more freshly baked cinnamon rolls! Someone brought a few dozen Easter cookies fresh from a bakery, just the way the kids dream of. There were donuts and pastries that someone dropped off. And all of a sudden, coffee hour became a festive party. Afterward, we were able to package some things up for the freezer so that in other weeks we will once again have lots of goodies at church over which to have conversations about everything from the weather to Bible studies to childrearing to book collecting. And a few people went home with bags of leftover apples and oranges, handfuls of cookies, and cinnamon rolls to stash away for an afternoon snack. I’m pretty sure nobody needed to go eat lunch after that.

I was thinking back, upon looking at all that multiplication of food, how it just showed up naturally without anyone twisting arms or begging for people to provide it, and what a metaphor of God’s grace and miraculous handiwork it is. He may have provided it through fairly predictable, human means… but He still provided it, and He still showed His grace & handiwork through it. It reminds us of other times when His provision was not predictable, and when His handiwork was miraculous & physically inexplicable rather than common or ordinary.

Mark 6:41-43
And taking the five loaves and the two fish,
[Jesus] looked up to heaven and said a blessing
and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people.
And He divided the two fish among them all.
And they all ate and were satisfied.
And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.

As I look back on the baking of my cinnamon rolls, which was a very ordinary way God worked to provide food for people ~ through a woman’s hands working common ingredients together in a formulaic manner ~ I can also see another metaphor of God’s goodness and work. I think of the beauty and the wonder of leavening. Of little tiny yeasts (which are single-celled fungi, isn’t that delightful? read more here) that grow and produce bubbles, by eating sugar and producing carbon dioxide, and cause many wonderful changes in the lump they use for life. Scripture talks a lot about bad leaven (the leaven of the Pharisees, for instance), but Jesus also taught us about good leaven (in the parable of Matthew 13).

Matthew 13:33
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven
that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour,
till it was all leavened.”

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Watching my dough double and rise until it flopped over the edge of the bowls in the warming oven… rolling it out, smothering it with buttery & sugary & spicy goodness, rolling it again & slicing it up into pretty little round pinwheels… then watching it puff and rise again… oh! It is such an encouraging thing, and reminds me so much of God’s good works. In the dark, in the moist places, when the dough has been pounded and kneaded hard, and left for a while to rest and be on its own… amazing things happen not because I can follow recipes and not because I did things right, but because God is gracious. And even when God in His terrifying holiness seems so categorically unpredictable, He is yet predictable!! He is always gracious, always good, always benevolent and magnanimous! And those of you who know me, know that I don’t say that through rosy colored glasses or eyes of ignorant bliss. I have felt the terrible hand of the Lord. I have been pounded hard, kneaded long, and left in dark places. But this is precisely where so much beautiful rising and multiplying happens. Because the Lord is gracious, He continues to further His kingdom in me, through me, and even in spite of myself.

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What mercy!

A man’s daily meal ought to be
an exultation over the smack of desirability
which lies at the roots of creation.
To break real bread is to break the loveless hold of hell upon the world,
and, by just that much, to set the secular free.

~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p115~

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So next time you too put together water, milk, fat, honey, salt, flour, and yeast ~ when you smother it with the fatness of creamy butter and the deliciousness of sweet sugar and pungent cinnamon ~ think about the work God accomplishes even in you. I imagine that you, like me, can see how we fit into the description of even a humble cinnamon roll meant to be ripped apart and enjoyed and shared and prayed over and devoured. I am mixed, kneaded, pounded, left, punched down, smothered in goodness, rolled tightly, sliced into pieces, left again, and heated by an uncontrollable fire, and at last slathered with a thick layer of even more fatty sugary goodness simply because God likes to pour grace on top of grace… and why? Because it blesses my King, gives delight to my Creator, and feeds others around me.

Because God is glorious.

Because sometimes He works through ordinary, common, daily means.

Because sometimes He wants us to smile, and simply see Him in things like rising dough and multiplying food.

Because this is where the Gospel meets the edible.

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And it’s good.

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Sous Chefs

Gabriel made muffins by himself for the first time last week, complete with doubling the recipe which meant adding fractions.
I love how he wears my childhood apron, and how he made himself a chef’s hat to complete the uniform.

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Asher and Evangeline continue to delight in chopping veggies and herbs for dinner prep, measuring grains and water into pots, and wiping counters & setting tables.

