I have been planning for months to get myself together and start writing and posting here on the blog again in the New Year. I was all set to start tomorrow, but I feel like it would be tone deaf to today’s events to carry on like that mess in the Capitol didn’t happen. I also feel like I have nothing to add to the conversation at large that will be helpful and not just add to the cacophony.
I do feel like I can say no matter who you voted for, violently storming Congress is not the best way to be heard as anything but a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I think a lot of hypocrisies have been exposed (again) in the powers that be that cannot be unseen and need to be examined. I think the true character of many politicians was on display, and I firmly believe that when people show you who they are, you should believe them. I think our country is resilient, but I know we have a lot of uncomfortable truths to stare down and hard conversations to have. I also know that no matter what happens on the national and international stages, I have the most impact in the communities I’m involved with, and I am to love my neighbor. That command is unconditional and irrevocable. Nations rise and fall, but the love of God and the word of God do not change.
When chaos comes calling, that’s the first thing I cling to: I have eternal hope, and I have a rock to build my life on that is unfazed by riots and party politics and pandemics. When the chaos feels overwhelming, I try to limit my exposure to news of the craziness, and then I try to do something productive. For the last month, that’s been baking bread.
We already tried and failed at the quarantine sourdough starter; no one at my house was eating the sourdough bread, and the same black thumb tendencies that kill most plants that come under my care eventually killed off the starter. But bread baking with yeast turns out to be far simpler than I remember it being, and we all like just plain-old-not-sour bread. (At least no one is complaining and refusing to eat it, so I’m going to carry on assuming everyone likes it as much as I do…)
Baking fresh bread is deeply satisfying on a lot of levels, so I’m not surprised it’s been a go-to comfort activity in the pandemic. Kneading dough is pretty physical, so it’s almost a “heavy work” activity that tends to calm our bodies and minds. Punching dough after the first rise turns out to be one of our favorite family activities – even my husband grinned when it was his turn to punch a bowl of dough. If you’re a tactile person, feeling good sandwich bread dough in your hands is pretty wonderful. I hate slime, and my daughter is obsessed with it, so there’s a metric ton of it gumming up my house, but bread dough feels like a therapeutic thing of beauty (it’s almost good enough to make me forget that slime exists).
There’s also something warm and boosting to your self-efficacy about making kitchen staples like bread – not to mention the heavenly smell of baking bread. When I made French toast with my bread, I was extremely proud that it was a meal made completely from scratch, down to the bread slices. I didn’t brag out loud then, so I’m doing it now.
Over the last month I have tweaked the recipes I started with until I found a reliable, not too crumbly, not too mushy loaf. I’m an okay cook (never expect me to pan fry anything without charring it and/or catching it on fire, and if it’s complicated or involves separating eggs, I’m probably going to fail), but I am a pretty darn good baker. And it turns out, I’m getting pretty darn good at baking bread.
After watching the news today, baking bread tonight was good for my soul. It was a little (literal) slice of normal in the midst of chaos. I got to knead and punch, and I’m currently smelling the wonder of fresh baking bread.
When the headlines and life feel overwhelming and terrible, find something good and simple and true to remind you that the chaos isn’t forever, that nothing is too big for God to handle, and that butter on hot bread is one of the greatest treasures in the world. If you’re in need of some bread and butter therapy, come on over, and I’ll bake a you fresh loaf. You can even punch the dough.