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These little people are positively a delight. And goodness! they are becoming downright helpful, too. 🙂 Have I mentioned how all three of them clamor for a turn at emptying the dishwasher?! 😀

 

oh, spaetzle!

It was spaetzle that brought me to my senses. Spaetzle, if you do not know, are the very flower of all foods made with flour. They are tiny bits of soft noodle dough, boiled to a light and lovely perfection, and served with butter or gravy. It took only one taste of my wife’s first batch to make me realize that I could not go on as a dieter. Spaetzle exude substantiality: A man who takes a small helping is a man without eyes to see what is in front of him. Accordingly, I passed my plate back for seconds and then thirds, and made a vow then and there to walk more, to split logs every day and, above all to change my religion from the devilish cult of dieting to the godly discipline of fasting.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p114~

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To eat nothing at all is more human than to take a little of what cries out for the appetite of a giant. One servingspoonful of spaetzle is like the opening measures of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: any man who walks out early on either proves he doesn’t understand the genre—and he misses the repose of the end. To eat without eating greatly is only to eat by halves.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p114~

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Life is so much more than occasions, and its grand ordinariness must never go unsavored.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p27~

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(…and yes, my mother made me some of my very favorite things in gluten free versions!
like schnitzel and spaetzle and peanut butter cream pie!!

Date Night: Daily & Divine

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Food and cooking are among the richest subjects in the world. Every day of our lives, they preoccupy, delight, and refresh us. Food is not just some fuel we need to get us going toward higher things. Cooking is not a drudgery we put up with in order to get the fuel delivered. Rather, each is a heart’s astonishment. Both stop us dead in our tracks with wonder. Even more, they sit us down evening after evening, and in the company that forms around our dinner tables, they actually create our humanity.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb~

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Food matters because it’s one of the things that forces us to live in this world—this tactile, physical, messy, and beautiful world—no matter how hard we try to escape into our minds and our ideals. Food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness. Try to think yourself through starvation. Try to command yourself not to be hungry, using your own sheer will. It will work for a while, maybe, but at some point you’ll find yourself—no matter how high-minded or iron-willed—face-to-face with your own hungry, and with that hunger, your own humanity.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p250~

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So try it. Try Keller’s three-times plan. Make it once according to the recipe. Then you know how the chef or recipe writer intended it to taste. Practice your scales. And then write your own version of the recipe. And then make it entirely from memory, at which point it’s yours.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p102~

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But our goal, remember, is to feed around our table the people we love. We’re not chefs or restaurateurs or culinary school graduates, and we shouldn’t try to be. Make it the way the people you love want to eat it. Make it the way you love it. Try it a million ways and cross a few off the list because they were terrible, but celebrate the fact that you found a few new ways too—ways that are fresh and possibly unconventional but perfect for your family. That’s the goal. Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p51~

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I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater—mystery and tradition and symbol. Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p11~

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this & that, on gluten free food

It’s not, actually, strictly, about food for me.
It’s about what happens when we come together,
slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, listen to one another’s stories.
It happens when we enter the joy and the sorrow of the people we love,
and we join together at the table to feed one another and be fed,
and while it’s not strictly about food,
it doesn’t happen without it.
Food is the starting point,
the common ground,
the thing to hold and handle,
the currency we offer to one another.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p14~

It was nine months ago that I began a journey with food that I had not seen coming. The whole gluten free craze sweeping my region, my infertility comrades, and even a few friends/relatives has been something I like to keep at bay. Partly because I don’t like hype, and I tend to like steering clear of things that are fads. 🙂 And also partly because I did not want to give up so many delicious things. If you know me well, you might know that I have a longstanding difficult relationship with my body. And while my journey has not lead me to quite the level of epiphany or exposure that some have reached by God’s grace, I continue to struggle on and off with the body the Lord has given me. It feels like quite the feat to even admit that “out loud” into the blogosphere, but there it is. So to suddenly have to throw myself into a “diet” (whether or not you like that word to describe a gluten free, very low sugar lifestyle) after struggling for years to embrace the body God gave me, and to let go of stressing about foods in general, has been a real struggle. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with food for a lot of years, so that’s not exactly something new to me: but this year, instead of trying to look past ingredient lists and calorie counts and nutritional labels in general, and simply accept with open & thankful hands whatever the Lord gives me to feed my body & nourish this temple of His, I have now been forced to stare those labels in the face, to analyze things before I put them in my mouth, even to cook separate things for myself than I cook for my family or guests. I now have to make special requests at restaurants, and figure out ways to humbly & graciously accept hospitality without over-emphasizing my dietary restrictions. Especially when the dietary restrictions are basically self-inflicted. Do I swell up or break out in hives when I eat gluten? No. But it seems like I may have less inflammation throughout my body when I am not including gluten in my diet ~ and I’ve also simply been having less carbs and sugars altogether, so there’s that as well. So why do I care about underlying inflammation in my body? Because it seems that my body’s underlying inflammation is somehow connected to my miscarriages (and nine miscarriages for a 30 year old woman in 7 years of marriage is outside the realms of normal, my friends). My autoimmune problems cause my body to reject my babies, rather than nurture them. It is a horrible burden to live with, and just one huge aspect that causes me to stumble in my relationship with my body.

But ~rabbit trail notwithstanding~ back to the practical side of the gluten free diet. I’ve done a lot of trial and error with recipes and with products over the last nine months of living, cooking, and eating this way. I kept a food log for a couple months, but then that got stressful so I gave it up. I kept lists of recipes to try, and star-rated them after I tried them. Some things were worth a second shot, and some things actually met my garbage can (and as a homemaker who basically never throws away so much as a scrap of food in our home, that’s really saying something). I quickly learned to use cornstarch in a lot of my basic cooking techniques, and that was a nice easy transition. Bread? Desserts? Pastas? Crackers or  pretzels? Breadcrumb replacement? Baking flour replacement?

I have had some true duds, but the Lord has been kind to provide me with some delicious finds as well. And I just wanted to take the opportunity to pay it forward, and share some of the things that have made this diet/lifestyle easier as the months have progressed.

Sometimes food is the end and sometimes it’s a means to an end,
and sometimes you don’t know which it is until it happens.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p177~

Products I do not like & don’t suggest:

1. Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour.

2. Glutino crackers that I thought would be a nice Ritz replacement. Yeah. Not so much.

3. The Crunchmaster rice crackers (esp the Artisan Cheese flavor) that Costco sells.

4. any gluten free bread that comes packaged in a vacuum sealed plastic tube.

5. Bob’s Red Mill multi grain bread mix.

6. Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix.

 

Products I truly enjoy & highly suggest:

1. Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour.

2. Glutino pretzel sticks.

3. This and this for traditional pasta replacements, and these lasagna noodles.

4. the Udi’s gluten free bread that is in the freezer section at Costco.

5. Trader Joe’s bakery gluten free blueberry muffins.

6. Trader Joe’s gluten free version of Joe Joe’s.

7. Pamela’s chocolate cake mix.

8. Pamela’s pancake & waffle mix.

 

Things I continue to miss:
Ritz crackers, Cheez-Its, and being able to say that I have zero dietary restrictions so don’t need to worry about anything I put in my mouth. Let me tell you: this is a MUCH shorter list than it was six months ago, or even six weeks ago!! The Lord continues to give me new gifts. And I continue to grow in thankfulness. May He bless my efforts to care for this particular temple for His Spirit, and may He enable me to love my husband & children especially through this sacrifice but also in every other way I can.

Before I go though, there have been a couple particular experiences that God has used to encourage my heart along this hard journey that I really want to share.
The first was in September when my husband and I had an upscale picnic with another couple from our new church. They are professional musicians, so have to do whatever they can to take care of their bodies, especially their joints and hands. The husband particularly (a superb violinist, married to an angelic harpist) finds that his hands do substantially better when he lives gluten free. Meeting with another couple who eats gluten free (one spouse 100%, the other spouse when it’s convenient ~ just like Steven & me), and getting suggestions on products and recipes and things was so encouraging. And talking to someone who is on the gluten free diet for a similar reason, in that it isn’t life & death necessary, but it also isn’t just a cool thing to do because it’s such a current fad (in fact, they are as cynical about the fad as I am, but equally as thankful for the gluten free options available due to it being such a fad). What a gift these friends are for so many reasons… but that day, at that picnic, it just felt like that was one little slather of icing on the cake.
The second experience was when Steven and I were in Portland on our long weekend trip in October. That was the weekend I decided to introduce some sugar back into my life (after 4 long months of having only fruit, and an occasional tablespoon of maple syrup or pinch of stevia in my coffee/tea as my sweet options), and going to such a crunchy place as Portland really opened up a lot of eating options for me. It was like a golden gift! Although I was still on a medication that made me have nearly constant nausea (four months of continual nausea is pretty discouraging, especially when it is clearly not because there’s a baby in my womb), I was able to enjoy both sweet and savory foods that weekend in a way that I had not for over four months. What a gift. But the day before we headed home, we went to the famous (or infamous!) farmer’s market in Portland, and found a couple dedicated gluten free booths. At one, an extremely friendly woman stood at the booth of a gluten free bakery stand, but the baker was on a break. I almost kept walking, not thinking it would be worth the wait. But the friendly woman literally grabbed my hand and said that I needed to plant myself there and wait for the baker to return, because she was worth waiting for no matter how long it took for her to return. Looking in her case at bagels, muffins, cookies, and baguettes that looked convincingly delicious, Steven and I stood in the line, and while we did, this friendly woman continued to explain to me that she and her beau were both professional cooks (if I remember correctly, he was an all-around chef and she was a pastry chef), but neither one of them could pull off such delicious gluten free breads as this woman selling at the farmer’s market. Once the booth was staffed again (we probably waited less than ten minutes), the friendly woman filled her market bag with things, and then proceeded to buy me a beautiful, big, crusty baguette. I nearly wept in her arms, as she gave me the bread and hugged me saying “welcome to Portland & welcome to being deliciously gluten free.” I proceeded to buy myself a bagel, and if I’d had enough cash I would love to have tried the muffins and cookies. But what a gift. A baguette might not seem like an incredible gift to the average person, but to me in that moment, that woman was like an angel giving me a handful of the Milky Way.
The third was on Christmas Eve when we went to my parents’ home, and my mama uncovered two plates of Christmas cookies that looked basically identical to one another ~ and she announced that the red snowflake plate was all for me because every last treat on that plate she made gluten free just for me. I can not explain what a Christmas joy it was to have so many sweets just for me: I did not have to give up my great grandma’s chocolate iced cookies or the Tomer tradition of pecan puffs! Crisis averted!
And then for the fourth, there was a man, a Mr. Griswold by name, in customer service at Bob’s Red Mill just a couple weeks ago. After months of trying to stomach some of their gluten free products (which I had bought in bulk in May), I finally decided it was my duty to let their quality control folks know that I was not one of the “guaranteed satisfaction” customers. I was highly disappointed because I had long used other Bob’s Red Mill products, and had simply assumed their gluten free things would be as instantly pleasing and tasty. But no. Really, when all your baked goods taste like ground up garbanzo and fava beans; and when your pancakes and waffles taste like dry cornbread; and when your multi grain bread tastes like a sour rye mess… well, things go in the garbage that I once never dreamed of throwing away! Even my children would not stomach these things. I was not expecting anything from the company, and I was kind & respectful in my note. But if my customers were so discouraged with a product, I would want to know. So I told them. And they surprised me with such kind generosity and blessing that I promised Mr. Griswold I would share my excitement with all my friends! 🙂 They sent me a refund check for over sixty dollars, the amount that I had spent on their products last May. And because his wife has celiac disease & loves their new 1-to-1 baking flour, they sent me a complimentary bag of it. Well, when the UPS guy delivered it one recent afternoon, I immediately put aside other things and whipped up a tiny batch of chocolate chip cookies. I was too skeptical to make a big batch… but oh my goodness!!! I actually CRIED. The cookie dough was incredible (umm ~ I think I ate three cookies’ worth…), so it was the first time I have eaten cookie dough in like 9 months, and the baked cookies are AMAZING. When my husband walked in from work, I gave him one and he gushed, “that is SO good, thank you for baking cookies” ~ and then I stuffed one in my mouth and his eyes did this :shock: because he realized they must be gluten free and he could not believe it. They are that good. So I have to say, this new product may have changed my gluten free life. I can’t wait to make more chocolate chip cookies, because that original dozen? Gone far too quickly.

 

A deep enjoyment of food and its preparation
is evidence of the love of the creativity of God
that is both wildly expansive and precise.
~Deborah Madison (in her preface to Supper of the Lamb)~